Surfshark Review: Is It Any Good?
Read on for our close-up look at Surfshark, one of the most versatile VPNs out there.
What We Like
- Netflix and torrenting access: We loved cozying up on the couch to stream TV and movies as the weather cooled down, and Surfshark even let us watch Netflix in other countries. This instantly expanded our entertainment options.
- Versatile and robust VPN connections: Surfshark offers a host of VPN protocols, from OpenVPN and WireGuard, to IKEv2 and IPSec.
- Unlimited simultaneous connections: We didn’t have to worry about the number of devices we connected to Surfshark at any given time.
What We Don't Like
- Static IP address: We received the same IP address every time we connected to Surfshark. This makes it easier for hackers to track us online.
- Based in the Netherlands: The Netherlands has privacy-friendly data retention laws, but it's under Nine Eyes jurisdiction, which means the government can compel Surfshark to share customer information when necessary.
Bottom LineSurfshark’s versatility allowed us to access the web while enjoying the peace of mind knowing that others can’t track us. It’s both secure and fast. With its many VPN protocol options, we know we can use Surfshark and still do everything we normally do online, and so can you.
Surfshark recently released its annual Digital Quality of Life Index, which shows that the United States ranks as the 12th country with the highest digital quality of life. This Surfshark report looks at five key areas: Internet affordability, internet quality, electronic infrastructure, electronic security, and electronic government.
Surfing the internet is pretty much like actual surfing. It’s fun and exciting for sure, but you have to be cautious of what could be lurking just beneath the surface.
True to the surfing analogy, the most dangerous parts of surfing the internet are the things happening in the background that we don’t immediately see. That includes cookies that websites use to keep track of us, trackers and adware that advertisers use, and even the threat of being spied on by Big Brother.
That’s why, much like with actual surfing, you need to take precautions when browsing the internet. One such precaution is the use of a VPN or virtual private network. VPNs keep your online data safe by encrypting your traffic and hiding your real IP address. If you want to surf the web privately, using a VPN is your best bet.
In this review, we’re looking at one of the top VPN options in Surfshark. It does what you’d expect from a VPN, but there’s so much more to Surfshark than meets the eye. In this review, we’ll give you all the information you need to decide if Surfshark is the best VPN for you.
|Upload speed difference||9%|
|Download speed difference||31%|
|DNS leak test||Passed|
- No-logs VPN company based in the Virgin Islands
- Allows unlimited connections, double VPN, and split tunneling
- Choice of OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2P2, Shadowsocks & more
Our video review will show you exactly how to use Surfshark to encrypt your web traffic, completely free for 30 days. Start your trial here.
The location of a VPN company’s headquarters can already tell you a lot about the company. For example, Surfshark is located in the Netherlands, which is by and large a privacy-friendly country.
The Netherlands doesn’t oblige companies to retain customer data, and as such, Surfshark is able to maintain a “zero-log” policy. That means whatever you do while connected to its service is between you and your device only. It won’t log your web history, your download data, and your IP address.
That’s important because the Netherlands is a member of the Nine Eyes international alliance, a band of countries that share intelligence information with each other. If, let’s say, the U.S. government wants access to your data, the Netherlands government can force Surfshark to share information because the company is under their jurisdiction. Fortunately, because Surfshark doesn’t keep logs, it has nothing to share.
Now that you know Surfshark as a company, it’s time to get to know Surfshark as a VPN. We tested Surfshark on multiple devices, and we’re ready to break down to you the features that it offers. Surfshark New York Servers
Of course, as a VPN, Surfshark’s primary job was to hide our IP addresses and web activity, and we’ve proven that it does exactly that with our DNS and WebRTC leak tests below.
Aside from that, Surfshark had other features that made us giddy. Check them out below.
Torrenting and Streaming
We use VPNs primarily to protect our privacy, but there’s no harm in using them for a little entertainment, right? Surfshark let us torrent and stream on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and a bunch more services.
Here’s why that’s important: Our government frowns upon the use of torrenting services because it’s used for piracy, so when you’re torrenting, using a VPN is necessary. It keeps your online activity hidden away from Big Brother’s watchful eyes, so you can download torrent files to your heart’s content.
On the other hand, streaming from a streaming platform with a VPN allows you to unlock regional libraries outside your own. For example, if you connect to a server in Australia, the streaming service will see your Australia-based IP address, so you’ll gain access to, let’s say, Netflix Australia.
Camouflage and No-Borders Mode
Back to the more serious stuff. Camouflage Mode and No-Borders Mode are both Surfshark settings that make it easier and safer to connect to a VPN when you’re in a more restrictive country.
Camouflage Mode, otherwise known as obfuscation, makes your VPN traffic look like normal VPN traffic so that governments don’t detect that you’re using a VPN. This is helpful in countries or territories where using a VPN is illegal or frowned upon by the government.
No-Borders Mode, on the other hand, automatically kicks in when Surfshark detects that you’re in a restrictive country, and will limit your selection of servers to those designed to bypass censorship specifically.
No VPN is perfect, and dropping a connection unexpectedly every once in a while is normal. However, if that happens, it could expose your online traffic to your ISP. That’s where the kill switch feature comes in. It automatically disrupts all your internet traffic to prevent it from ever leaking out in case of dropped VPN connections. All online connections will only resume once Surfshark is up and running again.
Through a feature called Whitelister, you can configure certain apps or websites to bypass Surfshark’s VPN tunnel. This is useful if you’re using services that don’t allow connections through a VPN, such as online banking. Instead of turning off Surfshark, which would compromise all the other tabs you have open on your browser, you can simply whitelist the online banking website to access it outside Surfshark’s VPN tunnel.
MultiHop and Dynamic MultiHop
Want some extra security and privacy? MultiHop, otherwise known as a double VPN, connects you to not just one but two VPN servers. That means twice the data encryption. That said, when Surfshark started offering MultiHop, users could only choose from a limited list of server pairings. For example, they could connect to a USA-UK, France-USA, or Australia-USA server pairings.
The problem we’ve had with that is when we wanted to access Japan Netflix via MultiHop, none of the pre-set server pairings had Japan as the second server, which is what would determine our final IP address. There was a Japan-USA pairing, but that’s no good since we wanted a Japan IP address.
Surfshark recently resolved that issue with a new feature called Dynamic MultiHop. It works the same way as the original MultiHop feature, but instead of predetermined pairs, you’ll get to choose your first and second servers. This gives the feature more flexibility, and could also potentially increase MultiHop speeds by letting you choose a server close to your physical location.
Lastly, Surfshark One is an add-on service that is sort of an all-in-one digital security solution. It includes access to Surfshark’s antivirus software, identity monitoring service, and secure search engine. Surfshark One costs $1.49 a month if you bundle it with any VPN subscription. The total cost of a two-year VPN and Surfshark One subscription is only $95.52.
How Fast Is Surfshark?
If you connect to a VPN, you can expect slower speeds than usual, as your web traffic has to go through an encrypted server in addition to the public network’s server.
That’s normal, but that doesn’t mean your internet has to crawl to a halt. Aside from testing Surfshark, we tested our speeds while connected to the VPN to make sure it isn’t “killing” our network. We used both a 2011 Macbook Pro and an Acer Aspire 5 in our tests, and here’s what we found out.
As you can see from the below results, our speeds performed much better on the Mac than on the Windows computer, which was a bit lackluster.
However, speed is determined by a large number of factors, including your distance to the server, device make and model, operating system, browser type, and more, so take our speed tests with a grain of salt.
|Devices tested on||MacBook Pro 2011||Acer Aspire 5 (Windows 10)|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||54||7|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||53||199|
|Macbook download speed without VPN (in mbps)||16.21||23.69|
|Download speed with VPN (in mbps)||11.87||19.61|
|Download speed difference||31%||17%|
|Upload speed without VPN (in mbps)||22.01||24.09|
|Upload speed with VPN (in mbps)||24||10.58|
|Upload speed difference||9%||56%|
Later, we tested Surfshark again against other VPNs, and we used a more comprehensive testing process this time around. While Surfshark didn’t come out the fastest, its performance was solid, delivering high download speeds, passable upload speeds, and a consistent latency. You can read more about this test on our VPN speed test page.
How Secure Is Surfshark?
If your VPN isn’t taking good care of your data, you may be experiencing a “the call is coming from inside the house” situation. But have no fear: we walked around this proverbial house checking under every bed frame, and here’s what we came out with.
Using outdated encrypted methods is kind of like using an old lock on a safe; sure, it’s better than nothing, but we want better protection for our valuables. So, after some digging, we found that Surfshark encrypted our information using AES 256-bit, which is what we expect from VPNs in 2023.
On top of that, Surfshark encrypted our traffic through multiple servers, hiding our web traffic even more. This isn’t usually the case for even the best VPNs on the market, so we feel good about Surfshark protecting our web activity.
- What Surfshark logs: Surfshark kept our account information like our email addresses, our passwords, although they were encrypted, billing information and order history, diagnostic reports, which we opted out of, as well as anonymized information from its website like what pages we visited and how long we stayed there. Also, it kept our IP addresses and unique device identifiers, but only from its website as opposed to the actual VPN app. Like most companies, Surfshark collected cookies, which we could opt out of, as well.
- What Surfshark doesn’t log: Surfshark didn’t keep our IP addresses, session information, browsing history, the times we connected, the amount of bandwidth we used while connected to the VPN, our network traffic, etc.
Compared to other VPNs we’ve tested, Surfshark keeps the minimal amount of data necessary to run its service, making it a great choice for privacy.
|Data||Does Surfshark log it?|
|User’s email address||Yes|
|Payment data||Yes, unless you use anonymous payment methods such as cryptocurrency|
DNS Leak Tests
A DNS is a domain name server, meaning, the common name that comes with an IP address; think Security.Org (our domain name) as opposed to 184.108.40.206, one of our website’s IP addresses.
Of course, if a VPN isn’t hiding our DNS when connected, something is off, which is why we tested it out. Fortunately for us, the test showed a different IP address when connected versus not connected. That means Surfshark hid our web activity when we tested it out on both our Mac and Windows computers. Checkmate!
WebRTC Leak Tests
Finally, we also performed a WebRTC leak test using Surfshark. A little background info: whenever we video chat with friends, transfer files, or live stream Netflix, our computers use something called WebRTC, which is basically a collection of technologies that let web browsers communicate directly with each other as opposed to going through a middle-man server.
Sure, this creates faster speeds and rids us of excessive lag, but it also requires the two devices to know each other’s private IP address; no thank you. The question remained: did Surfshark leak our private IP addresses?
The short answer is: no, it didn’t. Even while we chatted on video, Surfshark hid our real IP addresses. So as far as privacy and security are concerned, Surfshark is at the top of its game.
Tip: Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge all default to WebRTC, making them more vulnerable to WebRTC leaks. If you’re streaming content, video chatting or transferring files on any of these browsers, make sure to connect to a VPN beforehand.
Surfshark Pricing Overview
After our seven-day free trial with Surfshark ended, we had several options when it came to paid subscriptions. In essence, all subscriptions gave us the same features, like being able to connect unlimited devices to Surfshark. The only thing that differs between the subscriptions is its term lengths, namely one month, one year, or two years.
|Term length||Monthly price||Monthly price with Surfshark One||Annual price||Total amount billed||Annual price after first billing period||Savings|
Surfshark’s monthly rate is notably more expensive than NordVPN’s pricing, but if you plan to sign a longer subscription, you’ll eventually get more value from Surfshark.
For example, NordVPN’s two-year plan costs about $3.99 a month, while Surfshark’s costs $2.49. That means in two years, you’ll save nearly $30 if you go with Surfshark rather than NordVPN. Of course, there are other factors like features and performance, but price-wise, Surfshark comes out on top. Compare Surfshark vs. NordVPN VPN connections further.
FYI: Students registered with Student Beans can get 15 percent off a Surfshark subscription. We recommend signing up for two years to get the lowest rates.
With prices as low as $2.49 a month for its two-year package, Surfshark isn’t only secure; it’s also about as cheap as VPNs come. For more information, read our Surfshark subscription page, or read about Surfshark deals and Surfshark Black Friday deals. For Black Friday last year, Surfshark added three months to its 24-month subscriptions at no added cost, bringing down the monthly cost to $2.21 per month.
We’d recommend Surfshark if you want…
- A strict logging policy
- Netflix and torrenting
- VPN service with optional antivirus, identity monitoring, and secure browser
But Surfshark is not for you if any of the following are deal-breakers…
- Slow speeds on Windows
- Same IP address every time you log on
Using a VPN isn’t the only way to protect yourself online. Check out our list of the best digital security practices for more tried and tested methods.
Surf’s up! We’re not done riding the wave of Surfshark, so sit back, relax and enjoy the answers to our most frequently asked questions.
Is the Surfshark VPN any good?
Surfshark is a very good VPN and is among one of the best VPN services, with AES-256 bit encryption, a kill switch, split tunneling, Netflix, and torrenting access, plus a headquarters outside of the Five Eyes alliance. And with more than 3,200 VPN servers in 65 countries, it can work for users around the world with fast speeds, particularly on Macs.
Is Surfshark better than NordVPN?
Surfshark is not better than NordVPN. Both VPNs include thousands of servers in over 60 countries each, but NordVPN has about 2,000 more servers overall. Also, both VPNs include split tunneling, torrenting and Netflix access, kill switches, AES-256 encryption, static IP addresses, and 30-day money-back guarantees, but NordVPN has better mobile apps on both iOS and Android than the Surfshark app on either operating system. If you want a better Android app and browser extensions, choose NordVPN over Surfshark.
Is Surfshark a Chinese company?
Surfshark is not a Chinese company nor a company based in Hong Kong. Rather, its parent company, Surfshark Ltd., is based in the Netherlands and was founded in 2018.
Is Surfshark better than ExpressVPN?
They’re close, but ultimately, Surfshark is better than ExpressVPN. Surfshark is more user-friendly, having responsive and intuitively-designed apps, easy-to-use features such as double VPN, and a much lower price range. Surfshark plans cost as low as $2.49 per month, whereas ExpressVPN costs at least $6.67 per month even with discounts.