Surfshark VPN review
Surfshark VPN is a real find in recent years. It is a great choice for users who want a powerful modern VPN without paying extra for a name.
Surfshark VPN offers its users in-demand features such as Netflix support, Double VPN (MultiHop), WireGuard protocol, NoBorders mode, unlimited connected devices, RAM-only servers, P2Pand more. In this Surfshark VPN review, we'll answer the important questions. Is it a good choice for 2023? Will it be able to reliably protect you and maintain a stable connection? Can it really bypass the protections of streaming services? Can Surfshark be used in censored countries? Is it effective for torrenting?
We have re-tested this popular service. We have run it on public Wi-Fi networks, launched Netflix through it, measured its speed and compared its performance on different platforms.
Surfshark VPN pros and cons
I’d like to draw your attention to three important advantages of Surfshark:
Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for Netflix (holding the second spot).
There are 3 reasons for it:
- Its efficiency in unblocking geo-restrictions for most countries including all the most popular regions (US, UK, JP, AU, DE, etc.) is almost guaranteed
- High server speed
- The lowest price compared to other VPNs with matching features
I’ve been testing certain VPNs’ Netflix and Hulu support for more than 6 months to be absolutely sure in what I say about them. For that entire time, Surfshark managed to outperform the streaming services’ restriction successfully. And not simply successfully but perfectly.
There are around 20 VPN services that can “crack” Netflix. Only a few of them are capable of doing it in a manner that doesn’t make the user reconnect several times to find a working server.
As for its speed, it is consistently high. I have checked it regularly on certain popular locations and created a table of the averages:
|US (United States)||15-45|
|UK (United Kingdom)||30-50|
As you can see, all the locations allow watching videos in HD and even in 4K.
Hulu is next.
Since this streaming service only contains content for the United States, I tested it only with US locations.
Hulu is supported by an even smaller number of VPNs than Netflix. By using Surfshark, I managed to unblock it on every US location.
So, these are the first two reasons why Surfshark is among the leaders in terms of streaming support. I should only add the mention of its price:
With the current discount of 86%, the price is $2.21 per month (if you subscribe for 2 years).
Servers and speed
There are more than 150 (or 300, depending on who you ask) active VPN services and most of them have the same numbers of locations to connect to and servers. These numbers can equal 10, 20, or, with more advanced providers, up to 50.
Surfshark claims it has more than 3200 servers in 100 countries!
While far from being a record (for example, both NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN have more than 5000 servers), it’s considerably more than the average figures in the VPN market.
Surfshark has a small drawback: the user can’t choose a definite server within a location. The system finds the most suitable IP address on its own. For instance, I need to browse the Internet from Sydney, Australia:
There are several servers in this location but a user can’t access their list.
Why is it inconvenient?
Some websites don’t appreciate it if you change your IP often. They are, most often, payment systems or other services that require you to go through authentication again any time there are some changes to the user location data. In such cases, it’s convenient to use the same server to visit websites from IP addresses located in the same subnetwork or even with the same exact IP.
Nevertheless, Surfshark does provide an opportunity to do so by using its list of servers with fixed addresses (Static IP). However, the list is rather short: servers support P2P/torrenting:
- United Kingdom
- United States
Moreover, it’s only available on Windows.
Surfshark has another two curious specialized server lists:
Let me explain why.
MultiHop is a kind of double VPN technology. It allows setting double protection of the location data. A user can choose a suitable pair of servers from this list. Physically speaking, their computer is going to connect to the first server which is connected to the second, “outgoing” one through which the Internet is accessed. It decreases the chance of somebody discovering the user’s real IP.
There are 13 input and output server pairs available:
- UK-FR (United Kingdom -> France)
- UK-DE (United Kingdom -> Germany)
- SG-HK (Singapore -> Hong Kong)
- SG-NL (Singapore -> Netherlands)
- US-NL (United States -> Netherlands)
- US-PT (United States -> Portugal)
- DE-SG (Germany -> Singapore)
- FR-SE (France -> Sweden)
- IN-UK (India -> United Kingdom)
- DE-UK (Germany -> United Kingdom)
- NL-US (Netherlands -> United States)
- CA-US (Canada -> United States)
- AU-US (Australia -> United States)
In what cases is MultiHop VPN convenient to use?
I can’t give you a clear list of situations when it’s really necessary to use double VPN. It’s quite open to argument whether or not it bolsters your privacy by a lot because my tests showed that Surfshark is decently safe even without it. This function can be really useful when a user needs to hide the fact they’re connected to a specific country from the system administrator or the ISP. To give you an example: you want to connect to a UK server from India. However, for some reason, you can’t. Then the IN-UK MultiHop connection will help you. Your ISP will see that you have connected to an Indian IP but not your farther connection to the UK.
As for the P2P server list, today, it can be called irrelevant because all Surfshark servers support P2P/torrenting.
While both of them expand the provider’s functionality, only MultiHop is actually useful as of this day.
In 2019, Surfshark increased its coverage from 50 to 61 countries. Right now, it beats even NordVPN in this regard because that provider recently left Russia and supports 60 countries instead of 60. By the way, Surfshark still provides 2 locations in that country.
All the popular countries are supported (e.g., US, CA, NL, JP, DE). But there are also others that are rarely seen among VPN providers today: RU, KZ, Libya, and some other ones.
4 countries out of 61 are virtual locations and the provider doesn’t make a secret out of it:
- Costa Rica
There are no physical servers in these countries. Users connect to them in a virtual manner through servers located in different places.
In general, Surfshark’s coverage has been considerably improving. As of this day, it’s one of the best ones and is available at an unprecedentedly low price for such a number of countries.
To be honest, I wasn’t exactly satisfied with Surfshark’s speeds on many locations just about a year ago. As the tests showed, however, today, speeds are improved almost in every country.
I’ll give just a few examples.
The test showed perfect speed in 100Mbps channel*:
|Country||Download speed, Mbps||Upload speed, Mbps|
The use of Surfshark has become objectively more convenient. Rarely, the speed does drop below 30-20 Mbps but it mostly happens during the “rush hours” when the load is the biggest.
I should specify that what I said about speeds here is relevant also to the servers on which I conducted streaming tests.
Security and privacy
The most effective way to test the performance of a VPN app is to intercept the computer’s outbound traffic and analyze it. I log all data packages with the IP addresses during a lengthy time period by using the Wireshark traffic analyzer. Then, I scan this data for all the connections that could happen outside of the VPN channel (its IP address is marked in green).
As you can see in the screengrab, besides the address of the VPN server in Finland, there are only the local addresses of the tested computer in my local Wi-Fi network. That’s exactly how it should be when a VPN works correctly (in reality, not all providers achieve that).
I should point out that Surfshark manages to protect your data even with the kill switch being off.
To put it short, Surfshark protects all the data fully by packing it reliably inside an encrypted VPN channel.
- My advice: Use the IKEv2 protocol on Windows with Surfshark. OpenVPN doesn’t provide so much security with this provider and can leak certain messenger and system utility data if the kill switch isn’t active.
Lately, I started testing not only Windows apps but also software for Mac and Linux to maximize the fairness of my reviews.
Surfshark has passed the test on macOS as well successfully:
As for Linux, the tests of Surfrshark yielded good results in regard to traffic protection. However, the addresses of the visited websites were not protected at all:
I should explain. The screenshot shows that the traffic was really sent into an encrypted VPN channel with the IP address of 220.127.116.11 (marked in blue). At the same time, DNS queries containing data about visited sites went to the network with no protection (marked in red – you can clearly see in the intercepted traffic that I visited google.com).
So, to sum the security test results of Surfshark:
- The Windows version is 100% safe if you use IKEv2. The app sets up the protocol automatically by default and in my case, it set IKEv2 up. If you switch to OpenVPN, you risk leaving some part of your traffic unprotected. To avoid it, you should simply turn the kill switch on in the app settings.
- Surfshark for Mac is also confirmed safe. IKEv2 is the only protocol available in this version of the app.
- The software for Linux allows DNS leaks to happen. If you need a 100% secure VPN specifically for Ubuntu, my advice is to use NordVPN.
We check apps for Android and iOS according to the parameters more relevant to mobile VPNs. So, we’ll talk about them in one of the following sections.
Reliable protection of visited addresses (except on Linux)
While analyzing the traffic, I found out that the DNS queries containing website names are transferred to a server through an encrypted VPN channel. It got me thinking if these queries are processed right on the VPN server or are transmitted in an unprotected fashion to public DNS servers.
To see that, I checked the destination DNS server address with ipleak.net:
The screencap shows that the DNS server is located on the main server (as their IP addresses match). This guarantees that neither the ISP (Internet service provider) nor other systems or devices between the user’s gadget and the VPN server can determine the names of the visited resources.
You can subscribe with an 86% discount for $2.21 per month for 2 years here
Apps and devices
In this section, I will tell you about the peculiarities of Surfshark’s work on every platform in detail. Most reviews I’ve read only talk about the more general characteristics of this provider and don’t take its pros and cons applicable to a specific platform into consideration.
Surfshark for Windows
As it usually is, the Windows version is the fullest one. Besides all the features and settings I’ve already enumerated, it also allows you to enable two extra functions that are available for a surcharge and increase your general Internet security:
- HackLock. Warns the user in the cases when logins and passwords you transmit into the network can be intercepted by hackers.
- BlindSearch. Blocks search engines tracking the user’s search, making it as private as possible.
The surcharge is only $0.99 per month, making the full cost with the minimal price for the VPN service $2.21 per month.
What features and settings does Surfshark for Windows have?
The most important thing on the list is the kill switch. It’s required for safe torrenting as well as any other connection type that involves a continuous data flow that needs to be reliably hidden.
- My advice: If you want to be sure that the server you chose is suited for torrenting, type “p2p” in the location search bar. A list of countries will open that is identical to those P2P ones you can access on other OSs.
Generally, Surfshark is a great VPN for Windows. It has everything it needs to solve any task present on this platform including streaming.
You can subscribe to Surfshark for Windows with a beneficial discount of 86% on the official website surfshark.com.
Surfshark for Android
Surfshark’s version for Android is almost as good as the Windows one in terms of functionality and convenience.
It also has basic, expanded, and extra functionality available for a surcharge.
The app lets you choose VPN protocols, turn the malicious website blocker and Whitelister on, etc. So I won’t repeat myself and say the same things I said about Surfshark on Windows. Instead, I will delineate the main differences and provide the test results of the Android app with unexpected connectivity issues and other problems a VPN can face in real conditions of using a mobile gadget.
Peculiarities of Surfshark for Android:
And that’s the only drawback of the mobile version of Surfhark. It matters only for users in China and certain other countries that block VPNs.
Surfshark has successfully proved to be resilient against all sorts of unexpected issues that can occur when using mobile devices in real-life conditions. However, there’s a caveat:
The kill switch provides protection only on relatively new versions of Android (bigger than 6). With Android version 6, the kill switch failed to protect data when the VPN deactivated suddenly.
I’ll explain this in detail.
VPN Review Realtime IP Logger shows how effectively the app protects the user’s IP address when anything unexpected happens to the VPN channel. For example, issues can occur when the device connects to a Wi-Fi network after the cellular internet, when the Wi-Fi connection is unstable, or in other real-life events. There are several lines that say “Reconnect…” in the screenshot. These are checkpoints where such events occur. The IP address of the device is read. Surfshark coped with the task in all cases and protected the real IP reliably.
The app for Android 6 failed and allowed an IP leak during the very first event:
So, what conclusion about Surfshark on Android do we arrive at?
The app has exceptionally powerful functionality especially if you compare it to “average” VPNs that like to claim they are the best ones in the Google Play Market catalog. Its safety is proven on devices running on a relatively up-to-date version of the OS. I should also note that the app has low energy consumption.
You can download Surfshark for Android from the Google Play Market or as a .apk installer from surfshark.com.
Surfshark for Mac
Recently, Surfshark became available in the Mac App Store, which makes it one of the few VPNs trusted by Apple. At the same time, it can be easily downloaded and installed using an installer or the website of the service.
Surfshark for macOS has a lot of basic and extra options just like its apps for the platforms we’ve already covered but still doesn’t quite live up to them in terms of functionality. Moreover, there are some important differences you should know of in advance.
What peculiarities does Surfshark have on Mac?
There are no such differences among those enumerated that would restrict the VPN’s sphere of application in any meaningful way. On the contrary, you can save money by not buying extra functions of dubious utility since it’s not supported on macOS anyway.
Our tests confirm the security of the Mac app. The IP address, traffic, and addresses of the resources you visit are under reliable protection.
Combined with the extended functionality, high speeds, and stable performance, it makes Surfshark one of the best VPNs for Mac.
You can download and install Surfshark for Mac from the Mac App Store or directly from Surfshark.com.
Surfshark for iOS
The Surfshark functionality for iOS turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Its app for iPhone and iPad can be rightfully called one of the best VPNs for iOS. Unlike the apps made by 80 or 90% of other providers, it has almost the same functionality as the apps for Mac and Windows.
The most curious thing is the ability to select a VPN protocol and the presence of a kill switch. These features are the rarest on this platform.
There is also obfuscation (NoBorders), tracker blocking, and extra features available for a surcharge.
So what peculiarities does Surfshark have on iOS?
I should emphasize that Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for iOS. Though it doesn’t seem to have any giant advantages and sort of lags behind Mac and Windows versions functionality-wise at first glance, it’s better than most other VPNs for this OS. The reason for it is because really powerful VPN software is rarely made for it.
Surfshark for Linux
Surfshark offers command-line software for Ubuntu Linux.
It’s quite an efficient solution that allows using VPN technology for various purposes that include protection of important data, bypassing blocks, safe torrenting, or “borderless” streaming.
I can’t say it’s easy to use but if you’re accustomed to the command line in the console, then installation and launch of Surfshark won’t cause any difficulties.
Before you use “apt-get install …”, you only need to install an additional repository:
You can download it from the Surfshark website. On the same page with the link to the .deb repository, you can find an in-depth manual for further installation.
After installing Surfshark on Linux, you’ll need to enter the email and password you used at the signup.
What peculiarities does Surfshark have on Linux?
I have mentioned in the security section of this review that Surfshark for Linux has a rather serious DNS leak issue. This fact restricts the use of the Linux software for solving sensitive tasks.
- If you need a reliable VPN for Linux that doesn’t have security problems, my recommendation is to use the NordVPN software.
Apart from that, the performance of Surfshark is outstanding. All the locations are available and the connection is stable.
Surfshark for Chrome
Surfshark is available as a proxy browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.
I can’t emphasize this enough: it is a proxy because proxy and virtual private network are different technologies with vastly different features. A proxy protects only the traffic of the browser it’s installed to. The traffic of other apps and the OS go into the network unprotected.
It doesn’t mean that Surfshark for Chrome and Firefox is useless. In some cases, it very much is. For example, a proxy connection is quite enough to unblock websites or stream from the browser. Surfshark performs these tasks effectively. The advantage of using its browser extension is how speedy the connection is. The proxy starts almost immediately while a full-fledged VPN takes a few seconds to establish an encrypted channel.
My tests have confirmed that data and website addresses are reliably protected.
- Tip: You can you a web-browser extension over the main VPN app. It will allow you to get another layer of protection for your browser traffic and hide your location even better – just like with double VPN.
You have the following settings:
- Country selection
- Protection from WebRTC leaks (on by default)
- Cyber Sec (protection from malicious websites, off by default)
Surfshark for Chrome and Firefox is available after subscribing on Surfshark.com.
Surfshark for TV, gaming platforms, and routers
Surfshark supports other modern platforms:
- routers (manual OpenVPN configuration or L2TP on demand)
- TV and consoles (FireTV, Apple TV, Android TV)
- game consoles (Xbox, PlayStation)
Surfshark is available on any device that supports VPN technology.
For certain modern platforms, it’s enough to install an app while others you have to set up manually with the help of detailed instructions published on Surfshark.com.
If you can’t set the VPN up on a device or the software malfunctions for whatever reason, the best solution would be to set up Surfshark on a router. If you do it, all the devices in your Wi-Fi network will work with the VPN
Surfshark provides not just one but two ways to protect your torrenting activities:
- regular VPN app launch
- launching the VPN app and setting the torrent client up in addition to that
Both ways keep you secure if you use them right. Let’s discuss each of them.
The regular launch reliably protects your use of torrents is your Internet connection is stable and the VPN server doesn’t disconnect all of a sudden. Such a thing happens roughly in 1% of cases but it still can happen. To eschew safety vulnerabilities in nonstandard situations, you should always turn the kill switch on when torrenting:
Surfshark has this feature on all the major OSs but it is turned off by default.
The second way doesn’t require you to use the kill switch. All you have to do is connect to the VPN with the default settings and set the torrent client up by binding a VPN channel to it:
This bind guarantees that the traffic will always be protected. Should anything happen to the VPN channel, any torrenting processes will stop automatically.
What servers should you choose for torrenting?
As of this day, all the Surfshark servers support P2P. However, the app for Apple devices has special server lists for torrenting. They are likely a relic of the time when Surfshark allowed P2P not on every location.
As for the speed, the tests of Surfshark showed fast speeds on most servers. To ensure good performance, choose the least loaded locations that have an advanced technical infrastructure such as European countries.
Surfshark is based offshore in the British Virgin Islands.
It makes any political or financial pressure on Surfshark Ltd, the proprietor of the VPN service, unlikely.
We’ll go into some more detail about Surfshark Ltd later on.
Works in China with the NoBorders mode
The NoBorders feature (obfuscation) is the only way to bypass VPN blocks. Every protocol leaves its footprint it can be traced by, and such a connection can be blocked. NoBorders changes these protocol footprints and makes it “invisible”.
There are very few VPN services that have obfuscation and even fewer actually manage to get it to work efficiently.
Surfshark is one of them. I’ve been monitoring this feature for more than a year as well as read customer reviews and can tell for sure that Surfshark works in China and other countries that block VPN.
If you are going to China, install Surfshark in advance because there, its website can be blocked.
Surfshark also has some flaws.
If we compare Surfshark to its strongest competitors, its method of choosing VPN servers is less convenient. Not only does it lack a visualized map with the countries marked on it but also doesn’t let you choose a specific server.
That’s a bit of a contradiction: while Surfshark has more than 3200 servers, its users can’t freely access any particular one they want as the app automatically connects to the most suitable option.
It’s inconvenient for two reasons:
- You can’t use the same server (and its IP addresses) several times. This problem is solved by using the Static IP list but only partially as it has a limited number of countries.
- You don’t see how many servers there are in any given location and can’t tell how likely the risk of your server suddenly stopping working without another one to take its place.
I have mentioned in the previous chapters that Surfshark doesn’t protect DNS queries on Linux. These queries contain the name of a visited domain. A DNS server replies to the queries by providing the domain’s IP address.
Besides, the software for Linux doesn’t transmit those queries to a safe DNS server. Unless you change the addresses of DNS servers manually in the Internet connection settings of the OS, your queries will be sent to your ISP’s DNS servers.
Changing the system DNS settings solves the problem only partially because the addresses of the websites you visit are still sent into the network unencrypted.
Surfshark is available for free for 7 days on Android and iOS with no credit card needed. All the other platforms are only available for a fee.
What can free Surfshark do?
The basic app features of the paid and free versions are exactly the same.
The only difference is that in the paid version, you can activate two functions that increase your level of safety when using the internet for an extra charge.
What peculiarities of the trial version do you need to know?
- The trial period is only available on Android and iOS.
- You can only use the trial once.
- To use the free trial, you have to install the Surfshark app first. You can find its download links easily on Surfshark’s website. After you launch it, the free trial signup window will appear. Enter your email and password there.
I haven’t tested the trial version before buying a subscription because it’s identical to the paid ones.
- By the way, Surfshark is #1 in our ranking of free trial VPN services available without a credit card.
One of the biggest advantages of Surfshark is its price.
There are three reasons why it is considered to be excellent:
- Not many VPN services lower their prices below $2.5 per month.
- Surfshark is the most powerful VPN that has a low price.
- Its cheapest plan is the two-year one as opposed to a three-year subscription many of its rivals offer.
I should also mention its convenient 7-day trial period. It’s available only on Android and iOS but on the positive side, it doesn’t require a credit card to be activated.
If you buy a subscription without using a free trial, you can get a full refund within 30 days on the two-years plan. It’s a safety net for those who are a bit apprehensive of buying a long-term subscription at once.
Surfshark is one of the few VPNs that accept Google Pay and Amazon Pay. You can also use PayPal, cryptocurrencies, or Alipay.
Information about the company owner
Surfshark is a registered trademark of Surfshark Ltd. It was registered in March 2018. Little is known about the company since it is registered in an offshore in the British Virgin Islands. Information about the founders and activities of Surfshark Ltd are also not covered in public sources.
Surfshark Ltd: Vanterpool Plaza, 2nd Floor, Wickhams Cay I1110 Road Town, TortolaBritish Virgin Islands
So is Surfshark worth using?
The answer is yes!
It has all the necessary characteristics of a safe multifunctional modern VPN. The flaws described in this article are insignificant for 99.9% of users and don’t negatively affect the feel of using the service. Furthermore, continues to dynamically develop and I expect it to further improve its performance in the future.
The only significant flaw was found on Linux. My advice to the users of that platform is to find some better software from a different VPN service.
Leave your comments and ask your questions about Surfshark below. My colleagues and I will be happy to answer!