Surfshark review


Surfshark is an affordable and secure VPN, ideal for users needing to connect multiple devices simultaneously due to its unlimited device policy. It ensures robust online security and privacy, backed by successful DNS leak tests and independent security audits.

However, when it comes to streaming, Surfshark might not be the best fit for everyone. While it handles most streaming services well, it faces challenges with some, like Hulu, which could be a drawback for users who heavily rely on VPNs for streaming content from various regions.

Speed-wise, Surfshark offers decent performance, suitable for general use, but it’s not the fastest available on the market. Users requiring high-speed connections for activities such as gaming or high-definition streaming might find more suitable options elsewhere.

Price

The value of a VPN can be difficult to determine as it’s affected by several factors. These can be the length of the subscription, how many devices you can install the software on simultaneously, how many servers the VPN provides and any additional addons or benefits that come with the package.

Without taking into account extras and addons, instead primarily focussing on the prices of a Surfshark subscription, we can see the VPN offers a 1-month option costing $12.95/month, a 12-month option costing $3.99/month and a 24-month option costing $2.49/month. It accepts all major credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and various cryptocurrencies.

We’ve collated the prices of what we think are the 20 best VPNs, and our findings have shown that, on average, these VPNs cost $4.33/month for a 24-month subscription. Surfshark is incredibly well-priced, coming in at $2.49/month.

Similarly, on average the best VPNs cost $12.06/month for a single-month subscription. At $12.95/month, Surfshark is a little more expensive than average but is still very well priced.

Pros

  • Attractive pricing for long-term subscriptions
  • Supports unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Robust security
  • Offers 24/7 responsive chat support

Cons

  • Has trouble with services like Hulu
  • Lacks a unique proprietary protocol
  • App can be overwhelming
  • Not the fastest among competitors

Devices/Availability

A single Surfshark subscription allows you to connect to unlimited devices simultaneously. This is a very good offering.

Some VPNs limit the number of devices the software can be installed on. Our research has found that, on average, the VPNs that put limitations on the number of devices limit themselves to seven devices simultaneously.

From this data, we can see that Surfshark’s unlimited devices offering is a very good deal and is one of the best on the market.

The Surfshark app isn’t the cleanest we’ve used. That title going to ExpressVPN. Surfshark bombards you with a lot of information, and it can sometimes be hard to navigate. When we wanted to use the VPN simply as a VPN, we had to navigate away from other features like Surfshark’s Ad Blocker, Pop-Up Blocker, Data Leak Threats and Malware Alert programs. While these were welcome addons, most of the time, we wanted to simply use Surfshark as a VPN, and constantly navigating through these extras became tedious after a while.

Surfshark is available on many platforms:

Mobile Devices/Consoles

  • Android
  • iOS
  • PlayStation 5
  • Xbox Series X

Computers/Browsers

  • macOS
  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Chrome
  • Firefox

Streaming devices

  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Apple TV

Streaming Performance

If you’re looking for a VPN to allow you to watch streaming services in countries where they aren’t available, it’s important to know that most streaming platforms are now trying to block VPNs from accessing their content.

They do this because someone using a VPN to watch a streaming service in a location where it doesn’t have the rights to broadcast its content could result in that service being fined for breaching copyright and licensing agreements.

These VPN blocking techniques can be difficult for VPNs to get around. To test Surfshark’s capabilities, we tried connecting to four streaming services over a month to see if we encountered any issues. The streaming services we tried were Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu and HBO Max.

Throughout the month, we were able to connect to HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and change our Netflix library without issue with Surfshark. However, we did encounter some issues when trying to connect to Hulu.

Over the month, we weren’t able to connect to Hulu from New Zealand using Surfshark, with the streaming service recognising we were using a VPN and blocking our connection.

Surfshark review

Security

To check how secure Surfshark VPN is, we did several DNS leak tests.

DNS stands for Domain Name System, which works like an address book for the internet. When you search for a website, like ReviewsFire.com, your device asks a DNS server for the website’s IP address. The DNS server translates the website name into this IP address, which lets you visit the site.

Normally, when using a VPN, your online activities, including these DNS requests, should be encrypted and sent through the VPN’s servers. If a VPN is working correctly, all these requests are securely routed through the VPN, keeping your data private.

However, if a DNS leak occurs, it means the VPN isn’t fully encrypting your data. This can be tested by checking if your DNS requests are going to your local internet provider’s servers instead of the VPN’s. If they are, it’s a sign that your online activities might be visible to others.

We tested Surfshark with third-party software, DNSleaktest.com, to see if any leaks were happening. The results were clear: Surfshark securely encrypted all DNS requests, ensuring complete online anonymity. This means Surfshark is effectively protecting your online privacy.

Privacy Policy

To assure its security and customer privacy, Surfshark was independently audited by Cure53 in 2018 and 2021. The first audit was issued to assess and examine Surfshark’s browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Cure53 had this to say: “Two members of the Cure53 team, who examined the scope in November 2018, can only conclude that the tested applications make a very robust impression and are not exposed to any issues, neither in the privacy nor in the more general security realms.” Concluding with, “To sum up, Cure53 is highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture on the Surfshark VPN proxy extensions, especially given the common vulnerability of similar products to privacy issues.” You can read the full 2018 audit here.

 In 2021, Cure53 launched an independent audit, examining Surfshark’s server infrastructure and how secure it is. The audit found no serious issues, and the less serious flaws identified were confirmed to be fixed. You can read the full audit summary here.

In conjunction with our DNS Leak Tests, these audit results show that Surfshark is a very secure VPN that supports and maintains customer privacy.

Surfshark review

Server Network

It’s easy to get swept up by the marketing jargon that VPNs put out there. Many of them will say they have x amount of servers worldwide. This isn’t a great metric to rate a VPN on, as the servers could all be based in one location, making the VPN relatively useless. A better way to assess the servers provided by a VPN is to look at how many countries the VPN has servers in. Multiple locations give you more choice and opportunity to spoof your location, also there’s a higher chance there will be a server near you to reduce latency and lag.

Surfshark has servers in 100 countries. This is a very good amount. It’s well above the top 20 VPNs’ average of 71 and is second only to HMA, which boasts 218 countries. 44 of those 100 are virtual servers, though.

There are two types of VPN servers, physical and virtual. We consider physical servers the gold standard as they’re dedicated hardware setups in the country where you want your IP address to be based. This means the registered IP your VPN gives you and the server providing it are physically located in the same country. They’re usually faster than virtual servers, are more reliable and are also customisable as the hardware is dedicated to that server. This means if a server is having problems, a VPN can quickly fix them.

Virtual servers act like physical servers, but they don’t have hardware solely dedicated to them; they’re on existing hardware, which is often shared and rented by VPNs. In other words, it’s not a server built and maintained by the VPN.

They’re often a bit slower than physical servers as they share resources with other servers, and because they’re rented, it can be difficult to fix issues and errors as the VPN is reliant on the owner. With that said they work fine and most of the time, you won’t be able to tell the difference. What they are very good at is allowing a VPN to provide IP addresses in countries where it isn’t possible to install or build a physical server.

For example, Surfshark can give you an IP address based in India. However, the server won’t be located in India; it will be in a location where VPN servers are easier to build or rent.

Forty-four countries of Surfshark’s 100 supported countries rely on virtual servers, which means 44% of its servers are virtual. This is a lot. It isn’t as much as Private Internet Access with 50% of its servers being virtual, but it’s a lot more than ExpressVPN with only 3% of its 94 servers being virtual. This means ExpressVPN has a much larger network of physical servers dedicated solely to the VPN, meaning it’s generally quicker and more reliable.

Speed

To measure the speed of Surfshark, we connected to three different locations and initiated speed tests.

VPN speeds can be affected by several factors such as your internet speed, distance from the server, and bandwidth availability. It can be difficult getting a true representation of how fast a VPN is. However, to accommodate these factors, we measured the speeds when connected via Surfshark and compared them to our default speed with Surfshark turned off. The results are below:

Download Speeds (Mbps)Upload Speeds (Mbps)
VPN off940.55520.24
ExpressVPN US server775.96.15
ExpressVPN UK server587.793.79
ExpressVPN Vietnam server600.193.09

These are decent results. However, they’re not quite as good as the speeds of ExpressVPN, which boasted 824.62, 794.95 and 761.90Mbps download results for the US, UK and Vietnam, respectively.

The upload speeds decline substantially with Surfshark, but we are finding that happens with most VPNs. It’s not unusual.

Surfshark review

Protocols

A VPN protocol is a set of rules determining how a VPN reroutes your online data through its servers. Some protocols are faster than others but are less secure, and some are slower but are more secure.

Surfshark supports three protocols, WireGuard, IKEv2 and OpenVPN. For more information on VPN protocols and why they’re important, look at this excellent explainer from CyberNews.

This is a good range of protocols with OpenVPN being well-known for providing a secure VPN connection. OpenVPN is open-source software, so it’s available for critique and has been tested extensively since its initial release over twenty years ago. It’s compatible with numerous encryption cyphers and comes in two versions, TCP and UDP. The only weakness of OpenVPN is it’s a bit slower than other protocols, but what it lacks in speed, it more than makes up for in security. You can read more about OpenVPN here.

WireGuard is a newer protocol, released in 2019, that is also open-source and has been scrutinised by third parties, ensuring its capabilities. It’s a lightweight protocol that prioritises speed, running 3x faster than OpenVPN. It doesn’t use much bandwidth and only consists of 4,000 lines of code; however, it’s not as secure as OpenVPN. You can find out more about WireGuard here.

IKEv2, or Internet Key Exchange version 2, is a tunnelling protocol that provides high speeds and a very good amount of security. One of the key features IKEv2 provides that OpenVPN and WireGuard don’t is the ability to auto-reconnect. If your VPN service is interrupted or the connection is lost, as soon as it is back up and running, IKEv2 will kick back into gear, ensuring you’re secure when returning to your data. It’s faster than OpenVPN and is incredibly stable as well. You can read more about IKEv2 here.

It’s important to know that Surfshark doesn’t have its own proprietary VPN protocol. Whilst OpenVPN, WireGuard and IKEv2 are very good options, other VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN have their own protocols that they can maintain, manage and change where necessary. Surfshark relies on third-party protocols and can’t change them if it needs to.

Customer Support

Surfshark’s 24/7 chat support is a handy feature, common among VPNs, but they do it well. It lets users get help any time, which is great for different time zones or urgent issues. The support team is quick to respond and good at solving problems, whether you’re setting up the VPN or need help with something more technical.

This chat support is easy to use. You just start a chat and get answers in real time, instead of waiting for emails or phone calls. This makes using Surfshark smoother and less stressful, knowing help is always a few clicks away.

Addons

A Surfshark subscription comes with a number of addons. CleanWeb 2.0 is Surfshark’s adblocker. It blocks ads, popups and malware before it can load. It’s effective and works well, being a genuinely useful addon.

Surfshark also supports Multihop, which diverts your online data through two VPN servers as opposed to one. This allows for a more secure connection meaning it’s even harder for your online activity to be tracked, allowing for more anonymity.

Surfshark comes with what it calls Bypasser, which allows you to select which apps are and aren’t affected by the VPN, and there’s also a Killswitch that will disconnect your online connection if the VPN unexpectedly closes. This ensures your connection remains secure when it reconnects.

Surfshark Alert is an identity protection tool that will check to see if your data was ever stolen and sold by hackers. It will also alert you if your data gets breached.

You can also get Surfshark One which is Surfshark’s antivirus software, for an additional $1.49/month on top of your VPN subscription.

Verdict

Surfshark offers excellent value, especially with its affordable long-term plans. Its unique feature of unlimited device connections and wide platform availability makes it a versatile choice. However, its monthly plan is slightly pricier than average.

While Surfshark generally performs well with streaming services, it struggles with some, like Hulu. Security-wise, it’s strong, confirmed by successful DNS leak tests and independent audits, but lacks a proprietary protocol. The app interface is a bit cluttered with features, yet its 24/7 chat support is efficient and helpful.

Speed-wise, Surfshark is decent but not the fastest compared to some rivals. Its server network is extensive, though a large number are virtual servers, affecting speed and reliability.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Price
Security
Speed
Streaming
Servers
Addons
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Yes, Patch is my (real) name and reviewing tech is my game. Get in touch at patch.bowen@thebit.nz
surfshark-review-2024 Surfshark is an affordable and secure VPN, ideal for users needing to connect multiple devices simultaneously due to its unlimited device policy. It ensures robust online security and privacy, backed by successful DNS leak tests and independent security audits. However, when it comes to streaming,...