Surfshark full review

Surfshark is a cheap but cheerful VPN (Virtual Private Network) that can help protect your privacy whilst opening up the web for access to region-blocked content such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix US when abroad.

We've put the service through its paces to bring you our full review, and compare it to the other services in our round-up of the best VPNs.

Pricing

Surfshark’s prices are very competitive, with a two year subscription working out at £2.79/$3.49 per month. There’s also a one year option for £4.79/$5.99 per month, or if you don’t want to commit you can choose to pay £9.49/$11.95 per month.

We’ve also seen Surfshark discounted to an even lower price of £1.59/$1.99 for the two year deal, but we don’t expect that deal to stick around forever. It’s an absolute bargain at this price, particularly when you consider that the subscription covers an unlimited number of devices.

You can get Surfshark now from its website here.

There’s no free trial on desktop, but you will be able to make use of the 30 day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the service. Strangely, you can get a 7 day trial via the mobile app.

Payment options vary, including your standard credit card, PayPal and Google Pay options but also offering the ability to pay using cryptocurrency or Alipay.

Features

In order to remain outside of the jurisdiction of the 14-eyes, Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands. That means it cannot be asked to share customer data by the government.

The company says it has a strict no-logs policy. It does collect your email address and billing information when you set up an account. Beyond that, it doesn’t know whether you use the applications once you’ve purchased the plan, or what you choose to do when you’re using the service.

For diagnostics, Surfshark collects anonymous data including aggregated performance data, the frequency of use of its services, crash reports on apps and unsuccessful connection attempts, but none of these can be traced back to accounts or individuals. It collects this technical data in order to improve its service.

There are 800 servers across 50 countries including the UK and US, which is a decent offering that caters to the vast majority of users. Surfshark offers P2P servers for torrenting, but doesn’t specify within the app which those are. Instead, you’ll find that P2P works using US servers or the UK - London server, and if you try to use P2P on another server you’ll be rerouted via the Netherlands or Canada depending on your physical location.

The application itself is easy to download and install, and keeps things simple by offering a list of locations and a quick connect button. There’s a search option if you’d prefer not to have to scroll, and it’ll make note of recently used servers to help you connect to those more quickly.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to see any extra information such as how close a server is to full capacity or the current ping time, which some users may find frustrating. You’re also limited to choosing a country (and in some cases a city within that country) and letting Surfshark choose a server within that country for you, rather than getting access to a full list of servers that you can access.

However, the app should pick out a server that it thinks will be the fastest and most suitable for you, so you shouldn't find this too much of a problem the majority of the time.

Surfshark uses IKEv2/IPsec by default on all of its apps, but if you prefer to use OpenVPN you can switch to the older protocol.

It offers a Kill Switch, which will disable internet access if the VPN connection suddenly drops, but it’s a system-wide kill switch that you can’t customise to particular apps. It does work across both its Windows and macOS apps, as well as its mobile apps, though.

An optional setting that’s not enabled by default is CleanWeb, which blocks ads and trackers, but beyond that you don’t get any extra features or settings to play around with.

On the Windows app, you can also use Whitelister to allow specific apps and websites to bypass the VPN. Surfshark suggests you could use this for banking apps but there may be other instances such as applications you need to log into for work that will benefit from this option.

You’ll find apps for Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux and Fire TV, as well as browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. Mobile apps get pretty much the same features as you’ll get from the desktop apps, including the aforementioned kill switch and MultiHop servers, but you won’t find the Whitelister on iOS (it only works on Windows and Android).

Support is incredibly speedy - you can use the 24/7 online chat to speak to a representative. During our testing we had a response within seconds of asking a question, and it was a very helpful response from a friendly and cheerful Surfshark employee.

Performance

When it comes to performance, Surfshark fares pretty well. We found that we were able to connect to Netflix using multiple different servers. Some of those in the US didn’t work, but it took no time at all to find one that did so it wasn’t a major issue at all.

When connected to a UK server, BBC iPlayer worked without a hitch, so Surfshark should be able to offer access to iPlayer content even when you’re abroad.

We found Surfshark to be very quick to connect, and during our testing there were no DNS leaks at all. There are options for further security using the MultiHop feature, which will tunnel your internet activity via two servers for extra encryption. There are various combinations transit and destination country combinations to choose from for MultiHop, too.

It’s very difficult to test the speed of a VPN, as there are so many variables involved and results tend to differ from day to day and even hour to hour. However, during our testing we found that the UK servers had almost no impact on our internet speed (we were testing from the UK so this isn’t particularly surprising), but when connecting to US servers we saw much slower speeds that tended to be less than half of our speeds without the VPN connection.

However, these speeds were still enough to stream HD content at around 25 to 30 Mbps, and weren’t particularly noticeable in practice, so it’s unlikely this will cause huge issues for most users. We’ve seen better results from other VPNs we’ve tested, though, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN and PureVPN, which might be preferable options if you download a lot or require a faster connection.

Verdict

Surfshark is simple and effective, with no unnecessary bells and whistles and a very competitive price. It offers connections that will be fast enough for most, and that we found to be secure and reliable. It has a strict no-logging policy, a good range of servers and locations, and apps for a range of devices with no limitation to the number you can simultaneously use.

It’s a shame the kill switch isn’t customizable, and that you’re limited when it comes to the information and granularity of the server list you’ll use when connecting, though. But for the price it's easy to see why this VPN's subscriber base is growing rapidly.