Surfshark full review

Surfshark is a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service that can help protect your privacy as well as unlocking access to region-blocked content such as BBC iPlayer and Netflix US when you're 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.

If you go for the two-year deal, you can get the even lower price of £1.59/$1.99, 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. Most rivals only allow a handful of devices to use their service simultaneously.

You can download Surfshark from its website.

There’s no free trial on Windows, but there is a week-long trial in the Android, iOS and macOS apps. And there is also a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the service.

Payment options include your standard credit card, PayPal and Google Pay options as well as cryptocurrency options for those who want to pay anonymously, plus 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 there.

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 but 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, inline with many of its competitors.

There are 800 servers across 50 countries including the UK and US. Surfshark offers P2P servers for torrenting, and you can either choose the "Fastest P2P server" on the main screen, or go to the Locations tab and click on the P2P section to see all the available servers which are in 17 countries.

The apps have recently been updated for a fresher-looking interface and they are as easy to use as you'd hope. We like that there are two quick-connect options: closest and fastest servers. Many apps only offer the former under the guise of "Best" but Surfshark lets you pick which you'd prefer.

You can pick the server you want to connect to in the Locations tab, and you can expand the list for countries which have more than one server. There's now a circle next to each one indicating how close a server is to full capacity.

There are now multiple servers in the UK: when we initially reviewed Surfshark there was just one. As well as servers in physical locations, Surfshark (like many VPNs) has virtual locations so you can make the internet believe you are in Argentina, for example, even though Surfshark does not have a server in that country. And this fact is made plain thanks to the fact that Virtual servers are found in a separate list to Physical servers - a nice touch.

Surfshark uses IKEv2/IPsec by default on all of its apps, but if you prefer to use OpenVPN you can switch to this protocol, and there's a choice of UDP and TCP for those that really know what they're doing. A new addition is the Shadowsocks protocol, but as this is in beta, it's a good idea to stick to OpenVPN or the default if you're not a security expert.

Surfshark review

There is a kill switch, which will disable internet access if the VPN connection suddenly drops, but in the Windows app it’s a system-wide kill switch that you can’t customise so that only certain apps' connections are terminated. 

Surfshark review Android app

In the Android app you have a choice of the native Android kill switch or the Surfshark one, plus useful options to auto-connect to the VPN when using any or all of these: mobile networks, unsecure Wi-Fi networks and secure Wi-Fi networks.

 Surfshark review Android app

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

Another feature is Whitelister (available on Windows and Android) which lets you 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.

NoBorders is a toggle you can use in "restrictive regions" to unblock the internet where it's usually locked down. Unfortunately, we were unable to test this feature to see if it would work in China.

You’ll find apps for Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux and Fire TV, as well as browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.

Surfshark has recently introduced two extra features which aren't part of the VPN service, but are bonuses for Surfshark customers.

The first is HackLock. In the online dashboard you can enter an email address and Surfshark will monitor for it and alert you if it is ever leaked in a data breach. The firm is working to integrate this into the apps, and says it should be done in a few months.

Second, there's BlindSearch, which is a bit like DuckDuckGo in that it lets you search the web in privacy, and with no ads. As no filtering happens, you'll see only organic results.

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 can 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 minute to minute. However, during our testing we found that the UK servers had almost no impact on our internet speed (we were testing from London so this was largely expected), but when connecting to US servers we saw much slower speeds that varied from good to middling to very poor (the latter when using the automatically selected server in Boston). 

Surfshark review

However, if you do find you're getting poor speeds, the solution is simply to try a different server (if one is available in the desired country) and it will usually fix the problem in seconds.

We’ve seen faster speeds from other VPNs, though, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN and PureVPN, but as we've said, performance changes all the time on every VPN service. 

The good news is that tech 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.

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.