Surfshark Review

Article written by: Timothy Shim
  • Web Tools
  • Updated: Oct 15, 2020

Surfshark is a relative newcomer to the Virtual Private Network (VPN) scene and appeared with a bang.

In just around a year they were able to field a large network of over 1,700 servers in around 63 countries. The first thing that made me perk up was the news that it was based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

The BVI are a British Overseas Territory as we know but has no known data retention laws to speak of and in has its own separate judiciary system. This makes it an ideal base for VPN companies since that is part of their core business – anonymity.

With that in mind I signed up for a two-year plan and jumped right in, running it through the works.

Will Surfshark stand up to scrutiny in its service? Let’s find out.

Surfshark Overview

About the company

Usability & Specifications

  • Unlimited devices
  • GPS spoofing
  • RAM-only servers
  • Torrenting & P2P allowed
  • Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer
  • 1,700+ Servers
  • Works in China


Pros of Surfshark

  • No Logging
  • Secure and Anonymous Browsing
  • Wide range of Apps
  • Great Customer Support
  • Unlimited Connections
  • Fantastic Speeds
  • Netflix Works
  • Surfshark Comes at Unbelievable Prices

Surfshark Cons

  • Limited P2P Servers with Poor Speeds
  • Fastest Server Isn’t Necessarily Right

Price

  • $12.95/mo for 1-month subscription
  • $6.49/mo for 6-month subscription
  • $2.49/mo for 24-month subscription

Verdict

Surfshark has grown an already impressive service to become even better. A small price bump has come into play, but it remains a top value-for-money choice. It remains atop my favourites list.

 

Surfshark Pros

1. No Logging

Notes on logging from the Surfshark knowledge base
Notes on logging from the Surfshark knowledge base

As I mentioned earlier, the first thing that made me take note of Surfshark was the BVI-base it works from. That bodes very well for the no-logging policy that the company has. It claims to only store limited amounts of user data for specific purposes.

According to them, the only information that is kept is your email address and some billing information in case refunds are requested. Their sign-up process seems to confirm this and the information available in their account management panel does as well. The only thing visible is your email address and settings.

On a side note, Surfshark also lays claim to having gone through an independent audit, but I have to stress that the audit was done only on their Google Chrome extension.

2. Secure and Anonymous Browsing

As with most VPNs, Surfshark comes with a choice of protocols you can choose from. The choices here a little more limited than usual though. You only have access to IKEv2, OpenVPN (TCP or UDP) and a little-known protocol called Shadowsocks.

The inclusion of Shadowsocks was a little surprising at first since its developer was asked to stop working on the code and remove it from GitHub where it was shared. The protocol remains alive though and now has its own site: Shadowsocks.

It is likely that use of this protocol will be helpful for users in mainland China to work their way past the Great Firewall. Although there is no real official claim, I've observed Surfshark to work relatively well from within China for quite some time now.

New Privacy Features Introduced

In addition to all of this Surfshark has been building up steam and has either recently added or will be very shortly adding some exciting features. At the moment, GPS spoofing has been included, along with 2-Factor Authentication (2FA).

More importantly, they've converted to RAM-only servers which means your privacy is basically assured. Every time power is cycled to their servers, everything is completely wiped.

3. Wide range of Apps

Surfshark has a wide range of apps that you can use to install it on almost any type of connected device. This includes everything from the widely used Windows and Linux or Mac platforms to mobile devices and even smart TVs and some routers.

There are also variants you can use with popular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox. It should be noted that the Chrome extension for Surfshark was audited by an independent firm in late 2018, passing with only two minor flaws found.

4. Great Customer Support

Recent chat records with Surfshark support
One of my chat records with Surfshark support.

Checking out their customer support, I was very happy with the results each time. I contacted them twice, once with a sales inquiry and another with a question more technical in nature. Both times responses were fast (within a few seconds).

I was also happy with the level of knowledge displayed by their support staff who were able to resolve my issues quickly and efficiently.

5. Unlimited Connections

The issues of the number of devices you can have connecting to a VPN has only come into focus over the past year or so. In the past, we mainly had to be concerned with protecting one static and one mobile device (usually).

Today, thanks to IoT, practically everything is connected to the Internet. One household can easily have up to 10 devices connected to various networks. My place for example has three mobile phones, three tablets, two desktop PCs, one laptop, a router and a smart TV!

Surfshark is one of the few VPN services around that doesn’t put a cap on the number of connections you can simultaneously use. True, this might not be a great thing, but it simply takes one point of concern right off the board.

6. Fantastic Speeds

Discussing VPN speeds is an entirely different can of worms, so if you’re not certain what makes your VPN go fast (or slow), check out my VPN guide here.

SurfShark Speed

Note: Speed tests with WireGuard are the latest.

Benchmark – Speed test without SurfShark VPN

Surfshark speed test - Benchmark (without VPN): At time of testing I got 300+ Mbps on a 500Mbps line
Benchmark (without VPN): At time of testing I got 300+ Mbps on a 500Mbps line

Updates: SurfShark + WireGuard

Surfshark recently jumped on the WireGuard train. The new protocol is said to show lots of promise and we've run a few tests that reflect this. Keep in mind though that latency still remains the same.

Before testing Surfshark, I first ran a speed test on my line to gauge its speed at the time.

SurfShark (with WireGuard) speed from United Kingdom (actual result here).
SurfShark (with WireGuard) speed from Australia (actual result here).
SurfShark (with WireGuard) speed from United States (actual result here).
SurfShark (with WireGuard) speed from South Africa (actual result here).
SurfShark (with WireGuard) speed from Singapore (actual result here).

SurfShark Speed Test (before WireGuard)

Asia (Singapore)

SurfShark speed test from Singapore (see actual result here).

I chose Singapore for my Asia region test because it has some of the best infrastructure around and is a major transit hub for international connections. Honestly, my eyes nearly popped out of my head seeing I was able to hit 200Mbps on a downstream test.

The result is simply the best I’ve come across so far and I re-ran the test a couple of times just to make sure it was correct (it was).

Europe (Netherlands)

SurfShark speed test from Netherlands (see actual result here).

Speeds from my connection to an Europe-based VPN server were just as good, with the telling sign mostly being in the longer ping lag.

USA (Seattle)

Surfshark speed test - SurfShark speed test from United States (see actual result here).
SurfShark speed test from United States (see actual result here).

From a US-based VPN server, speeds dropped for me again. This is usually expected since I’m physically as far from the US as can be. Nonetheless, 91 Mbps is still a great result and more than enough, theoretically, to stream video even at 8K.

Africa (South Africa)

Surfshark speed test - SurfShark speed test from South Africa (see actual result here).
SurfShark speed test from South Africa (see actual result here).

Africa was the usual black sheep in the family, but still showed a better result than I could get from other VPN services. 47 Mbps may sound a little slow if you were to compare it to my default line speed, but it certainly is enough even to stream 4K video.

7. Netflix Works

Netflix works, so I don’t think there’s too much else to discuss about that. A point of note though is that because of the increased ping for servers further away, there is a slightly noticeable delay in loading pages on Netflix. Slightly annoying but streaming still works fine.

8. Surfshark Comes at Unbelievable Prices

Surfshark latest pricing
Surfshark 24-month plan priced at $2.49/mo.

Surfshark recently underwent a very minor price revision, bumping it up a little bit. Given how quickly they have been developing – both in features and network, this doesn't come as a surprise.

As always, going for extended plans are the only way of getting real value from VPN services. As a Surfshark user for over a year now, I can tell you that they are absolutely worth it.

The two-year plan currently stands at $2.49/month and remains one of the most value-for-money propositions I've seen to date. Yes, there may be cheaper options around, but not with the quality Surfshark is offering – in many cases, not even close.

Compare Surfshark pricing with other VPN services

VPN Services*12-mo24 or 36-mo
Surfshark$2.49/mo$2.49/mo
ExpressVPN$8.32/mo$8.32/mo
FastestVPN$2.49/mo$1.11/mo
NordVPN$5.75/mo$5.75/mo
PureVPN$6.49/mo$6.49/mo
TorGuard$4.99/mo$4.99/mo
VyprVPN$3.75/mo$2.50/mo
IP Vanish$6.49/mo$6.49/mo


* Note – Price checked accurate in September 2020. Click links to read our review and speed test results for each VPN services. 

Surfshark Cons

1. Limited P2P Servers with Poor Speeds

Surfshark – not the best VPN for Torrent freaks.

The first thing you need to know is that Surfshark limits P2P or Torrenting to a handful of locations; Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, UK, US. For me this is especially concerning since the closest to my location would be Japan.

However, as you can see from the speed test above, the Japan server still performed relatively well for me. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to translate very well into torrent speeds.

You can torrent with Surfshark, but slowly.

I ran a set of test torrents, looking for the most highly seeded movies I could find to note how they would do. The torrent download speeds were a fraction of what the tested speed was, for reasons unknown.

This happened a few times as a I tried various things such as swapping servers or using different sets of files. The fact is, Surfshark simply doesn’t seem to want to play nice with P2P all that much. You CAN torrent, but slowly.

2. Fastest Server Isn’t Necessarily Right

When I ran the Surshark VPN app the first time, I wanted to see how well it would do with everything on default. All I did was install it, enter my credentials then click on ‘fastest server’. I was connected to a local server where I am – with dismaying results. The same thing occurred with the ‘Nearest Server’ option.

My advice would be to try it out first but if you’re getting terrible results, opt for an alternate server. Personally, my situation worked best connecting to a Singapore-based Surfshark server.


Installing Surfshark on Your Devices

Setting Up SurfShark on Windows 10

1. The SurfShark App

setting up VPN on Windows 10 using app
The Surfshark Windows App is easy for beginners (Visit Surfshark online)

There are two main ways you can set up a SurfShark on Windows 10. The first and easiest way is to use the app provided by SurfShark. This method is preferred since aside from convenience, it comes with other features built in to them.

To install the app:

  1. Visit the Surfshark website and download the Windows app
  2. Double click the installer file to start the setup
  3. When the installation is done, click Run to start the app

When the app runs you’ll be asked to either log in to your account, or create a new one. If you have not yet signed up for the service, then choose to register an account. If you have an existing account, enter your email address and password. 

To connect to a SurfShark server, you can either click the ‘Connect’ button and let Surfshark choose the best server for you, or click on an option under the ‘Locations’ tab if you wish to connect to any particular country/server. Surfshark has over 1,000 VPN servers in 61 countries you can connect to.

2. Manual Installation on Windows

setting up VPN on Windows 10 using manual installation
The OpenVPN GUI Interface is separate from your core Windows installation.

The way you set up your SurfShark manually on Windows depends on what protocol you wish to use.

Different VPN protocols offer different levels of security and performance. To learn more about this, read our VPN Guide. I normally prefer OpenVPN for its better security compared to other existing protocols.

To set up Surfshark manually for OpenVPN on Windows:

  1. Download the OpenVPN GUI and install it
  2. Download OpenVPN configuration files (usually in a ZIP file ) from your VPN provider. I recommend you extract those files into a separate folder inside your OpenVPN installation directory (e.g. C:\Users\YourUsername\OpenVPN\config)
  3. Run the OpenVPN application
  4. Right click on the OpenVPN icon on your notifications area
  5. Choose the server you want, then click ‘Connect’
  6. Enter your username and password

Setting Up VPN on Android

setting up VPN on android
Just search for your VPN provider on the Play Store

Given the simplicity of how mobile devices handle things, setting up SurfShark on Android is probably the easiest of all methods:

  1. Launch the Play Store app on your device
  2. Search for Surfshark and install it
  3. Start the app and log in using your credentials
  4. Hit the ‘Connect’ button to start the service

You can also choose to select your location from the list of servers/countries in the app. 

Setting Up on iOS

setting up VPN on iOS
Mobile-device based VPNs are simple to use

Setting up a VPN on your iOS device should be just a simple as on the Android platform:

  1. Find the Surfshark app on the App Store
  2. Download and install the app
  3. Once that’s done just launch the app and hit the ‘Connect’ button

Setting Up Browser-based SurfShark Connections

SurfShark has a browser-based extension (for both Chrome and Firefox) that you can use.

Setting Up VPN on Chrome Browser

Setting Up VPN on Chrome browser
You can control all Surfshark features from the Chrome extension
  1. Visit the Chrome web store and search for your VPN extension
  2. When you find the right one, click on ‘Add to Chrome’
  3. Click on the extension icon on your browser toolbar
  4. Enter your login credentials
  5. Hit the ‘Quick Connect’ button and you’re done

Setting Up VPN on Firefox Browser

Setting up VPN on Firefox browser
Browser-based VPNs are quick and easy to install
  1. Click on Menu’ (the icon with three horizontal lines) and click on ‘Add-ons’
  2. Search for your VPN provider and click on it
  3. Click on ‘+ Add to Firefox’
  4. Once installed, click the icon on the toolbar and enter your credentials
  5. Simply click ‘Quick Connect’ and you’re ready to go

Setting Up Surfshark on Routers

setting up VPN on routers
VPNs can be installed on some routers, but often have limited performance.

Before we begin, it’s important to realize a few things about VPN and routers. Since VPNs often use heavy encryption, performance on routers is often negatively affected due to their limited hardware capabilities.

Also, not all routers will support VPNs. If you want to use a VPN on your router, ensure that it is able to do so before signing up for the service! Similar to the manual configuration on Windows, you will first need to download Surfshark’s OpenVPN configuration files. Then:

  1. Sign in to your router’s administration panel
  2. From the menu, click on ‘VPN’ then ‘OpenVPN’
  3. Select ‘OpenVPN Client’ and click ‘Add Profile’
  4. Select the ‘OpenVPN’ tab and fill in your credentials
  5. Click ‘Choose File’ to select an OpenVPN configuration file then click ‘Upload’
  6. Click ‘OK’

Once that’s done, the profile should appear under your list of VPN connections in the router. To start any of them, choose the one you want and hit the ‘Activate’ button next to it.


Verdict: Surfshark is Making Waves!

Normally I’m an even-keeled reviewer and I like to weigh as many factors as possible. This is tempered with both personal experience and I did my best to keep any bias out of it. Without a doubt, this time I can say that I am highly impressed with what Surfshark has to offer.

This is especially true given that I've personally observed their development from a new kid on the block to the impressive offering they have today. Yes, they may still be relatively new, but they are seriously in the business.

In less than a year, they've introduced new features and more than doubled the number of servers they had when I first signed on. At the same time, even with a small hike, prices are more than competitive.

Surfshark is remains firmly as one of the top VPNs on my favourites list.

To recap –

Pros of Surfshark

  • No Logging
  • Secure and Anonymous Browsing
  • Wide range of Apps
  • Great Customer Support
  • Unlimited Connections
  • Fantastic Speeds
  • Netflix Works
  • Surfshark Comes at Unbelievable Prices

Surfshark Cons

  • Limited P2P Servers with Poor Speeds
  • Fastest Server Isn’t Necessarily Right

Alternatives

To see more choices in VPN services, check out our list of 10 best VPN services.

Earning disclosure – We use affiliate links in this article. WHSR receive referral fees from companies mentioned in this article. Our opinions are based on real experience and actual test data.

About Timothy Shim

Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.