Surfshark review: best bang for the buck
Surfshark. Ltd operates in the British Virgin Islands. That is good news since it’s outside of the 14 Eyes Alliance and private. Read the Surfshark VPN review.
Best bang for the buck
One of the newest players in the VPN scene created a big splash with its attractive price and wide range of options. All that in an easy to use package.
The price is 1,99 dollars per month, that is if you go for the 24-month plan deal, which is a steal when compared to other VPN providers on the market. In fact, that is one of the lowest prices on offer for a full-featured VPN.
That is not lost on Surfshark as their marketing slogan is “Eating other VPN deals alive”.
But how does it stack up when we compare its features, usability, safety, and other important elements that make up a good VPN service? Can it pass geo-restrictions so you can stream Netflix, HBO, and other services without losing much speed? Does it keep you safe?
In this Surfshark review, let’s see whether your money is well spent on the service. In the end, it is your privacy that you are paying for.
Surfshark VPN synopsis
|Parent company:||Surfshark Ltd.|
|Jurisdiction:||The British Virgin Islands|
|Locations:||61+ countries/1401+ servers|
|Overall test result:||SAFE|
|Torrenting:||PASSED (Torrent allowed)|
|Netflix:||PASSED (Unblocks Netflix 3/3)|
|Encryption/protocols:||AES-256/IKEv2/IPsec/OpenVPN UDP & TCP|
|Support:||E-mail response ~6h/Live Chat (24/7)|
Surfshark. Ltd operates out of the British Virgin Islands. That is good news since it’s outside of the 14 Eyes Alliance and privacy-friendly. It is also not required to log the data of internet users.
That said, Surfshark VPN is secretive about its management and company structure. The CEO is hiding behind a pseudonym so there isn’t any information to be found about him. The chief technical officer Magnus Seinberg is a bit more well know on Google.
That level of secrecy makes us raise some eyebrows, though. The transparent background of the whole company including its executives and team would be more than welcome because transparency leaves less room for suspicion.
We tested Surfshark with 5 different detecting services: browserleaks, ipx.ac, ipleak.net, doileak, perfect-privacy, and Virustotal.
We did not find any DNS leaks in Doileak nor the others.
According to Surfshark, they do not keep logs of user activity or connection data. But what it does collect is this:
- Aggregated performance data
- Frequency of use
- Unsuccessful connection attempts and “other similar information”
They do log something. Especially the “other similar information” but Surfshark says it does not contain uniquely identifiable information and it is meant strictly for diagnostic purposes.
For the process of payments, it also collects account details and billing information. That is common when you pay with your credit card. If you need complete anonymity, then you have the option of using cryptocurrencies or third-party payment services.
The Surfshark app may also collect information for advertising purposes.
Unique user IDs do not look good for us. Yes, you can opt-out in the setting, but still it something to be aware of.
Surfshark uses IKEv2/IPsec, OpenVPN protocols. Windows users can also use the Shadowsock protocol, which is an encrypted proxy meant to bypass firewalls in countries like North Korea or China.
The default protocol on all apps is the IKEv2, but there is an option to change it to OpenVPN in the setting menu on all apps except macOS. You can choose TCP and UDP OpenVPN connections in the Windows, Android, and iOS apps.
We’d recommend OpenVPN in most cases since that offers the best balance between security and speed. MacOS users do need to configure the app manually to OpenVPN though, which is a shame.
Surfshark offers strong encryption with AES-256. This is one of the most respected encryption protocols used today and when coupled with DNS leak protection and an automatic kill switch it ensures a strong system.
Lots of useful features
Surfshark is stuffed with useful features.
The basics such as DNS leak protection, secure encryption, and automatic Kill Switch is there. On top of that, it offers its own special features to help keep your data and privacy secure.
But not all features are available on all platforms. Some of them are only for browsers and others for android users.
Here is the list with all the features that Surfshark offers:
- CleanWeb: (Android, iOS, macOS, Windows)
Cleanweb is Surfsharks’ own ad and tracker blocker. This is turned off out of the box so users have to turn it on themselves.
- Whitelister (Bypass VPN): Android, Windows;
Whitelister allows you to whitelist apps and websites that would bypass the VPN tunnel.
- Reverse Whitelister (Route via VPN): Windows, Android;
Well as the name says, this allows you to choose which websites or apps are channeled through the VPN tunnel. All the other apps and websites will be able to see your real IP address.
- BlindSearch (browsers);
BlindSearch is a search engine that allows the user to search with no ads or trackers.Basically like anti-Google. This can be bought with HackLock for an extra 0,99 per month.
- HackLock (browsers);
HackLock makes sure your emails and personal information are safe and havent leak online. The feature can be bought together with BlindSearch for an extra 0,99 dollars per month.
- KillSwitch: Android, iOS, macOS, Windows;
A must-have for every VPN. Kill switch prevents any information from leaking in case your internet connection should drop. You have to turn the switch on manually in Surfshark.
- Camouflage mode: Android, Windows, iOS, Linux;
Camouflage mode is also known under the name obfuscation. This disguises the VPN traffic so that even your internet service provider cannot tell you’re using a VPN.
- Override GPS location: Android;
Location override lets you match your chosen server and GPS location. Handy in case you need to be somewhere where you are not.
- No Borders: Android, Windows, macOS, iOS.
No borders mode together with Camouflage and Shadowsocks give Surfshark a higher chance of working in highly censored countries like Russia or China.
On average the download speed decreased by around 2,33% when Surfshark VPN was on. The further from our location we went, the faster it got. When connected to our nearest server the speed went down by 2,47%, but the server in Hong Kong made the speed only 0,82% slower.
Overall the speeds are one of the best we have seen.
The speeds we got in the United States were still decent enough to watch Netflix without any hiccups.
Here is the local baseline speed without Surfshark at 4,86 MBps down and 0,78 Mbps up.
Next, we tried speeds at international servers.
Ping increased by a lot, but the download speed saw a 3,7% decrease, which is fewer than with the local server. Upload speed ticked down by a small fraction.
The server in London got us a download speed of roughly 17 Mbps, which is 2,47% lower than without the VPN.
Download speed in Hong Kong was 0,82% slower.
Torrenting and Netflix: all good
Netflix opened up and we were able to access TV shows and movies offered in the USA. So no problems there.
Same with torrenting. Charlie Chaplin’s 1925 Gold Rush started downloading without any problems.
Surfshark is available on all major devices. The desktop version is available on macOS, Windows, and Linux.
Specific installation guides for smart TVs including FireTV and AppleTV can be found on the Surfshark website.
For Smart TVs, the geo-blocked content can be accessed by changing the DNS address of your Internet Service Provider (ISP). That can be done by using Surfshark smart DNS technology. Although this allows you to access geo-blocked content it does not offer the same security as normal VPN browsing because the traffic is not encrypted.
You can also access geo-blocked content with your Playstation and Xbox One console.
As we mentioned earlier, not all the platforms get the same features. Windows and Android apps allow you to choose the VPN protocol in the setting, but macOS and iOS apps do not. In macOS, you have to do it manually.
Features as automatic Kill Switch, NoBorders mode, Multihop, and CleanWeb feature are available on all devices.
Surfshark browser extensions are available for Chrome and Firefox. It works mostly the same way but there aren’t any options to choose from. Plus it is always good to keep in mind that browser extensions do not have the same level of protection as a VPN.
Extensions are proxies that mask your IP and open up geo-restricted content, but they offer no privacy of protection.
A great number of servers
Surfshark has a wide selection of servers spanning over 61 countries. That is not the largest server network in the market but that should be enough for most users.
The further the server is from your actual location, the slower your internet speed will be. So it is good to have a wide selection of servers available.
Most of the servers also offer P2P support, URL and ad blocking, VPN chaining, and split tunneling.
When you open the Surfshark app you will also see different types of servers. In the mac version, there are Locations, Static, and Multihop. Windows version offers static IP, virtual servers, and Multihop.
Which one to choose depends on the users’ preferences. Static means that you always have the same IP address, whenever you use that specific server and reconnect. That gets you faster speeds and better access to geo-restricted content. But on the downside that IP address is also always linked to you.
The multihop option, on the other hand, gives you better security by sending traffic through two different servers. Users’ speeds will be slower, but the IP address is masked better. This is also known as Double VPN.
Strong rating on Android
Over 8000 Android users give the Surfshark app 4,3 stars out of 5.
Most of the users were perfectly happy with the app to give it 5 stars. But then there are those who are less than happy and gave the Surfshark android app a 1-star review.
Since there are no written reviews it’s hard to know why that is.
The Android app itself is easy to use, simple and intuitive. Even first-time VPN users should have no trouble with it.
Pricing and payments
Surfshark clearly wants you to get the 24-month plan for the price of 1,99 per month, which is paid upfront for two years. That’s also what we recommend since that is hands down the most competitive price there is for a VPN service.
If you opt for the monthly payment, you have to pay 11,95 per month and the 12-month program costs 5,99/month which is also paid upfront.
All subscriptions come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Whether you are paying with a credit card, Google or Amazon Pay, Paypal, or cryptocurrency, Surfshark has got you covered.
The Other payment option offers you either Giropay or Webmoney.
Good VPN for a great price
For 1,99 dollars per month, Surfshark is a VPN that everyone should take a look at.
Its ease of use, decent speed, and wide range of features make it a very good overall package at a great price. The Surfshark apps cover Smart TVs, browsers, tablets, and several other platforms for the price of one.
It is not without its problems though. Surfshark VPN review concluded that it collects user-id’s, which you can opt-out of but it would be better with an opt-in option.
With its 30 days money-back guarantee it is well worth your shot. Try it – Surfshark.com
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