Surfshark Review: Quick Expert Summary
Surfshark provides good security, has fast speeds on most servers, and allows unlimited simultaneous connections, which makes it a good pick for large families. It also has easy-to-use apps for all major platforms, so it’s also a good choice for people who are new to VPNs.
The provider can also access top streaming sites like BBC iPlayer and HBO Max, and it allows torrenting on all of its servers. Plus, it has 3,200+ servers in 100 countries, which makes it easy for most users to connect to nearby servers for fast speeds.
In addition to industry-standard security features, Surfshark also comes with:
- Bypasser — Surfshark’s split-tunneling tool, which lets you choose which sites and apps are excluded from the VPN tunnel.
- CleanWeb — Gets rid of ads and blocks connections to malicious sites.
- IP Rotator — Regularly changes your VPN IP address without disconnecting you from the VPN server.
- MultiHop servers — Send your data through 2 VPN servers instead of 1 server, providing more security.
- Built-in speed test — Lets you test different servers to see which ones provide the fastest speeds.
- And more…
While I like Surfshark, it has a few issues — it can’t access Disney+, it has slow speeds on very distant servers, Bypasser doesn’t work on Windows, and its built-in speed test isn’t accurate. What’s more, its no-logs policy hasn’t been independently audited, it’s missing WebRTC and IPv6 leak protection, and it doesn’t guarantee that its service consistently works in restrictive countries like China.
That said, it’s still one of my favorite VPNs in 2023. And it also offers really good value, with very affordable plans that start at just $2.30 / month. You can choose from a 1-month, 12-month, and 24-month plan, and each one is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
|🏅 Overall Rank||#5 out of 80 VPNs|
|📱 Number of Devices||Unlimited|
|💸 Starting Price||$2.30 / month|
|💰 Money-Back Guarantee||30 days|
Surfshark Full Review
I spent the past few weeks testing Surfshark to see if it’s as good as other top VPN competitors — and I can safely say it’s one of the top choices out there. It’s secure, really good for streaming and torrenting, and an excellent value for both individuals and large families.
It allows unlimited connections, which means you can install and connect to the VPN on as many devices as you want — this is great, as most VPNs only allow 5–7 connections.
Surfshark also has some of the most affordable plans on the market, and it backs all purchases with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark comes with the following industry-standard VPN security features:
- 256-bit AES encryption — The VPN uses military-grade encryption to make your traffic unreadable.
- No-logs policy — Surfshark doesn’t store your IP address or keep logs about your internet activities, such as which sites you access or what files you download.
- Kill switch — This feature disables internet access if the VPN connection drops to prevent any data leaks. The kill switch is available on iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux.
I like how flexible the kill switch is — you can configure it to only trigger if the VPN connection drops, or if you’re not connected to the VPN at all (like you can with Private Internet Access). The latter would be useful if you want to be 100% sure you don’t accidentally go online or torrent without first securing your connection with the VPN.
I also think it’s great that Surfshark has advanced security features like RAM-only servers and perfect forward secrecy. With RAM-only servers, all data is written to the RAM instead of the hard drive — so every server reset wipes all data. And perfect forward secrecy changes the encryption key for each VPN connection to prevent hackers from compromising past or future encryption keys.
While I’m happy that Surfshark comes with DNS leak protection, I think it’s a shame that it doesn’t also provide IPv6 and WebRTC leak protection. I ran leak tests while connected to servers in 10+ countries and never saw any leaks, but I still think it’s inconvenient that you need to manually disable IPv6 and WebRTC if you want to be completely protected against these types of leaks — top competitors like ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and Proton VPN provide full protection against all leaks by also automatically disabling IPv6 and WebRTC.
The provider also supports Tor traffic across all of its servers, meaning you can use the VPN to surf the dark web with the Tor browser. That way, if Tor suffers a leak (very rare, though), your real IP address won’t be exposed — only the VPN’s IP address is leaked. That’s good, but I honestly prefer Proton VPN’s Tor support, as it allows you to surf Tor sites using regular browsers like Chrome and Firefox, which is more convenient.
In addition, Surfshark also comes with the following features:
Bypasser is Surfshark’s split-tunneling feature, which allows you to choose which apps and websites use the VPN connection. Bypasser is only available on the Android and Windows apps. During my tests, it worked well on Android, as I was able to surf the web on the browsers I excluded from the VPN. Unfortunately, Bypasser didn’t work on Windows, as all the apps and sites I excluded from the VPN continued to use the VPN connection.
If you’re interested in using a split-tunneling feature, I recommend checking out top competitors like Private Internet Access and Proton VPN instead — they both provide access to a split-tunneling feature that lets you exclude both apps and websites from the VPN connection and that actually works well. In addition, Private Internet Access even provides split-tunneling on Linux and macOS.
CleanWeb is Surfshark’s ad blocker, which blocks ads and ad trackers and prevents you from connecting to malicious sites. CleanWeb is available on the iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, Android TV, and Fire TV apps.
In my tests, CleanWeb performed pretty well — I visited ad-heavy media outlets sites, and it got rid of most ads, which made the web pages load faster. However, it wasn’t able to always get rid of pop-up ads. On the plus side, it prevented me from connecting to shady HTTP sites.
While CleanWeb is good, I still like Private Internet Access’ PIA MACE more — it has the same functionality as CleanWeb, but it can also block annoying pop-up ads. Not to mention, it’s also the best VPN ad blocker in 2023.
Camouflage Mode is Surfshark’s obfuscation feature, which hides VPN traffic and makes it look like regular internet traffic. Camouflage Mode is available on all of the provider’s apps and servers and is very easy to use — it’s automatically enabled when you use the OpenVPN protocol to connect to a VPN server.
Unfortunately, Surfshark’s reps told me they can’t guarantee that Camouflage Mode will always work in restrictive countries. This is a shame, as the primary reason you would use Camouflage Mode is to bypass a government firewall that blocks VPN connections, such as China.
However, Camouflage Mode is good for preventing your ISP from seeing your VPN traffic. I must caution, though, that using Camouflage Mode slows down your VPN speeds due to the additional layer of encryption added to hide your VPN traffic. In my tests, my VPN speeds were around 70% slower with Camouflage Mode enabled, which caused websites to take up to 5 seconds to load and HD videos to buffer frequently.
I honestly think other top competitors provide better obfuscation — for example, ExpressVPN also supports obfuscation on all of its servers, but it also supports it across all of its protocols, which is more convenient. Plus, it consistently works in restrictive countries, and its obfuscated connections are much faster.
NoBorders provides you with access to a list of VPN servers that should be able to circumvent network restrictions in restrictive countries. You can manually enable this feature, but it also turns on automatically when the VPN app detects that you’re using a restrictive network. NoBorders is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS.
This feature would be useful for people in restrictive countries, but it’s not that good — Surfshark’s reps told me they can’t guarantee that NoBorders will 100% work in restrictive regions. Unfortunately, if the feature doesn’t work for you in a restrictive country, there’s nothing else you can use it for.
If you need help accessing the web in a restrictive country, you’re better off using top competitors like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access — they consistently work in restrictive places like China and Russia.
Surfshark’s MultiHop servers send your data through 2 VPN servers instead of 1 server, adding an extra layer of encryption. There are 10+ MultiHop servers in North America, Europe, and Asia. Also, the feature is available on iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux.
Using the MultiHop servers is simple. When I wanted to get a German IP address, I simply connected to the UK-German MultiHop server. That way, the UK server was my entry server, and the German server was my exit server.
Double VPN connections are usually much slower than regular VPN connections due to dual connection — that said, I only experienced a 5–7% slowdown on average when using the MultiHop servers, which is great.
Keep in mind that this feature is mostly intended to be used by people who are very security-conscious — I don’t recommend using MultiHop servers if you only plan on surfing social media, watching Amazon Prime, downloading files, or gaming.
IP Rotator is a feature that regularly changes your VPN IP address without dropping your VPN connection. IP Rotator is available on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS.
I tested this feature and it works well — I ran several leak tests over the course of 20 minutes while connected to a VPN server, and I always had a new IP address every 4–5 minutes. And my VPN connection never dropped during my tests.
IP Rotator provides you with more privacy because it frequently changes your VPN IP addresses, making it very difficult for cybercriminals and advertisers to track your online activities.
Built-In Speed Test
Surfshark provides access to a built-in speed test, which lets you test different server categories (such as Recommended, P2P, or Recent) to see which servers provide the fastest speeds. The speed test is very easy to use, but it’s only available on the Windows app.
Unfortunately, Surfshark’s speed test results aren’t 100% accurate — when I ran a speed test for Recommended servers, the app only recommended 3 servers in nearby countries (Hungary, Moldova, and Serbia) instead of recommending a local server in Romania. I ran my own speed tests using a third-party speed testing tool, and I had the fastest speeds while connected to Surfshark’s Romanian server.
I also don’t like how Surfshark doesn’t rank the fastest server first, which forces you to scroll through a list of 70+ server locations to find the server with the fastest speeds. I think ExpressVPN’s built-in speed test is much better, as it always accurately recommends the fastest server, and it also ranks the fastest servers first so that it’s easy to find.
Override GPS Location
This feature lets you match your GPS data with the location of the VPN server you’re connected to. Basically, any mobile app that relies on GPS data to detect your location will think you’re actually located in the same country as the VPN server. The only drawback is the Override GPS Location feature is only available on Android.
This feature is useful for streaming, as it allows you to watch videos on mobile streaming apps — with most VPNs, you need to use the streaming platform’s site, as the mobile app will detect your real location if it uses your phone’s GPS data.
My colleague in the US confirmed that this feature works well. He used it to successfully access his home library on the Amazon Prime mobile app while traveling abroad (he wasn’t able to access it when the Override GPS Location feature was disabled).
To use this feature, you need to manually enable a few Android settings, but the whole process is very straightforward, especially since Surfshark provides an in-app guide. When I enabled this feature, it only took me about 2–3 minutes to do it.
Surfshark provides access to a smart DNS service. This allows you to access streaming services on platforms that don’t natively support VPNs, such as certain smart TV models. While a smart DNS won’t change your IP address or encrypt your traffic, it typically provides faster speeds because there’s no encryption.
You’ll need to perform a manual setup to use the smart DNS, but Surfshark has helpful step-by-step guides. It only took me about 5–8 minutes to configure the service on my smart TV.
According to Surfshark, you can only use the smart DNS to access US sites, such as Hulu and Amazon Prime — ExpressVPN’s smart DNS, called MediaStreamer, also works with US sites, but it can access streaming platforms from other countries too, such as BBC iPlayer.
Surfshark Privacy & Security
Surfshark has a strict no-logs policy. It doesn’t collect your IP address, and it doesn’t monitor what sites you access or what files you download. It only retains your email address (for communication purposes) and connection timestamps, but they are deleted 15 minutes after you disconnect from the VPN server.
The provider has undergone 2 security audits by cybersecurity firm Cure53. One of the audits tested how secure Surfshark’s browser extensions are, while the other audit focused on the provider’s server infrastructure. Both audits concluded that Surfshark’s browser extensions and server infrastructure provide great security.
Surfshark is headquartered in the Netherlands, which is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances, (a group of countries that share surveillance data with each other). But even if the authorities ask the provider for user logs, Surfshark can’t hand anything over because it doesn’t keep any.
Surfshark Speed & Performance
I ran speed tests by connecting to a VPN server in all 100+ countries where Surfshark has a server, and I experienced a 71% slowdown on average. But I’m based in Romania, which has some of the fastest internet speeds in the world, so the slowdown wasn’t as bad as it seems — I still maintained fast browsing, streaming, and torrenting on local, nearby, and distant servers. That said, I experienced very noticeable slowdowns on very remote servers in Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
First, I ran a speed test without being connected to the VPN to get a baseline for my speeds:
Next, I used Surfshark’s quick-connect feature (called Fastest Server), which automatically connected me to a VPN server in Romania. My speeds decreased by about 54%, which is a big drop, but my online speeds were barely affected — websites loaded instantly, and HD videos and 4K videos loaded instantly and didn’t buffer.
Next, I manually connected to a server in the US, and my speeds decreased by around 60% — even so, I still maintained fast speeds, as sites continued to load instantly, HD videos loaded instantly and didn’t buffer, and 4K videos only took 1–2 seconds to load and there was only minor buffering at the start of the videos. Plus, it only took me 6–7 minutes to download a 9 GB file.
Finally, I tested a very distant server in Japan, and I experienced a whopping 99% slowdown! My speeds were severely affected — it took websites 6–7 seconds to load, HD videos on Amazon Prime loaded in 3–4 seconds and there was noticeable buffering at the start, and 4K videos took up to 10 seconds to load and there was very noticeable buffering and quality drops while skipping through them.
Overall, Surfshark maintained very fast speeds on local, nearby, and distant servers, but its speeds slowed down considerably on very remote servers. There are honestly top competitors with much better speeds out there — for example, ExpressVPN (which is the fastest VPN in 2023) maintains lightning-fast speeds for browsing, streaming, and torrenting across all of its server locations.
Surfshark Servers & IP Addresses
Surfshark comes with 3,200+ servers in 100+ countries, which is on par with top competitors like ExpressVPN (3,000+ servers in 90+ countries). That said, if you’re looking for a VPN with similar coverage but more servers, I recommend CyberGhost VPN, which has 9,400+ servers in 90+ countries.
Many of Surfshark’s servers are physical servers, meaning they’re actually located in the country you connect to. The provider also has virtual locations, which provide you with an IP address from the country you connect to, but the actual server is located in a different country. I like how Surfshark is transparent about using virtual locations, as it clearly marks them with a V inside the app. I wish it would also disclose where the servers are actually located (like ExpressVPN does).
I also like how you can enable speed metrics in Surfshark’s apps, namely the server ping (how long it takes for your device to communicate with the VPN server) and the server load, which shows how many active users are connected to a VPN server. These metrics help you find the fastest servers. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to miss the button that turns on the speed metrics, so I wish Surfshark would display the speed metrics by default, like Private Internet Access and Proton VPN.
The provider’s server network is powered by its proprietary Nexus technology, which connects all of its servers together — that way, user traffic is routed through a whole network of servers instead of just one server within the network. This allows Surfshark to optimize its traffic to provide faster, more stable connections, and to also provide better privacy by regularly changing users’ IP addresses without disconnecting them from the server.
Surfshark also has MultiHop servers in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, which send your data through 2 VPN servers instead of 1 server to provide better security.
Surfshark Streaming & Torrenting
Surfshark also has good torrenting support. It allows P2P downloads on all of its servers and also works with top P2P apps like uTorrent and Vuze. That said, it’s missing extra torrenting features that top P2P VPNs like Private Internet Access include, such as port forwarding (lets you connect to more peers for faster downloads) and SOCKS5 proxy support, which changes your IP address but doesn’t use encryption to provide much faster speeds.
Overall, Surfshark is good for streaming and torrenting — it works with top streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max (but it can’t access Disney+), and it allows P2P traffic on all of its servers and works with popular P2P clients.
Surfshark Government Bypassing
Surfshark is not the best option for getting around government firewalls in restrictive countries like China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia. The support reps told me that Surfshark will definitely work in such places if you set up a manual connection using OpenVPN. However, I don’t think that’s a convenient workaround, as it’s time-consuming and difficult to set up and use.
If you’re in a restrictive country, check out top competitors like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access — they consistently work in restrictive regions via their apps, so you don’t need to perform complicated manual setups.
Surfshark Plans & Pricing
Surfshark has paid monthly and yearly plans. It allows unlimited connections (just like TunnelBear), which is great — the industry average is usually 5–7 simultaneous connections.
Surfshark accepts credit/debit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, and different cryptocurrencies. All purchases are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps
Surfshark has apps for iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, Android TV, and Fire TV. It also comes with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. The provider also supports manual router setups, so that you can use the VPN on devices that don’t natively support it, like gaming consoles — but if you’re interested in doing that, I recommend picking ExpressVPN instead because it has a router app that’s easy to install and use.
It’s easy to download and install the provider’s apps — it only took me about 1–2 minutes to install the iOS and Android apps, and just 2 minutes to install the macOS and Windows apps.
I like Surfshark’s Android app, as it’s easy to use. It comes with a quick-connect feature, the interface is simple to navigate, and all settings and features come with helpful explanations.
The Android app is also feature-rich — only the speed test is missing, but that’s not a huge drawback, as it’s not very helpful. Also, the Android app provides exclusive access to the Override GPS Location feature, which matches your GPS location to the VPN server’s location.
Surfshark’s iOS app is just as user-friendly as its Android app. I’m a fan of how it connects you to servers with 1 click, there’s a search function to quickly find the servers you want, and it’s simple to enable and change all settings and features.
The iOS app is missing the speed test, the Override GPS Location feature, and Bypasser, but most VPNs don’t provide split-tunneling on iOS — TunnelBear is one of the only providers that includes that feature on its iOS app.
Surfshark’s desktop apps are simple to navigate, as the interface is intuitive. It’s also simple to manually find and connect to a VPN server — it only took me 4–5 seconds to do it. You can also quickly check the status of your VPN connection, like confirming whether or not your location is hidden and your VPN IP address.
Both the Windows and macOS apps provide access to similar features, but the macOS app is missing Bypasser and the built-in speed test. However, that’s not a huge drawback, as the Bypasser feature doesn’t work on Windows, and the built-in speed test isn’t very accurate.
To be honest, other top competitors have better apps for Windows and for macOS. For example, ExpressVPN comes with desktop apps that are very user-friendly and also provide access to a split-tunneling feature that actually works and a very accurate built-in speed test.
Surfshark’s Apps: Is Surfshark Easy to Use?
Surfshark’s apps are intuitive and feature-rich. Its mobile apps are similar, the only difference being that the iOS app doesn’t have Bypasser, the built-in speed test, and the Override GPS Location. And the macOS and Windows apps also look the same, but the macOS app lacks Bypasser and the built-in speed test.
Surfshark Customer Support
Surfshark provides access to an in-depth support library, email support, and 24/7 live chat. It’s missing phone support, but most VPNs don’t offer this platform and that’s not a huge drawback because it has a wide range of support channels.
I think the provider’s support library is great. It provides access to tons of helpful setup tutorials, which include screenshots, videos, and explanations of what different features do. What’s more, there are also many troubleshooting guides and frequently asked questions (FAQs). I often didn’t need to contact customer support because the support articles answered my questions.
Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark provides access to 24/7 live chat support. I tested it several times, and I was always connected to a live chat rep in less than 10 seconds. The reps were very friendly, and they always provided me with helpful answers.
I also tested the provider’s email support by sending email messages at random times of the day. I usually received a reply in less than a day, and the answers were always useful.
Is Surfshark Worth the Money in 2023?
Surfshark has strong security, fast speeds across most servers, and supports unlimited connections, which makes it good for large households. Its apps are also beginner-friendly and available for most platforms.
In addition, Surfshark can access popular streaming sites, such as Netflix, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime. It also allows P2P traffic on all 3,200+ of its servers, which are located in 100+ countries.
On top of essential security features like a kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption, and a no-log policy, the provider also comes with extras. It has Bypasser (its split-tunneling tool), CleanWeb, which is a VPN ad blocker, and IP Rotator, which changes your VPN IP addresses without dropping your connection. Also, it has Multihop servers that send your data through 2 VPN servers, and a built-in speed test.
But Surfshark isn’t perfect. For starters, it doesn’t work with Disney+, its speeds are slow on very distant servers, Bypasser doesn’t work on Windows, CleanWeb doesn’t block pop-up ads, and the built-in speed test is inaccurate. Also, the no-logs policy was never independently audited, it lacks WebRTC and IPv6 leak protection, and it can’t guarantee that its service works in restrictive regions.
Surfshark offers multiple pricing plans, including a very cheap long-term plan, and it backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark — Frequently Asked Questions
Is Surfshark safe?
Yes, as Surfshark comes with essential VPN security features, including 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and a no-logs policy. It also has advanced security features like RAM-only servers (every server reset wipes all data) and perfect forward secrecy (which changes the encryption key for each VPN session so that hackers can’t compromise it). Plus, it has extra security features, including CleanWeb, which protects you from malicious sites, and MultiHop servers, which add an extra layer of encryption to your connections.
Is Surfshark free?
No, Surfshark doesn’t have a free plan, but its paid plans are pretty affordable and also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
If you’re looking for a free VPN, I recommend Proton VPN’s free plan, as it’s the best free VPN plan on the market. It allows unlimited data, provides strong security and privacy, has very fast speeds, and comes with user-friendly apps. But it limits you to servers in the US, the Netherlands, and Japan, it only works on 1 device, and it doesn’t include streaming and P2P support. That’s why I only recommend using the free plan to test Proton VPN before upgrading to one of its affordable paid plans.
Does Surfshark work with Netflix?
Yes, Surfshark works with Netflix. It works with multiple Netflix libraries, including in the US, the UK, Japan, and Australia. Surfshark also maintains very fast speeds for streaming, so you can have a smooth streaming experience.
Surfshark is also good for streaming other popular streaming services. These include Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max — but unfortunately, it doesn’t work with Disney+.
Is Surfshark good for torrenting?
Yes, Surfshark has good P2P support, as it allows torrenting across all of its servers and works with popular torrent clients, such as qBitorrent and Vuze. It also has a kill switch, which protects you from data leaks while torrenting, and a no-logs policy to ensure it doesn’t collect your P2P traffic.
Does Surfshark work in China?
It’s hard to say, as the provider doesn’t guarantee that its service works in restrictive countries. This is despite providing access to Camouflage Mode and NoBorders, 2 features that are designed to allow the VPN to work in countries like China. According to the reps, the only way to guarantee that the VPN will work in China is to perform a manual setup, but it’s inconvenient and time-consuming.
I recommend getting a top competitor like ExpressVPN instead — it consistently works in restrictive countries like China, and it also provides industry-leading security and privacy features to keep you safe while browsing the web in China.