Surfshark VPN review

 Surfshark VPN app for various devices.
Surfshark VPN app for various devices.

Surfshark review - quick menu

1. What's new?
2. Pricing
3. Privacy and security
4. Logging policy
5. Windows apps
6. Kill switch
7. Mac apps
8. Mobile apps
9. Performance
10. Virtual locations
11. Netflix and streaming
12. Customer support
13. Verdict

Surfshark is one of the best VPN services, comes crammed with features, runs on almost anything, and has some of the best download speeds around.

The network has 3,200+ servers distributed across an impressive 140+ locations in 100 countries. With 55 locatuon in Europe alone, Surfshark also covers the areas other VPNs often forget. Atlas VPN, Mullvad and PrivadoVPN scrape together only two locations each in South America, for instance; Surfshark has 10.

Apps are available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux (full GUI) devices, plus Chrome, Firefox, and even Edge extensions, and you can even check out a website unblocking Smart DNS system for games consoles, smart TVs, and more.

Whatever you're using, there's no need to worry about annoying 'simultaneous connection' limits—you can install and run Surfshark on as many devices as you like.

The service is excellent on the technical essentials, including strong AES-256-GCM encryption, WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 support, an audited no-logs policy, and a kill switch that'll protect you if the VPN connection drops.

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There's real depth here. Android apps can see through most VPNs by requesting your physical location, but not Surfshark—a GPS Spoofing feature enables it to return the coordinates of your chosen VPN server.

Oh, there’s also ad and malicious URL blocking, P2P support on most servers, MultiHop VPN, split tunneling, the company's own zero-knowledge DNS servers, and 24/7 support via email and live chat if anything goes wrong.

Surfshark - what's new?

Updates since our last review include a shiny new interface for Surfshark’s mobile and desktop apps, with plenty of new features and usability improvements (more on those later). The provider finally launched its dedicated Apple VPN app, too, so you can say goodbye to daunting installation processes.

There are various new and easier ways to log in. You can log in on mobile devices by scanning a QR code on a device which is logged in already, for instance, or you can now log into Surfshark with your Apple or Google account.

Alternative ID is a new feature which creates a fake identity with your preferred name, address and email address. Use this when an intrusive web service demands all your details, and when it sends emails to the fake address, Surfshark routes it to your real email. That really is good enough to be a paid feature, but, right now at least, it’s bundled with the VPN for free.

At the time of writing, you only get six countries to choose from: United States, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Germany and Portugal. We assume that’s because Alternative ID generates a full address from your choice of country, and Surfshark doesn’t have location databases for other countries, but perhaps that will change in future.

Surfshark's Alternative ID interface
Surfshark's Alternative ID interface

Surfshark’s Android app has passed Google’s Mobile Application Security Assessment. This isn’t a full VPN audit—it can’t tell you anything about logging, for instance—but it does confirm Surfshark follows best practice when storing data, making network connections and carrying out other app basics.

As usual, there are all kinds of small but welcome app improvements. A new iOS widget allows you to connect, pause or disconnect without using the full app, for instance, and when Mac users connect to a country, they’re automatically connected to the fastest city.

Surfshark pricing

As you'll see courtesy of our dedicated Surfshark price and deals guide, the service's monthly plan is its most expensive option at $ 10.99 now (dropped from $12.95, though.)

Paying for a year upfront cuts the cost to a cheaper-than-most $3.99 a month, but that's just for the first term. It rises to $4.98 on renewal.

Surfshark's 24-month plan offers the best value at $2.29 a month, but only for a single term. It renews as the $4.98 a month annual plan.

That initial price beats most of the competition—with a few exceptions. Private Internet Access' three-year plan is priced at only $2.03 a month, for instance, and it renews as a three-year plan, with no big price hike.

Surfshark Antivirus
Surfshark Antivirus

Surfshark's 7-day free trial for Android, iOS, and Mac gives you some time to sample the service for yourself. I'd like something for Windows users, too, but it seems unfair to complain when many providers have no trials at all.

Whichever plan you go for, Surfshark offers plenty of ways to hand over your cash, with support for credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay and Google Pay.

But if, after all this, you sign up and find the company isn't for you, no problem—you're protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Surfshark Privacy
Surfshark Privacy

Privacy and security

Surfshark's privacy features start with the VPN basics: secure protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP and TCP), AES-256-GCM encryption, and a kill switch to block internet access and prevent identity leaks if the VPN connection ever fails.

There's little low-level detail on the site about Surfshark's use of encryption, but our system's OpenVPN connections delivered excellent protection with AES-256-GCM on the data channel, while the control channel has an RSA-2048 handshake with a strong ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 cipher for Perfect Forward Secrecy.

Surfshark’s excellent privacy policy explains its no-logging status clearly with in-depth details on the data it does (and doesn't) collect. If you'd rather not trawl through the details, concise summaries are available, too.

The key points you need to know are that Surfshark’s servers only collect a tiny amount of data during a session: your user ID and connection time. These are deleted within 15 minutes of you disconnecting and, otherwise, the service doesn’t log your visited IP addresses, browsing history, session information, network traffic, or anything else that could link you to an internet action.

To get a feel for how a provider treats privacy, I used the Blacklight privacy inspector to check the trackers and third-party cookies used on its website. Blacklight reported 9 trackers and 10 third-party cookies, mostly from Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Microsoft. That's well above average, and, Mullvad, and Proton VPN used no trackers at all in their last tests.

Logging policy

Privacy policies are important, but I don't think customers should have to take a VPN provider's words on trust. That's why I'm happy to see that Surfshark has put its service through no less than three independent security audits.

The first two saw cybersecurity experts Cure53 (one of the most in-depth auditors around) inspect Surfshark's servers, backend infrastructure, VPN configuration, and browser extensions for security issues.

The process uncovered some security vulnerabilities, but that's no surprise with an auditor as thorough as Cure53, and Surfshark fixed these before they were made public. Overall, the audits delivered a positive verdict on Surfshark, talking about its 'strong security posture' and how the company had a clear understanding of the challenges presented by VPN security.

Surfshark Audit
Surfshark Audit

In the most recent audit, Surfshark asked Deloitte to verify its no-logs policy. The auditors looked at Surfshark's servers, their configuration and deployment, and its related infrastructure, and even interviewed employees to properly understand its internal processes.

Surfshark passed the audit, with Deloitte concluding that its server setup and management "is properly prepared, in all material respects, in accordance with Surfshark’s description of its no-logs policy."

It's great to see a provider put itself through this level of scrutiny. Surfshark clearly understands the transparency value of audits, and that gives me hope there will be more on the way.

Windows apps

Surfshark’s revamped Windows app is good looking and absolutely stuffed with features. The location picker takes most of the dashboard, for instance, and manages to cram in recommended locations (the fastest servers for you), a Recently Used list, your Favorites, filter options for various location types (standard servers, MultiHop servers, dedicated and static IPs), and a Search box to quickly find the country or city you need.

Clicking your location of choice (or just ‘Quick Connect’ to access the fastest server) gets you connected, and a right-hand panel gives you lots of session-related stats: the connection time, your chosen location and new virtual IP address, the current protocol and the amount of data you’ve uploaded and downloaded.

The panel also displays the various connection settings you’ve enabled: the kill switch, AutoConnect option, malware and ad-blocking CleanWeb, and more.

It can be reassuring to see ‘Kill Switch: On’, for instance, but we noticed that it won’t tell you if a setting is turned off. For example, if you’ve accidentally turned off the kill switch, you’ll never see ‘Kill Switch: Off’ on the status panel; it just won’t display the kill switch status at all. The only way you’ll realise there’s a problem is if you look at the list of settings and notice ‘Kill Switch’ isn’t there, which may not happen right away.

Surfshark'new Windows app interface
Surfshark'new Windows app interface

There are lots of nice usability touches dotted around the app. If the status panel shows ‘AutoConnect: On’ and you decide you want to turn it off, just click the text, the Settings box opens at the correct tab, and you can disable it with a click. And, conveniently, you can even do this while you’re connected (most VPN apps demand you disconnect before tweaking any settings.)

This does all make for a relatively complex interface. Many VPN app dashboards only have a handful of interface elements: a Connect button, your selected location, a Settings icon, maybe another for your account. Surfshark’s Windows app has 30+.

A Static IP list lets you connect to locations in Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, UK, and the US, to receive a fixed IP from each one (that is, your IP will be from the country you choose, but it'll be the same every time you connect).

That could be handy in some situations, but beware if you use it for security—perhaps to get access to an IP-restricted network. This is a static IP, but it's not a dedicated IP, just for you; any other Surfshark customer can be allocated the same IP address, so the IP alone isn't a guarantee of your identity.

The 'Rotating IP' feature takes a very different approach, regularly assigning you a new IP address without you having to reconnect. Surfshark says your IP switches every 5 to 10 minutes, but in my tests, I saw IP changes within seconds. This might cause issues with some apps, but it didn't affect my browsing or streaming.

Surfshark MultiHop
Surfshark MultiHop

A MultiHop tab passes your traffic through two VPN servers, ensuring that even if the exit server is compromised, an attacker still won't have your real IP. There are 12 routes available, where the first server is your initial connection (options include US, Canada, UK, Singapore, Germany, France, Netherlands, and Australia), and the second is where you'll appear to be to the outside world (France, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, UK, US).

A MultiHop tab passes your traffic through two VPN servers, ensuring that even if the exit server is compromised, an attacker still won't get their hands on your real IP. The tab includes some prebuilt routes you can choose immediately: connect to San Francisco via Sydney, say, or the Netherlands via Singapore. But Surfshark's new Dynamic MultiHop means you're now able to create a custom route by choosing whatever combination of locations you need from the full location list.

You might be wondering about the impact that routing your traffic through an extra server has on your performance—and I've got you covered.

A regular UK to San Francisco connection averaged downloads of 960 Mbps on mytest system. Using MultiHop to connect from my UK location, to the nearest UK server, then to San Francisco, cut speeds to 230 Mbps.

Taking a worst-case example of going from the UK to Australia, then San Francisco, saw speeds average only 70 Mbps.

Although there's clearly potential for big drops in speed here, these are over some seriously long distances. If you're jumping from your home to a neighboring country, then another neighboring country, it's likely you'll see far less impact. However, even if you need to use my all-around-the-world approach, it's still fast enough for most browsing and streaming tasks.

Surfshark's Bypasser panel enables specifying applications, websites and IP addresses that bypass the VPN (an expanded version of the split tunneling feature you'll see with providers like ExpressVPN).  If using Surfshark causes issues with a particular website or app, adding it to the allow list should solve the problem.

Alternatively, you're able to set the Bypasser to route only your chosen apps through the VPN. That may be more useful if you're only using Surfshark for one or two tasks, for example torrenting: set up your torrent client to connect via the VPN and everything else will use your regular connection.

There are plenty of configuration options, and they all worked well for us, plus it's great to see a VPN provider deliver this level of split tunneling support on the desktop. (Many VPNs have split tunneling-type systems on Windows—ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, ProtonVPN—but several reserve the feature for their mobile apps).

Surfshark's CleanWeb feature blocks ads, trackers, and malicious links. I tested this by trying to access 150+ brand new malicious URLs. The results were excellent, with CleanWeb blocking 91%. I’ve seen better - NordVPN blocked 96%, Windscribe 100% - but CleanWeb is good enough to be very useful.

Elsewhere, a NoBorders mode aims to get online in China and other countries where VPNs are commonly blocked. The app should turn NoBorders on automatically if it detects any network issues, but you can enable it manually, too.

Kill switch

The Surfshark kill switch is on hand to block your internet connection if the VPN drops—and it's more versatile than most, with two options.

Enable the 'Strict' kill switch and you can't access the internet at all, ever, without the VPN being connected. That's highly secure, but not always convenient.

Surfshark's kill switch interface
Surfshark's kill switch interface

The 'Soft' kill switch blocks your internet if the VPN drops by accident, but doesn’t activate if you manually disconnect. Naturally, this isn't as secure, but it does mean that you can choose whether you need to be connected or not.

Most providers support one kill switch type or the other, so it’s good to see Surfshark give users the choice. (Even if you think you know which option you prefer now, there’s always the chance that might change later.)

The kill switch handled my main tests reasonably well. When I tried any conventional way to close the VPN connection, the app blocked my internet, ensuring that my traffic was never exposed. Unlike most of the top competition, though, the app didn't automatically reconnect, leaving us to do it manually.

My tests didn't stop there. Ramping them up, I found that, in the worst-case scenario where Surfshark's Windows service closed, the app prompted me to restart the service (and gave me a button to do just that.) Usually this worked, but a couple of times the app didn't notice the VPN had dropped and continued to display its ‘Protected’ message. This is bad news—you could carry on using your device for hours and think you were safe, when in fact the VPN had failed and you weren’t protected at all.

It's important to keep this in perspective. I use more extreme tests to see just how bulletproof a kill switch is, but these aren't situations you're likely to see in real life. Although this looks like a flaw with the app, it's not a major one, and you might use Surfshark for years without ever experiencing that kind of service failure.

Surfshark Kill Switch Error
Surfshark Kill Switch Error

MacOS and Mac apps

Surfshark's Mac app has a near identical interface to the Windows version. It's arguably a little cluttered, but it looks good and is fairly easy to use.

It works much the same in real-world use, too. Connection times were speedy, and the VPN didn't drop at any point.

Surfshark's app new interface
Surfshark's app new interface

Mac users miss out on one or two Surfshark features. In particular, there's no Bypasser to enable choosing any apps or websites you don't want to pass through the VPN.

There's still plenty of functionality here, though: static IPs; Dynamic MultiHop VPN; WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN support; the kill switch; CleanWeb's ad and malware blocking, and the ability to auto-connect to the VPN whenever you access untrusted networks.

That's a much better spec than I often see elsewhere and, on balance, Surfshark's Mac offering is a well-judged mix of power and ease of use.

Surfshark's new Android app interface
Surfshark's new Android app interface

Surfshark mobile apps

Mobile VPN apps can be far more basic than their desktop cousins, but Surfshark's Android version is surprisingly similar. The interface looks almost identical, and it has the same WireGuard and OpenVPN support, kill switch, static IP, Multi-Hop, and other features that we saw on the desktop.

The Android app outperforms the desktop editions in some areas as it includes the split tunneling Bypasser system (not available on the Mac), and IKEv2 protocol support (not available on Windows.)

You get a couple of more mobile-specific features, one of which is an 'Override GPS location' to match your device's GPS location with your connected VPN server, making it more difficult for apps to see where you really are. And a 'use small packets' option may improve performance with some mobile networks.

If any of this doesn't work as it should, you can send bug reports and raise (or browse) tickets from within the app (no need to open your browser and waste time hunting for the right area of the support site).

Surfshark's new iOS interface on iPhone
Surfshark's new iOS interface on iPhone

It's much the same story with Surfshark's iOS VPN app: the look and feel are very similar, and you still get the kill switch, the choice of protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard), and more.

Small but welcome recent additions include support for Siri shortcuts and the ability to connect and disconnect directly from an iOS widget.

It's a surprisingly capable setup, as software for Apple’s mobile OS is often short-changed for features in comparison to other platforms.

Put it all together and these are impressive apps, well implemented, straightforward to use, and a refreshing change for anyone tired of losing VPN functionality on mobile devices.

Surfshark performance

I measured Surfshark's performance from a US location and a UK data center with a 1 Gbps connection, giving me plenty of scope to see just what the service could do.

First, I installed the latest Surfshark app on my test systems, connected to my nearest location, and checked download speeds using performance testing sites including SpeedTest (the website and command line app), Cloudflare, and Measurement Lab. I collected at least five results from each site using WireGuard, repeated each test again with OpenVPN, and ran the full test set in both morning and evening sessions. performance benchmark performance benchmark

Surfshark’s WireGuard speeds were spectacular at 950+ Mbps in the UK—all I could expect from our 1 Gbps test connection. That puts Surfshark equal first in our speed tests alongside the likes of NordVPN, Mullvad, Proton VPN, PrivadoVPN and Windscribe.

Surfshark uses WireGuard by default and the chances are you’ll never need anything else. But if it can’t connect, or you’re setting the service up on a router or some other device, you might need to use OpenVPN. I found Surfshark’s OpenVPN connections were way better, reaching 640 Mbps. That's enough for streaming and general browsing tasks, but bad news if you need it for a router or any heavyweight tasks.

Virtual locations

Many VPNs use virtual locations, servers which provide you with an IP address for one country but are physically located in another. This is common with smaller countries, where hosting the servers elsewhere gets you better speed and reliability, and can also help with privacy (for example, most VPNs now host their India servers elsewhere to avoid the country's upcoming data logging laws.)

Virtual locations won't work for everyone, though. If your VPN says it supports Hong Kong, but it's a virtual location and the servers are actually based in New York, then that's inevitably going to impact your speeds.

I think it's important for providers to be completely transparent about their use of virtual locations. Surfshark does better than some, highlighting virtual locations in its app, but it won't tell you where they're really hosted.

That's probably the most important detail, so I ran some tests to find out.

The results were interesting. Ideally, I like to see virtual locations as close as possible to the country they're representing, to minimize any performance hit. Surfshark does this occasionally, for example, by hosting its Cambodia location with Hong Kong servers, but many of its virtual locations appear to be served from the same countries. Amsterdam seems to be the real home for everyone from Algeria, Andorra, and Armenia, for instance, to Egypt, Ghana and Nigeria, while Florida looks after servers for the Bahamas, Argentina, and Bolivia.

This may be a plus for some users. If you're in or near Amsterdam, say, having nearby servers for so many locations could improve your speeds. But if you're a frequent flier who spends a lot of time in these 'virtual countries', Surfshark might not always deliver the performance you expect.

Netflix and global stream unblocking

If you're tired of VPNs that vaguely hint about their unblocking abilities, but never make any real commitment, you'll love Surfshark. The company not only promises to unblock Netflix, but it also names a bunch of other services it supports: "Prime Video, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Hulu, Hotstar, YLE Areena, AbemaTV, and many others."

This isn't just overblown marketing-oriented confidence, either. I was able to access Netflix in the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan without the slightest hassle.

Netflix menu showing popular shows
Netflix menu showing popular shows

The good news continued in the UK, with Surfshark getting us into BBC iPlayer, ITV, and Channel 4. It allowed me to stream Australia’s 9Now and 10 play from the UK just as easily, and a final success with both US Amazon Prime and Disney Plus gave Surfshark a perfect 100% record in our unblocking tests.

That's a great result that puts Surfshark right up there with the very best unblocking VPNs. At the moment, that includes ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, ProtonVPN, PureVPN, and Surfshark, all of which have got us into every one of our test streaming sites.

Surfshark customer support

If Surfshark doesn't work for you, the support site has setup and installation tutorials, troubleshooting guides, FAQs and other resources to point you in the right direction.

The content is well-organized. Clicking 'Get Started' takes you to a Tutorials page with articles on setting up the apps, getting the service working on other platforms and using its various features.

Surfshark Chromebook
Surfshark Chromebook

These aren't the horribly basic "Download and run the installer" guides you'll get from lesser VPNs, either. For example, the "How to set up Surfshark on Windows" article includes a video guide, step-by-step installation advice with screenshots, plus first steps guidance on choosing locations and getting connected, and basic explanations of all the main features.

If this isn't enough, Surfshark's support is available 24/7 via live chat. We tried this while attempting to diagnose a connection issue, and had a friendly reply in under 60 seconds. So, if you're struggling to find something on the website, it might be worth opening a chat session—the problem could be sorted out quicker than you might think.

Surfshark review: verdict

I had some small issues with the apps and the Windows kill switch, but Surfshark excels everywhere else, providing market-leading speeds, top-notch unblocking, and an array of advanced features for a very fair price. Great value and an absolute must for your VPN shortlist.

TechRadar rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Subscribe if:

✔️ Speed is everything: with WireGuard, Surfshark soars to the top of our speed charts, making it an ideal pick for anyone who's into gaming, streaming, or hopping into video calls.
✔️ You want plenty of streaming options: few VPNs can match Surfshark when it comes to unblocking power. The service can access Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, and many more.
✔️ You want a VPN that proves its commitment: Surfshark goes above and beyond vague promises of total security with three independent audits—and the results have always been great!

Don't subscribe if:

❌ You need even more server locations: If 141 locations still isn't enough for you, you're better off with ExpressVPN.
 You need an infallible kill switch: I noticed a few hiccups with the Windows version (like the app not realizing that the VPN connection had dropped) that could be a red flag for folks who need an airtight kill switch.