Surfshark VPN review

An unblocks-everything, feature-packed VPN with no annoying device limits

Surfshark VPN working on multiple devices
(Image: © Future)

TechRadar Verdict

Surfshark’s Windows kill switch needs a tweak, but otherwise the service is incredibly fast, stuffed with advanced functionality, has likable and user-friendly apps, and unblocked every one of our test streaming platforms. A must for your VPN shortlist.

Pros

  • +

    Blistering WireGuard speeds

  • +

    Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus

  • +

    Speedy and helpful live chat support

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    Unlimited simultaneous connections

Cons

  • -

    Some Windows kill switch issues in extreme situations

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Surfshark is a powerful VPN which 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 160+ locations in 100 countries.

There are Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux apps, plus Chrome, Firefox and even Edge extensions, and 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, a no logs policy, and a kill switch to protect you if the VPN connection drops.

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, VPN chaining (use two servers for one hop), split tunneling, the company's own zero-knowledge DNS servers, and 24/7 support via email and live chat if anything goes wrong.

Updates since our last review include a Pause VPN feature, which allows you to disable the VPN for a set amount of time (5, 30, 120 minutes), then automatically resume your protection. You could always disconnect manually, but then you must remember to reconnect – whereas if you use the Pause button, the app handles reconnection for you, so you can’t forget.

Linux users now have a VPN app with a full GUI, unlike most of the competition. (If other providers have Linux apps at all, they’re typically command line efforts.)

New support for manual WireGuard connections allows experts to precisely customize their Surfshark setup, or perhaps get the service running on a device which can’t use the regular apps.

Surfshark’s network is expanding, and the latest additions include many locations you’ll rarely see with other VPNs: Brunei, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Mongolia, Nepal and Laos. 

Surfshark Data Breach Check

The Surfshark One plan includes data breach alerts and a privacy-friendly internet search (Image credit: Surfshark)

Surfshark pricing

As you'll see courtesy of our dedicated Surfshark price and deals guide, the service's monthly plan (opens in new tab) is more expensive than some at $12.95.

Paying for a year upfront (opens in new tab) 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 months plan (opens in new tab) offers the best value at $2.05 a month. Or to talk totals: signing up for one year costs an up-front $47.88, but two years is only marginally more expensive at $59.76. But again, this is only for the first term; on renewal you switch to the regular $4.98 a month annual plan.

That initial price beats most of the competition, but there are a few exceptions. Private Internet Access' three-year plan is priced at only $2.03 a month for the first term, for instance, and has a simple on-demand antivirus thrown in.

The Surfshark One plan gives you all the same VPN features, and adds Avira-powered antivirus, data breach monitoring and privacy-friendly internet search. You can activate it for an extra $1.99 a month. Cheap? Well, it's a very basic setup. The antivirus supports on-demand scans, and has recently implemented real-time scans, which is a big upgrade from last time. However, we'd still recommend a dedicated AV setup.

Surfshark Antivirus

Surfshark One also gives you an Avira-powered antivirus, but it's a basic affair (Image credit: Surfshark)

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

Surfshark even delivers more than you'd expect with its range of payment methods, 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 keeps no logs on its users and the service protects your connection with AES-256 encryption and a kill switch (Image credit: Surfshark)

Privacy and logging

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

Surfshark's network has its own private DNS on each server to reduce the chance of others spying on your activities. And the ability to use a double VPN hop (connect to Paris, say, then leave the Surfshark network in New York) makes it even more difficult for anyone to follow your tracks.

Surfshark’s excellent privacy policy (opens in new tab) explains its no-logging status clearly, with very detailed sections, and also brief summaries if you’d prefer not to read every word.

If you’re interested, for instance, you can find out all the types of data Surfshark might collect about you, what that’s for, who might have access to it, how long it’s kept, and what rights you have to see or delete that data.

But the policy also does a good job of explaining the core privacy details. Surfshark’s servers collect a tiny amount of data during a session: your user ID, and connection time. But 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. 

Surfshark Audit

Surfshark underwent a second Cure53 audit on its server infrastructure in 2021 (Image credit: Surfshark)

Audits

Privacy policies are important, but we don't think customers should have to take a VPN provider's words on trust. And that's why we're happy to see that Surfshark has put two areas of its service through an independent security audit.

In November 2018, the Germany security company Cure53 (opens in new tab) [PDF] put Surfshark's browser extensions under a very high-powered security microscope. The company only found a couple of small issues, and concluded that it was 'highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture on the Surfshark VPN extensions.'

That was good news in 2018, but it's less interesting years later, especially when it only examined such a limited area of the service.

In May 2021 Surfshark went further, though, reporting on a second Cure53 audit (opens in new tab) of its servers.

This audit had a much wider scope: 'To thoroughly examine and evaluate the security posture exposed by the Surfshark server, VPN configuration, as well as the related infrastructure.'

The auditors found only four security-related general issues, with a maximum severity of 'Medium.' If you're not used to reading Cure53 audits, that's not bad at all (they're exceptionally thorough and always find something).

The report concluded 'the overall outcome should be regarded as good' and Surfshark had a clear understanding of the challenges presented by VPN security.

Surfshark could have taken the audit a little further. It didn't verify Surfshark's no logging credentials, which feels like a missed opportunity. And the company has only published a summary of the report; we'd much prefer to see the full version.

Still, we're glad to see Surfshark underwent this audit, and the conclusions look good to us.

Surfshark Windows App

Surfshark's Windows client will be easily recognizable to those familiar with other VPNs (Image credit: Surfshark)

Windows app

Surfshark's Windows app looks a little more complex than most – sporting tabs, icons, lists, and more – but it works much like any other VPN. There's a Connect button to access your nearest server, a location list showing other servers, plus a Settings icon which leads to some useful extras.

WireGuard connections are quick, and happen in just a couple of seconds, with OpenVPN taking a more mid-range 8-10 seconds. But the app keeps you informed, with desktop notifications letting you know exactly when you're protected (and when you're not).

The well-designed location picker simplifies your server browsing by displaying countries and cities in the same list. That means no switching tabs or expanding countries to view individual cities – just scroll down, and every location is visible at a glance. Surfshark spoils the effect a little by not sorting the cities alphabetically, but apart from that it works well.

Locations don't display ping times by default, but a ‘Refresh speed metrics’ feature can find and show them with a click. A Search box allows you to find specific locations with a few keypresses (typing 'atl' is enough to display Atlanta), and there's a Favorites system to save your top locations for later.

A Static IP list enables connecting to locations in Germany, Japan, 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.

Surfshark MultiHop

Surfshark even includes a MultiHop feature that sends your traffic through two VPN servers for added security (Image credit: Surfshark)

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 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. We tested this with 100 sample tracker links, and CleanWeb blocked 54. We’ve seen better – Windscribe’s ROBERT feature blocked 98, ProtonVPN managed 87 – but that’s enough to be useful.

A NoBorders mode aims to help you 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.

More conventional features include options to launch the VPN along with Windows, or switch the protocol to WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP and TCP, or an Automatic option which allows the app to choose. (Surfshark recently dropped IKEv2 on the Windows app, as apparently hardly anyone used it, and WireGuard and OpenVPN are better choices, anyway.)

Surfshark Kill Switch

You can enable Surfshark's kill switch from the settings menu (Image credit: Surfshark)

Surfshark kill switch

A kill switch is on hand to block your internet connection if the VPN drops. This has recently been updated to make it more configurable.

Previously, when you turned on the kill switch, you couldn't access the internet at all, ever, without being connected to Surfshark. That’s highly secure, but it’s not always convenient.

Now, you can also opt for a ‘Soft’ kill switch. This kicks in if the VPN drops by accident, but doesn’t activate if you manually disconnect. That’s not quite as secure, but does mean 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 our main tests well. When we tried any conventional way to close the VPN connection, the app displayed a notification to warn us, our internet was blocked, and our traffic was never exposed.

We also run more extreme tests, though. In the worst case, we found that if Surfshark’s Windows service closed, the VPN dropped, and the app didn’t notice. It continued to display a ‘Protected’ message. 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.

Surfshark Kill Switch Error

Our more extreme kill switch testing did, unfortunately, cause serious problems for the Surfshark app (Image credit: Surfshark)

It's important to keep this in perspective. We use our more extreme tests to see just how bulletproof a kill switch is, but they're not a situation you're likely to see in real life. You might use Surfshark for years without ever experiencing a service failure.

Still, this is an unnecessary issue with the app, and one which could be at least partly addressed with smarter development. ExpressVPN sets its Windows services to automatically restart if they fail, for instance, giving it a chance of recovery in even worst-case situations. Surfshark doesn’t use this standard restart feature, and that’s a problem.

Overall, Surfshark's kill switch is effective and will protect you from all the issues you're likely to encounter. But it's not quite as robust as some of the competition, and we think there's room for improvement.

Surfshark Mac App

Surfshark's Mac app looks like the Windows version, but there are some differences (Image credit: Surfshark)

Mac app

Surfshark's Mac app looks much like the Windows version, but with a few small differences. The app window isn't resizable, for instance. The app doesn’t display your kill switch status on the main Connect window, which is a shame. But it fixes one of our minor Windows app annoyances, sensibly displaying city locations in alphabetical order.

We didn't spot any significant app differences in real-world use. Connection times were speedy, and the VPN didn't drop at any point.

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, Multi-Hop VPN, WireGuard and OpenVPN support, the kill switch, along with CleanWeb's ad and malware blocking. 

The app even has a handy feature which isn’t available on Windows, in the ability to auto-connect to the VPN whenever you access untrusted networks.

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

Surfshark Android App

This is the user interface of Surfshark's Android app (Image credit: Surfshark)

Mobile apps

Mobile VPN apps can be far more basic than their desktop cousins, but Surfshark's Android version is surprisingly similar. Sure, it rearranges the interface a little to work better on smaller screens, but otherwise it has the same protocol 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 both the 'auto-connect on accessing untrusted networks' feature (not available on Windows), and the split tunneling Bypasser system (not available on Mac).

You get a couple of new 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).

Surfhsark iOS App

Surfshark's iOS app also shares a similar look and feel to its desktop counterpart (Image credit: Surfshark)

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 widgets to simplify getting connected, and the ability to report bugs from within the app.

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.

Speedtest.net performance benchmark

We used several different speed testing services to determine Surfshark's performance (Image credit: Speedtest.net)

Performance

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

We installed the latest Surfshark app on our test systems, connected to our nearest location, and checked download speeds using performance testing sites including SpeedTest (the website and command line app), nPerf and SpeedOfMe. We 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.

Surfshark’s WireGuard speeds were spectacular at 950Mbps+, all we could expect from our 1Gbps test connection. That puts Surfshark equal first in our speed tests along with Norton and TorGuard.

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. We found Surfshark’s OpenVPN connections reached 120-190Mbps in the US, a little below average, but enough for most online tasks.

Netflix menu showing popular shows

Surfshark was able to unblock Netflix and all other streaming platforms we tested it with (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix and streaming

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

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

The good news continued in the UK, with Surfshark getting us into BBC iPlayer, ITV and Channel 4. It allowed us to stream Australia’s 9Now and 10 play from the UK just as easily. And 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 which puts Surfshark right up there with the very best unblocking VPNs. At the moment, that includes ExpressVPN, Hide.me, NordVPN and PureVPN, all of which have got us into every one of our test streaming sites.

Surfshark Chromebook

Support guides even include tutorials on how to set up Surfshark on Chromebooks (Image credit: Surfshark)

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.

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: Final verdict

We have some small issues with the apps and 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.

Mike Williams
Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.