Surfshark VPN Review 2019
Surfshark is an all-rounder VPN service that works with Netflix / torrenting and costs only $1.99/mo, but does it deserve the 4.0-star rating? To find out everything that's good and bad about Surfshark, check out my in-depth review.
Surfshark VPN is no longer the new kid on the block. I’ve seen this British Virgin Island based VPN grow from just 100 to 1040+ servers in a little over a year.
There’s a lot to love about Surfshark. To start off, the service works great with both torrenting / Netflix and offers snappy 24/7 customer support.
In terms of speeds, the servers I tested managed to crunch out around 9.85 Mbps download speeds on my 10 Mbps connection.
On the surface, Surfshark looks flawless. However, the service isn’t flawless. Considering that Surfshark could work on better network coverage and faster email support, I’ve given this service 4.0 out of 5.0 stars in my Surfshark VPN review.
My Rating Criteria
To thoroughly test out the pros and cons of the service, I’m going to test Surfshark on my 9 step rating criteria:
- Jurisdiction – Where is Surfshark located?
- Security – Is Surfshark VPN Safe?
- Leaks – Does Surfshark leak IP, DNS & WebRTC?
- Servers – Does Surfshark work in China?
- Speed – Is Surfshark good for Torrenting?
- Streaming – Does Surfshark work with Netflix?
- Compatibility – Which devices can I use Surfshark with?
- Pricing – Surfshark Prices, Refund Policy & Free Trial
- Trustworthiness – Does Surfshark keep logs, Trustpilot Reviews, Warrant Canary & Support
Jurisdiction – Where is Surfshark located?
Surfshark VPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which is a privacy-friendly region with no mandatory data retention laws. This is great since it allows Surfshark to truly follow a no-logs policy.
Another reason why Surfshark’s geographical location matters so much is the fact that BVI is based outside the jurisdiction of the infamous 5 eyes, 9 eyes, and 14 eyes alliances.
This prevents internet service providers from secretly collecting user data or from corporating with law enforcement agencies regarding ongoing investigations.
Security – Is Surfshark Safe?
Hands down, Surfshark VPN is one of the most secure VPNs in the industry. If you go through the features list of Surfshark, you’ll see that this provider offers unbreakable AES 256-bit encryption, leak protection, Kill switch, secure protocols along with additional features to keep you safe and secure.
Let’s go through each of these features in detail, shall we?
VPN Protocols and Encryption
The dedicated desktop app of Surfshark packs in two VPN protocols, IKEv2, and OpenVPN with a variation of TCP and UDP. Speaking of OpenVPN, the iOS app of Surfshark VPN now supports OpenVPN protocol.
Surfshark has also recently added Shadowsocks protocol in the Windows and Android apps, but it is still in the beta testing phase.
The IKEv2 protocol is although fast and offers excellent smartphone compatibility, it isn’t the safe protocol out there. In fact, there is evidence of NSA actively exploiting this protocol. OpenVPN, on the other hand, is the industry benchmark and the safest protocol currently used by VPN providers.
If we talk about encryption, Surfshark VPN uses AES-256-CBC/AES-256-GCM cryptography standards. This level of encryption is also extremely proficient and can thwart even the most advanced hackers.
With Surfshark’s Multihop feature, you can establish a chain of VPNs and take IP masking to the next level. For instance, you can connect to Surfshark’s servers in France and the United Kingdom simultaneously and virtually appear in two different locations.
This feature can add an extra layer of security to combat advance online surveillance. In terms of performance, I found the Multihop feature to be not all that slow. Despite being connected to two different servers, I didn’t notice too much of a speed drop.
CleanWeb is a built-in feature of Surfshark VPN that blocks ads, trackers, and malware. I particularly love this feature because it actively blocks annoying advertisements.
Here’s a screenshot of Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature in action:
Surfshark VPN also comes with a built-in Kill Switch feature that prevents IP leaks in case your VPN service suddenly stops working. This feature is so smart, it automatically kills your internet whenever you lose connecting with the VPN server.
I tested out this feature by downloading a torrent file and then disconnecting from the VPN server midway. As soon as I disconnected from the VPN server, Surfshark automatically disabled my internet connection.
As the name suggests, Whitelister is a split tunneling feature that allows you to custom exclude specific apps or websites from connecting via a VPN.
This feature is great if you prefer securing certain sensitive apps and websites while excluding other apps that you might use for streaming and general browsing.
One way Surfshark’s Whitelister feature stands out is the fact that it can be used in a reverse manner. For instance, instead of just excluding apps or websites, you can even add apps or websites that you want to protect with the VPN.
To test out this feature, I added my browser to the list and the Whitelister feature worked exactly as advertised.
No border is a Surfshark feature that allows you to bypass geo-restrictions and unblock websites.
I’ve tested this feature with most geo-restricted websites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer and it all unblocked without too much effort.
Though it’s worth noting that some websites may require you to experiment with different servers to get everything working.
Private DNS and Leak Protection
Private DNS is a feature that basically routes all your network request through Surfshark’s DNS servers instead of using default DNS servers used by your ISP.
Leak protection, on the other hand, prevents accidental IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, I’ve tested this feature in the leak test section of this Surfshark VPN review.
Surfshark’s Camouflage Mode basically masks your internet traffic and prevents your ISP and anyone else from spying on you. Although this feature is advertised as a “mode”, there is no option available inside the app to toggle on or off.
The IP masking feature of Surfshark VPN is pretty self-explanatory. This feature masks your original IP address and basically allows you to spoof both your identity and geographical location.
Additional Security Features
Aside from the features we’ve looked so far, there are two more features that Surfshark offers. But you will have to pay an extra $0.99/mo for these features. Let’s start with Hacklock.
Hacklock is a security feature that scans the web to prevent possible damages and alerts you in case your email gets leaked.
BlindSearch is a feature that searches the web privately & efficiently with no ads or logs. This feature can provide you with unbiased and organic search results.
Leaks – Does Surfshark leak IP, DNS & WebRTC?
Surfshark VPN passed my leak test without failing once. I tested Surfshark IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks using a variety of online leak testing tools like IPleak.org, DNSleak.com, and ip8.com.
IP Leak Test
For the IP leak test, I connected to the New York server before visiting IPleak.org. The screenshot below is not showing my original IP address:
DNS Leak Test
To test for DNS leaks, I connected to the US server again but this time through Chandler city. Again, the screenshot below is not showing my original IP address:
WebRTC Leak Test
Lastly, I tested Surfshark VPN for WebRTC leaks using the US server. The screenshot below shows that ip8.com did not expose my WebRTC information:
Servers – Does Surfshark work in China?
Surfshark VPN is among the very few VPNs that do work in mainland China. With 1040+ servers in 100+ locations and 61+ countries including Hong Kong, it provides stable connections in most parts of China.
Speaking of network coverage, Surfshark offers servers in every continent except for Antarctica. The way Surfshark manages to do this is because it uses a mix of both physical and virtual servers.
This way, even if Surfshark VPN doesn’t offer a physical server in Albania for instance, it’s virtual server location can still give you access to all regional content available in Albania. This is exactly how Surfshark’s Hong Kong server compensates for the nonexistent Chinese server.
You can connect to Surfshark’s physical and virtual server locations by paying attention to the new icons on the official website.
Speed – Is Surfshark good for Torrenting?
Yes, Surfshark VPN is an excellent choice for torrenting and P2P. If we talk about speeds, this VPN managed to deliver decent connection speed that’s perfect for torrenting and overall browsing. This is because Surfshark offers plenty of servers that are optimized for P2P and torrenting.
During my own testing, I managed to download average size torrent files relatively quickly without abrupt connection drops or speed fluctuations.
To test how much Surfshark can crunch out, I performed the speed test using Speedtest.net and my base 10 Mbps Internet connection.
Here are the speed test results for Surfshark’s US and UK servers:
Surfshark US server
The download speed that I managed to get on the US Atlanta server was 8.45 Mbps and the upload speed was 8.99 Mbps.
This is seriously impressive, however, the only thing that I wish could have been better was the ping, which managed to peak at around 449 ms.
Surfshark UK server
The speeds on the UK Glasgow server were even better. If we talk about download speeds, Surfshark VPN managed to achieve 9.34 Mbps download, 9.45 Mbps upload and 283 ms pings.
Considering the overall speeds test results, Surfshark performed exceptionally well.
Streaming – Does Surfshark work with Netflix?
Yes, Surfshark VPN actually works great with Netflix. This is seriously impressive considering that most VPNs nowadays will prompt you to the infamous proxy error.
For my Netflix test, I connected to the US St. Louis server of Netflix and streamed the famous “300” movie. Surfshark not only played the movie within seconds but also delivered HD picture quality.
I also managed to unblock the UK library of Netflix as well. This is great, however, what’s even more impressive is the fact that Surfshark claims it can unblock 16 different Netflix libraries.
Compatibility – Which devices can I use Surfshark with?
On the compatibility front, Surfshark VPN can be used with Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and a bunch of other mainstream devices. Not only that, Surfshark offers unlimited simultaneous connections.
When I first played around with Surfshark VPN over a year ago, it was only available through the Android app and its browser extensions. However, all that has changed. Now, you can even configure Surfshark directly on to DD-WRT, Tomato and AsusWRT routers.
Here’s a complete list of Surfshark compatible devices:
|Desktop & Laptops||Phones & Tablets||Browsers||Smart TVs||Consoles||Trust DNS|
|macOS||iOS||Chrome||Fire TV||Xbox||Trust DNS|
One new app that you might have noticed in the table above is Trust DNS. This app is totally free to use and can help you change your DNS to bypass censorship, unblock websites, and browse privately.
Surfshark VPN boasts user-friendly apps for a variety of devices. These apps sport new versatile design and are extremely easy to navigate. Everything is snappy and options are very easy to find.
Overall, Surfshark is designed with newbies in mind. It might seem too bland to users that are accustomed to fancy visuals, but it gets the job done without any gimmicks.
Now I do not know about you, but simplicity has a charm of its own. So, I think it has done a great job keeping it simple and intuitive to use.
Pricing – Surfshark Prices, Refund Policy & Free Trial
Surfshark VPN is one of the most affordable VPNs out there. In fact, the 24-months plan for Surfshark only costs $1.99/mo +3 months free and comes with an 83% discount.
Surfshark also offers two other subscription plans. The 1-month is a bit expansive and also doesn’t offer any discounts, however, the 12-months plan comes with a 50% discount.
Here is a list of all Surfshark budget-friendly pricing plans:
- $11.95 for a month – No discounts
- $5.99/month for 12 months – 50% discounts
- $1.99/month for 27 months – 83% discounts
You can make payments through credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay and even through Cryptocurrency.
Surfshark offers an extensive 30-day money-back guarantee. This is great since you can get a complete refund in case you end up not satisfied with the service.
That said, there are a couple of things worth noting in the Terms of Service section if you plan on getting a refund. For instance, refunds are not eligible on purchases made through gift cards or prepaid cards.
Is Surfshark VPN Free?
Yes, Surfshark VPN offers a 7-day free trial, but only for the Android and iOS apps. That said, if you avail the 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try out the service risk-free on Windows, Android, iOS and browser extensions as well.
One thing to note is that you will have to provide your Credit Card information to get a refund after 30-days. If you’re curious how the 30-day trial works, check out this separate blog on Surfshark free trial.
Trustworthiness – Does Surfshark keep logs, Trustpilot Reviews, Warrant Canary & Support
Surfshark follows the concept of no data logging. Surfshark is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which as we’ve discussed earlier, is a jurisdiction with no mandatory data retention laws.
- IP addresses
- Browsing history
- Session information
- Used bandwidth
- Connection timestamps
- Network traffic and other similar data
This is seriously impressive considering the fact that Surfshark only collects emails, encrypted passwords, billing information and order history.This is pretty standard and cannot pose a threat to user privacy.
Surfshark Trustpilot Reviews
Surfshark has received an overall 4.5-star rating on Trustpilot. If we talk about reviews, out of 522 individual user reviews, Surfshark has received 75% positive reviews. What’s even more impressive is the fact that only 7% of users have rated the service as “bad”.
That being said, on the official Trustpilot profile of Surfshark, Trustpilot has posted a notice stating that they don’t have any recent records of Surfshark asking their customers to review them using Trustpilot’s invitation services.
Now I can’t say for sure, but there might be a possibility that some of the reviews posted on Trustpilot might be fake.
Independent Security Audit by Cure53
To make their service more transparent and secure, Surfshark recently carried out an independent audit of its service through a German cybersecurity organization called Cure53.
The company tested the Chrome and Firefox browser extensions and reported only two security vulnerabilities which were promptly fixed.
The initiative taken by Surfshark is highly commendable as not every VPN service submits its apps for autonomous inspection.
Surfshark Warrant Canary
If you don’t know, a warrant canary is basically a small document that informs customers of National Security Letters, Gag Orders, and any Warrants that the provider has received to date.
Impressively, Surfshark has not received any subpoena or orders to disclose customer information as of October 26, 2019:
0 National Security letters;
0 Gag orders;
0 Warrants from a government organization.
Surfshark Customer Support
Surfshark’s customer support is fast and responsive. If we talk about the live chat facility, Surfshark’s customer support representatives are knowledgable and provide prompt solutions to any technical queries.
I asked their support agent Edd a simple question and immediately got a response back within seconds:
Email support, on the other hand, was not all that fast, however, I still managed to get a response within a couple of hours.
Aside from the option to use the live chat or email support, Surfshark also offers a dedicated help section with useful information in the form of FAQs, Setup guides and other tutorials.
Do I Recommend Surfshark?
Yes, I highly recommend Surfshark.
There’s a lot that I like about Surfshark VPN. The fact that it offers fast speeds with barely any speed drops is truly impressive. I also like the fact that Surfshark works exceptionally well with Netflix and offers 1040+ servers for only $1.99/mo.
However, I still wish to see more servers added to the list. Especially a dedicated server for China.
I’m also a bit skeptical about the Trustpilot reviews of Surfshark. Something tells me not all reviews are legitimate – not sure about that.
But considering overall features, pricing, customer support, and trustworthiness, Surfshark is one phenomenal VPN service.
This concludes my Surfshark VPN review. Let me know your thoughts about Surfshark in the comments below.