Surfshark Review 2020
Surfshark is an all-rounder VPN service that works with Netflix / torrenting and costs only $1.99/mo. For all its unique capabilities and proprietary features, it has earned a rating of 4.4/5.0, To find out everything that's good and bad about Surfshark, check out this 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 1,700+ servers in a little over a year. Some of these servers even make Surfshark accessible in China.
All in all, there is very little that is problematic in Surfshsark, which is why I highly recommend this VPN. For its excellent performance and features, it has earned 4.4 out of 5.0 stars in this Surfshark VPN review.
Want a Quick Overview? Here’s What’s Important
- Security. Tons of built-in features for improving online security against various cyber-threats.
- Logs. No personally identifiable information relating to customers is retained by Surfshark.
- Streaming. Powerful unblocking capabilities enable instant access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney Plus, and more.
- Speed. Excellent speeds that are maintained across different servers. Here are the speed tests.
- Compatibility. Supports unlimited simultaneous connections and offers apps for a variety of platforms/devices.
Here’s a video review of Surfshark if you prefer the convenience of the visual medium:
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:
- Streaming – Is Surfshark good for streaming?
- Speed – How fast is Surfshark?
- Servers – How many servers does Surfshark have?
- Pricing – How much does Surfshark cost?
- Security – How secure is Surfshark?
- Leaks – Does Surfshark leak IP, DNS & WebRTC?
- Compatibility – Which devices can I use Surfshark with?
- Jurisdiction – Where is Surfshark based?
- Trustworthiness – Is Surfshark trustworthy?
Streaming – Is Surfshark good for streaming?
Yes, Surfshark VPN is one of the best choices available for streaming. This is seriously impressive considering that most VPNs nowadays are unable to get past the firewalls and VPN-blocking technologies implemented by popular streaming services.
I tested Surfshark on services like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu and found it working in each instance.
Does Surfshark work with Netflix?
Yes, Surfshark efficiently unblocks Netflix. 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. However, what’s even more impressive is the fact that Surfshark claims it can unblock 16 different Netflix libraries. Speaking of Netflix, here’s how you can watch Surfshark with Netflix.
Other than that, I found Surfshark to be perfect for FireStick and Kodi. I easily managed to download and setup Surfshark on FireStick in a matter of minutes. Setting up Surfshark on Kodi was also easy too. I just had to run it in the background before launching Kodi. And if you’re wondering, yes, you can easily set up Surfshark on Roku devices as well.
Does Surfshark unblock other streaming services?
In addition to Netflix, Surfshark also works exceptionally well with other streaming services as well including BBC iPlayer and Hulu as shown with screenshot proof below.
Does Surfshark work with BBC iPlayer?
I tried unblocking BBC iPlayer and it worked flawlessly. Everything streamed in HD quality and I did not encounter any errors whatsoever while connected to the UK, Manchester server.
Does Surfshark work with Hulu?
Hulu also worked without any issues. During my testing, pretty much any U.S server I connected to, easily managed to unblock Hulu.
Does Surfshark work with Disney Plus?
Surfshark is also quite brilliant when it comes to Disney Plus. There are more than a few US servers that efficiently unblock Disney Plus including Denver, Detroit, Boston, Atlanta, and New York.
Speed – How fast is Surfshark?
Surfshark offers impressively fast speeds across its server network. 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 speed
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 speed
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.
Is Surfshark Good for Torrenting?
Yes, Surfshark is a fast, safe, and overall good solution for torrenting. Surfshark allows you to safely download torrents from anywhere in the world using its dedicated p2p servers.
You can use Surfshark to use BitTorrent clients with greater security. You can also protect your privacy if you want to use p2p services like PopcornTime and VLC.
If we talk about speeds, this VPN managed to deliver decent connection speed that’s perfect for torrenting and overall browsing.
During my own testing, I managed to download average size torrent files relatively quickly without abrupt connection drops or speed fluctuations.
Servers – How many servers does Surfshark have?
Surfshark has over 1,700+ servers in 100+ locations and 63+ countries. One of the important details about Surfshark’s network that deserves special mention is they are using RAM-only virtual machines and VPN hosters.
This means Surfshark cannot retain any information about the users connected to the VPN because the servers are running on temporary memory i.e RAM rather than hard drives (which store information permanently). Therefore, even in the event that Surfshark’s servers are seized by law enforcement, there would be no information to retrieve because of the use of RAM-only solutions.
Although I didn’t find any information regarding this on Surfshark’s website, a representative from the company confirmed that the company is using RAM-only servers.
Does Surfshark work in China?
Yes, Surfshark is among the very few VPNs working in mainland China. In fact, it’s servers in Hong Kong managed to unblock pretty much any Chinese content I tried to access.
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.
Pricing – How much does Surfshark cost?
Surfshark’s 24-months plan costs only $1.99/mo only and comes with an 83% discount. The 1-month plan is priced at $11.95/month, while the 1-year subscription will cost you $5.99/month.
It is one of the most affordable VPNs out there if you opt for the 2-year plan.
Here is a list of all Surfshark budget-friendly pricing plans:
- $11.95 for a month – No discounts
- $5.99/mo for 12 months – 50% discounts
- $1.99/mo for 24 months – 83% discounts
You can make payments through credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, and even through Cryptocurrency.
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 of 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.
What is the Surfshark refund policy?
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.
For more information about Surfshark refunds, see this article on canceling the Surfshark subscription.
Security – How secure is Surfshark?
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?
Surfshark 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.
Surfshark’s Multihop Feature
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.
Surfshark VPN CleanWeb
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 Kill Switch
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.
Surfshark WhiteLister Feature
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 designed for countries with strict regulations against VPN usage and heavy online censorship (think China, for example).
Surfshark’s website doesn’t explain this feature in much detail other than the fact that enabling NoBorders in a country with internet restrictions will prompt Surfshark to generate a list of special servers that are likely to access the internet unhindered from your region.
So if the Great Firewall of China or the Bamboo Firewall of Vietnam is giving you problems accessing the web, you can try switching on the NoBorders feature and get past local restrictions.
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.
Many VPN services use third-party DNS services which is always a risk, because not every DNS service provider follows strict privacy standards that you can expect from a trusted VPN.
Private DNS takes any reliance on third-party service providers out of the equation, solidifying your privacy and removing any holes in your connection that may contribute
to inadvertent privacy leaks.
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.
Trust DNS is a DNS resolver app for Android and iPhone that is available totally free of cost. This is an excellent new addition from Surfshark. With Trust DNS, you can gain access to those websites in your country that are restricted through DNS blocks imposed by the government.
In addition, it also provides a basic level of privacy from surveillance and online tracking. Of course, Trust DNS cannot offer the same level of unblocking capabilities and privacy features of Surfshark’s full-fledged VPN, it is still an excellent app to get around restrictions and privacy threats free of cost on Android.
Modern devices relay such a wide variety of data about our personal details that trackers, advertisers, and other agencies can use to learn sensitive information about ourselves. This is why it is important to spoof not just our IP addresses, but any other piece of information that could prove to be revealing.
Realizing this, Surfshark has added a GPS spoofing feature in its app for Android phones. This feature can spoof your physical location, ensuring that it remains hidden to marketers and other third parties that have no right to access such private details about you.
Many apps use the GPS features to keep a track of your physical location through your Android device. Some apps openly ask for your permission to track your location, while others do it surreptitiously without your knowledge. Enabling the GPS spoofing feature adds another layer of protection on your Android, protecting you from any app that might be accessing your location data.
Surfshark Camouflage Mode
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 the 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. This feature sends you real-time alerts anytime your passwords or emails are breached. Hacklock is not bundled in regular Surfshark subscription plans and needs to be purchased as an add-on for $0.99/month.
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. In other words, BlindSearch basically allows you to browse the web n incognito mode without pesky advertisers manipulating your buying behavior.
Both Hacklock and BlindSearch are part of the “privacy beyond VPN” offering of Surfshark and can be activated for $0.99/month in addition to the regular Surfshark subscription.
Does Surfshark keep logs?
- 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.
Leaks – Does Surfshark leak IP, DNS & WebRTC?
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 the Surfshark VPN for WebRTC leaks using the US server. The screenshot below shows that ip8.com did not expose my WebRTC information:
Compatibility – Which devices can I use Surfshark with?
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 how you can set up Surfshark on a compatible router.
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 User Experience
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.
If any of Surfshark’s apps are causing problems, try the tips mentioned in this Surfshark not working article.
Jurisdiction – Where is Surfshark based?
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 cooperating with law enforcement agencies regarding ongoing investigations.
Trustworthiness – Is Surfshark Trustworthy?
Customers find Surfshark quite trustworthy since it has a 4.3/5.0 rating on Trustpilot. Surfshark has received 70% positive reviews out of 1,300+ individual user reviews. What’s even more impressive is the fact that only 8% of users have rated the service as “bad”.
What Redditors think about Surfshark?
Surfshark has an overall positive rating online. Even Reddit has mostly positive reviews about Surfshark. Here’s one comment mentioning how good its apps are and how well it works with Netflix.
That said, while there are mostly positive comments, I did found one comment on Reddit compiling about pixelated Netflix streaming. But in my case, I didn’t encounter any such issues.
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 1700+ 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, and thoroughly deserves the 4.4/5.0 rating.
This concludes my Surfshark review. Leave me a comment, or read our unbiased VPN reviews 2020.
Surfshark – Recent Developments
- Surfshark offers 6-month subscription free for small business owners during COVID-19 – April 6, 2020 – As coronavirus has forced most companies to follow remote work directives, Surfshark launched a campaign to support small businesses by offering their VPN service free for 6 months. Since employees working from home use their regular home Wi-Fi (which is much less secure than corporate networks), the risk of data thefts and other privacy attacks has naturally increased for companies and their employees. Surfshark has shown a great initiative by helping secure data assets of small businesses through their VPN without charging anything since many small businesses are already suffering due to economic disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
- Free Trust DNS App Launched for iOS – March 16, 2020 – Surfshark introduced its free Trust DNS app for Android back in September 2019. The good news is that the iPhone users can now also enjoy Trust DNS and download it from the Apple Store for free. This app enables access to websites that DNS-blocked while also boosting your online privacy from surveillance.
- Two-factor authentication for all Surfshark clients – February 14, 2020 – In its efforts to continue security improvements, Surfshark added two-factor authentication (2FA) for its VPN apps. VPN accounts can also get hacked, like any other account on the web. 2FA makes it extremely difficult for your account to get hacked. Surfshark is offering 2FA via user’s email as well as authentication apps like Google Authenticator. It is recommended to use Google Authenticator so that even if your email gets hacked, you can still access your Surfshark account safely.