Honest Review of Surfshark VPN (2022)

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Are you hunting for a good VPN but do not want to settle for ExpressVPN or NordVPN?

If you’re considering an affordable alternative service to the above, you may want to consider Surfshark VPN.

Key points:

  • 3200 servers throughout 65 countries
  • Affordable and offers a lot of value for its price point
  • Great customer support
  • Log-free, which means they don’t store any of your data
  • Works with Netflix

Dive deeper into this review of Surfshark VPN. Learn about areas critical to determining the VPN’s value, like features, security, ease of installation, and privacy.

Afterward, figure out how well their customer service compares to other services.

If you still have questions afterward, I’ll suggest a couple of other VPNs consider and cover some questions others have asked about Surfshark.

Important Update (Feb. 2022):

The parent company for the popular NordVPN, Nord Security, has merged with Surfshark, which owns Surfshark VPN, to form Cyberspace.

Cyberspace is registered in the Netherlands. And if you’re curious whether the service is based in this country will affect your privacy, read further into this review.

Anyway, as of now, both NordVPN and Surfshark VPN will operate independently and won’t share their servers. Moreover, Nord Security will continue to keep NordVPN incorporated in Panama.

How I Rated Surfshark VPN

To test Surfshark’s virtual private network service, I first purchased a one-month subscription. Afterward, I tested the VPN’s various services and different servers. I tested how each server performed, how it impacted my internet speed, and whether it truly gave me more browsing privacy.

Finally, I also tested their customer service responsiveness by initiating a discussion with their customer service agent.

Before You Read: VPN Buying Guide

To know whether you’re purchasing the best VPN, you need to understand what makes for an ideal VPN.

The following are features that you should look out for whenever shopping for virtual private networks:

  • Security: check the company’s history to ensure whether they’ve been hacked. Also, look for accounts that offer 2-factor authentication login.
  • Server locations: check Surfshark location coverage to ensure they have servers in the countries you would like to relocate to.
  • Device support: what device can you use with the aforementioned VPN?
  • Payment methods: for anonymous payments, ensure they accept cryptocurrency.
  • VPN business location: this determines the company’s data policies and whether they have to share your data with local governments when requested.
  • Data privacy: ensure a VPN provider has a “no-log” policy, which means the service provider doesn’t log any of your information that’s transmitted through their servers.
  • Encryption methods: providers offer various options that either enhance your security or improve your speed 

Surfshark Review: Is Surfshark VPN Good?

There’s a lot to learn about Surfshark’s virtual private network services.
Throughout this guide, you will learn how well Surfshark fits within the buyer’s guide I mentioned above.

Tee the Nomad

Security
Price
Features
User Experience

Summary

Key points:
– 3200 servers throughout 65 countries
– Affordable and offers a lot of value for its price point
– Great customer support
– Log-free, which means they don’t store any of your data
Works with Netflix

4.8

Surfshark VPN Features

While Surfshark lists a lot of features on their website, the following are the ones that an average internet user would benefit the most from:

  • Bypasser (split tunneling): allows you to use specific sites and apps without a VPN
  • CleanWeb: protects you from ads, malware, phishing attempts, and trackers
  • GPS spoofing: changes your location
  • Notifications of whether you’re accounts are a part of a data breach (Surfshark One)

There are plenty of free services, like Firefox Monitor, that’ll tell you whether you’re a part of a breach, so this feature doesn’t offer too much value.

Moreover, you can protect yourself from ads by using Brave browser or ad blocking extensions.

When subscribing to Surfshark, you’ll be paying for the VPN service throughout its thousands of servers, split tunneling, and device support.

Software Encryption: Is Surfshark Safe?

For all of Surfshark VPN’s encryption protocols, they use the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)-256 algorithm. In simple terms, with 256 bits, that means a hacker would need 256 different combinations to break this type of encryption.

No technology we possess could penetrate this type of encryption.

Also, Surfshark claims it would take billions of years for the fastest computer on Earth to steal your data with brute force.

Most modern companies use AES-256 encryption to protect your data. And thankfully, Surfshark is one of them.

Let’s explore the additional protocols that Surfshark uses to protect your privacy:

  • IKEv2/IPsec: best for mobile devices
  • OpenVPN: great for everyday use
  • WireGuard: newest protocol suited for everyday use

RAM-Based Servers

Instead of traditional servers based on hard drives, Surfshark VPN uses 100% RAM-only servers. With these types of servers, staff can easily wipe users’ data.

Moreover, whenever something or someone turns off a RAM-based server, the server automatically wipes all data.

Browser Extension

Many know browser extensions for their security problems. However, these problems don’t exist with Surfshark VPN’s Firefox and Chrome extensions.

How do I know?

The German cybersecurity firm Cure53 performed a penetration test (PDF link) to review the extensions’ code and gave it a passing grade.

surfshark vpn browser addon dashboard

Surfshark VPN’s browser extension best serves you who don’t want to download the application and need lightweight software.

Otherwise, there isn’t much reason to download the add-on.

Application User Experience

If you love software that’s easy to use, thankfully, Surfshark is one of those services that doesn’t force you to make a million clicks to achieve one task.

So, first, I want to cover the main menu once you open the Surfshark app.

This is on macOS, so your dashboard may look different.

surfshark vpn home page dashboard

With a single click, you can access the location that’ll result in the least loss in performance. It’s a minimalist design.

The only complaint I have is that Surfshark doesn’t label the icons on the left.

The second icon on the left side menu is a location selection area.

The third is them trying to convince you to purchase Surfshark One.

And the fourth is—

surfshark vpn settings

Behold, the settings.

I kept Surfshark CleanWeb off because I already have an ad blocker.

You can also enable and disable your Kill Switch or Auto Connect.

The Protocol setting allows you to select your encryption method.

I stuck with WireGuard.

NoBorders allows you to use your VPN in restrictive regions like China.

Surfshark doesn’t explain how it works, nor can I provide a first-hand experience that it’ll work in China.

But from the stories I’ve read, Surfshark does work in China.

Responsive Customer Service

You can contact Surfshark VPN’s customer service via email or live chat. If you opt for the live chat feature, it will start with talking with a chatbot.

However, if you don’t like speaking to a chatbot, you can request to speak with an actual person.

The person I talked to was delightful.

Moreover, reviews of Surfshark’s customer service experiences mirrored mine.

Troubleshooting and Testing

The following are several speed tests and an issue that I ran into while setting up Surfshark VPN. Of course, my situation differs from yours, so what results in you get from using this software will differ. This test is meant to give you an estimate as to how this VPN service would work for an average internet user.

Dealing With DNS Leaks

First off, a DNS (Domain Name System) is a naming system meant to identify services and devices through the internet.

A DNS leak is when someone can intercept any communication between your DNS and browser.

If you have a DNS leak, then you’re not benefiting from any anonymity from a VPN.

You can fix DNS leaks, though.

While the VPN service itself doesn’t fix it, you can take steps to address these issues.

However, it usually requires you to deal with your network or browser settings.

I used Mullvad VPN’s privacy vulnerability tool to check whether the IP addresses I used with Surfshark VPN were blacklisted—they weren’t blacklisted.

However, it did say I had a DNS leak.

I went to Surfshark’s DNS leak test to see if they provided any options. But when I clicked “Stop DNS Leak,” it just took me to a landing page. Their tool did tell me the DNS provider that’s leaking my DNS.

From there, I went into my browser’s settings and deactivated “Use secure DNS.” From there, I passed Surfshark’s leak test and technically passed Mullvad’s test.

VPN Speed

Units of measurement.

Before proceeding, here are the areas that I’ll test and why they’re important:

Download speed: affects how quickly websites load, files download, media streams, and most other online tasks. Higher speeds are what you’ll want.

Upload speed: determines how fast your computer can send data to the internet. A good example is uploading a picture to cloud storage, which would use uploading speed. The higher the upload speed, the better.

Ping: shows how fast your data transfers from one place to another. For example, the speed of how fast it’ll be for your computer to transmit data to a website. A lower ping is better.

Jitter: the delay in sending data over your network. This measurement should sit below 30 ms.

The trials.

Here’s my speed with my VPN disabled and running off WiFi. This test was taken in Taiwan.

surfshark vpn test without active vpn

It was night when I tested this; so many people were online.

Afterward, I went into Surfshark, activated the WireGuard protocol (likely what you’ll use too), and connected my VPN to a Taiwan server on the opposite side of the country.

surfshark vpn taiwan test

5.50% increase in ping and a 29.19% reduction in upload speed. I don’t know what was going on with the download speed. Somehow when using the VPN, I had higher download speeds.

I tested multiple times after that and still sat in the 90s with download speed.

I also connected to a New York server using the same settings and protocol.

surfshark vpn test_ new york

Odd that upload speed on the other side of the globe only suffered a 7.28% loss. However, you’ll notice a significant 122.05% increase in ping.

Here I saw a 27.40% loss in download speed.

Not too bad, but I could still stream videos without any issues.

During my trials, I also used a server in Los Angeles. Lost only 16.71% download speed but had a 187.23% reduction in upload speed.

As for the ping, there was a 98.07% increase compared to not using a VPN.

As you can see from the timestamps, I performed the speed tests quickly after one another.

After the speed tests, I went back to each server and streamed media to test the VPN’s reliability.

Concluding This Test

Despite some of the grimmer readings throughout my tests, I could still stream without any issues. If you get a VPN, I recommend connecting your device to a router VIA an Ethernet cable to maximize your speed.

Keep in mind that this test also didn’t account for throttling, which is when an internet service provider (ISP) limits your available bandwidth.

Also, during this test, I did not purposely attempt to download files with malware to test Surfshark’s Clean Web feature. Nor do I recommend you do the same.

How Surfshark Privacy Compares To Other VPNs

Surfshark VPN runs on a no-log policy, which means that they don’t retain user data.

However, the biggest concern stems from them relocating from the British Virgin Isles to the Netherlands, a member of the 9 Eyes intelligence group.

Also, the Netherlands is subject to the Dragnet Act, which allows for the untargeted interception of communications.

After speaking to Surfshark, they assured me that the above laws and group wouldn’t affect their no-log policy. They spread their technologies around the world to avoid risking our privacy.

If you don’t want to pay using crypto, you can use a virtual debit card masking service like Privacy to shield your data further.

Ease of Installation

Whether you’re using Surfshark VPN on your desktop, smartphone, or browser extension, it’s simple to set up. Create your account, purchase your plan, and install the software.

However, installing Surfshark VPN on a router throws you into a different scenario.

First, you’ll need to find your router’s IP address.

Surfshark has a router installation tutorial to help you with installing your VPN.

Next, you’ll want to follow Surfshark’s instructions on setting up their VPN on your router. These steps involve logging into your router’s settings and making adjustments.

Surfshark Cost: Plans and Pricing

Surfshark offers three plans: monthly, every six months, and 24 months.

I recommend the monthly plan just for testing Surfshark. However, if you intend on using this VPN service daily, you should skip the six-month plan and pay for 24 months. 

Going for the two-year plan will save you the most money if you intend on using it in the long run.

You can pay for a Surfshark subscription with the following payment methods:

  • PayPal
  • Google Pay
  • Amazon Pay
  • Credit/debit card: Visa, Amex, Discover, and Mastercard
  • Cryptocurrency: Ripple, Bitcoin, and Etherium

Surfshark One

Also, keep in mind that you don’t get different features for each plan.

They have a different plan to add to your existing subscription if you want additional protection Surfshark One, it includes:

  • Antivirus: malware protection and removal
  • Search engine: private in-house search engine
  • Alert: monitors the internet for data breaches with your accounts

You can only use the antivirus on Android and Windows operating systems, so it’s not useful for Mac, iOS, or Linux users.

As with the scans, the full scan will take a couple of hours, while the regular scan takes up to 10 minutes. From my findings, it appears there’s nothing special about it.

If you want to support the company, adding Surfshark One to your plan doesn’t cost much. Otherwise, you can use free alternatives for each feature:

  • Antivirus: Malwarebytes + Windows Defender
  • Search engine: DuckDuckGo or Startpage
  • Alert: Firefox Monitor

3 Alternatives to Surfshark Vpn

If you’re completely sold on Surfshark VPN based on what you’ve heard, you may want to look around before purchasing.

Below are a couple of virtual private network options—and a DIY option—to explore.

1. ExpressVPN

Quick facts:

  • Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • It doesn’t keep any activity logs
  • Based in the British Virgin Isles (BVI)
  • Over five encryption methods
  • Servers in 94 countries
  • Accepts cryptocurrency

Other than NordVPN, ExpressVPN is likely a name you’ve heard a million times.

You’ll mainly want this VPN service if you use many devices.

While like most other services, you can only use the VPN on five devices simultaneously, they do offer support for many devices.

A few unique devices include Kindles, routers, and Apple TV.

There has never been any instance where ExpressVPN has been hacked.

Moreover, they don’t keep any activity logs and don’t fall under any jurisdiction that requires them to hand over your data in any circumstance. So, you won’t have to worry about how this company will handle your data.

They have over 160 servers within over 90 countries, which is great for you who live in areas that usually don’t have nearby VPN servers.

Also, each server supports different encryption methods.

However, if you happen to find yourself in a city that doesn’t support, for instance, L2TP, try another city in your region—other areas may support that algorithm.

Pros

  • A lot of servers to choose from
  • Supports various devices
  • Every feature an average privacy-concerned user could need

Cons

  • No WireGuard encryption

2. Mullvad VPN

Quick facts:

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No logs
  • Based in Sweden
  • Split tunneling

The virtual private network service provider runs 759 servers within 38 countries and 64 cities.

The types of servers vary among OpenVPN, Bridge, and WireGuard. Their website provides real-time information on each server to keep an eye on maintenance, service issues, and server status.

They charge either a monthly, annual, or lifetime fee, all of which are €5 ($5.65) per month.

Do you want discounts?

Due to reduced transfer fees, you can get a 10% discount with Mullvad when using crypto.

Also, unlike any other VPN, you can pay with cash. They explain how everything works on their website.

Mullvad provides a free scan on their website to determine whether you’re suffering from leaking DNS servers and WebRTC leaks. Moreover, it’ll tell you whether your IP address is blacklisted anywhere.

If you’re confused by any of the above terms, Mullvad explains in-depth what they are and how to fix the privacy vulnerabilities.

Pros

  • Discount when using crypto
  • It gives you everything you need with a VPN
  • A lot of features
  • Transparent about their policies and marketing

Cons

  • Not as many available servers
  • It doesn’t support as many devices as its counterparts

3. Create a VPN for $1

When looking up tutorials online, they all say this method is free. However, you’ll use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a VPN.

They’ll verify your payment method by charging a dollar. Not that bad if you need a VPN server in the US while traveling.

It’s fairly easy to do this.

You’ll need an AWS account, a debit/credit card, 20 minutes, and administrative access to your computer’s terminal. Moreover, throughout this tutorial, you’ll be using OpenVPN as the VPN service provider with AWS as the server.

I can’t explain the tutorial as well as the YouTuber below:

However, don’t expect too much data privacy with this.

Creating a free VPN is only useful if you don’t intend on using that much bandwidth for a short period.

Final Verdict: Is Surfshark Worth a Try?

While Surfshark VPN doesn’t have the most features, it offers top-tier protection for its price point.

Also, after all of my testing, Surfshark didn’t affect my speed as much as I thought

I could still download stuff and stream media while on a server located on the opposite side of the world without any issues.

Pros

  • Plenty of servers
  • Excellent browser addon
  • Fantastic encryption
  • No-logs policy

Cons

  • Surfshark One doesn’t offer the most value
  • Based in a nine-eyes country

Surfshark VPN Frequently Asked Questions

Save time from scouring the Surfshark VPN support pages and Google when you can find your answers here.

Instead, keep reading to explore some commonly asked questions about Surfshark VPN.

Where Is Surfshark VPN Located?

Surfshark VPN is based in the Netherlands as of 2021.

Moreover, the 9 Eyes doesn’t have any power over the Netherland’s existing laws.
While many sources say Surfshark VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, that information is outdated as of October 1st, 2021. The change of data is due to Surfshark VPN’s relocation.

Is Surfshark VPN in the 5 Eyes?

Surfshark VPN isn’t within the 5 Eyes jurisdiction. However, they are within the 9 Eyes since they are in the Netherlands.

How Many Countries Does Surfshark VPN Have Servers In?

Surfshark VPN has 3200 servers throughout more than 65 countries.

Surfshark lists its server locations and what features each country supports.

Is Surfshark Good?

Overall, Surfshark offers an excellent service for a great price point for you who think their competitors cost too much. Moreover, while they don’t provide the most features, this VPN will give you what you need—a VPN service.

Hopefully, this review of Surfshark VPN helped you learn more about this service.

If you’re interested in trying this VPN, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you don’t like what you get.

Image sources: Surfshark logo is from Surfshark’s press kit and the rest are the author’s screenshots

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