The Verdict – It is the Cheapest and One of the Best
Despite its late entry, SurfShark has turned out to be one of the most robust VPNs I have used so far.
It is also the cheapest option that you will get.
The best part is that while SurfShark offers almost all features that the biggies like ExpressVPN or NordVPN offer, it has its exclusive set of features that no one else offers.
From Camouflage Mode to NoBorders Mode, from Blind Search to HackLock features, SurfShark has few tricks that are worth your money.
Did I say that you get the industry-standard AES encryption with this VPN? They offer a Kill Switch, unlimited devices against one subscription, consistent speed across the world, torrenting abilities, and more!
Overall, SurfShark is one of the best VPNs your money can buy.
My Ratings for SurfShark VPN | Overall: 8.95
Just like my previous reviews, I will break this SurfShark VPN review in eight broad segments. My ratings for each section are in the table below.
|Parameter for Rating
|UI and User Experience
Pros and Cons of SurfShark VPN
Like every other VPN out there, SurfShark has its set of strengths and weaknesses. Let me quickly walk you through those pros and cons before taking a deep dive.
- SurfShark has 1700+ servers spread across 160+ locations in 63 countries. That may not be as big a pool as NordVPN or ExpressVPN; the server pool of SurfShark is undoubtedly a large one.
- It hails from the British Virgin Islands that is not a part of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes Alliance.
- It uses military-grade, NSA-certified 256-bit encryption algorithm.
- It offers a MultiHop feature, which is the same as the Double VPN feature of NordVPN. This feature allows you to encrypt your data twice.
- It offers both OpenVPN (UDP and TCP) and IKEv2/IPsec VPN protocols.
- SurfShark has a dedicated Kill Switch.
- It has something known as the Camouflage Mode, which prevents your ISP from knowing that you are using a VPN.
- It allows you to bypass geo-restrictions of streaming services.
- It can bypass the Great Firewall of China using the NoBorders Mode.
- It is the feature of split tunneling, but it goes by the name Whitelister. It allows you to add specific applications that will not have VPN protection.
- It allows torrenting, and it is compatible with multiple torrenting clients like Vuze, µTorrent, etc.
- It has an elegant and straightforward interface.
- SurfShark is fast enough to allow buffering-free streaming.
- It allows you to connect unlimited devices against a single license.
- It has an integrated ad and malware-blocker function.
- It has the lowest price among all VPNs I have tried so far.
- SurfShark has dedicated browser extensions as well.
- A few of its servers may fail to bypass Netflix’s geo-restrictions.
- It is not suitable for online gaming as the majority of its servers return high ping.
- It failed to unblock DZAN for me.
- There is no free trial available for SurfShark.
- The low price comes at the cost of long term subscription. For short term subscriptions, you need to pay a high price.
- SurfShark currently has hard drive storage, but they are switching to RAM-only storage.
SurfShark VPN at a Glance
Here are a few pieces of valuable information that you might find useful:
|Location of NordVPN
|The British Virgin Islands
|Year of Foundation
|Strictly no logging
|5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, 14 Eyes Alliance
|Not a member of any such alliance
|Number of Simultaneous Connections
|Unlimited connections against one license
|Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV
|30-day money-back guarantee
Now that you are aware of the basics, including the pros and cons, it is about time I let you know my experience with SurfShark. Are you ready?
SurfShark Security | Rating: 10/10
SurfShark has some impressive security features that make it one of the safest VPNs out there in the market. Wondering what they are? Read on.
Top-of-the-Shelf AES Encryption
It is “the most secure” encryption technology available today. Even NSA approves it for encrypting classified files. It has 256-bit long keys that produce a whopping 1.1 x 1077 possible key combination.
A standard desktop or a laptop will take billions of years to get the perfect combination. A supercomputer will need thousands (if not millions) of years to crack the key.
It is a double encryption feature that will encrypt your data twice by routing your traffic through two VPN servers. You can turn on this feature from the settings.
No IP/DNS Leak
SurfShark ensures that there are no IP/DNS leaks. What does that mean? It is a bit complex, but let me explain.
There are times when even if you are using a VPN, your device (desktop, laptop, etc.) can quickly revert to default DNS servers. Situations like these show up when the VPN service you are using does not have an IP/DNS leak protection available.
Typically when you try to access a webpage, your computer or mobile device will contact the DNS server of your ISP and ask the server to request the IP address of the webpage you want to visit.
When you use a VPN, your computer will send the request to the VPN server instead of your ISP’s DNS server.
If the VPN you are using doesn’t have robust security measures, the requests you make can accidentally reach your ISP’s DNS server. It can happen when your computer sends out an unencrypted DNS query outside the VPN tunnel.
A robust VPN should be able to prevent that from happening!
In my tests, I found SurfShark scoring big in this area. The VPN has a reliable IP/DNS leak protection in place.
I used 40+ servers of SurfShark and tested them with IPLEAK.NET. The results were flawless. Not a single test managed to tell me my actual location. I ran other tests using IPX.ac and Browserleaks.com. Nothing revealed my real site of operation.
Strict No-Logs Policy
The VPN provider never collects and keeps any user data. Driven by the no-logs policy, the company deletes everything from its servers.
What bothered me was that they use hard drive storage. If any hacker manages to get into one of the servers of SurfShark, he can access all the data. Worried, I approached the tech support team, and they said that they are in the process of switching to RAM-only storage servers.
How will that help?
Well, RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory. It is a temporary memory, and every time a computer reboots, the RAM flushes itself. All the memory is lost! A server is nothing but a computing machine, just like your desktop!
Switching to RAM storage will mean your data will sweep clean once the server reboots.
SurfShark originated in the British Virgin Islands. It is not a part of 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes Alliance. There are no laws in the British Virgin Islands that require a VPN company to store or hand over user data to any government agency.
In case you aren’t sure what I am talking about, I will request you to read my lengthy narration on “What is a VPN?” You can find the details there.
Because SurfShark is from the British Virgin Islands, you can rest assured that none of your data will ever come under the government scanner and that your privacy is safe.
Speed of SurfShark | Rating: 9/10
How fast is SurfShark? Not the fastest, for sure! NordVPN takes the top spot here. However, SurfShark is speedy enough to allow buffering-free streaming and lag-free gaming.
Like any other VPN in this world, you will experience a drop in speed when you connect to any SurfShark server.
There are several reasons for this. I explained the reasons in detail in my NordVPN review, and hence, I will skip a detailed talk. Instead, I will only give you the pointers.
- Data encryption and decryption takes time.
- The distance of the server you try to connect to also slows down your speed.
- The time of the day when you are using the VPN will also impact the Internet speed.
- If you connect to the recommended servers, the likelihood of slower speed increases.
- The base speed of your internet connection also an essential factor while determining the VPN speed.
Keeping all these factors in mind, I ran speed tests on SurfShark servers, the results were, if not magical, pretty satisfactory!
Speed Test Results
To run this test, here are the things I used:
- I used a fiber broadband connection with a base speed of 84 Mbps.
- I used a desktop running Windows 10 on Core i5 Processor and 16 GB RAM.
- I connected to both recommended servers (Quick Connect feature) and manually selected servers between 11 AM and 12 noon.
- I hooked up my internet cable directly to my desktop CPU. I completely ditched the router to ensure that I get the maximum speed.
Here are the results:
|Percentage Drop in Download Speed
|Speed without VPN
|0% (baseline figure)
|Recommended Server in the US
|Manually Selected Server in San Francisco
|Manually Selected Server in New York
|Server in the London
|Sever in Frankfurt
|Server in Japan
|Server in India
A few surprising things showed up during the test. Here is what I noticed:
- Using SurfShark, I experienced a nearly 50% drop in servers closest to me!
- The further away I moved from my location, the higher was the drop in speed.
- SurfShark servers have pretty much consistent speeds. The servers in the US experience approximately 50% drop while those in the European region experienced a 50 to 60% drop. Moving to Asia, I noticed the maximum reduction, but on average, they maintain nearly the same speed.
I went through several online reviews, and each one of them revealed almost the same percentage drop despite a drastic difference in the baseline speed.
SurfShark is not the speedster I will like to have, but its consistency is commendable. It is this consistency that made me give it a high rating in the speed segment.
How Does SurfShark Fare Against NordVPN and ExpressVPN in Speed Segment?
|Download Speed with NordVPN
|Download Speed with ExpressVPN
|Download Speed with SurfShark
|No VPN (84 Mbps Baseline download speed)
|Recommended Server in the USA
|Server in New York
|Server in San Francisco
|Server in the UK (London)
|Server in Germany (Frankfurt)
|Server in Australia
|Server in India
The reason why I compared SurfShark against NordVPN and ExpressVPN is that the latter two are the most top-rated VPNs in the world. VPN users highly recommend them, and they have the maximum userbase among all VPNs in the world.
A few things to note here are:
- I tested NordVPN and SurfShark around the same time (11 AM) while I tested ExpressVPN at around 8 PM.
- In all tests, I used the Windows 10 desktop having the exact configuration.
- I also used the same internet connection with the same baseline speed.
- I ditched the router entirely in all three cases.
- In all the three tests, I used OpenVPN UDP protocol.
What about the upload speed? Check out the table below:
|Upload Speed with NordVPN
|Upload Speed with ExpressVPN
|Upload Speed with SurfShark
|No VPN (76.8 Mbps Baseline upload speed)
|Recommended Server in the USA
|Server in New York
|Server in San Francisco
|Server in the UK
|Server in Germany
|Server in Australia
|Server in India
What Can You Do In Case of Slow Speeds?
As I said earlier, slow server speed can be a result of many factors. There is not much that you can do about it. Of course, you can try out some of these tips:
- Try connecting to the VPN servers during a different time of the day. If you see an increase in speed, know that there is heavy traffic during your preferred time. Such heavy traffic can cause server load and reduce the speed.
- If changing the time isn’t an option, switch the server location.
- Switch from the default IKEv2/IPsec protocol to OpenVPN UDP or OpenVPN TCP. That might help you.
- Check whether you have turned on the MultiHop option or not. If yes, turn it off. MultiHop leads to double encryption. The double encryption will slow down the speed.
- Instead of connecting to a recommended server, manually select a server and connect to it. In all likelihood, a recommended server (which SurfShark automatically connects to using Quick Connect) will have a higher load, leading to a slower speed.
- If you are using a router, ditch that and plug in the Internet cable directly to your desktop or laptop. If you are using a mobile device, this will not be an option for you.
Finally, if nothing is working, try upgrading your Internet’s base package. Get a package with higher speed limits.
Streaming with SurfShark VPN | Rating: 9/10
Indeed, SurfShark isn’t the fastest VPN out there, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best you can get for streaming.
My initial test when it comes to streaming is to run an HD video on YouTube with and without a VPN.
SurfShark passed with flying colors when I connected to servers in Europe, America, Australia, and Japan. All the YouTube videos I watched experienced no buffering. It was smooth.
So, the next logical test was to check its ability to bypass geo-restrictions set by different streaming services.
I tested the following services:
- BBC iPlayer
- ESPN Live
- HBO Go
- Amazon Prime Video
- HotStar India
- France2 (a local French channel)
- SBS Australia (a local Australian channel)
All of them worked except DZAN, which even NordVPN failed to bypass, but ExpressVPN did that with ease.
I did experience a hiccup with BBC iPlayer when I tried to stream while staying connected to a server in the US. I saw a nice popup stating, “This content doesn’t seem to be working. Try Again.”
Well, I did that! I changed the server from Chicago to London, refreshed the page and bingo! It worked.
In case you are wondering how SurfShark handles Netflix US, there’s good news for you! It unblocks Netflix’s US library with ease.
All other services worked using the Quick Connect option, where I did not choose any server manually. The Quick Connect feature failed to play France2 and SBS Australia, and that is understandable.
They are local channels of their respective countries. The only way to enjoy them is to be in those countries. I wouldn’t fly to Australia or France, for sure! So, I decided to connect to servers in France and Australia. Problem solved!
What About the Great Firewall of China?
Honestly, I don’t have any idea! I cannot say whether it can bypass the Great Firewall of China or not.
I have never been to China, and currently, I don’t have any friends or colleagues in China who can help me test SurfShark’s ability. So, I will give it the benefit of the doubt. I will take the words of SurfShark and those dozens of websites who claim that it does.
SurfShark boasts of the NoBorders Mode that you can turn on from the setting area. The NoBorders feature can identify heavy Internet censorship, and present a list of specialized servers that can help you bypass such censorship.
I am guessing that those servers are the famed obfuscated servers that can cloak VPN traffic as regular internet traffic.
SurfShark Features | Rating: 10/10
Despite being a very new player in the market, SurfShark does offer tons of features for an unbelievably low price. What features? Let’s see.
If you are in a country with heavy internet censorship, this feature will help you bypass that and allow you to connect with the world outside. It is beneficial for human rights activists in countries like China. NoBorders Mode uses obfuscated servers to achieve this.
This feature will allow you to route your traffic through two servers of SurfShark. Passing through two servers means getting double AES encryption. Two layers of encryption increase data security.
When you use a VPN, your ISP can see that you are using a VPN. Using a VPN is not illegal in most of the countries. However, there are countries where VPN use is not allowed.
The Camouflage Mode comes in handy in those countries because this made will make your encrypted traffic look like regular traffic under DPI or Deep Packet Inspection. Your ISP cannot tell the difference, and will never know that you are using a VPN!
Blind Search Feature
It is a search engine very similar to DuckDuckGo. It is an exclusive search feature that does not record your activities and doesn’t show you any ads. So, all your searches remain private with no history whatsoever.
All of us use emails, and we do that every day! The problem is that the email provider can experience a security breach, exposing your email ID & password to crooked hackers.
The HackLock feature will scan the Internet and lock for your email credentials online. If it finds a match on any leaked database, you will receive an email from SurfShark that will let you know that you are at risk.
Though Blind Search and HackLock are great features, you need to enroll for it separately. There is a price you need to pay! How much? $0.99 a month!
What will happen if your connection to a SurfShark server suddenly drops? No idea? Well, here is what happens:
- Your IP address and your DNS becomes visible immediately.
- Outgoing traffic from your device will no longer have any encryption. You will be sending out plain text traffic instead of ciphertext. Anyone with the right set of tools can see everything!
- Your torrenting activities will become visible.
Should you be taking such risks? It is a type of situation where the automatic Kill Switch comes in handy. The moment your connection to the VPN server breaks, the Kill Switch will disconnect your device from the Internet. However, it will try to re-establish a connection with the VPN server. Once the VPN connection re-establishes, it will connect you back to the Internet.
The Kill Switch is an incredibly important security feature when it comes to safeguarding your privacy.
CleanWeb is a feature that blocks ads, malware, and trackers. I wanted to check out the ad blocker works, and hence, I accessed both YouTube and Facebook, both of which are infamous for running too many ads.
I must say that I was pretty impressed by the CleanWeb feature. It worked as promised by SurfShark, and it even blocked midroll ads that you find on YouTube.
SurfShark supports torrenting. P2P networking is present on all servers, and there are no bandwidth limitations as well. At least that is what SurfShark claims. So, I decided to take it for a ride and started downloading four files, each measuring well over 4 GB.
All the downloads ran smoothly, and it took less than 30 minutes to finish all the downloads. I re-ran the test using a different server in Europe, and the results were still pretty amazing!
I received a download speed of fewer than 500 kbps for one file when I connected to a server in Vietnam. That was probably caused by the fewer seeds available for the file I was downloading. I switched servers several times to see if there was any change in the download speed for that file, but I was disappointed.
Nothing worked, and I eventually had to conclude that the VPN had nothing to do with the slow download speed.
The mobile applications of SurfShark are very well-designed with a clean interface. All features available on the desktop clients are available on mobile applications, and I did not notice any discrepancies between the iOS and Android apps.
IKEv2 is the default protocol in use everywhere, including desktop clients. You can quickly change it from the settings segment. The mobile apps also have the Quick Connect feature, just like desktop clients.
SurfShark offers browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome browsers. In case you were expecting extensions for Microsoft Edge, Opera, etc., you will be disappointed. Anyway, I don’t see the reason why one should be using the browser extensions when installing the full application is far more beneficial.
The only problem with the browsers extensions is that they will not work on your mobile devices. If you want to use them, you have to use them on your desktop or laptop.
The Whitelister feature is the same as split tunneling that you get on ExpressVPN. It allows you to add applications that you don’t want to protect using VPN. SurfShark will not encrypt the traffic from those applications. The Whitelister feature is available for both desktop and mobile clients.
You can install SurfShark on a wide range of platforms. They include:
- Other Smart TVs
- Browser extensions
- TrustDNS (you can download and install the TrustDNS app from both App Store and Play Store)
There is no router app available, but you don’t need one. A router app helps to protect more devices on a single license than what is usually allowed by a VPN provider. For example, ExpressVPN will allow up to five devices for a single license.
You can extend that to many devices by installing the router app directly on a router and then connecting as many devices as you want to that router.
SurfShark allows unlimited simultaneous connections against a single license. You can install it on as many devices as you want. Why on earth do you need a router app?
UI and User Experience | Rating: 8/10
In my experience, SurfShark’s interface is one of the cleanest you can get. Installing the application is simple. You need to register for the service by buying a subscription.
Once you buy, you can download the application and double-click on it to install. That’s all. The installation happens on its own. Once the application starts, you need to log in and click the “Connect” button to the fastest server that SurfShark automatically chooses for you.
You can manually select the server location by clicking on the “Locations” tab on the left.
It is as simple as it can get! I loved the interface.
If I am speaking so highly of the UI and user experience, why did I give a low rating to this section?
The answer to your question is in the Linux app.
It is terrible. Only Ubuntu and Debian users can use the Linux app, and there is no graphical interface. It is all command line.
Those aren’t the only problems! Linux users can get only 102 servers. On top of that, the app is riddled with DNS leaks. If you are Linux savvy, you can solve the issue by yourself. If that is not an option, you can take the help of their customer support.
Though the problem can be solved with relative ease, it should not be occurring in the first place!
On the brighter side, if you are new to Linux, the number of commands that you need to learn are relatively few, and they are intuitive. You will also enjoy automatic server selection, MultiHop, Kill Switch, and quick switching between UDP and TCP protocols. Unfortunately, they don’t make up for the DNS leak!
Do you now understand why I chose to give a low rating in this segment?
Gaming Experience with SurfShark | Rating: 6/10
I always test any VPN with Valorant. Valorant is a high-octane game that requires you to have absolute precision and speed.
Unstable connection, high latency, slow speed are something you need to get rid of in case you want to enjoy online gaming over a VPN.
SurfShark boasts a lag-free gaming experience. Is that true? My experience says SurfShark is not as fas as Nord or ExpressVPN.
I also experienced an increase in ping time by anywhere between 60 and 90 milliseconds. The farther the server I tried to connect to, the higher was the ping time.
What does that mean?
If you are an avid online gamer, you will know the difference between high ping and low ping. If not, here is what you need to know:
- High Ping: Ping time is greater than or equal to 100 ms.
- Low Ping: Ping time less than 55 ms.
Online gaming is possible only if you have low ping. With 60 to 90 ms increase in ping time, I always end up in the high ping zone.
High ping leads to lags,
No wonder, I experienced lags while playing Valorant, and I almost always ended up losing my game. In the case where I tried to connect to servers in far of places like Turkey and the Middle East, the Valorant gaming servers there automatically disconnected me because of extremely high ping times!
Only a few servers in the Americas and Europe gave low ping and allowed me to play the game without experiencing any lag.
My gaming experience with SurfShark was terrible. Maybe if I had an Internet connection with higher speeds, things would have been different. Unfortunately, I do not intend to upgrade my internet connection anytime soon.
Customer Support | Rating: 9.6
There are three ways to connect with customer support of SurfShark. They are:
- Email Support
- Ticket System
- Live Chat (available 24×7)
In addition to these three options, you also get a thorough knowledge base that can resolve most of the questions you will have.
My experience with Email support started on a bad note. I left an email query, and there was no response for 7 hours straight! It left me with a feeling of being ignored.
However, once I received a reply, the email support team was quick enough to respond to my followup emails. They clocked a response time of slightly above an hour for all followup emails, which is impressive.
They also resolved all my concerns.
I don’t like ticket systems anyway. They often take about 24 hours to respond. Sometimes, they can take up to 48 hours. I don’t like waiting so long, and hence, I decided not to try it in the first place.
This one is by far the best if you want to get help with less-technical issues. The chat team responds in less than 60 seconds (typically 45 to 50 seconds).
SurfShark has an extensive knowledge base, and it can resolve almost all problems you may face. I went through a couple of knowledge base articles. They were descriptive and straightforward. I have to agree that they did an excellent job with their knowledge base articles.
It is the initial email response that prevented a perfect 10 rating.
Pricing | Rating: 10/10
SurfShark VPN offers the lowest price. None of its competitors can beat that. I keep wondering how they do that. I mean, they have a boatload of features and offer robust encryption, but they still charge a ridiculously low price.
Why would I mind anyway? After all, I am concerned about saving money. You shouldn’t bother yourself either.
Check out the pricing structure:
|Length of subscription
|$1.94 a month. You pay $69.99 once every three years.
|$430.20. You pay once every three years.
|$5.99 a month [annual billing]. You pay $71.88 once every year.
|$143.40. You pay once every year.
|$11.95 per month.
|$11.95 per month.
The only drawback is that if you want the lowest price, you have to buy the 3-year subscription plan. But that’s fine. You won’t regret your decision unless your primary purpose is gaming.
Things I Didn’t Like About SurfShark
SurfShark is not free of problems. However, they are not that big a problem to shun away the VPN provider. My stint with SurfShark is making me think of a switch from NordVPN. I get everything that Nord has to offer but at a fraction of a price.
If you are looking for my recommendation, SurfShark receives a thumbs up from me.
Okay, now coming back to the things that I don’t like about SurfShark, here is a quick overview:
I do play games sometimes, but I am not an avid gamer. I can live without gaming for the rest of my life. Unlike me, you may be head over heels for gaming. If that is the case, I suggest you don’t opt for SurfShark.
No RAM Storage
RAM storage is a better option when it comes to upholding privacy. RAM storage is way safer than hard drive storage. As of today, SurfShark offers only hard drive storage. Though they are taking a quantum leap to switch over to RAM-only storage, it might take time.
Unable to Block DZAN
DZAN is a sports streaming service available only in Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Austria, and Canada. Their geo-restriction feature is too sensitive. SurfShark failed to bypass it. That is disappointing!
No Free Trials
I always keep saying one thing – a free trial is a must! I don’t get it! Why anyone has to pay just to get an idea of what they will get into once they buy a subscription of any service?
SurfShark is a new kid on the block, and I expected it would give a free trial, but no! It followed the suite of biggies like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. The 30-day money-back guarantee is not that attractive to me.
Such a guarantee often leads to vicious attempts by the VPN providers to retain a customer who just doesn’t want to stay. That’s not the only problem.
There are times when people forget to cancel the subscription within 30 days. They are then left with no other option but to stay with that service even though they don’t like it.
Should you buy a SurfShark subscription?
My experience tells me that if you are concerned about privacy, data security, and streaming, SurfShark is one of the finest VPNs you can get.
It is easy on your pocket, and it comes with some extraordinary features that most of the leading VPN providers do not have. It has industry-standard 256-bit encryption, a no-logs policy, and it is located outside the jurisdiction of 5/9/14 Eyes.
If the below-9 rating is bothering you, I feel compelled to tell you that most of the SurfShark reviews that you read online skip the gaming segment very cleverly. Most of the time, they intend to coerce a reader into buying a subscription so that they can earn an affiliate commission.
If I remove the gaming segment, the rating will shoot up to 9.37. You can do the math!
Is that 9.37 rating convincing enough?
Honestly, if gaming is on your mind, SurfShark will most likely disappoint you, but when it comes to privacy and security, you are going to love it!
I will rest my case now and let you decide.