VPNs aid in improving your privacy by routing all of your internet traffic via secure connections to remote servers however, that security comes at a cost. In the instance of Surfshark this is cents and dollars. Surfshark is our current Editors’ Choice award winner for VPNs however it’s one of the priciest. In a field that is crowded, Surfshark has done much to justify its cost with its unique features and offering well-designed apps and focusing on privacy for customers. Surfshark is also distinct–even among the Editors’ Choice winners because it allows you to join an infinite amount of devices at the same time. It’s a good choice for families with large families or households that have multiple devices.
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Rarely do we see multi-hop or split tunneling tools.
- Well-designed app
- Static Servers are included in subscription
- Confusing long-term subscription pricing
- Speed test results that were a bit uneven
How Much Does Surfshark VPN Cost?
The Surfshark VPN subscription costs $12.95 monthly, which is comparable to an average cost that is $9.96 per month for the options we’ve evaluated. This places Surfshark as one of the most expensive VPNs we’ve ever examined and is significantly more expensive than the EUR5 ($6.10 as at the time of this writing) per month that is charged from Mullvad–our most affordable Editors’ Choice VPN–or the $4.99 per month cost for Mozilla’s VPN.
As with the majority of VPNs, Surfshark incentivizes long-term commitments with significant discounts. In contrast to other VPNs, Surfshark has cancelled its annual membership. Instead, it provides a six-month subscription for $38.94 and the two-year plan costs $59.76. The two-year plan is renewed at the same cost each year following the first two. While this may seem a bit unclear, the annual renewal cost is considerably lower than the $72.33 average of the VPNs that we’ve examined.
These plans will definitely cost less, however we would still suggest starting with the shortest subscription to see if that it is suitable for you. Then, move to a longer-term subscription in the event that you find you love the service.
You can purchase a Surfshark subscription using major credit cards, Amazon Pay, PayPal, and a variety of cryptocurrencies. We appreciate that Surfshark allows semi-anonymous payments with cryptocurrencies, but other services such as IVPN—an affordable Editors’ Choice winner noted for its focus on transparency and privacy—and Mullvad go so far as to accept cash payments.
If Surfshark isn’t enough to squeak your budget There are a myriad of low-cost VPNs and even worthwhile VPNs for free to take into consideration. ProtonVPN can be classified in both categories and is among the few VPNs for free which does not have any data limits on users’ traffic.
While it’s costly, Surfshark does offer excellent value for the cost. One thing is that it lets you connect to unlimited devices with one account, where the majority of VPNs cut you off after only 5 simultaneous connections. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight IPVanish VPN as well as Windscribe VPN are the only VPNs we’ve tested with no limitations on simultaneous connections.
What Do You Get for Your Money?
The real strength of Surfshark is the features that are not often seen and offered. Whitelister for instance offers a split tunneling program that allows you to select which websites and apps make use of to use the VPN connection. This is useful since certain websites restrict access to VPNs. Surfshark’s solution is extremely clean it is more effective than the other providers.
Another feature that is often overlooked is multi-hop. This creates a VPN connection with a server. It redirects your traffic to another VPN server to provide even more security. Multi-hop connections from Surfshark are only available as pre-made ones that the company provides and IVPN allows you to create multi-hop connections between two servers.
One rare feature Surfshark currently does not offer is access to Tor via VPN, which is available through NordVPN and ProtonVPN. ProtonVPN also offers multi-hop and split-tunneling features. You don’t need a VPN to use Tor but this kind of push-button access is convenient.
Many VPN firms offer additional services to their base subscriptions. NordVPN and other VPN providers provide secure, static IP addresses that can be useful in the event that you experience a VPN connection is blocked. Surfshark doesn’t offer dedicated IP addresses that can be purchased however, it does permit users to connect to static servers at no cost. Anyone who connects to the Surfshark static server is able to share an IP with other people on this server.
Surfshark comes with a variety of security tools for privacy that extend far beyond VPN security: a customized DNS service dubbed Smart DNS; an ad-blocker that is marketed with the title CleanWeb; Surfshark Alert, which informs you if your account has been compromised, just like HaveIBeenPwned and a security-conscious search engine known as Surfshark Search. It is important to note it is that Surfshark Alert and Surfshark Search cost $0.99 monthly. It’s a decent assortment of additional features but it’s not the most amazing considering the cost of the main service. Hotspot Shield VPN grants access to various third-party applications for no cost with every subscription.
While VPNs are powerful tools, they can’t solve all your privacy and security problems. There’s a wide range of ways to track you online. We recommend using the privacy tools built into most browsers and a stand-alone tracker blocker like the EFF’s Privacy Badger. Note also that the free Tor anonymization network makes it even harder to track your online activity. We highly recommend creating unique and complex passwords with a password manager, enabling two-factor authentication wherever possible, and using antivirus software.
Surfshark’s VPN Protocols
There are numerous methods to set up a VPN connection. Surfshark provides its OpenVPN VPN protocol in its Android, iOS, Linux and Windows applications. The highly-rated IKEv2 protocol is also accessible across any platform (except Linux) and is the default option for macOS.
We’ve favored OpenVPN for a long time since its open-source roots mean that it’s been screened for security holes. The apparent successor to OpenVPN is WireGuard. Similar to OpenVPN, WireGuard is open-source but it is based on modern technology and is said to be significantly faster than other protocols. We were delighted to learn that Surfshark implemented WireGuard in the Android, iOS, macOS as well as Windows apps in October of 2020.
Surfshark Servers and Server Locations
A wide range of server locations around the globe makes it more likely that you’ll locate one near your home or anywhere you could be on the road and offers plenty of possibilities for spoofing your geographical location. Surfshark is able to cover 65 countries through its servers. This is higher than the average. ExpressVPN is the leader with its servers physically situated in 94 countries.
Surfshark provides superior coverage to South America and Africa, these two regions are frequently ignored by other providers. Surfshark also has servers available in countries that have strict internet laws such as China, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. We’d prefer to see more companies following the Surfshark model.
Some VPNs make use of so-called virtual servers and virtual locations. Virtual servers are software-defined, meaning that a single physical server can play host to several virtual ones. Many companies use these to accommodate surges in demand. Virtual locations are servers (virtual or physical) configured to appear somewhere other than where they are physically located. Neither is inherently problematic, but we prefer that companies be clear about where and how their servers operate.
Surfshark informed PCMag that all of its servers are physically-based machines. We were happy to see that the website of the company clearly declares the servers as virtual sites (Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Philippines, and South Korea). A representative has informed us that the servers are physically located at Colombia, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands.
More servers are an excellent thing since it increases your chances to get an internet connection that is reliable for you. However, it doesn’t provide superior service. In its own way, Surfshark boasts over 3,200 servers, which is more than double the average of VPNs that we’ve evaluated. CyberGhost is still the top choice in this category but it has the most servers of 6,520 on offer.
Surfshark says that it relies on “trusted third-party data centres” to provide its server infrastructure. The company does make use of tamper-resistant RAM-only servers. This means that if someone were to physically remove the server to get at the data inside, the server would be immediately wiped. A blog post from the company also details how diskless servers prevent private encryption keys from being stolen from server configurations. A few companies, such as ExpressVPN, made this change long ago.
Your Privacy With Surfshark
In the policy documents that it has, Surfshark stresses that it does not record IP addresses or browsing history, nor does it record the quantity of bandwidth used, network traffic or even the timestamps of connections. That’s precisely what you’d like to get from the VPN firm.
The company collects certain data, including anonymous aggregate data for analysis along with details about the billing history of accounts and account information. The company also states that it has received advertising IDs from third-party companies including Google Play as an example. These are IDs that you can reset. Surfshark stated that the IDs used are to figure out whether advertising from the company is driving installation. The app doesn’t contain advertisements within it. In addition, in its policies, Surfshark goes to great lengths to explain each cookie it uses on its website and the analytics services it employs. We appreciate the effort to achieve transparency, but the sheer amount of information on the list and the sheer volume of the information is a bit overwhelming.
Company representatives have told us that Surfshark is a highly decentralized organization, with offices in Cyprus, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and the UK, as well as remote employees around the globe. We appreciate the company’s transparency on this point.
Surfshark is under the authority that is the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The company states that this provides it with wide opportunities to rescind requests for information. It also states that the BVI does not have any retention of data laws. The company also has a living Warrant Canary in its Transparency Report. If law enforcement officials contact Surfshark for information, the business claims it is not able to identify a specific user. A representative from the company told the media that Surfshark is restructuring its operations under an entity that is legal in the Netherlands. The representative clarified that BVI law will still be in force to Surfshark’s privacy policies.
In February of 2022 Surfshark VPN announced it was merging with NordVPN. Both brands will be kept as distinct entities with their individual business plans and infrastructure. The merger was described in the release as an opportunity to allow the two companies to exchange expertise and focus on distinct segments of the market. The representative of Nord Security stressed to PCMag reporter Michael Kan that it wasn’t an acquisition nor is buying the other. An upcoming holding firm, named Cyberspace is registered with the Netherlands and will be the owner of both companies.
Many VPN companies have third-party audits in order to confirm their claims regarding the privacy of customers and security. Surfshark conducted the first of these audits in the year 2018 and its second one in 2021. Both audits were conducted by Cure53. Its third audit focused on Surfshark’s VPN infrastructure and configuration, providing a degree of security regarding the not-seen areas of the company. We’re pleased with the positive outcomes of the audit and we hope that Surfshark will continue to conduct these audits in the coming years. Although they’re flawed tools an audit committee is an important step a VPN could take to establish confidence. TunnelBear is a good example. TunnelBear has pledged to annual audits of its services.
Hands On With Surfshark VPN for Windows
Surfshark offers Android VPN, iOS VPN, macOS VPN as well as Windows VPN software. It also has an application for FireTV that is an exception. It has Surfshark proxy plug-ins that work with both the Chrome as well as Firefox browsers, as well as a customized DNS-resolver that works with Xbox as well as PlayStation.
We tried Surfshark using the Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the most recent version of Windows 10. For Windows, Surfshark offers a simple, sleek application with minimalistic colors and an elegant design that can expand and contract to display more or fewer details. We like the simple and easy method to connect to the internet and also allows you to choose particular servers, not just complete countries. It’s not as user-friendly as TunnelBear however it’s simple in the manner that the top mobile applications are. It’s interesting that you can change the size of the windows and the app can adjust its layout in the same way as responsive websites. A smaller edition of the application can be launched through the system tray and the available functions can be altered.
You can select a server at the country or city level and can favorite a location for future use. You cannot choose between individual servers at the same location. That’s not a critical feature, but it is useful for anyone looking to access online content by spoofing their location.
A Kill Switch feature prevents your device from transmitting web data in the open in the event that the VPN cease to work. It is also possible to restrict or block local network traffic. This can be useful for streams to various devices or connecting network printers.
Surfshark provides a wide array of features that are advanced. It has a Whitelister feature as well as the multihop feature mentioned earlier. Whitelister is stronger than the typical split tunneling software. With it, you are able to make sure that the traffic of an application is routed over the VPN or out of within the VPN connection. Whitelister can also work with URLs, however, you are only able to set URLs that travel outside of within the VPN connection. Another thing to consider is NoBorders Mode, which disguises the VPN connection as normal HTTPS website traffic. Other VPNs offer this feature under various terms ( TunnelBear calls it GhostBear for instance) It’s particularly beneficial if you’re located in a location that prohibits using VPNs. It is important to note that the company offers servers that are obfuscated, referred to as “camouflage” mode.
A concern with VPNs is that they may leak your DNS information or IP address. Using the DNS Leak Test tool, we confirmed that, at least on the server we were using, Surfshark did not leak any DNS information and successfully hid our IP address.
In our tests, we experienced no issue streaming content from Netflix even when connected to a US VPN service. Be aware that Netflix is locked into an endless game when it comes to VPN companies. A service that is working today might not be functional in the future.
Hands On With Surfshark for Android
We downloaded the Surfshark Android VPN client via the Google Play store on a Samsung A71 running Android 10. The Android application is similar to its iOS version and has the interface being white and flat when disconnected with a subtle teal-colored gradient which is displayed when you connect to the VPN server. The Android application has the same features as that of the Windows version, such as CleanWeb and the Whitelister. It also has static servers as well as multi-hop connections.
Keeping your information private is a key feature of any VPN. We tested the service with the DNS Leak Test Tool, running an extended test on a server-based in Vienna, Austria. SurfShark successfully changed our IP address changed and did not leak our DNS information.
To check the app’s performance on Android we visited YouTube.com to load a few of the videos. The videos were slower to load than those on rivals such as IVPN. It took approximately 6 seconds to load each one before it could load. We also visited Twitch.tv and watched the live stream. The stream took less time to load–around five seconds. And when it started playing the video, it looked excellent, with no visible delays or buffering.
Hands On With Surfshark VPN for iPhone
We have installed our Surfshark iPhone VPN application on an iPhone XS that runs iOS 14.4.1. It has a simple white interface, with teal buttons. To connect to the VPN server, press the big teal Connect button and the screen’s white color changes to various shades of teal to confirm that you’re connected.
There are a variety of servers to pick from, however, unlike Windows, Windows Version, users cannot pick the server they want to use. You’re only able to select the country that the server is located in, or the city and the country that the server is located. The iPhone application supports static IP addresses as well as multi-hop connections.
The iOS app has some features that are included in the Windows version, including a Kill Switch and NoBorders mode.
We visited DNSLeakTest.com and performed an extended test connected to a server located in Toronto, Canada. We found that Surfshark didn’t leak DNS information and also that it did not change our IP public address.
Then, we checked out Twitch.tv and could immediately start and view a couple of streams. None of them had any lag or buffering. Following that, we opened YouTube. We then logged into the YouTube app to view a short tutorial on makeup. The VPN server was a bit slower and took up to 6 seconds for the video to be loaded. After the video began playing the quality was great but the load time was certainly longer than normal.
Hands On With Surfshark for Macs
It was simple to locate download and run the macOS application for Surfshark onto a MacBook Air (2020) running Big Sur 11.2.2. The app is available in the App Store and the website of the vendor. As with the iOS version it has a predominantly white, flat style with teal accents.
The home screen of the app displays an array of VPN server locations. When selecting the VPN server to connect, you are able to choose only the country or in certain cases, the city in which the VPN server is. It also comes with CleanWeb mode as well as a Kill Switch feature.
It’s important for a VPN to do its job and protect your private information. We performed an extended DNS leak test by visiting DNSLeakTest.com while connected to a server in Sao Paolo, Brazil. This server did not leak our DNS information and successfully hid our real IP address.
As we were connecting to our server from Brazil We loaded some YouTube videos and they immediately played without delays or lags. We also went to Twitch.tv and watched a few minutes of live streaming which loaded extremely quick and displayed high-quality video.
Speed and Performance
The general rule is that the use of VPNs generally, using a VPN reduces the speed of your download and upload and increases your latency. To gauge the impact, we compute the per cent difference between tests that are run using the use of a VPN as opposed to those that do not, employing Ookla Speedtest. Ookla Speedtest software. For the details of how we arrive at our figures, learn the How Do We Evaluate VPNs.
Although we used the WireGuard protocol for our testing, Surfshark did not show outstanding performance. We observed that it slowed down the speed of upload and download results by 61.6 per cent and 59.7 per cent in each case. This upload rate isn’t terrible however, the results for download aren’t the best. We also found that it added the time to download by 59.5 per cent, which is an ounce higher than the median result.
The past few years, we’ve conducted tests on the speed of all VPN services that we tested back-to-back to see a clear review of the performance. In the past, however, we’ve changed to a rolling model that will provide more accurate results faster. This is because of the current COVID-19 epidemic which has hindered our access to PCMag Labs. The graph below displays the most recent speed tests results.
Be aware that the results we obtained came by using this VPN at a certain moment of the day in the same location. Your results may differ however this technique allows us to compare among different services while adjusting for various variables. Speed alone should not be the primary consideration when choosing VPNs. VPN.
Safe Surfing, for a Price
Surfshark is a long-running outstanding VPN service. It offers a generous unlimited device policy that lets you connect to as many devices as you want, and also offers rare split tunnelling as well as multi-hop capabilities. The company is to be commended for its clear privacy policies as well as its secure servers that only use RAM. The recent audit conducted by Surfshark of its VPN infrastructure has helped to show that it follows the best practices and is ready to demonstrate its efforts. This all helps to offset the high cost of its initial investment and makes Surfshark our latest Editors Award winner.