Surfshark is one of those baby VPNs that exploded in popularity thanks to YouTube sponsorships and a great reputation. Can it live up to older, wiser VPNs? In this Surfshark VPN review we’ll see if the shark can surf with the tough guys on the market.
The quick version: Surfshark is a top-notch VPN with excellent features and few flaws. The worst thing about it is the lack of recent third-party audits. Other than that, it has all the desirable features of a high-quality VPN.
All About Surfshark
Surfshark is young at the time of writing. Founded in 2018, it’s the newest VPN we’ve done a full review on so far. Despite the novelty, the company’s smart marketing put this on the leaderboard with NordVPN, ExpressVPN, TunnelBear and other powerhouses in the VPN world.
The VPN only took six months to develop before it launched browser extensions and an Android app. By late 2018 it was on all platforms and had an array of additional features. It also underwent its first third-party audit.
By 2019, Surfshark was already an award winner. It was a finalist at the Cyber Security Awards, dubbed AV-Test reviewed and declared the best value VPN by a VPN-examining website.
In 2020 the awards and titles kept coming, making Surfshark a well-loved, well-valued VPN.
Where Is Surfshark Situated?
Surfshark operates from the British Virgin Islands, something Surfshark has openly discussed in this post, updated a month before the time of writing. The post lays it out in simple terms. Surfshark’s jurisdiction is excellent because it lacks data retention laws.
Without these laws, companies have no legal reason to store logs on you. So, if someone were to come knocking for them, there’s nothing to give. This gives you prime privacy, so it’s perfect for a VPN jurisdiction.
Though it’s easy to lie about things like this—companies lie about data collection all the time. So that brings us on to…
Can You Trust Surfshark?
We believe Surfshark’s no-logs policy—we have no reason not to—although Surfshark could do better.
As mentioned earlier, Surfshark underwent a third-party audit early on in its existence. That’s fantastic, but you have to remember that at the time Surfshark had little more than browser plugins.
Cure53, the auditors, could only examine the plugins for Chrome and Firefox. Surfshark did well—there were no leaks, nothing sketchy going on with the company. The audit revealed low severity vulnerabilities that we safely assume have been fixed since then.
However at the time of writing it’s been over two years since the audit and many new features and platforms have launched since then. It’s time for an update! Surfshark claimed they’d release another audit in 2020 but sadly, nothing came out. We’d like the desktop and mobile clients reviewed, along with the no-logs policy, so this is disappointing.
Surfshark’s Best Features
Speaking of those new features, let’s figure out what they are to see if this young VPN can compare to some older ones on the market.
Surfshark is incredibly beginner-friendly as it lacks advanced security features upfront. It automatically connects you to the best security protocol for your device, location and internet speed. All protocols use AES-256 level encryption, which is the same as most governments use so you know you’re covered well.
You can also change protocols but it can be quite difficult. You’ll find the ability to change under settings, advanced, protocol. Then you can select from a dropdown list of:
- OpenVPN, TCP or UDB—most popular.
- WireGuard—most recent and most desirable.
Once in this little bubble of settings you can also choose to make your connected device invisible to other devices on your network. This is excellent if you live with roommates and you have, for example, a wireless printer. Noone can connect the printer to your computer or vice-versa!
VPNs have the misfortune of having to slow your internet speed to work properly. Some drag it down to unusable levels, so let’s see how Surfshark handles it.
Pre-emptive Speed Tests
One fantastic speed-related feature lets you run speed tests before you connect, so you don’t have to go through trial and error. It lets you run tests on multiple servers for different purposes including:
- Static IP.
- Retaining local connection—this is under the “recommended tab.”
You can also do this by location, and create a custom speed test using the “favorite” tab. Select the locations you want to test, go to that tab, and there you have it. Here’s an example of one user’s test on their favorite locations.
One thing to note is that this feature is difficult to find—you wouldn’t know it was there if you didn’t go poking around the interface. Here’s how you get to it. Go to:
- Speed test.
Speed Test Results
Looking at the speed test above, it’s difficult to tell where the user is situated. The UK and Australia are worlds apart, but the test shows remarkably similar download speeds. The user is actually in the UK.
Now, Surfshark can easily lie about speed to make the company look good. Shall we check on this user’s speedtest.net results connected to all three servers, and once without the connection?
Note, this test was performed while connected to a London server, while situated in London.
As you can see, Surfshark’s claims hold true for download speed, although upload speed results are better than expected.
On top of that, there isn’t much of a speed reduction between no VPN and VPN use close to home, or far away from it. We’ll call that a win.
However, the user noted that they occasionally have days where Surfshark speeds drop to unusable levels. A quick reboot of the desktop client fixes this every time, so that’s something to note if you experience the same issue.
A kill switch is a mechanism that toggles your internet off if your VPN connection drops. It’s fantastic for public use—you’re never exposed, and as soon as your VPN reconnects so does your internet.
Surfshark’s kill switch is highly accessible in all clients, visible just below where you click “connect.” It’s turned off by default—great for people who rely on the internet to save work or use the device. You can turn it on and off at any time, connected or not.
Ad Blocker and Malware Protection
Surfshark has a built-in ad blocker that keeps you safe online. It effectively eradicates trackers, malware and targeted advertisements in your browser. This is fantastic for a cleaner and far less annoying browsing experience.
However, some users were under the impression that this works automatically—it’s not hard to imagine people would want an auto-ad blocker. However, you have to switch this on by clicking “features” in the app. You’ll see a “CleanWeb” toggle.
Something wonderful about this VPN is that you can select specific apps and websites to bypass your connection. So, say you want to watch Amazon Prime Video but stay connected to your VPN—add that to your whitelist and you can stream Prime Video with ease.
We’ll talk more about streaming later on, though.
This feature is perfect for those sites that detect and block VPNs, but you really, really want the security of having a permanent connection.
Also, you should note that Surfshark refers to the whitelist feature as “split tunneling” at times. This differs from the split tunneling we’ll be talking about later..
When you connect to a VPN server, you could get any IP. If you connect and disconnect from a server three times in one day, that could be a different IP address each time—yes, even with the same server.
Some people require a static IP because of their school or work, or sometimes their ISP. So no worries with Surfshark Australia—it has you covered. It has several locations for static IP, but there’s a catch. You won’t get a static Australian IP.
Surfshark offers static IP servers, but the server locations are:
If your static requirement transcends location then go for it—but if you need a static Australian IP then look elsewhere.
Multi-hop gives you extra protection against hackers and trackers. It takes your Australian connection and reroutes it to Canada—then it reroutes it to the US.
If the US server fails, no worries. Your VPN still says you’re in Canada. The US server will be back up when it can and you’ll never be unprotected.
However, like the static IPs, this feature is limited. There’s a set selection of multihop locations, with both locations predetermined. There are 14 to choose from and one of them is local—it reroutes your Australian connection to somewhere else in Australia, then to the US.
Unfortunately, there are no selections that will reroute you from Australia, to somewhere else, back to Australia.
How Many Servers Does Surfshark Have?
Surfshark has 3,200 servers in 65 countries. It’s not the highest number of servers we’ve seen but it’s one of the best for different countries.
Having so many servers lightens the load on a select handful—Surfshark won’t have every one of its users clogging up the same servers. Plus, the country variance lets you access geo-blocked content all over the world which is fantastic.
Can You Stream With Surfshark?
You can stream excellently with Surfshark, although there are some minor flaws we’ll detail, service by service.
Surfshark unlocks most Netflix libraries reliably. This is great as Netflix is actively trying to stop VPN use on the site. However, every US and UK location works with Netflix, along with Australia, European countries, Asian countries and more. This is incredible!
The best part is, if one of the US or UK servers stops working, then you’re still covered by several more. The same can be said for the other countries—each of the 65 countries has multiple VPN servers to go with it.
Now we will mention that one user experienced some minor issues with Netflix on the Boston and LA servers—although it’s somewhat amusing. Netflix detected the Boston server (desktop client) as a VPN. The user switched on the browser extension, connecting to LA, and there were no issues.
A few days later, Netflix rejected the LA browser server. The user turned it off to find the desktop Boston server was working again. The same event has happened three times since and is always a quick fix.
Netflix on EU Servers
Now here’s something wild—you can watch US Netflix on some European servers! One user discovered this and asked customer support about it. Customer support responded quickly and mentioned that this is a secret, but it’s safe and functional.
This secret feature is there to give EU users better speeds when connecting to US Netflix. So, if Netflix can’t unblock an EU country’s Netflix, it reroutes you to US Netflix instead. This is superb for our non-Australian readers—play around with local EU servers and you may discover a lightning-fast US Netflix connection!
Amazon Prime Video
Surfshark isn’t great for use with Amazon Prime Video. It doesn’t work with US or UK libraries, which is highly unfortunate as many users wish to have access to these. The only libraries it works with are Canada and France.
If you wish to view Canadian and French Amazon Prime Video you’ll need an Amazon Prime account in those countries. If you’d rather stick with Australian Amazon Prime Video, we recommend whitelisting the site in Surfshark so you don’t have to switch off the VPN every time.
Note that even if you switch your VPN to saying you’re in Australia, Amazon Prime Video still detects the VPN. You’ll know, as every time you go to click on a show or movie, it states your proxy use before you even click.
Users state that BBC iPlayer works reliably with Surfshark. However, one user ran a test and noticed that you have to be very careful while using the VPN on BBC iPlayer.
The user is UK-based, but uses multiple VPNs for extra security. The user switched locations to the US using one VPN, and went on BBC iPlayer. Naturally, it wouldn’t play. The user then turned on a Surfshark UK server but iPlayer detected the VPN instantly and didn’t play.
BBC iPlayer continued to detect the VPN until the user restarted their browser. Then they could play iPlayer with ease through the Surfshark UK server, while the other VPN’s US server was still switched on.
Users experienced almost no issues with other streaming sites, but if you do, connecting to a different server should fix everything just fine. There’s a lengthy list of services you can unblock all around the world, more than any other VPN we’ve reviewed. Here’s the list:
- Amazon Prime Video.
- BBC iPlayer.
- ITV Hub.
- All 4.
- HBO Max.
- DAZN (difficult to unlock).
- HBO Go.
- Hotstar (difficult to unlock).
- YouTube TV (difficult to unlock).
- Fubo TV.
- Peacock TV.
- Yle Areena.
Note that you can’t unblock all of these with every server in the appropriate country. Users had to switch servers a few times to find ones that worked. For example, Disney+ only works with 10 of the US servers. Plus, some servers slow Hulu down to unwatchable speeds.
Surfshark and Torrenting
Surfshark is incredibly P2P friendly so it’s easy to torrent, You’ll have a fast, private connection and users recommend using a P2P or multi-hop connection for the activity.
The reason you need to be so cautious with this activity is obvious. We all know that most people torrent copyrighted material, and that’s illegal. We strongly recommend against torrenting in general, but if you’re going to do it, at least use Surfshark. It’s one of the strongest VPNs for it thanks to the multi-hop feature.
Ensure you’re using the desktop client to torrent, not the browser extension. The browser extension won’t protect you in the slightest when using a torrenting software.
Can You Have Simultaneous Surfshark Connections?
Yes, you can have simultaneous connections with Surfshark. You can do this in two ways.
Connect your computer to one server, your browser to another. This lets you listen to music on US Spotify via desktop app, while browsing BBC iPlayer in Chrome and skimming shows to watch later. Quickly switch your browser extension to Australia to return to local websites.
Surfshark’s connections hold very well when using split tunneling so theoretically you could take it further—add another browser into the mix. That way you can have three or even four connections from one device! This will slow your connection, though.
Unlimited Device Use
If you don’t want to slow down your computer or laptop’s internet, grab a bunch of different devices instead. You can use as many devices as you like on one subscription.
This is excellent for couples and families—although, be careful. Some VPNs find too many simultaneous connections to be suspicious. Keep the subscription within the family, don’t give your login information to all of your friends.
Is There a Surfshark Free Trial?
There’s no free trial with Surfshark. When you sign up to any of the plans you have to pay upfront—although, it’s risk-free for a month.
Surfshark has a wonderful 30-day money-back guarantee. So, if for some reason you dislike Surfshark or it doesn’t work well for you, then you’re safe.
One user tested the money back guarantee and found it fantastic. It wasn’t as swift as they’d like—the refund took four days—but customer service asked no questions and didn’t make a fuss as some customer service would.
And by the way, if you’re in that “want a VPN to watch that one US Netflix movie” then we don’t recommend Surfshark. Don’t put yourself out some money for a few days—use Windscribe instead. We’ll talk about that more later in the article.
Surfshark has one of the best value pricing plans we’ve come across. We recommend it as a cheaper alternative to many of the VPNs we review. If you’re looking for affordable, then there are almost no better VPNs for the job.
There are three plans you can avail of and we recommend the third wholeheartedly—so let’s get into it.
Note that we’ll be providing pricing below in USD as well as AUD for comparison purposes. The VPNs we’ll be mentioning later on don’t always show their pricing in AUD easily.
Surfshark is quite pricey for a VPN if you go down this route! Most VPNs cost between $10–$13 USD, which is about $13–$17 AUD. Surfshark’s monthly subscription is a hefty $12.95 USD or $16.88 AUD.
However, given Surfshark’s advanced features, we feel the price is warranted. It’s one of the best VPNs we’ve reviewed—tied up there with NordVPN, the other best VPN we’ve reviewed.
We’d have no reservations about paying the high monthly fee if it came down to it—which it will after your first one or two years, if you choose one of the next plans.
Want to save yourself some cash? Then you can pay a lump sum every 6 months instead. The 6-monthly plan only costs $6.49 USD or $8.46 AUD. It’s billed upfront at $38.94 USD or $50.77 AUD.
If you want even more savings, we recommend going for the two-yearly plan. First-time users get a whopping 81 percent off. Keep in mind once the two years are up you’ll be paying the monthly price—so we recommend switching to a monthly subscription so it’s less of a fee upfront.
However, the first time, the upfront fee is small. It’s only $59.76 USD or $77.92 AUD. This comes down to a monthly cost of $2.49 USD or $3.45 AUD.
Surfshark occasionally runs an offer where you can get an additional few months free on your plan. For one of the users we’ve been talking about in this review, they got three months free! On top of that, you have the ability to get some extra months free at any time.
Open your Surfshark client, go to settings. You’ll see “earn free months.” Click on it for a referral code. If your friends use that code to purchase a Surfshark subscription they get an extra free month. You also get an extra free month added to your current subscription!
The more friends you invite, the more free months you get. This is wonderful as programs like this are usually reserved for sponsored advertisers and sometimes affiliates. Very, very cool.
As a first-time Surfshark customer you can get Surfshark Alert and Search at a discount. This is $0.99 USD or $1.29 AUD per month.
This protects your online identity and it alerts you of security breaches in real-time. On top of that, it removes all trackers from browsers so you get organic results every time you search. You won’t get any location-based or data-based ads or website recommendations on Google.
We recommend getting this add-on if you’re a researcher or writer of some kind. You need unbiased search results for that, to ensure you’re finding the top results in general, and not the top results for you.
What’s The Bottom Line?
In this Surfshark VPN review, we discovered that Surfshark is a top-notch VPN and we’ve yet to find something better, only equal. It’s packed with incredible features, works almost flawlessly and all flaws are easily fixed.
We especially love how you can connect to unlimited devices, plus we adore the value in the two-yearly plan. These standouts absolutely lead us to recommend Surfshark to people without hesitation.
However, it’s not for everyone! And so we ask…
Are There Alternatives to Surfshark?
There’s a selection of excellent alternatives to Surfshark and we’ll be examining three that match Surfshark, or have more desirable elements.
Note that all pricing here will unfortunately be in USD. Not all VPNs let us view the pricing in AUD, or any non-US local currency.
Windscribe—Best Free VPN
We mentioned Windscribe above if you’re in that camp where you want to watch one movie and nothing more. It’s a more applicable VPN for temporary/occasional use. It comes with a free plan with 10 GB of data per month, which is about six hours of HD Netflix content.
The VPN has dedicated Windflix US and UK servers made for streaming optimization. Both are accessible via the free version of Windscribe.
Windscribe does well as a free VPN, far better than some others we’ve reviewed. You won’t get much use out of it security-wise as you’ll run out of data quickly, but when you upgrade it’s excellent.
Testers found no security issues or DNS leaks, and the protocols are top-notch. Users also found very few issues with streaming using Windscribe, and all issues were resolved quickly.
Windscribe’s main complaint is the speeds. They’re quite bad with the free version of Windscribe, but if you have decent internet to start with you’ll be able to stream with no issues. When you upgrade the speeds improve, but they’re still not great.
Slower speeds aren’t a huge issue if you don’t stream content often. Web pages still load swiftly and the internet runs smoothly, although you’ll experience lengthy download times.
If you’d rather have better internet than the free version can provide, here are your options:
- Yearly plan: $49 paid upfront and billed every year, equalling a monthly fee of $4.08.
- Monthly plan: $9 a month.
- Custom plan: One server for $1 a month.
The custom plan doesn’t limit you to a single server, though. You can select any server you like, and any number of them. We recommend the Windflix ones if you’re a big streaming lover. If it’s security you want, then go for any server you want but close to home is a good choice.
Be careful not to choose too many servers as you can easily climb close to the monthly subscription price.
NordVPN—Most Like Surfshark
If you want a VPN that shares Surfshark’s main features, then NordVPN is the best one for it. It has split tunneling, static IP ability, double protection and thousands of servers to choose from.
One standout feature of NordVPN is its fantastic customer service. Users praise NordVPN’s customer support methods beyond any other, and we’ve never found a VPN with better either.
You’ll rarely need to contact customer support, though, as NordVPN runs smoothly 99 percent of the time. You can stream most services using all the US and UK servers as well as several from around the world. The other features have no issues, and there are no security risks either.
NordVPN’s speeds are also great. They’re not the best on the market but we’d never call them bad. Plus, if we had to choose between NordVPN and the fastest on the market, we’d choose NordVPN. It has superior functions and features.
NordVPN is actually cheaper than Surfshark per month, although the yearly plans aren’t as value-packed. We feel they’re warranted, though, as there are so many positives about NordVPN.
- Monthly plan: $11.95 paid monthly.
- Annual plan: An upfront fee of $59, billed annually.
- Two-yearly plan: An upfront fee of $89, billed every two years and later annually.
Ivacy—Even Cheaper Than Surfshark
We can’t say anything too much about Ivacy, as it’s a pretty standard VPN. You get the security and the streaming with no issues. There are no standout features that make this VPN better than the ones above—however, this plan has the most value as you can get five years for as little as $60.
Here are Ivacy’s other plans:
- Monthly plan: $9.95 billed monthly.
- Annual plan: $42 billed annually.
- Two-yearly plan: $69.99 billed once, then yearly after the first two years.
Surfshark: The Final Wave
Whether you go for an alternative or stick with Surfshark, you can’t go wrong so long as you’re doing what’s right for you.
We recommend Surfshark, and if we had to recommend a cheaper, most similar competitor it’s NordVPN. NordVPN costs more upfront but less after Surfshark’s first two years. Perhaps you could switch to NordVPN after two years with Surfshark? It wouldn’t be a jarring change, and you’d get the NordVPN first-timer discount!
Sticking with this VPN is fine too, as Surfshark is relatively flawless from a user and unbiased reviewer point of view, although we will say we wish it’d been audited since that first time. Besides that, we trust Surfshark and are excited to see what the future brings to the service.