Surfshark VPN Review: good performance, good options

Mike Turcotte-McCusker
Oct 26, 2021
Updated • Oct 26, 2021
VPNs
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Surfshark VPN is a commercial VPN service based in the Netherlands, initially release in 2018. Surfshark is available for MacOS, Windows, and Linux, as well as browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. There are also versions available for Fire TV 2 and later, and Android TV OS 5.0 and later.

Surfshark at a glance

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections with any devices supported
  • Static Servers available
  • Multi-hop servers available
  • IKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks and Wireguard protocols
  • Split Tunneling
  • RAM-only servers
  • Kill switch
  • GPS spoofing for Android users

Surfshark features

Surfshark, like other VPN services such as IPVanish or NordVPN, functions very similarly in regards to how their services are offered, paid for, and managed. All features are the same regardless of which plan or subscription period you have, and the only differentiating factor is the price. There is no free version of the Surfshark VPN service.

One month subscription is the most expensive way to get the VPN, with a current price as of the time of writing this of $12.88 USD per month ($15.95 CAD, converted using google). If you opt to pay for two years at a time, that price drops by 81% to $2.49 USD per month, or a third option of a 50% discount if you sign up for 6 months at a time, at the rate of $6.42 USD per month. The 2 year plan also comes with a 30 day refund / guarantee option, but there is no mention of refunds or trials for the monthly or 6 month plans.

Surfshark offers a variety of payment methods, including:

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  • Credit Card
  • Paypal
  • Google Pay
  • Amazon Pay
  • Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Dogecoin.

Surfshark offers unlimited simultaneous connections regardless of what devices are being used, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited P2P traffic, though it does not have specific servers for P2P and so speeds can vary depending on server load. However, something that is quite rare in commercial VPN services is the option of using multihop connections, where first you connect to hop #1, say, United Kingdom, and then connect next to a server in France. Obviously, this will likely decrease speed, but it adds another layer of protection. Even when using multihop servers though, one should never assume their connection is bulletproof, or completely anonymous or protected, but it’s a nice feature to have that absolutely does help.

Surfshark: clients and supported protocols

The Surfshark client displays a number of different pieces of information right on the front page, such as a list of favourite connections, all locations, static-IP specific locations, and MultiHop locations; as well as a connection button that changes to show information such as your IP address once you have connected to the specified server.

There is no default protocol selected for Surfshark, rather the option of “automatic” is the default, which contiously chooses the fastest and most stable option for you. However, you can easily change to the other protocols via drop-down box. There are other options available such as “NoBorders” which is useful for bypassing internet restrictions such as the Chinese Great Firewall, as well as a built-in speedtest option for seeing how your connection to different servers would look like. When I connected using the “automatic” setting, WireGuard was what the client most often chose for me, and it’s becoming a popular and respected protocol to use, so I had no complaints to that decision.

Surfshark: servers

Surfshark has servers in over 65 locations, with countries ranging from Algeria, Canada, USA, Singapore, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Indonesia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, and more.

Surfshark does not have specific servers for things like P2P traffic or Netflix connections, so your performance for P2P traffic may vary depending on connection, as may your streaming services connectivity.

Surfshark: privacy and security features

On the security features side of things, Surfshark provides:

  • Internet kill switch - Automatically shuts off all networking and access to the public internet if disconnected from the VPN, when this is enabled. It should be noted, that even if you close the VPN software; if you have this enabled and you forget to disable it, all internet access will be cut off until you disable the feature -- this can be helpful for security sake, but just something you need to keep in mind if you suddenly realize you have no internet access when using this VPN service / feature.
  • Wireguard protocol - A new up-and-coming protocol in the VPN world, boasting open-source code, significantly faster speeds as well as safer and more power saving than other protocols.
  • Shadowsocks – Mostly used for avoiding firewalls and censorship, and is not really designed for privacy or anonymity.

Surfshark: speed tests

To test the speed of Surfshark, first a base test was run without the service. The PC used was connected to a 250down/20up connection in Canada. Using speedtest.net for the test, the results were as follows:

Without the VPN, connected to a speedtest server in my city:

  • Ping - 12ms
  • Download - 245.71 mbps
  • Upload – 19.60 mbps

Next, connecting to the VPN and letting it use the server location it deemed best, which ended up being in a neighboring city to me, yielded the following results:

  • Ping - 12 ms
  • Download – 219.16 mbps
  • Upload - 18.61 mbps

Result 2, I selected Iceland as my country of choice and once again ran the speedtest, to the following results:

  • Ping - 131 ms
  • Download – 233.04 mbps
  • Upload - 9.06 mbps

 

Overall, I really thought the speeds were quite acceptable, and nothing you can really complain about, a quick P2P test also confirmed these speeds were all accurate. Overall there was nothing speed or connectivity wise that I had any issues with whatsoever. As I have written about other VPN’s in the past, I personally would not use this VPN while gaming if I was connecting to any sort of international server, as the higher pings (>100) would likely adversely affect my gaming experience, but I would see no problem with using a local server whilst gaming, if someone had a need to do so.

Surfshark privacy tests

NOTE: This section has been edited since the first posting, based on information provided in the comments section, and the tests were re-ran with better results!

If your VPN is leaking your IP address or any DNS information, it's not doing its job, so two tests were used to see how Surfshark performed.

DNS Extended Version Leak Test: PASSED (https://www.dnsleaktest.com)

Originally I had tested Surfshark while using Firefox, and I encountered MASSIVE DNS leaks...However, as one Ghacks commenter pointed out, the issue was due to Firefox using DNS over HTTPS. After disabling this feature, I re-ran the DNS test, and found no DNS leaks, which was quite a relief given the big scores other sites have given Surfshark. This is important to note though, as other fellow Firefox issues may have this DNS leak issue happen if they are using Firefox with the default settings, and this DNS over HTTP feature enabled!

 

IP Leak Test: PASSED (https://ipleak.net/)

There we no issues when running the IP test, with the IP Address showing as American.

Surfshark unblock streaming platforms test

Surfshark has limited ability to unblock regionally locked content. There are no specific servers designed for this purpose, and many of the major streaming services have Surfshark IP addresses blocked or blacklisted.

I was unable to watch any content on Netflix when I tried it... However, interestingly, it wasn’t that an error would pop up, or that Netflix would call me out for using a VPN…Rather, the videos simply would not load, and I would just be faced with a black screen.

I tried numerous servers, and this same incident would happen; so I could only be lead to believe that it was still Netflix kicking off / breaking my connection / not feeding me the content due to the VPN. I did not try every server available to me, so perhaps others may have better results or luck; but after trying a handful of servers and only ever getting the same result, I considered this to be enough of a test for the sake of this article, and moved on, considering this basically a fail.

A look at the Surfshark Windows desktop application

Interacting with the Windows client is very straightforward, though it did take me a second to find the options menu, located by clicking the gear icon on the bottom corner of the UI. However, after I found that, it was no big deal and clicking through the menus allowed me to find everything I was looking for fairly quickly and easily.

Verdict

Surfshark is loved by many for it comes to speed and ease of use, and with no obvious or glaring issues, I have no reason to say anything negative about this VPN; it's cheaper than some of the others, though maybe not the cheapest, it has multihop connections available, and there are numerous security protocols to choose from.

Disclaimer

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Summary
Surfshark VPN Review: good performance, with DNS leaks
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Surfshark VPN Review: good performance, with DNS leaks
Description
Mike's review of the Surfshark VPN Service.
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Ghacks Technology News
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Comments

  1. Anonymous said on October 26, 2021 at 9:59 am
    Reply

    The article says they’re based in Netherlands, but a search reveals they’re based in British Virgin Islands.

    1. ULBoom said on October 26, 2021 at 3:02 pm
      Reply

      They announced a move to NL recently, that may have happened already, not sure.

    2. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 3:12 pm
      Reply
    3. Eve Barnett said on November 23, 2021 at 2:24 pm
      Reply

      Lol, similar to how PureVPN was based in HK and now they are also in British Islands. VPNs shifting HQs to avoid legal repercussions

  2. Henk said on October 26, 2021 at 12:05 pm
    Reply

    I happen to have Surfshark, so I read this post with great interest. I do agree with you that Surfshark is not the best VPN for people who want to cloak their actual region for streaming of region-specific content. It should, however, be a good privacy layer.

    In that respect I must say am very surprised about your leak test results. Are you sure there is nothing wrong with the configuration you used for your testing?

    Of course after reading this post I tried the same three leak tests right away (and a couple of other tests too, for good measure). Unlike you, with Surfshark I got no leaks whatsoever. For example, the dnsleaktestcom extended test with Surfshark active (set to NL) only showed me 1 server, that is, the actual Surfshark server in Amsterdam.

    Well, your results deserve a little more research, and I will certainly ask the Surfshark people about this, too. If your test results are somehow valid in some situations, that’s of course a bad thing! And even if your bad results are perhaps just the result of some inadvertent user misconfiguration, then Surfshark should certainly need to take the necessary steps to prevent such errors.

    More about this later, I guess…

    1. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 3:12 pm
      Reply

      It was an issue with Firefox DNS over HTTP. The article has been edited.

  3. Yash said on October 26, 2021 at 12:10 pm
    Reply

    I’m a guy of simple taste. When I see a service suddenly promoted by many YouTubers, I avoid it.
    Disclaimer – Someone else said those words but I have internet rights to use it.

  4. Bruno said on October 26, 2021 at 12:30 pm
    Reply

    Alert: There is a big problem in this article about DNS leaks.

    Surfshark user, this morning I am doing the test, and like you I discover that my Cloudflare DNS is revealed; Huge disappointment.

    So I’m looking, from the first link returned by Duckduckgo I come across a reddit article which explains that the problem comes from Firefox and the DNS-over-HTTPS option: Settings -> General -> Network Settings -> Settings and uncheck “Enable DNS over HTTPS”. In fact there now seems to be a corporate relationship between Firefox and Cloudflare in particular ; I have to dig deeper this question

    I repeat the dnsleaktest which is now passed and returns “Datacamp Limited”.
    Note, that this problem is with Firefox only not with for example Ungoogled Chromium, so I deduce that you have test with firefox.

    But thank you because I would have stayed with the problem without even realizing it.

    Faithful reader since around 2006-2007.
    Sorry for my English skill.

    1. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 3:08 pm
      Reply

      Hey Bruno, I just tested your suggestion, and disabling DNS via https did indeed fix the issue, and the article has been edited. Thanks for that huge suggestion!

  5. Paul(us) said on October 26, 2021 at 12:32 pm
    Reply

    Mike,
    I noticed many remarkably mistakes in this article.
    Surfshark is not based in the Netherlands there base in the not info with outer country data ( The 15) exchanging British Virgin Islands.
    I have especially researched this at the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce | Business.gov.nl
    where all the company must be registered, but no Surfhark.

    The upload and download is almost twice the value when I test from Toronto.
    The upload and download is almost 2.5 the value when I test from Reykjavik.
    There are also more country’s who give a even better result.

    And than the DNS leaks. I used for the test a bare browser with no security running like no script. I run several tests and no leaks for me.

    Did you test the this year introduced security bundle?

    1. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 3:07 pm
      Reply

      https://support.surfshark.com/hc/en-us/articles/360003088553-Where-are-you-located-

      Paul(us) this is their official response, stating Netherlands.

      1. Paul(us) said on October 26, 2021 at 3:49 pm
        Reply

        MIke, that is true but the important part is where there finance is located.
        This because were the financier/financial hart is located is giving the 14 are having possibility to ask by law the data.
        Yes the company can be located in the Netherlands.
        Many company’s does sort of location thing because financial is the most stable country in the field of laws and coups.
        Also the Netherlands giving you the possibility to put the legal part of your company in a outer country.
        Like i wrought to you before when you have a company in the Netherlands you business has to be written in the Dutch central law for company database, and Surfshark is not there.

        In this statement here below you can see where there really have the hart of there business.
        https://www.dnb.com/business-directory/company-profiles.surfshark_ltd.dd362c5833666e4d87c491057ad673e6.html

  6. Bruno said on October 26, 2021 at 12:52 pm
    Reply

    There is no DNSleak at surfshark, Mike Turcotte-McCusker is a liar, I just posted a message explaining that he has misconfigured firefox and that this problem does not appear on Chrome based browsers. Mike Turcotte-McCusker deleted my post with the technical explanation.

    If you persist in not correcting this article, I’ll post you on reddit.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on October 26, 2021 at 1:19 pm
      Reply

      Mike is on it. He will re-do the test to make sure everything is correct. Stay tuned.

    2. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 2:58 pm
      Reply

      Bruno, your comment wasn’t deleted…It’s right there in the comments section, and I am about to test your suggestion.

      Secondly, How could I delete a comment in my sleep? I am just freshly awoken, and havent even had my coffee yet, but yet I am about to run through these tests as I put that as a larger priority.

      1. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 3:09 pm
        Reply

        Bruno, I replied to your other comment; but I will reply here too. You don’t need to threaten anyone. We at Ghacks will never post blatently lies or falsities. You pointed out something I literally did not know the solution for, and you were correct.

        Your suggestion was much appreciated, and the article was edited. I am not a liar.

      2. Yash said on October 26, 2021 at 7:53 pm
        Reply

        Its okay Mike mistakes can happen. I make mistakes on an hourly basis. Its just the internet world where if you make one and suddenly another person loses his mind rather than having patience for a change. Cancel culture and threatening is really bad.

      3. Bruno said on October 26, 2021 at 9:05 pm
        Reply

        I apologize to Mike Turcotte-McCusker for overreacting. Wrongly, I thought that my message was simply deleted as it has happened to me before by reporting problems to brands and proposing solutions that work.

        However, it is a real problem that DNS-over-Https should be disabled because the vast majority of users are not aware of it. I have to work on the question to find out why this does not happen with Chrome based browsers; Know the importance of deactivating this option; Know what is going on for other VPNs. And in the end maybe send a message to Surfshark to find a solution or at least display an informational message about it.

    3. Hadschi Halef said on October 26, 2021 at 8:12 pm
      Reply

      Bruno, you can do better than this. What do you expect ? Immediately stop everything they are doing just to please you ? I am not jumping on you only try to tell you to be a little more patient.

      1. Bruno said on October 27, 2021 at 6:45 pm
        Reply

        Hi,
        First my technical message was deleted, hence my reaction. But now everything is in order in the article, and I have no problem with my messages being deleted.

  7. semce said on October 26, 2021 at 2:48 pm
    Reply

    I too ran the test and show no DNS leak using Surfshark.

    1. Mike Turcotte-McCusker said on October 26, 2021 at 3:12 pm
      Reply

      It was an issue with Firefox DNS over HTTP. The article has been edited.

    2. ULBoom said on October 26, 2021 at 3:52 pm
      Reply

      Mike,
      I’ve never used encrypted DNS with FF or Chromium, mainly since it’s not totally reliable yet and I delete all browsing data on close. I don’t get leaks with either browser using any of the three VPN’s I have. They all support wireguard. Surfshark’s rep is pretty good although I don’t use it.

      Shouldn’t matter, since a system level VPN encrypts everything in both directions, whether data is generated in the browser, OS or any installed programs.

      Does Surfshark support IP v6?

  8. Anonymous said on October 26, 2021 at 3:09 pm
    Reply

    Are they also owned by the israelis??

  9. ULBoom said on October 26, 2021 at 3:36 pm
    Reply

    Re: DNS leak,

    VPN DNS servers may be in another country and may have the same provider as your IPS. Doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a leak, IP’s have to be checked to see what’s going on. Large DNS services such as cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 only get you to cloudflare, the DNS server IP may be different. DNS services often use many servers, routing your requests through a server close to you for speed.

    You could always try the IP Leak (has DNS) here:
    https://browserleaks.com/

    Confusing? Of course, networking’s a gordian knot!

  10. IamGeorgeKim said on October 28, 2021 at 10:26 am
    Reply

    Surfshark no wonder is a great VPN to use. It gives you what you need and that too at an affordable price. I nearly use it for all my needs, but streaming. For streaming I use Ivacy.

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