Surfshark review: A solid VPN newcomer with some nice features Credit: SurfsharkSupplied Art
Software & Web Development

Surfshark review: A solid VPN newcomer with some nice features

Every time you turn around there’s a new VPN service wanting to protect your web browsing. A recent newcomer is Surfshark, which debuted in 2018. Based in the British Virgin Islands, with most of its team scattered around Europe and elsewhere, Surfshark is already offering a fair amount for its fee.

The company has more than 500 servers in 49 country locations. It promises to let you watch Netflix U.S. (as well as France and Japan for that matter), and it has extra features such as multi-hop VPN connections, ad and tracker blocking, and unlimited simultaneous devices. Sounds like a good one, but is the product as good as its stats suggest? Let’s take a look.

Note: This review is part of our best VPNs roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.

surfshark1 IDG

Surfshark for macOS

Security, software, servers, and speed

Surshark uses IKEv2/IPsec as its security protocol. For encryption and authentication it uses the following:

  • Data encryption: 256 bit AES-GCM
  • Data authentication: SHA-512
  • Handshake: Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman 521

The company is based in the British Virgin Islands in Road Town, which is on the Island of Tortola. Surfshark’s CEO goes by the name Par Kaz, and the CTO is Magnus Steinberg.

Surfshark’s macOS app is available via direct download from the company’s site, or via the Mac App Store. For those interested in getting the latest version with all the newest features, direct download from the company’s site is probably best. If you’re more interested in using Apple’s built-in security mechanisms to install apps, stick with the App Store.

When you first open Surfshark you get a very basic two-panel window. On the left is a list of all the various country locations. Click one, and the app connects automatically. To disconnect, click the button on the right panel.

Surfshark’s MultiHop feature is also accessible from the left panel via a tab at the top. MultiHop connects to two different VPN locations before hitting the open internet. There were eight different MultiHop options at this writing.

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Surfshark with an active connection.

Once you’re connected the right-hand panel doesn’t do much—it hosts a Disconnect button and an animated Surfshark logo. When you’re connected the logo turns green, and the panel displays the country you’re connected to and your new IP address. That’s a lot of wasted space if you ask me, but at least it’s easy to navigate.

Select the settings cog in the upper-right of the window to see the app’s options. By default, the internet kill switch is enabled so if the VPN connection unexpectedly drops it cuts internet access to your MacBook. You can also enable the CleanWeb feature for ad and tracker blocking.

Surfshark had some really great speeds in most locations, with the United States, UK, and Germany all registering 20-30Mbps on a connection where the non-VPN base speed was 85-90Mbps. Australia was pretty good with double-digit results, while Japan was weak.

In my tests, I was able to access Netflix using a U.S. VPN connection.

Pricing

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Surfshark’s MultiHop feature.

Surfshark’s best pricing option is its 24-month plan, which comes out to $84 total. The one-year subscription is $72, and the month-to-month price is $12. As is typical for VPN services, the month-to-month plan is overpriced to convince you to commit to a longer term. Its one-year plan is a little on the high side, but not by a whole lot as the norm is about $60—making the two-year plan the best value overall.

Despite its higher annual cost (if you go for a single year), you get quite a lot. The best feature is probably unlimited devices, as most VPN services limit you to five.

Surfshark also guarantees usage with Netflix, and it has a bunch of other extras such as ad and tracker blocking, and multi-hop for those interested in additional obfuscation.

Bottom line

Surfshark is a very good service with enough features to justify its higher cost, and some great speeds. The exotic business location is a bit much for me personally, but I know a lot of users get nervous about VPNs based within the Fourteen Eyes countries. I’d like to see the company add their team bios and company address to the about page, but overall Surfshark is off to a great start.

Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.

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