Surfshark Doesn’t Do Enough to Deserve My Money

Surfshark

$5.99
7.2

Price

7.0/10

Security

8.5/10

Features

7.5/10

Speed

6.5/10

Support

6.5/10

Pros

  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Easy to use interface
  • Decent server network

Cons

  • Slightly overpriced for the value
  • Terrible speeds
  • Support failed me
  • Design is too minimal

Unlimited devices. That was the first thing that caught my attention when I visited Surfshark’s website. The budding VPN service provider makes a good first impression with its fresh looking website, friendly customer support, and, as I already mentioned, support for an unlimited number of devices.

The privacy protection software company only recently launched its iOS app, so naturally, I took it for a test drive to learn more about the service.

Features

Server Network

Surfshark has servers in 50 countries:

  • Surfshark locations tabThe Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, and the United States
  • Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia,Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.
  • Asia-Pacific: Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam
  • Middle East & Africa: Israel, South Africa, and Turkey.

Europe is very well covered, but I can’t say the same for the Middle East, Africa, and, to a certain extent, the Americas. The US is the only country that offers multiple server locations, which consist of Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and New York. China is also a notable miss.

But despite that, Surfshark’s network isn’t bad at all. Evidently, it can not compare to the extensive networks offered by NordVPN or ExpressVPN, but it is on par with most reliable VPN services out there.

We must note that Surfshark does not put any caps on speed, bandwidth, or server switches.

Platforms & Simultaneous Connections

Initially, Surfshark offered Chrome and Firefox browser extensions before launching its native Android app. With the newly launched iOS app, the service extended its coverage to all the major platforms.

I must note though that the native Windows app is still in beta, and there is no native MacOS app yet. Instead, Surfshark for Macs can be set up with either the built-in client or a third party app, depending on the protocol.

Support for Linux is also available, as well as for AsusWRT, DD-WRT, Tomato, Netgear, TP-Link, and Linksys routers.

Surfshark offers support for an unlimited number of devices. You can’t top that offering in this category. Full marks are well deserved here.

Security

Protocols

Depending on which platform you are on, Surfshark could be using one of the following protocols:

OpenVPN, an open source VPN protocol generally regarded as the most secure protocol. And while it isn’t the fastest protocol out there, it very fairly balances its speed performance against the protection it provides.

IKeV2, or Internet Key Exchange version 2, is particularly well suited for mobile devices since it is good at reconnecting following a drop in your connection – think stuttery internet connections, driving through tunnels or in remote areas, or switching between a mobile and wifi connection.

Location & Logs

Surfshark is based and operates out of the British Virgin Islands, or BVI for short. The BVI is one of 14 territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. The good news is that the BVI has no mandatory data retention laws in place. The bad news is that the situation regarding BVI and 14 Eyes – a notorious global surveillance alliance noted for its shady behavior – is a bit hazy though. Despite having their own legal system, BVI’s defense and most foreign affairs are the responsibility of the UK. So while technically outside of the 14 Eyes alliance, its relationship to the UK is a bit concerning.

Surfshark has a no logs policy. It does keep minimal information, consisting of user email addresses and billing information. It clearly states that it does not collect either incoming and outgoing IP addresses, any information about browsing, downloaded or purchased content, or any information about VPN sessions including the servers that you use, the bandwidth you consume, connection timestamps, or network traffic.

Overall, Surfshark’s runs a tight ship when it comes to privacy.

DNS Leak Protection

DNS servers are interlocutors between humans and machines, translating what you type into the address bar into numeric names that the latter understand. Even if you’re traffic is encrypted, a stray DNS request can still pass through your ISP and used to determine the website you are trying to visit.

Once you are connected through Surfshark, your DNS addresses will go to Surfshark’s own DNS servers, preventing leaks that could expose your online activity.

The Interface

A very quick word on the interface. I don’t always write about the interface, at least not enough for it to have its own section in the review unless there is something particularly interesting or unique about it. In this instance though, I feel compelled to do it because of the sheer minimalism of the app is exceptional.

The main tab particularly looks very empty. When I opened the app for the first time, I gazed at it and waited for a few seconds thinking that it hadn’t loaded yet.

Surfshark iOS main tab

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it did feel odd to me. Putting a bit more effort into the design would have been nice, to cater for admittedly ‘shallow’ customers… such as myself. On a serious note, attractive design goes a long way, and Surfshark should know that.

Support

Support was a mixed bag. I used the live chat support feature on the website to inquire about the availability of a free trial period. The response was fast, courteous and friendly, but flagrantly inaccurate. The support representative I spoke with told that if I sign up for the service, I would not be billed until a week later, during which I would be able to cancel my subscription and walk away without needing to be reimbursed.

A few minutes after I created my account, which included entering payment details, I got an email receipt from Surfshark saying that the payment was successful. I checked my PayPal account and, sure enough, it was missing $11.95.

Speed

This is perhaps the most important part of any review. Strong encryption and good design are a must for any VPN service provider, but it is the speed that separates the good VPNs from the really good VPNs. In fact, good speed performance makes up for a lot of glitches if you ask me.

I ran speed tests for servers located in the US (New York), the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and using Surfshark’s ‘Optimal Location’. The latter is Surfshark’s choice of a server that is the closest and has the lowest load to ensure the best performance and speed, but it wouldn’t tell me which server that was, which was a bit frustrating and inexplicable.

The results were miserable. Download and upload speed were respectively reduced by the following percentages:

  • Optimal Location: 47% and 81.6%
  • United States: 69.6% and 60.5%
  • United Kingdom: 35% and 42.7%
  • Germany: 17.9% and 40%
  • France: 49.4% and 33.1%

Price & Final Verdict

Surfshark pricing

Surfshark does not do enough to deserve a $5.99 a month for a 12 months plan. Simple as that. The app is easy to use, it employs the two best protocols, its server network is healthy, its location and logs policy is reassuring (mostly), but it failed to deliver when it came to speed. That’s a deal breaker for me.

But maybe that was my luck, maybe in different parts of the world, with closer and better connections to servers speed wouldn’t be much of an issue. But even if that were the case, for a similar price, you can do a lot better, starting with the VPNs below, take a look:

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