It doesn't unblock every streaming service, but Surfshark VPN gets almost everything else right
- Unbeatable price
- Good security features
- Static IP and Multi-hop server
- Doesn’t unblock all streaming services
Surfshark is a popular VPN that can protect your privacy and disguise your location. Like all VPNs, it works by forwarding your internet connection through one of the company’s secure servers, which are located all around the world.
The traffic between your device and the Surfshark server is encrypted, so no one can track what sites you’re accessing – not your ISP and not even the police. And remote sites will see your location as that of your chosen server, so you can access video-streaming services and other content that’s not normally accessible in the UK. With more than 3,200 servers operating in 95 countries, you should have no problem finding a server in the region you want.
A monthly subscription to Surfshark VPN costs £10.99, but you can save a lot by making a longer commitment: new customers can get a two-year subscription for £47.76 – equivalent to just £1.99 a month. After that the service renews at the same price for each year, which is still very competitive. To protect your anonymity, you can pay using a wide range of cryptocurrencies, via either CoinGate or CoinPayments, so your Surfshark account is never linked to your bank details or PayPal account.
The service comes with a 30-day refund policy, so you can try it risk-free, and if a friend signs up with your referral code (and sticks around for a month) then you both get an extra month of free service.
All the major desktop and mobile operating systems are supported, with convenient plugins that let you control the VPN from Chrome, Edge and Firefox, plus an app for the Amazon Fire TV Stick. While most VPNs only allow you to connect with a certain number of devices at once, Surfshark has no limit, so you can install it on every device in your home.
Alternatively, you can configure your router to send all internet traffic for your whole home through Surfshark – but you’ll need a router that supports OpenVPN or another secure protocol, as Surfshark doesn’t support L2TP or PTPP connections.
Surfshark VPN review: What’s it like to use?
We tested Surfshark on Windows 11 and Android. On both platforms, the app opens with a handy list of shortcuts to recently used servers.
On Windows, this is accompanied by a big list of server locations worldwide, which you can browse or search to find a suitable exit node. For quicker access, you can create a list of your own favourite servers, and there’s a selection of predefined multi-hop routes to make your activity even harder to trace. Android offers the same list, but you need to tap on the Locations tab at the bottom of the screen to access it.
Unusually, Surfshark offers static IP servers too, in Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US. Whenever you connect to one of these you’ll get the same external IP address, which can help you get around certain access requirements.
Switching to the Features tab lets you configure the CleanWeb and Whitelister options. The former attempts to block adverts, trackers and malware while you’re connected to a Surfshark server, while the latter handles split-tunnelling so that non-sensitive apps don’t have to go through the VPN.
You can enable some optional extras from here too. Surfshark Alert warns you if your personal information has been leaked online, giving you a chance to change your passwords before you get hacked, while Surfshark Search provides a completely private, tracker-free search engine. The two together cost 71p per month.
In all, we’ve no complaints about the Surfshark experience. The app isn’t exactly pretty, but it’s clear and easy to use. If you do hit any problems, you can email the support team directly, open a request on the website, or make use of the 24/7 live chat support that’s offered via the website.
Surfshark VPN review: How fast is it?
Routing all your internet traffic through a VPN server inevitably slows things down, but we found Surfshark pretty speedy.
We first tested the service on a Windows 11 laptop connected to a 200Mbits/sec Virgin fibre line. With the VPN disconnected, the Google Speed Test tool reported a download speed of 209Mbits/sec; after connecting to a server in London, it measured 190Mbits/sec. That’s a performance reduction of 8.7%, which isn’t bad at all. It’s not as impressive as Hotspot Shield or NordVPN, which managed 0.6% and 4.5% respectively, but it’s fast enough that you won’t notice any slowdown in day-to-day use.
Surfshark also coped admirably with a more long-distance connection. The New York server gave us a download speed of 182Mbits/sec, barely any slower than the London connection. That’s a 12.8% performance hit, which is one of the best around – although NordVPN once again nosed ahead with a download speed of 196Mbits/sec.
We also tested Surfshark on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 tablet, connected to the router via Wi-Fi 6. Here the Google Speed Test showed a raw speed of 203Mbits/sec, which fell only to 199Mbits/sec when we connected to a server in London – an excellent result.
And while US connections are always slower on Android, Surfshark gave us a very creditable 112Mbits/sec from the New York. We’ve only seen a handful of VPNs beat this speed, and even the best performance (which came once again from Hotspot Shield) was barely faster at 123Mbits/sec.
This should be enough bandwidth for anything you’re likely to want to do, but for maximum all-round performance, you can use the Whitelister feature mentioned above. On both desktop and mobile clients, this lets you specify apps and sites that should bypass the VPN, to get the full speed of your ISP connection.
Surfshark VPN review: Is it good for video streaming?
Surfshark is more than fast enough to stream video from the US and other parts of the world. A connection speed of 25Mbits/sec is recommended for 4K HDR video, and as we’ve seen, this VPN comfortably exceeds that.
It works pretty well for location spoofing too – on a Windows laptop, at least. After connecting to a server in New York, we were happily able to browse and watch US-only content on Netflix and Disney+, and also to access the US-only Hulu service.
We were also able to watch BBC iPlayer when connected to a UK server, meaning you can use Surfshark to keep up with British programmes while travelling. However, neither BritBox nor Now TV was willing to play ball, so we weren’t able to stream box sets or premium content.
We had even more limited success on Android. The Netflix app sussed that we were using a VPN and insisted on showing us the UK library, even when we were connected to a server in New York; neither Disney Plus nor Hulu would let us in at all. Nor were we able to access BBC iPlayer or BritBox through a UK server – although the Now TV app did work, providing an option for Sky shows and sports.
VPN providers are constantly working to get around problems like these, but at the time of writing other VPNs (such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN) will give you more freedom to watch the services you want from wherever you happen to be.
Surfshark VPN review: Is it secure?
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, which means it’s under no obligation to share user data or other information with authorities in the UK, US or anywhere else. Like most VPNs, it also has a “no-log” policy, so no records are kept of your online activity. The company hasn’t been independently audited like ExpressVPN and NordVPN have, but we’ve no reason to doubt its good faith.
The software has some good security features too. We’ve mentioned the double VPN options, and the Whitelister isn’t just for bypassing the VPN – you can also configure it to ensure that certain apps always go through a secure server. On Android, you can even define specific websites and IP addresses that should only be accessed through the VPN. There’s a kill switch for extra peace of mind, which suspends all internet traffic if your secure connection is lost: it’s switched off by default, but it only takes a click to toggle it on.
On Windows, you can also tell Surfshark to automatically connect as soon as your computer starts up, and remain connected at all times unless you’re connected to a network that you’ve explicitly marked as trusted. This isn’t entirely possible on Android, but you can tell Surfshark to open a VPN session as soon as you open the app, or whenever you change Wi-Fi networks.
Surfshark VPN review: Should you buy it?
Surfshark is a likeable, worry-free VPN. It delivers strong speeds from all over the world and its support for unlimited devices means you don’t need to worry about running out of connections. Since the company is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, we’ve no worries about its ability to protect your privacy either.
There are some caveats. While Surfshark unblocked the most popular video-streaming sites, it didn’t work with all of them. And while it’s cheap for the first two years, the price effectively doubles after that.
For most people, though, Surfshark will do an excellent job at an excellent price – and you can always cancel the service and start a new 24-month subscription when the time comes. That makes it a great choice for anyone seeking a low-cost, can-do VPN.