Surfshark is a new player in the world of VPNs that is starting to gain popularity compared to some big players in the market. However, it has some powerful arguments to get noticed.
Who is Surfshark?
Surfshark is a relatively new VPN service in its field since it was launched in 2018, already a few years after the behemoths of the genre. Right from the start, the VPN impresses with its availability on most platforms on the market, whether on mobile, PC or even on connected TVs. Surfshark also stood out by having a security audit carried out by Cure53, an independent firm specializing in cybersecurity, in its first year of existence.
The following year, Surfshark launched another application called Trust DNS, an alternative to the initial product that made it very easy to secure your connection for free, but without the advantages of VPN. The company then launched its own antivirus and its database tracing system called Alert, allowing users to be warned in the event of a personal data leak.
Surfshark is also one of the first VPNs to use servers running at 100% RAM, which is a strict guarantee that no data is kept from its users, the rare data stored being ephemeral.
Surfshark: A somewhat messy (desktop) interface
The interface is perhaps still the point on which Surfshark still has a lot of progress to make: the homogeneity of its applications. The experience is very different depending on the medium, whether on Windows, mobile, Mac, Linux or connected TV. On Windows and mobile, the apps are very similar in design. A blue button to connect, tabs to choose a server location, a “Features” tab for basic options and “Settings” for advanced options. The interface is certainly a bit austere, but at least it is fully translated into French.
The ergonomics aren’t fantastic either. We grope a little at the beginning to know how to navigate the menus and the different types of servers. The titles of the server types are very vague (Positions, Static IP and Multihop), even if pop-ups explain what they consist of. Truth be told, Surfshark has its own vocabulary for designating features common to all VPNs. Split tunneling is present, but here takes the name of “Whitelister”, logical, but still disturbing when you know the usual terms used by many VPNs.
“Multihop” type servers allow the connection to pass through two different servers, and thus double encrypt its connection. Be careful though: the quality of the connection in the latter case is greatly reduced. Finally, the “Kill Switch” can also be activated and we have not noticed any malfunction on its part leading to a connection cut.
The Windows application is by far the most complete, but also the least successful from a design point of view. The reason: windows that are too small and an overall lack of visibility. However, it includes everything you would expect from a good application: server speedtests, a dark mode (thanks!), an adblocker and many connection protocols (IKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks and Wireguard). However, you have to dig into the advanced settings to see the color, we would have liked a simpler choice, especially before connecting to a server. If OpenVPN is selected, it automatically activates a camouflage mode allowing you to be clean from your ISP who cannot see that you are using a VPN, a feature that is not necessarily present with other VPNs.
On mobile, even if we regret the absence of the speedtest or the “NoBorder” function ensuring access to special servers allowing the Internet blockages imposed in certain countries to be circumvented, we note that efforts have been made to make everything complementary to the desktop application. We even gain a very practical option called “Replace GPS position”, which matches the GPS position of the phone with that of the server to which you are connected.
Surfshark: Decent performance with Wiregard
In terms of number of servers, Surfshark is in the middle of its competitors with 3500 active servers worldwide. Servers distributed in 65 different countries. However, it covers a good part of the world territory and some cities have different localities. Here is the result of our tests carried out on the NPerf site via a 1 Gb/s fiber home connection:
DOWNLOAD (Mb/S)UPLOAD (Mb/S)PING SANS VPN8853372 FRENCH SERVER (AUTO)30094 US SERVER (NEW YORK)183781 US SERVER (LOS ANGELES)275161 JAPANESE SERVER1534245 HONG KONG SERVER 2445286 SOUTH AFRICAN SERVER 2446178
Whether on mobile or PC, tests show that Surfshark is far from being the best performing VPN on the market. In fact, even if the download speed is sufficient for streaming, it can be a bit low for P2P downloading or for others requiring a significant speed. But what weighs down the results the most are the upload speeds, which do not exceed 10 Mb/s, regardless of the server. This is clearly something Surfshark should improve on. However, we did not detect any DNS leaks, regardless of the server in which we connected.
To go further in the tests, we decided to switch to Wireguard – a more efficient and secure open source protocol –, rather than the IKEv2 protocol assigned by default to try to detect a difference. And clearly, the results are much better:
Test performed with the default protocol (IKEv2)
Test performed with Wireguard protocol
So remember to select the Wireguard protocol in the advanced options before using Surfshark, this will have a significant impact on your experience.
It is possible to change the connection protocol from the advanced settings
Surfshark’s server list does not include specialized streaming or download servers. But the American servers allow you to bypass the geoblocks of the main SVOD platforms. However, once the server was chosen, no problem, we were able to connect to all VOD platforms (Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus) and watch exclusive US content in the best possible quality. All the same, plan for a slightly longer buffering than if you were in France. The same goes for IPTV platforms from abroad that work without worries.
Watching US-exclusive series is hassle-free. Here the series “Broadchurch” on Netflix
Surfshark is also one of the most secure VPNs for bypassing geoblocks from authoritarian countries, such as China for example. The “NoBorder” function coupled with the Shadowsocks protocol makes it possible to circumvent the censorship linked to the great Chinese Firewall, and thus provide access to services unavailable on site such as Facebook, Instagram or even Google. This feature is available on both PC and Android.
Surfshark: a Safe VPN
Surfshark claims to keep no trace of the passage of its users on its servers. The only information it collects about them is their email address (to contact its users or help with problems) and billing information. The company has its locality on its side since it is based on the British Virgin Islands and the policy there does not oblige to keep the logs of its users.
However, unlike other VPN brands, Surfshark has not audited its infrastructure. It does indicate that it has carried out an independent audit of its Chrome and Firefox extensions via the Cure53 Company, but it still lacks that of PC and mobile applications and from other platforms. Still, this does not prove that Surfshark does not keep any data. So you have to take him at his word.
How good is Surfshark’s customer service?
Customer service is obviously part of the Surfshark ecosystem. This is easily accessible from the desktop or mobile application via the “help” section. You then have direct access to the Help Center and a multitude of tutorials allowing you to better configure or better understand certain VPN features. However, this documentation is only in English.
If no answer comes to your questions, you can go to the online chat from the customer area. An easily accessible after-sales service using an automatic translation tool – quite effective – for French. The answers we received on our connection problems were precise, convincing, and the exchange very cordial.
This is undoubtedly the strong argument of Surfshark. the two-year subscription is one of the cheapest on the market, especially against NordVPN and CyberghostVPN. Also note that Surfshark is currently the only VPN provider to offer an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. You can therefore share your subscription with a very large number of people. In any case, if the service is not satisfactory, the first 30 days are fully refunded.
Surfshark does not stop at the VPN either, since it offers an additional subscription called SurfShack One (+1.49 euro per month) giving access to an antivirus, a personal data leak alert tool (email address, number credit card) as well as an in-house search engine.