Surfshark VPN Review – IGNJune 19, 2020
Design and Features
Offering apps, plugins, and services for almost every bit of connected hardware you can think to protect, Surfshark supports Linux, Mac OS, and Windows on the desktop; Android and iOS for mobile devices; Xbox and PlayStation video game consoles; and Amazon FireTV and Apple TV for smart TV platforms. The only major bit of hardware omitted from this list is routers, though Surfshark does have a small tutorial on connecting VPNs to routers that may help. Still, the service lets subscribers protect an unlimited amount of devices, which can make it a great value in a highly-connected home.
The main benefit that Surfshark promotes is its ability to rid subscribers of ads, tracking, and other malware online. The British Virgin Islands-based company boasts a “strict no logs policy,” and has been audited by Cure53, which penetration-tested the service in late 2018 and was “highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture.” But it’s also worth noting that this test only covered browser extensions, not Surfshark’s suite of apps, nor access to its back-end.
And that’s a shame because its apps are extremely well designed. Bearing the familiar, big “connect” button, Surfshark makes it easy to get protected online, quickly. Meanwhile, a sidebar on the left side of the app’s window gives users fast access to the company’s more than 1,700 servers across 63-plus countries. While a mess of servers can be overwhelming to choose from, Surfshark makes it easy by offering shortcuts such as “fastest server” and “nearest country,” as well as the ability to star favorite servers to come back to them later.
Using SurfShark’s “fastest server” option, we tested the service’s performance to see if it’s the best VPN for gaming or streaming video through Netflix. Taking an average of the VPN’s download and upload rates in both the afternoon and evening using SpeedOf.Me, we compared the service’s performance to our unprotected internet connection. In addition, we measured the ping response on servers from several popular online multiplayer games – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Fortnite, and League of Legends – by trying them both with and without Surfshark to measure the difference. Finally, we played the games to see if it’s the best VPN for gaming, and streamed Netflix’s action movie Extraction to see how well it worked with a fast-paced flick.
Regardless of the time of day, Surfshark’s speeds and responsiveness were spectacular, ranking it in the top one-third of VPNs we reviewed. On average, our unprotected internet connection had a download rate of around 65mbps, but while using Surfshark, the average speed increased to 107mbps, both in afternoon and evening – a result that we’d caution users to not necessarily expect when signing up for the VPN. There are several reasons that a VPN can improve an internet connection. For instance, the connection’s internet service provider may be throttling the user, or there could be congestion on the network. In both those instances, VPNs can make internet speeds faster. But while measuring Surfshark’s ping response rate on the games’ servers, the VPN didn’t return the same speedy results. On Counter-Strike and Fortnite, Surfshark returned middling results. When testing it on League of Legends, it was the least responsive VPNs we tested. But this poor showing could easily have been remedied by selecting a VPN server that was closer to one of the game’s servers. Because of the massive volume of servers in the VPNs we reviewed in 2020, we did not do this in any of our reviews.
Regardless, playing Counter-Strike while running Surfshark was a pleasant surprise. The game loaded quickly and performed well, letting us run and gun without any detectable hindrance. The only thing holding us back was our teammates. The same held true for League of Legends, where Surfshark’s servers provided zippy responsiveness, despite the poorer-than-expected ping response. Fortnight, meanwhile, was a seamless experience while using Surfshark, with the VPN providing great speed and responsiveness whether we were escaping the storm, piloting a boat, or pumping shells into some poor unsuspecting ghost.
Streaming the action movie Extraction on Netflix while using Surfshark worked as well as you’d expect of a VPN that’s actually making your high-speed internet connection even faster. It queued up the movie in seconds with no discernible buffering, and displayed a crisp image, even in heart-pumping action sequences, suggesting it’s a great VPN for Netflix.
Like most VPNs, Surfshark offers subscribers a variety of pricing options to provide both flexibility and lower costs. For instance, a one-month subscription to Surfshark runs $11.95. A one-year Surfshark subscription costs $71.88 up-front, but that discounted price brings the per-month rate down to $5.99. In a curious bit of math, a two-year Surfshark subscription costs just $67.76, less than the one-year rate. That low price breaks down to $2.79 per month, making it an excellent deal. Each plan offers a 30-day money back guarantee, and Surfshark makes it easy to sign up for its service by accepting payments from digital payment platforms including Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Paypal, in addition to cryptocurrency and, of course, credit cards. In addition, for another $.99 monthly, Surfshark upsells users on its HackLock service which monitors the web to see if their email address has been leaked online, as well as its BlindSearch feature that gives users ad- and log-free searching.