Like many VPNs, Surfshark incentivizes long-term commitments with steep discounts. An annual plan starts at $47.88 and renews the following year for $59.76. A two-year plan costs $59.76 as well but renews at that same price every year after the first two. While that’s a bit confusing, that annual renewal price is still quite a bit less than the $68.03 average for the VPNs we have reviewed. Long-term plans absolutely save you money, but we recommend starting with the shortest possible subscription to make sure the VPN works for you, and only then move to a longer subscription plan if you decide you like the service.
You can purchase a Surfshark subscription using major credit cards, Amazon Pay, PayPal, and a variety of cryptocurrencies. We appreciate that Surfshark allows semi-anonymous payments with cryptocurrencies, but other services such as IVPN—an affordable Editors’ Choice winner noted for its focus on transparency and privacy—and Mullvad go so far as to accept cash payments.
What Do You Get for Your Money?
Surfshark’s real strengths are the rarely seen features it provides. Whitelist, for instance, is a split tunneling tool that lets you decide which apps and websites use the VPN connection. It’s handy because some sites block access from VPNs, so you need to disable it to get to them. Surfshark’s solution is very tidy, going beyond most of the competition.
Another feature that’s often absent is multi-hop, which creates a VPN connection to a server and then bounces your traffic to a second VPN server for even greater security. Surfshark’s multi-hop connections are limited to the premade ones the company supplies, whereas IVPN lets you create a multi-hop connection between any two of its servers.
Many VPN companies offer add-ons to your base subscription. NordVPN and others supply private, static IP addresses, which are useful any time you find your VPN connection blocked. Surfshark does not offer dedicated IP addresses for purchase, but it does allow customers to access static servers for free. Anyone who uses a Surfshark static server shares an IP address with everyone else using the same server.
Surfshark includes several privacy tools that go beyond VPN protection: a custom DNS service called Smart DNS; an ad-blocker branded as CleanWeb; Surfshark Alert, which alerts you if your accounts have been compromised, much like HaveIBeenPwned; and a privacy-respecting search tool called Surfshark Search. Note that both Surfshark Alert and Surfshark Search cost an additional $0.99 per month. It’s a good collection of extras, but not especially impressive given the high price of the core service. Hotspot Shield VPN grants access to several third-party services for free with each subscription.
Surfshark’s VPN Protocols
There are many ways to create a VPN connection. Surfshark offers the OpenVPN protocol in its Android, iOS, Linux, and Windows apps. The excellent IKEv2 protocol is also available on all platforms (except Linux) and is the default for macOS.
We prefer OpenVPN, as its open-source roots mean it has been picked over for potential vulnerabilities. The heir apparent to OpenVPN seems to be WireGuard. Like OpenVPN, WireGuard is open-source, but uses newer technology and is reportedly much faster than other protocols. We were pleased to see that Surfshark deployed WireGuard for its Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows apps in late October 2020.
Surfshark Servers and Server Locations
Having a lot of server locations across the globe to choose from means you’re more likely to find one close to home or wherever you might be traveling, and it provides plenty of options for spoofing your location. Surfshark covers 65 countries with its servers, which is above average. ExpressVPN leads the pack with servers physically located in a whopping 94 countries.
Surfshark provides above-average coverage to South America and Africa, both regions often ignored by other companies. Surfshark also offers servers in countries with repressive internet policies, including China, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. We’d like to see more competitors following Surfshark’s example.
Read More: https://www.pcmag.com/reviews/surfshark-vpn