Surfshark VPN review: Basic protection for all of your devices


Most people want a VPN for security, and power users will want all of their tech protected. That means getting a VPN that can handle multiple phones, laptops, smart TVs, gaming consoles and other tech with an internet connection simultaneously. Out of the nine VPN services we tested, Surfshark came out on top when it came to protecting multiple devices. Here’s a rundown of our experience with Surfshark.

Surfshark VPN pricing and features

Surfshark VPN has three membership tiers: Starter, One and One+. Starter promises a secure VPN, an ad blocker and a pop-up blocker, while the other two tiers layer on additional features. I tested out Surfshark One, so in addition to the perks of the Starter tier, I had access to an antivirus scanner, data-breach monitoring and the option to create an Alternative ID, a beta feature that can create an alias for you. With this, you can have a fake name, home address and email to use when you want to mask your identity on sites that you feel are suspect. On top of all that, Surfshark has its own secure search engine that’s billed as a more private version of Google.

Paying for Surfshark One+, the most expensive tier, guarantees that your data will be removed from search sites and company databases, on top of everything that the One tier gives you. Surfshark One+ costs about $4-5 a month (depending on the sales the company has going on), which is fairly affordable in the VPN world, so it may be worth it to dish out the extra few dollars to go from Starter to One+ for the additional features.

I enjoyed Surfshark One’s features and think most people will be served well by this middle tier. Checking for possible email breaches with Surfshark was a breeze; it took less than 30 seconds to scan my inbox and tell me whether my email had been spotted in a data breach. The antivirus runs had different speeds depending on what device I used: quick scans could take less than five minutes, but would only scan a little over 1,000 files. Full scans could scan over a million files on my MacBook and Google Pixel 7 phone in about 10 minutes.

Surfshark VPN

Surfshark VPN setup and streaming capabilities

Setting up Surfshark was easy on most of my devices: I needed to download the app, sign in and Surfshark automatically connected me to a server close to my current location. If you would like to explore the other servers, that needs to be done manually. For devices like my Fire TV, I was able to enter in a login code from my MacBook and was then automatically signed into my account. With my Pixel 7, MacBook, Fire TV, and work laptop all connected simultaneously, I was able to run four devices seamlessly without any major errors, and I didn’t experience any bandwidth issues after adding additional devices.

I stream a lot of movies and TV shows regularly, so I want to be able to switch from Netflix to Peacock to Max and the like with no interruption and jump into content immediately. It took Surfshark a few tries to keep up with me. Watching the finale of Only Murders in the Building seemed impossible since Hulu wouldn’t load titles at first. On second try, I could play an episode but it took a few minutes of being on the site for thumbnail images to load. After another try, I could finally watch the show on my laptop with no hiccups. 

Things got smoother over time, and I only experienced consistent issues like this with Disney-owned services like Hulu. When it comes to international content, it’s usually easier to access those catalogs with Netflix while on a VPN, but the service was a bit more selective when I used Surfshark. The streamer didn’t catch on when I tried to watch Spy x Family on Japanese Netflix, but it blocked me once I tried to watch Marie Antoinette on Italian Netflix.

Surfshark is also available on smart TVs and game consoles, but features like antivirus sweeps, Alternative ID and Surfshark Alert are not available on those devices. Smart TVs only have the capabilities of the most basic Surfshark tier, with a couple other features like an ad blocker and the option to have some apps bypass the VPN. Gaming consoles are only connected to the VPN through your router or through a virtual router on your PC, so as long as the console is connected to the Wi-Fi, you should be protected. 

Unfortunately, as someone who owns a MacBook and a proprietary Verizon router, protecting my PS5 was a bit more complicated than I anticipated. While Surfshark provides helpful tips to connect its VPN to a proprietary router, doing so can void your warranty or even make it so your router no longer works. With all of those caveats, it almost felt like leaving my console unprotected was the better option.

Surfshark Search

Browsing the web while using Surfshark VPN was a smooth experience, save for the fact that I had to confirm I wasn’t a bot every time I Googled something. To bypass that, you can use Surfshark Search, the only VPN-provided search engine that comes with the One and One+ membership tiers. This feature works on Surfshark’s mobile and desktop apps and isn’t as intuitive as Google, but promises an ad-free and tracking-free search experience.

With Surfshark Search, I wasn’t bombarded with sponsored search results when I looked something up, but I did get more general answers overall. Surfshark’s tool couldn’t give me specific details on an actor when I searched them and I had to go digging for any decent photos. The service tried to anticipate what I wanted to search, but Google’s autocomplete predictions are much more advanced. 

For example, if I wanted to know how old an actor is, Google would give me their age immediately before even completing the search, and put their age and birth date at the top of the search results. Surfshark Search just defaults to the individual’s Wikipedia page. If you care most about privacy and a tracking-free search experience, these are some of the conveniences you’ll have to leave behind. Also, it’s worth noting that Surfshark’s search engine isn’t the only option if you want to search with more privacy; DuckDuckGo has become more widely available in recent years and is free to use.

Surfshark VPN
Surfshark VPN

Surfshark VPN security capabilities

Surfshark passed our basic security tests: there were no DNS, WebRTC or IP leaks while using the VPN. Since Consumer Report’s full VPN report, Surfshark has now implemented multi-factor authentication to their accounts. While it is not something you’re prompted to set up right away, you can still go in and add that to your account. Compared to others like NordVPN, Tunnelbear and ExpressVPN, Surfshark seems to offer similar security and features for a cheaper price.

That said, despite our lack of bandwidth issues across several devices, Surfshark remains one of the slower VPN options compared to Tunnelbear and Bitdefender. Also, if you ever decide to switch VPNs, it’s not super easy to leave Surfshark. Contacting customer service seems to be the only way to have them delete your data or cancel your subscription. With no option to easily cancel your subscription yourself, this feels like a major red flag and something we would not want to deal with ourselves.

Surfshark VPN: Final thoughts

Overall, Surfshark VPN is a solid option when it comes to protection and reliability. However, if you’re going to use it for things like streaming shows, movies and games, this might not be the VPN for you. As an alternative, you might prefer ExpressVPN, which we’ve voted the best for gaming and streaming. For a more multifaceted experience with strong protection and ease of use, we’ve found that ProtonVPN is the most balanced of them all. But if you want a relatively affordable VPN that handles multiple connected devices well, Surfshark is a decent option.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

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