Last update: 12.05.2018
High cost for low functionality. There’s no real reason to invest in SurfEasy VPN!
Many companies want a piece of the ever-growing VPN market. The story we will cover in this SurfEasy VPN review is a testament to that. For a long time, the VPN service belonged to Opera (of Opera browser fame). That changed in November 2017, when American cybersecurity giant Symantec bought the VPN provider.
Why did they do it? Well, by the time the deal happened, SurfEasy was already a Top 50 name on the VPN market. That’s neither great nor terrible – it was a middling project with some positives and a decent foundation for building a strong VPN service. Symantec seems not to have done much with their prized investment, and, as our SurfEasy VPN review will demonstrate, the VPN remains in a similar middling position.
On the security front, SurfEasy provides the bare minimum.
On the security front, SurfEasy provides the bare minimum – AES-256 encryption, basic leak protection, the OpenVPN security protocol. Among the core features missing from this suite is the kill switch, private DNS servers, alternative security protocols, and VPN over the router, with additional security features (Tor over VPN, multihop, etc.) also lacking. This might suffice for some, but many will find it lacking.
To top off the technical security features, the company behind SurfEasy VPN is based in Canada (one of the Five Eyes countries – an intelligence-sharing framework). Despite claims to the contrary, the company also keeps some data on their users, albeit not a lot. When you combine that with statements about handing over your personal information and usage data to law enforcement “where subpoenas, warrants or other legal documents have been provided,” it makes for a worrying situation.
SurfEasy VPN has 1,000+ servers in 28 countries and offers very average speeds that are far from comparable to those of the top VPN services. Additionally, not all of these servers are made available to users who have purchased the “Total” (regular) plan. The same is true for torrents and P2P – this luxury is available only for “Ultra” (premium) users.
You won’t be able to unblock Netflix or many of the other big streaming platforms.
You won’t be able to unblock Netflix or many of the other big streaming platforms using SurfEasy, and it’s not the most reliable for users in China. Finally, the deals ($6.49 a month billed annually for the Ultra version) are far from the best on the market, especially with what you get in return.
All things considered, our SurfEasy VPN review team sees no reason why you would want to buy this. Unless you’re using the free version – which has a 500MB data limit – SurfEasy is not worth it! But don’t trust the summary, read our full SurfEasy VPN review to learn more.
Is SurfEasy VPN safe to use
The answer to the question is SurfEasy VPN safe to use depends on what you’re using it for. SurfEasy offers a basic level of protection – certainly better than the digital equivalent of going commando. By how much? Depends entirely on context: SurfEasy will not earn any praise if you compare it to almost any of the Top 10 VPNs.
The set of SurfEasy security features is quite limited. It offers good encryption (AES-256) and the industry’s favorite protocol (OpenVPN), but not much more than that. Our SurfEasy VPN review team tests show that SurfEasy is not susceptible to the most egregious DNS, IPv6 or WebRTC leaks, but it does have some worrying signs in that department. For one thing, SurfEasy does not have its own private DNS network. Secondly, it hasn’t yet decided how to deal with IPv6 – the VPN neither supports nor blocks it.
SurfEasy VPN doesn’t have a kill switch.
One of the most important VPN features is the kill switch. Basically, it stops all traffic if the user’s VPN connection gets interrupted. Without the kill switch, connection disruptions risk exposing personally-identifiable data to unwanted observers (a.k.a. “the exact thing you’re using a VPN to avoid”). SurfEasy VPN doesn’t have a kill switch. Moreover, you will not find anything extra in the SurfEasy security toolbox.
Many modern VPN providers cover the basics and then go on to offer extra privacy through bonus features. A few examples of this would be multihop (chaining VPN connections), Tor over VPN, etc. While this is not essential, our SurfEasy VPN review guys think that bonus security features can serve to create niche appeal for the VPN – nice to have when the fundamentals aren’t the best.
Although SurfEasy VPN is owned by the US-based Symantec, their company is registered in Canada. Perhaps that’s somewhat of a minor point – although the US is certainly worse, neither jurisdiction is great for privacy. Canada is part of the so-called 5-eyes country group – an extensive intelligence sharing agreement between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK, and the US. The country also has data retention laws and other legal acts that are not the most privacy-friendly.
The SurfEasy network is a No Log network.
You’re thinking “oh, cool!”, only to be viciously disappointed:
SurfEasy may need to collect the following operational data in order to operate our Services.
Aggregate bandwidth usage for billing, network operations, and support. Temporary usage data to assist with debugging a problem with the service.
People forget what the word “no” means.
Then they go on about cookies and analytics technologies, finally ending the paragraph with the following nugget of pure misfortune:
SurfEasy is required to comply with law enforcement where subpoenas, warrants or other legal documents have been provided. We may collect and disclose personal information, including your usage data, to governmental authorities or agencies, including law enforcement agencies, at their request or pursuant to a court order, subpoena or other legal processes, if there is a good faith belief that such collection or disclosure is required by law.
We were not encouraged to find this when writing the SurfEasy VPN review, to say the least…
Speed & Performance
So, there are 1,000+ SurfEasy VPN servers in 28 different countries. That’s not a bad number, but VPN providers with a lot fewer servers have managed to get more out of them. For example, PrivateVPN has around 100 servers (albeit in 56 locations), yet the connection speeds with this lightweight VPN are significantly more impressive than with SurfEasy VPN. Let’s have a look at how well SurfEasy VPN does with various server locations. We did our test from Europe, with a no-VPN speed of 256 Mbps and compared it where applicable with our initial tests from mid-2018.
SurfEasy VPN speed in the US
It all started with an unpleasant surprise — a never before seen “Latency test error” when trying to start Speedtest.net from the New York, US. We tried it a couple more times, but it seemed that finding an optimal server to test our connection proved to be too much. On our second try, the IP assigned to us came with conflicting geolocation data and didn’t do much good either. We were left with our result from the initial test, which was average at best.
SurfEasy Speedtest.net results from mid-2018
SurfEasy VPN performance in France
SurfEasy Speedtest.net results from mid-2018
Having in mind that our test was made from Europe, the results below can only be described as below average. They can be compared only to VPN services with a lot fewer servers. Yet again, SurfEasy is not saying what the number of servers available to the Starter and Total pricing plans is.
SurfEasy Speedtest.net results from late-2018
We were happy to find that Speedtest.net worked with our French IP and allowed us to do the test. French soil was more welcoming, showing 49 Mbps, which is the same result as we got when during the initial test on a much slower connection. Only the threefold increase in upload speed allowed us to remember which screenshot was from which test.
SurfEasy speed and performance in Singapore
SurfEasy Speedtest.net results from mid-2018
Trying to update the results in Singapore left us questioning our geography knowledge after seeing the location SurfEasy connected us to. Jokes aside, it’s not uncommon to route VPN users to certain countries via servers in the US, especially when trying to reach Asia. And for this task you shouldn’t be using SurfEasy – we got the same “Latency test error.” Switching to Japan had no effect whatsoever. That’s where our selection of countries in Asia ended.
Is SurfEasy fast enough for users in the US, Europe, and Asia?
These all are very average results, which we would expect from VPN services with significantly lower server counts. By the way, the figure (1,000 in 28 countries) may mislead some – it‘s what you get with the Ultra plan. The Total option has only 16 countries and an unclear number of servers. Our SurfEasy VPN review crew is sure that information is available somewhere.
This leads us to conclude that even the best fiber-optics will not stop SurfEasy from slowing you down and that virtually nothing has been done to improve the speed and performance over the past six months, at least for Starter and Total plan owners.
How to download and install it
To download SurfEasy VPN, you’ll have to go to their website and create an account using your email. In the process, you will choose a pricing plan and enter your payment details (if applicable). Once you’ve logged into the site, you can select your platform and download the relevant app. SurfEasy has custom apps for Windows, Mac (2 of them, weirdly), iOS, Android, and Amazon Phone. It also offers browser extensions for Chrome and Opera.
Installing SurfEasy is much the same as installing any other piece of software (depending on the platform). If you need help, you’ll find Getting Started guides on their page. Alternatively, you can get in touch with support by submitting a ticket, writing an email or picking up the phone (9am-5pm EST).
How to use SurfEasy VPN
After you’ve installed SurfEasy VPN, the program should run automatically. It will ask you to log into your account and immediately connect you to the most optimal (closest) server. It won’t take you long to notice this is not the most advanced piece of software. When writing SurfEasy VPN review, we were a little impressed with how little you can do using SurfEasy.
The VPN mostly runs in the tray, but you can maximize it. If you do, you’ll be greeted by the Home screen with a map showing your real or spoofed location. Unlike with many other VPNs, you can’t actually use this map to connect – it doesn’t have much of a function. There are a few more buttons on the Home screen:
Ad Tracker Blocking
This will let you toggle between the Home screen and the Ad tracker blocking screen, which shows the number of trackers blocked over a period of time. The feature itself (which you can toggle in Settings) will “intercept the cookie at the HTTP level and remove your identifying information so you can browse the unrestricted web without always being followed and without annoying targeted ads ruining your online experience”.
The Globe button
Lets you choose which country to connect to. For those wondering – you can’t choose a specific city or server.
The On and Off button
Will connect or disconnect from the VPN server. Surprisingly, our connections were created rather quickly and were surprisingly stable.
The Settings button
Clicking the Settings button proves how low on features SurfEasy VPN is. There’s very little room for customization: you can toggle Ad tracker blocking; enable or disable Wifi security features (Wifi protections and warnings), and choose whether to run SurfEasy on startup. That’s pretty much it.
The Wifi protection feature seems a bit misleading because all it does is function as a “connect to VPN upon joining unfamiliar Wifi network” option with the added dubious benefit of sending you warnings about possible insecure Wifi networks in the vicinity.
All in all, our SurfEasy VPN review guys must say they didn’t enjoy the SurfEasy Windows 10 app. For all its simplicity, we still managed to run into some technical issues (which were fixed only by restarting the program). Also, the least that SurfEasy VPN could do is give us a pretty app…
Apps & Extensions
SurfEasy VPN has custom apps for Windows, Mac (2 different versions), iOS, Android, Amazon Phone, and browser extensions for Chrome and Opera. To be honest, instead of two Mac apps we would prefer a Linux or Router app, but what can you do.
The reason for the two different Mac apps is unclear, but it might have something to do with SurfEasy wanting to try a new design. We must say it looks a lot better than the white-background older look. That’s not the only difference though:
- You can download the first app from the SurfEasy website, whereas the second is only available on the Mac App Store.
- The website app runs on OpenVPN, and the App Store app runs on IPSec.
Usually, VPN service providers will specify what type of IPSec their app uses. Most likely it’s either L2TP/IPSec or IKEv2/IPSec. In this case, it’s unclear, so we are skeptical about the security of this Mac app, especially since the last update to 1.0.2 version was July 2018.
SurfEasyVPN Android and iOS are nothing much to write about. It might make more sense to use SurfEasy on Android because you might be able to offset the lack of a kill switch by using the Android native Always-on VPN app.
SurfEasy VPN for Netflix
Not the best choice out there! SurfEasy VPN has been moving in and out of favor with Netflix over the past year. It was blocked, unblocked, then blocked again.
SurfEasy issues with Netflix in Canada and the US
We tried watching Netflix while connected to SurfEasy servers in the US and Canada, but couldn’t even get the website loaded. While this VPN has demonstrated an ability to get us new IPs and bypass geo-blocking, its success hasn’t been very consistent, to put it mildly.
SurfEasy VPN and Netflix in Asia and Oceania
We were able to launch the Australian Netflix version and at least get the infamous “Whoops… I geo-blocked it again” screen. Even if it worked, less than 4 Mbps would not even allow HD streaming.
SurfEasy teased us by allowing to enter the Netflix Japan library. And then it displeased us by turning off the show in front of our nose. Seeing the 20 Mbps speed test result from fast.com, which is almost enough for Ultra HD, put the final nail in the coffin.
Watching European Netflix with SurfEasy
Getting back to Europe, the UK greeted us with open arms and… a working Netflix library! The speed was excellent, easily enough for Ultra HD. Streaming went smoothly, without stuttering. Skipping parts of the show took less than a couple of seconds, without any “Loading…” circles.
Afterward, we’ve tested the Netherlands, to no avail. The speed also went down a bit.
Going deeper into the continent, Germany has opened its Netflix treasure chest, with SurfEasy allowing to jump into it at 30 Mbps, still allowing Ultra HD quality.
Is SurfEasy VPN good for Netflix?
In short, while the UK and Germany libraries worked, there are way better VPN choices for Netflix out there, especially for users in the Americas or Asia.
As a side note, we had no issues using SurfEasy VPN to watch BBC iPlayer during our initial test but failed to stream any content this time. It comes with no surprise as BBC iPlayer is quite a notorious platform in terms of blocking.
Perhaps SurfEasy is good for some other content platforms, but frankly, even if it was, we would still not recommend this VPN for streaming by any means.
SurfEasy VPN for Torrenting
When writing this SurfEasy VPN review, we’ve discovered that using SurfEasy VPN for torrenting is a terrible idea! For one thing, torrenting and P2P is blocked with both the Starter and the Total subscription – it’s only available if you buy the Ultra version. Furthermore, they have the audacity of presenting this as some awesome torrent protection feature: if you pay the absurd Ultra VPN price, then they will even protect your torrent traffic! Of course what SurfEasy mean to say is they will unblock P2P traffic – a VPN protects all traffic by default!
Even if you disregard this marketing pearl, would you really want to use torrents without a kill switch (and with a pretty bad connection)? If so, you’re a braver person than we are.
Is it good for users in China?
People living under repressive governments might be interested in having a higher level of security than SurfEasy VPN provides.
Honest answer? We’re not sure if it even works over there, but we wouldn’t put our money on it. SurfEasy has not demonstrated a high level of quality in other areas, and we see no reason why it would be good for China. Additionally, people living under repressive governments might be interested in having a higher level of security than SurfEasy VPN provides.
Our SurfEasy VPN review has found that it exists. There are self-help resources, support email, and a ticketing system. Also, there’s a live chat that is not active 24/7 and the EST oriented times won’t be convenient for those outside the Americas. In general, we hated the SurfEasy website – information is not easy to find, and when you do find it, often it lacks clarity. The same goes for guides and FAQs – some of the most basic topics seem to be missing from them.
There are 3 SurfEasy VPN pricing plans – Starter, Total, and Ultra. Each offers different levels of service, and you can pay for each on a monthly or yearly basis (the latter option is somewhat cheaper). The payment options include credit cards and PayPal.
Here are the monthly prices:
And here are the annual prices:
These prices would be decent (not “great”) if the product merited it. In this case, the cost is nothing short of ridiculous. The only positive? There is a 7-day money-back guarantee, so there’s at least some time to reconsider! Buy Private Internet Access (PIA) if you want a cheaper VPN service. Better yet, get NordVPN or ExpressVPN – those two can do everything SurfEasy can’t, and the yearly subscription costs about the same.
The free Starter version of SurfEasy has a brutal limit of 500 MB – there are way better free VPNs on the market.
One final point we’re obliged to stress in this SurfEasy VPN review is the five device limit. The majority of VPNs have the so-called device limits, but these usually refer to the number of devices that can be connected to a VPN server simultaneously. In this case, the limit refers to the number of devices you can install the app on. That’s a lot worse than the simultaneous connection limit.
The conclusion of the SurfEasy VPN review
This is the VPN equivalent of buying a plain white Kanye West t-shirt for $120. There is absolutely no reason why you should ever buy this super limited SurfEasy tool – not even if you’re the CEO’s mother. SurfEasy VPN is weak, doesn’t strike us as particularly trustworthy, and has a plethora of issues you can avoid simply by putting your money elsewhere.