Last update: 07.30.2018
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 features missing from this suite is the kill switch, private DNS servers, alternative security protocols, VPN over the router, additional security features (Tor over VPN, multihop, etc.). 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 5-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 teams 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
It depends 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 in the event that 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 guyst 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:
These 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.
How to download and install it
In order to get to the SurfEasy VPN download, first, 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 choose your platform and download the relevant app. SurfEasy has custom apps for Windows, Mac (2 of them, weirdly), iOS, Android, Amazon Phone, and browser extensions for Chrome/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.
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/server.
The On/Off button
Will connect/disconnect from the VPN server. Surprisingly, our connections were created rather quickly and were surprisingly stable.
The Settings button
… Will prove 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.
Having two Mac apps is kind of a strange decision – let’s start there. The reason for the two different 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 Appstore 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.
SurfEasyVPN Android and iOS are nothing much to write about. As a matter of fact, 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. We tried watching Netflix while connected to a SurfEasy US server and couldn’t. While they have demonstrated an ability to get new IPs and bypass the geo-blocking, their success hasn’t been very consistent. In short, there are better choices out there!
As a side note, we had no issues using SurfEasy VPN to watch BBC iPlayer – quite a notorious platform in terms of blocking. Perhaps it’s good for some other streaming services as well.
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 and a ticketing system. Also, there is a live chat, but it’s not active 24/7 and the times won’t be convenient for everyone. 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). 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 – it can do everything SurfEasy can’t, and the yearly subscription actually costs less.
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 5 device limit. The majority of VPNs have “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.
Conclusion of the SurfEasy VPN review
This is the VPN equivalent of buying a plain white Kanye West t-shirt for $120 bucks. There is absolutely no reason why you should ever buy this super limited 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!