SurfEasy VPN Review Overview
- Military-grade encryption
- Works with Netflix sometimes
- Live chat
- Very slow speeds, no kill switch
In our review of Norton Secure VPN, we mentioned a company called Symantec (who owns Norton). Today, we’re reviewing another of Symantec’s offerings – the SurfEasy VPN.
SurfEasy has been around a lot longer than Norton Secure VPN, but they allegedly share backend infrastructure for data storage and processing. Norton’s support didn’t exactly deny this, but they did say staff is able to access their client’s data on Norton Secure VPN.
We weren’t very impressed with Norton Secure VPN and would even go as far as rethinking recommending any Symantec product or service.
With that said, SurfEasy might be an exception. Let’s find out.
How SurfEasy Compare to the Competition
In the table below, compare SurfEasy to some of the top VPNs in the industry. Add or remove providers you wish to compare using the drop-down box below.
Take a look at How We Rate VPN Providers!
Not a Good Location
Of course, straight off the bat, SurfEasy loses points for its location.
Like Symantec, the VPN is based in Toronto, Canada. And Canada is one of the 5 Eyes jurisdictions, so any personal data gathered will likely be shared with the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand at the very least.
Still, we occasionally make exceptions to our rule about avoiding VPN providers based in 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes countries, though this is highly dependent on the provider’s logging policy.
They Log – and Share – an Awful Lot of Data
If you read our aforementioned Norton Secure VPN Review, you’ll recognize the above heading.
Here’s a quick summary of what that Global Privacy Statement collects:
- Symantec and their subsidiaries (including SurfEasy) collect your contact details, including “your name, mailing address, email address and phone number”
- Your “shipping and billing data, including credit card details and payment data” and full transaction history [let it be known reliable VPN providers delete your payment details permanently once they no longer need to keep it for fraud prevention and/or issuing refunds]
- Personally identifiable metadata regarding your device type, IP address, your internet connection , data usage, and browser type and settings
- Symantec and their subsidiaries (including SurfEasy) “Share your data with partners for sales conversions and lead generation” and law enforcement/the government if asked to
Granted, they also say the IP addresses (destination and originating) are recorded as part of “a real-time process, and no log data is maintained.”
But, in a word, we call it dodgy. We absolutely do not trust SurfEasy with our personal data precisely because we don’t trust Symantec with that information.
Bank-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
SurfEasy’s features page only mentions “bank-grade encryption,” which is a little ambiguous. Still, we know it should mean they’re using 256-bit AES VPN encryption – but are they?
We did some digging around and the only information found to support this assumption was from a FAQ relating to the Mac app. There’s nothing anywhere to suggest the other apps also use 256-bit AES, so we tried using their advertised live chat (9am to 5pm EST only).
We didn’t get a response the first couple times, but eventually we got through after a 5-minute wait:
While we had Arun’s attention, we also asked what kind of VPN protocols are used, as we couldn’t find anything anywhere on their website to help with this either. We already installed SurfEasy on our Windows PC and Android phone, but wanted to confirm a few suspicions.
Well, the good news is SurfEasy uses OpenVPN by default for Windows and Android.
Mac uses IPSec by default, but can also switch to OpenVPN. iOS is stuck with IKEv2, but this is because iOS doesn’t like working with OpenVPN.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to manually change which VPN protocol is used. Arun wasn’t able to tell us whether OpenVPN automatically chooses TCP or UDP, or if the app would switch to IPSec if our device was having issues with OpenVPN.
All he said was OpenVPN should work because it’s the default – and if it isn’t, we’d need to reinstall the app.
This was not good news, to be honest.
No Kill Switch or Split Tunneling – What About DNS Leak Protection?
We’re very disappointed to confirm SurfEasy doesn’t have any kill switch feature.
After we explained what a kill switch is, Arun from support told us they weren’t planning on introducing the (very important) security feature any time soon, but didn’t tell us why. Instead, he just insisted it shouldn’t be necessary because SurfEasy has a 99.9% uptime record.
This means if your device stops communicating with the VPN server for even a split second, there’s nothing to stop your private information from leaking until the connection is regained.
There isn’t any split tunneling feature either, unfortunately. This isn’t such a big deal – we consider it a nice-to-have rather than an absolute necessity.
On the plus side, we didn’t experience any drops while testing SurfEasy, nor did we find any IP or DNS leaks. So even though the provider doesn’t advertise having any sort of DNS leak protection, it does seem they have something in place that works.
No Double VPN/Multi-Hop Feature, But You Can Use TOR
We like seeing a Double VPN/Multi-Hop feature. It boosts your security by connecting to a second VPN server via the first – which means your encryption level is doubled and it becomes twice as hard for websites to determine your physical location.
SurfEasy doesn’t have this feature (Arun from support didn’t know what it was, so no hopes of it being included in an update either). But it’s another nice-to-have in our books… unless you’re somewhere with draconian censorship laws, like the UAE or China.
You can sort of mimic the effect by using the free proxy browser, The Onion Router (TOR). However, there are a few caveats.
First, TOR’s encryption levels are very low, so we strongly recommend using it with a VPN rather than alone. Second, doing so will negatively affect your connection speed by quite a lot. TOR can often slow your internet speed even by itself (it reroutes your connection via 3 remote, typically randomly chosen servers), but it’s always a definite result of using the TOR-over-VPN method.
The good news is if speed isn’t a priority for you, it’s entirely possible to use TOR with SurfEasy. Just make sure you connect to a VPN server before opening your TOR browser and do whatever you usually do to keep yourself in a state of infinite, zen-like patience.
How Big is the Server Network?
Apparently, SurfEasy doesn’t want anyone to know how many servers they actually have.
On their home page, they claim to have “over 1,500 servers in 30 different countries.” Their features page says they only have 500 in 28 countries. And their VPN regions page suggests they have “over 1,000 servers in 28 different countries.”
Based on what we saw in the Windows app, they do have servers in 30 countries. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they also have over 1,500 servers.
We’re going to stick with an estimate of 1,000-1,500 servers, as it’s the average number given in their claims.
1,000-1,500 servers isn’t a bad number provided the network load is decent. But 30 countries is somewhat limiting, considering the best overall VPN providers offer as many as 60.
According to user reviews, SurfEasy is notorious for having slow speeds.
There’s a lot that goes into determining how fast your speed will be while connected to a VPN – the distance between yourself and the VPN server, for example. Network overload is another big one.
In fact, there are so many different factors affecting VPN server speed that it’s next to impossible to create a true standard test. We do our best by always using the same devices, server locations, and internet connection, as well as multiple tests over the course of a day.
Just bear in mind your results might be slightly different than ours. But here’s our ballpark experience for reference:
Unfortunately, SurfEasy had below average server speeds.
Device Compatibility and Connections
SurfEasy doesn’t do too well on their device compatibility either.
These are the only options:
- Mac (apparently the version on their website is slightly better than the one found in the Apple Store)
There used to be a browser extension available for Google Chrome and the Opera browser (Opera used to own SurfEasy until Symantec took over), but it’s no longer available. All we know is SurfEasy no longer supports the extension.
If you try to find out more by following the link on the announcement page, you just get taken on a loop back to the same page.
Linux users and anyone hoping to protect their router are out of luck, unfortunately.
On the plus side, you still get up to 5 simultaneous connections with a SurfEasy subscription. The industry standard is about 6, but 5 is close enough that it’s not worth complaining about (there’s more than enough to complain about as is).
Subscription Plans and Pricing
This is where things get interesting.
Not so long ago, SurfEasy had 3 pricing tiers (plus annual discounts):
- Starter – FREE (500mb limit)
- Total Monthly – $4.99
- Total Yearly – $47.88
- Ultra Monthly – $11.99
- Ultra Yearly – $77.88
But now, there’s only one subscription plan available:
We thought there might be some sort of error happening here, so we opened another chat and crossed our fingers for a response.
To our delight, we only had to wait 2 minutes this time. We got Arun again and he told us there was no error – SurfEasy really is offering their old Ultra package at $1.99/month, with no other options (including annual savings – which, to be fair, makes sense).
Still, we have to ask whether SurfEasy is worth paying even a measly $1.99/month for – and why they dropped their other plans and lowered their cost in the first place.
Netflix Streaming Works… Sometimes
Streaming Netflix is a major reason why most people want a VPN. If you’re traveling, for example, you need one to access your local Netflix region – otherwise you won’t be able to watch the same shows and movies.
The streaming giant has one of the most robust proxy detection systems in place, which helps them block VPN server IP addresses. This is why some VPNs don’t unblock Netflix at all – and others, like SurfEasy, only do so sometimes.
We tried all the usual regions and got mixed results. US servers worked most of the time, but we kept getting connection time out errors while trying to access the UK version of Netflix (or BBC iPlayer, for that matter).
If Netflix is a priority for you, we suggest going with one of the Best Netflix VPNs instead.
The FAQ section isn’t much use here. All we could find were outdated articles saying you need to use the Torrent Optimized server, which was only available through an Ultra subscription (and is now available by default). It also suggests the Mac App Store version doesn’t allow torrenting, so if you’re a Mac user, you need to use the Native App from SurfEasy’s website.
All told, we wouldn’t trust SurfEasy as a VPN for torrenting, whether you’re using a P2P connection for legal purposes or not. Take a look at our suggestions on the Best Torrenting VPNs for a safer option.
Usability and Support
When it comes to usability…where to begin?
After first installing the app, we struggled to open it. Every time, it would shut without any warning. After restarting our device, we were able to open it…but the clunky-ness of the app was very off-putting.
The app, while compact, was overly simple.
There were very little settings, no option to switch protocols, and overall the app was really buggy (and impossible to use if you have a high-contrast background on Windows).
Moving on, being told we need to reinstall the app if OpenVPN gave any trouble was also frustrating.
Support is a bit lackluster. The entirety of the FAQ section is outdated (as is the Features page). And, as already mentioned, getting a support agent on the live chat isn’t guaranteed even during their office hours.
As friendly as Arun was (we never dealt with another support agent), he wasn’t very knowledgeable. We had to explain basic VPN features like the kill switch to him and he had no idea what TOR was either:
How to Cancel SurfEasy VPN and Get Your Money Back
All-in-all, we don’t recommend SurfEasy as a VPN.
If you’ve been using it and are still eligible for their 14-day money-back guarantee (buried in the Terms of Service), here’s what to do:
- Contact the SurfEasy customer support team and ask to be refunded
So long as you made the purchase within the last 14 days, you’ll be refunded and your account will be cancelled. We suggest asking them outright to cancel your account too – there’s nothing concrete as to whether the subscription is automatically renewed or not.