Pricing & Plans
SurfEasy has three pricing options. You may sign up for one year, six months, or a single month at a time with discount benefits available to longer subscriptions. A hassle-free 7-day money-back guarantee is available, allowing you to try the service with the peace of mind that you can get a refund should you ultimately decide that SurfEasy is not for you. If you’re set on a full year, it makes sense to grab the discount. However, if you don’t want to commit to such a long period of time, there are shorter options available that are still reasonably priced.
You may pay using Visa or MasterCard, or through PayPal. Sadly, it seems as though SurfEasy do not currently offer the option to pay with Bitcoins. Prices aren’t the cheapest month-to-month, but overall in line with some of the more expensive VPN providers out there.
SurfEasy also has a Private Desktop Browser which uses a physical USB key. We’ll be delving much further into this offering in the ‘Other Services’ section further below. Before that, take a look at a short video explaining SurfEasy’s VPN service, and keep reading for a breakdown of SurfEasy’s features.
- Cohesive design
- P2P allowed
- Private browser USB
- 7-day money-back guarantee
- Easy setup
- Some logging
SurfEasy made a quick and handy video explaining how their VPN service works.
SurfEasy is based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, under the umbrella of famous web-browser software developer Opera. This means that all operational activity is under Canadian jurisdiction, and potentially subject to pesky ‘5 Eyes‘ surveillance gathering and information sharing among governmental agencies (though that isn’t necessarily the case). Due to a recent update to their services, a brand new no-logs policy, P2P, and filesharing are now available.
There are currently servers in 13 countries: USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Australia, and Singapore. Future updates would ideally include some more representation in Africa, as well as additional servers in South America. However, their current server coverage is relatively inclusive and shouldn’t pose too much of a speed hit, geographically-speaking.
Meanwhile, SurfEasy offers up to a whopping five simultaneous connections, meaning you can easily link up a laptop, desktop, smartphone, tablet, and gaming system while still having an open slot for a spouse. For reference, most providers offer no more than three at a time, so it’s surely a perk for gadget-heavy users.
It is certainly pleasing to see SurfEasy’s partnership with online freedom activists, EFF (who we also unabashedly support), as the association shows a genuine company concern for privacy and security – particularly when those matters relate to frequently ignorant, misinformed, or voiceless laypeople.
Security & Privacy
SurfEasy is far from a slouch when it comes to security, as you’d rightfully expect from a quality VPN provider. The VPNs for Windows, Mac, and Android platforms run on the OpenVPN protocol (256 bit) while VPN for iOS devices uses IPsec (128 bit).
While SurfEasy says they don’t keep anything other than bandwidth usage logs (aggregated, not user-specific), individual usage logging may be activated to help with support cases related to single users. How does that affect me, you may well ask?
It was interesting to see that speed caps could theoretically be changing any particular user’s service, without said user (or anyone else, for that matter) being informed. As to what exactly constitutes heavy or otherwise abnormal usage – that’s up for speculation. However, SurfEasy has responded that this is ‘legalese’ intended to protect them from backlash for shutting down the accounts of those who who deserved it. For example, in the case of running servers through their service – therefore violating other usage terms as far as license sharing. Shared IP addresses are used as an additional barrier to outside intrusion.
On that note, they don’t store or record any information, so even if authorities requested it there would be nothing to hand over. It was reassuring to hear that SurfEasy only included these provisions in their policy so that they wouldn’t face legal issues.
Another plus? SurfEasy happily allow and encourage torrenting using their service.
SurfEasy’s design team haven’t slacked when it comes to their website. It’s stylish and easy to navigate using the main categories in the top masthead. Links aren’t hidden behind link-chains to sucker you into staying on the site longer, but rather laid out with accessibility in mind.
SurfEasy runs an in-house blog on its site, with useful privacy tips and updates to the service. Posts are on average bi-weekly, and I found them to be highly relevant to both users and to developments across the privacy and web-security industries.
Knowledgebase setup guides are plentiful and well-detailed, as are the troubleshooting and FAQ areas. You may also contact support by phone during working hours, though I admittedly did not test this feature due to simple roaming cost-avoidance (international calls aren’t the easiest mode of communication these days, after all).
Meanwhile, support ticket responses took no more than 24 hours to hear back by email. So far, so good – though LiveChat isn’t 24/7.
However, I used support without being logged in and before registering and responses took close to a week. That said, the CEO responded himself, and apologized for being away from the office and unplugged for the better part of that timespan. His responses were more than adequate and warmly courteous, as were the support agents, which is a major plus in an industry where brusque replies aren’t too uncommon.
Also worth noting is the high level of usability you get just from browsing through the Knowledgebase. It isn’t some slapdash mix of semi-useful information, but rather a pre-planned, logical pool for both service- and technology-related questions.
Signing up to SurfEasy is quite simple. It will take a few seconds max to enter your email and choose a password. You then pay using a credit card or PayPal, receive an introductory email about the service (with links to download the client, or to navigate to the relevant download section on the website), and setup the client. For me, the entire process took no more than 10 minutes.
The SurfEasy Windows VPN client
Getting a handle on SurfEasy’s bespoke Windows VPN client was far from problematic, as the appearance and function were both relatively standard. You select your region in the relevant menu above, or by clicking on the flag (they bring the same server options). There’s also Ad-Tracking to let you know if websites are trying to siphon information from your browsing session.
A killswitch is included in case your connection should ever fluctuate or drop, so as not to leave your actual IP exposed, stunting the VPN’s effectiveness. To enable this feature, all you have to do is click the checkmark toggle.
Connecting to a particular server took somewhere between 10 seconds and a minute, and averaged out somewhere in between the two, with servers located further away understandably taking a bit longer than their closer counterparts. It’s also great to see SurfEasy shutdown fully when you select the quit option by right-clicking on the icon in your taskbar, as opposed to other VPNs which often sneakily continue to run in the background.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)
Speed tests were interesting in that they were noticeably lower than the baseline average, but the corresponding performance drop was nowhere near as harsh as you might expect. One reason might be geographical proximity – another might be the amount of service updates taking place during the timeframe in which this review came together. Regardless, UK and DE VPN download speeds averaged in the 4 Mbps range, which should be enough for all but the highest bitrate HD video files, and heavy downloading or gaming purposes.
|Graphs show highest, lowest and average speeds for each server and location. See our full speed test explanation for more detail.|
It’s always excellent to see a VPN provider upholding its end of the deal when it comes to DNS leakage. SurfEasy suffered from no IP leaks of any sort. You may use ipleak.net to check for ‘simple’ DNS leaks, or WebRTC bugs, or head to test-IPv6.com to make sure you aren’t comprised from that angle. It may seem like slight overkill, but doileak.com is another option (somewhat amalgamating the prior two) to check your connection chain is in proper order, and you’re getting the attendant results you paid for.
Other Platforms & SurfEasy Private Browser
SurfEasy has illustrated and informative setup guides for most platforms, as shown in the images above, though Linux users are currently out in the cold.
Wallet-Sized Mobile Browsing!
One of the most novel and enjoyable products you might ever come across in the security arena may well be the SurfEasy Private Browser, which comes in the form of a micro-USB with clip-in, credit card sized, wallet holder. This review-within-a-review portion concerns the optional, one-time purchase of a custom SSL encrypted, mobile Firefox browser contained within a USB stick/wallet holder. Confused? Read on for clarity.
Pricing & Plans
SurfEasy’s Private browser is $69.99 (not including shipping), and should take around a week to 10 days for folks living in the US or Canada while international orders may take up to 20 days. Though the price may initially come off as prohibitive to many, we’ll explore how it pays for itself with a moderate amount of usage over – possibly even a year’s – time. Keep in mind it’s a one-off lifetime purchase of the Private Browser for the price listed above.
Users hailing from the US or Canada may purchase the USB from tech retailers like BestBuy in person for improved anonymity.
SurfEasy also made a short video explaining the Private Browser.
The Private Browser is a USB stick loaded with Firefox altered to run with an SSL proxy on top, layering the web browser with some useful encryption. It’s definitely possible to set something similar up on your own – provided you have some technical knowledge or experience beforehand – though you’d be facing server load and latency issues and your help options might amount to ‘phone-a-friend’.
Even better, you don’t need admin privilege on a laptop or PC to run the browser, nor does it leave a trace behind metadata-wise – just plug and play securely. College students using lab or library computers, IT specialists, and those who need pocket-sized protection are among the most distinct groups that realistically would use the USB enough to quickly pay for itself.
Security & Privacy
The Private Browser USB comes with a 256-bit SSL encryption, in addition to a Secure Search area, a way to reject websites requests for entry to your browsing data or personal information. Keep in mind, however, that any programs running outside your browser, such as torrents or Skype, would be outside the encrypted SSL tunnels.
Another nifty feature is password protection on the USB itself, meaning your data and browsing is also encrypted should you lose or misplace the key (though hopefully not while it’s in your wallet!).
Just place your order as you would using any other online retailer. Your shipping times may vary slightly according to your region. We received our Private Browser USB in around five days. It came neatly packaged in a small, white box with an explanatory leaflet hidden in the underbelly. Think of how bank cards come in the mail and the image in your head shouldn’t be too far from reality.
SurfEasy Private Browser USB Client
Plug the USB into your machine’s relevant port and fire up the browser to safety. You’ll even be able to install your favored plugins and import your bookmarks since the whole rig is essentially a tweaked Firefox browser.
Secure Search worked like a charm, and there’s no discernable difference streaming videos, music, or writing this review on the Private Browser versus the Windows VPN, other than speed – likely a factor of the browser being the only piece requiring encryption as opposed to all internet connections from your PC. It was a pleasure to use.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC and IPv6 Tests)
Speeds were faster than when connected to the Windows VPN, likely a result of no background programs taking up processing power, or downloads running in the background. Better still, IP checks came back in top shape.
The Private Browser as a whole stayed true to its purpose and is a worthy investment for business people searching for workplace anonymity, those on-the-go, or for anyone looking for the closest thing to a portable VPN (browser-based) solution. Read on for a slight recap.
SurfEasy Review Conclusion
- Site & product design
- 5 simultaneous connections allowed
- Cross-platform functionality
I wasn’t so sure about
- LiveChat lacking
- Bandwidth cap
- Usage & connection logging possible but very unlikely
SurfEasy is a VPN service with clear goals of conducting business the right way, building security solutions like VPN or the Private Browser Key with client needs in mind. While some shortcomings (such as lack of LiveChat support and slight privacy concerns) exist, the entire package is well worth the price for users not necessarily concerned with being as close to anonymous as possible online. Either way, the free trial is there, so you have a chance to experience SurfEasy for yourself at any time.