SurfEasy is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that has been around for a number of years. It is a well-subscribed VPN that offers some interesting and unique services, such as a USB dongle that comes loaded with a secure browser. The VPN provides OpenVPN by default, which is excellent. In addition, encryption implementation is strong due to a robust control channel. Finally, this VPN provides pretty quick connection speeds, which should make it suitable for most people’s needs.
- OpenVPN as default on Mac, Windows, and Android
- Pretty good speeds
- Excellent customer care
- Strong encryption
- USB with private browser
- Some connection logs (but aggregated so not really a problem)
Pricing and Plans
SurfEasy VPN has three different plans (monthly, quarterly, and yearly). Those plans look like this:
- Mobile has servers in 16 countries and a one device limit. It costs $2.99 monthly or $29.99 annually.
- Total has servers in 16 countries and a five device limit. It costs $4.99 monthly or $47.88 annually.
- Ultra has servers in 25 countries, permits torrenting and has a five device limit. It costs $11.99 monthly or $77.88 annually.
In addition, SurfEasy provides a starter plan that allows users to experience 16 countries (five device limit) with a 500MB usage limit (per month). Users can earn rewards to get a little more usage. The starter service is free and is fantastic because it allows people to try before they buy. In addition, it is a superb option for people who need to bypass government censorship such as that in the United Arab Emirates or China.
Like the vast majority of VPNs, the options are a one year, six month, or a single month subscription. Discounts are granted to longer-term subscribers. In addition, the firm has a seven-day money-back guarantee, which means that anybody can try SurfEasy risk-free.
Servers are located in either 16 or 28 countries, depending on which plan you opt for. The Ultra plan gives subscribers access to all 28, while the Mobile and Total plans only include the use of 16 servers. Servers are spread across an excellent range of locations, even on the simpler plans. Locations include the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil, Japan, Australia, and Singapore.
The two 16-server plans are adequate for most people’s needs, and those with specific requirements can go for the Ultra subscription. Note that the vast majority of those plans are only available to people who download the client and look on the accounts > dashboard part of the website. Thus, if you’ve looked on the website and can’t see the plans I have mentioned, download the software to use the free starter plan and all will become obvious.
Subscribers can pay with a credit card or with PayPal. Sadly, paying with bitcoins for extra anonymity isn’t possible with SurfEasy VPN – a minor setback, but worth bearing in mind. SurfEasy isn’t particularly cheap on the monthly subscription, but it does become much more reasonable if you subscribe yearly, and doesn’t seem overpriced overall (when compared to similar services).
In addition, SurfEasy also sells a private desktop browser that comes loaded on a USB stick. As this is an excellent solution for staying safe on the go (it is perfect for travelers and people who often use public WiFi), we will take a closer look at the software in the ‘Other Services’ section of this review.
SurfEasy has a useful video that explains how its VPN service works, so we have included it here:
Last year, SurfEasy had servers in just 14 countries. Now, the service has expanded to provide around 500 servers in 28 countries. This is a vast improvement, and because the VPN already had fantastic coverage in all the most important nations around the world (for unblocking purposes), the extra servers really do make SurfEasy an excellent VPN.
File sharing and torrenting is allowed, but only on the Ultra plan, so please sign up to this plan if P2P is a concern.
SurfEasy comes with an advert blocking algorithm that “intercepts the cookies that advertisers use to follow you online.”
The VPN can be installed on five devices simultaneously, which means it is perfect for providing security on all your devices (or perhaps for use by a family). However, on the Mobile plan only one connection is permitted.
Domain Name System (DNS) Leak Protection
The service does provide DNS leak protection, which occurs at the server level and cannot be toggled on and off. DNS requests are handled by GoogleDNS, but the requests are proxied.
Security and Privacy
SurfEasy is a Canadian VPN that is based in Toronto, Ontario. It is available for Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android. The firm also has extensions for Opera and Chrome browsers. Being based in Canada means that the firm is subject to a number of privacy-invading laws that have been passed in the country in recent years. In addition, it is under the umbrella of 5 Eyes – a surveillance agreement that allows English-speaking nations to share surveillance data between their intelligence agencies.
SurfEasy uses GoogleDNS. This is not as efficient as VPNs that handle DNS requests with their own servers, which is a bit of a shame. However, the good news is that the firm does proxy those requests: so, in reality, it isn’t an issue. No points deducted.
The SurfEasy website is stylish and easy to navigate. It isn’t overly boastful, like some VPNs on the market. It displays information in a clear manner, and has plenty of pages to navigate around that describe what the service has to offer. The blog section is updated regularly, and is a fantastic resource that educates users on digital privacy issues and news, as well as VPN-related concerns and service information.
Support is handled via a live chat system between the hours of 08:00 and 20:00 (EST) Monday to Friday and until 17:00 EST on the weekend. The firm also has a phone hotline (that is free to call from the UK, US, and Canada). For anybody else, a ticket system is available that is answered via email. I found the support staff to be extremely helpful.
In addition, customer service agents appear to have the ability to communicate with other members of the SurfEasy team with great ease. This allows the firm to handle problems efficiently and quickly. I never had to wait more than about half a day to get a reply, which was pleasing. An excellent customer support team that is a credit to the provider.
I also really liked the knowledgebase, setup guides, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sections of the website, which were all detailed and well presented with graphics when necessary. Some VPNs have a very barebones support section – SurfEasy, on the other hand, has a well-planned and logical pool of resources. It is an incredibly useful part of the website, which allows people to find a fix to problems without having to chat to customer service if they don’t want to.
Signing up to SurfEasy VPN couldn’t really be simpler. Though, I would prefer it if they had all the plans on the website instead of stashed away on the dashboard of the client. However, this is a minor complaint, especially considering that the client is available for free on the starter plan, which allows people to try SurfEasy for free. Yes, free!
To subscribe, simply sign up to SurfEasy with an email and password. Following that, either use the starter plan or select a plan and pay with a credit card or PayPal. That done, subscribers receive an introductory email with links to the various clients and other downloads (such as the .ovpn files). The process is self-explanatory, and there are guides for setting up the VPN if you are a total nube (or want to get OpenVPN working on the third-party client, for example).
The SurfEasy Windows VPN client
The SurfEasy Windows client is the main client that I tested. It is custom VPN software that is a pleasure to use. Because it comes with OpenVPN as default, users don’t need to worry about changing encryption (from PPTP, which is insecure) like on many other VPNs.
Connecting is nice and easy – simply select a region and a server and click Connect. The VPN takes around ten seconds to a half minute to connect, and when the connection is established the software makes it clear. Sadly, there is no kill switch or auto connect feature. The good news is that a kill switch feature is under development, and SurfEasy plans to introduce it soon – so watch this space.
However, in my experience, promises in the VPN industry need to be taken with a pinch of salt. So, please check to see if the kill switch has been released before subscribing. If a kill switch is really important to you (because you don’t want to let your Internet Service Provider sniff ANY of your traffic), then you might want to look elsewhere.
An ad-tracker blocker can also be toggled on and off in the software. This is a nice addition for people who want to block advertizers from dumping cookies on their machine.
Performance (Speed, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 Tests)
Speed tests were conducted on a 50 Mbps fiber connection. Speed tests were conducted using testmy.net and servers were tested from a UK test server (UK and Netherlands VPN) and a New York server for the US tests. As you can see, speeds took a bit of a drop on the US and Netherlands servers – more than I had hoped to see. However, they weren’t the worst speeds we have ever encountered. In addition, I tried streaming in HD and was able to. However, I would not recommend this VPN to people who want to do really intense online activities such as gaming; there are faster VPNs around for that purpose. Overall, however, pretty good speeds.
I tested for DNS leaks using ipleak.net and found there to be no Internet Protocol (IP) leaks, no DNS leaks, and no Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leaks. Unfortunately (due to the fact that my ISP does not permit me to), I couldn’t test for Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) leaks. Other than that, however, I was very pleased with the results. Yes, it is true that the VPN does use GoogleDNS, but because it proxies the requests it is not a problem.
The firm told me that DNS leak protection happens at the server level. However, a DNS leak occurs when a DNS request happens outside of the data tunnel, which means that it actually can’t be protected at the server level. This means that because there is no in-app DNS leak protection, we must assume there is no DNS leak protection at all. However, as previously mentioned I actually detected no DNS leaks.
SurfEasy is available for most of the popular platforms. The only one that doesn’t have custom VPN software available for it is Linux. For that reason, connecting to SurfEasy on Linux means using third-party OpenVPN software. However, this is easy to download and install. In addition, SurfEasy has illustrated and informative setup guides for most platforms (with the exception of Linux, which once again isn’t covered).
An excellent service that can be purchased from SurfEasy (on a one-time basis) is its pre-loaded micro USB, which comes with a secure browser. For people who want to remain private and secure, this is a custom Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encrypted version of Firefox. It works by simply plugging it into a USB port.
The SurfEasy private browser is really useful for people who want to remain safe on public WiFi. It comes in a credit card sized wallet holder, so can easily be carried at all times. The private browser can be purchased for $69.99 (not including shipping), which is a one-off fee for lifetime use of the browser. Although that may seem a bit pricey, it’s actually great value for money considering it is enough to keep your data secure on any public WiFi hotspot. For this reason, this product is recommended to people who are looking for a security solution when out and about.
SurfEasy VPN Review: Conclusion
- OpenVPN as default on Mac, Windows, and Android
- Above average connection speeds
- Servers in 16-25 countries
- USB private browser option
- Unblocks BBC iPlayer
- Only a few aggregated connection logs kept
- Strong encryption
I wasn’t so sure about:
- Doesn’t unblock Netflix US
- No kill switch
- No in-app DNS leak protection
SurfEasy VPN is a Canadian VPN service that has improved over the years. Servers are located in extremely useful places around the world, and if it wasn’t for slight sluggishness this VPN would be suitable for all purposes. Encryption is strong on the control channel, which means that it is robust. It also comes with OpenVPN as default. One drawback is the lack of a kill switch and DNS leak protection – one can only hope that SurfEasy will make good on its promise that the kill switch will be coming soon (check with SurfEasy if this is a feature you require).
Unless you will be doing extremely data intensive tasks, this VPN really is decent. It’s certainly a good option for frequent travelers who want to stay secure on public WiFi. In addition, because of the free starter plan and seven-day money-back guarantee, you really don’t have anything to lose by trying out SurfEasy for yourself. So, why not give the service a try?