Surfshark vs ProtonVPN: Which Wins in 2023?

Surfshark vs ProtonVPN: Which Wins in 2023?

August 1, 2023 privacy 0

Choosing the right VPN is not easy – they all have similar marketing and hide their deficiencies well. 

And we can’t think of two more closely matched VPNs than Surfshark and Proton VPN. They offer almost identical security features and tools and similar price points. But, when you drill down, they’re very different. 

So, we put Surfshark and Proton VPN side-by-side to see which is better at security, privacy, speed, access to content, streaming, torrenting – and almost every metric you can think of. 

Read on to see which one wins.

Surfshark vs. Proton VPN – Which is best?

While it’s close, Surfshark is better than Proton VPN in a few key areas.

It has a much bigger global server network, offers unlimited device connections, works better with streaming services, and it’s cheaper. It also provides more advanced security and privacy tools, including better support for P2P and torrenting. 

Proton VPN has some positive attributes. It has a free version, although it’s incredibly limited, so you’ll probably stop using it pretty quickly. Its monthly plan is slightly cheaper than Surfshark’s, and it’s based in a more privacy-friendly country (Switzerland).

Surfshark is one of the best VPNs in the world. Proton VPN is a good runner-up. But when it comes to our privacy and security, “runner up” just isn’t good enough. 

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Proton VPN is an expensive VPN. 

Its annual and two-year plans cost $71.88 and $119.76, respectively. This breaks down to $5.99 or $4.99 per month.

In contrast, Surfshark’s annual plan costs $44.88, and its two-year plan is only $59.76 – that’s a 50% difference, and you get an extra month free. 

Surfshark’s long-term plans break down to $3.99 per month on the annual plan, and $2.30 per month on the two-year.

Proton does outperform Surfshark in two areas. Its monthly plan is only $9.99, compared to Surfshark’s $12.95 price tag. However, this is a small difference and mostly negligible. Surfshark offers unlimited device connections and more servers, and we doubt you will only use it for one month. 

Proton VPN also has a free plan, but you can only install it on one device, you’re deprioritized to slower servers, and it doesn’t work with most streamers. It’s missing the advanced features offered by Surfshark. 

Both VPNs offer 30-day money-back guarantees on their paid plans, so take Surfshark for a spin, risk-free, and see how powerful it is. 

Winner: Surfshark

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Which has better features? 

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Surfshark and Proton VPN have very similar features. 

Both are available on all major platforms (Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS) and Linux. Both also have browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, but these only protect you when you’re on your browser, potentially exposing your data when using apps like torrenting clients. 

They also provide built-in ad blockers, DNS leak protection, and split tunneling – which means you can filter some web traffic through the VPN (like your torrenting and streaming) while keeping everything else on your local connection (like your banking apps).

Surfshark and Proton VPN both support P2P file sharing and torrenting. 

However, as you’ll see throughout the rest of the review, Surfshark stands out for providing more advanced features that are easier to use and offer a better experience – whether you’re streaming, torrenting, traveling overseas, video chatting, or just about anything else. 

Surfshark also allows you unlimited simultaneous device connections. Proton VPN only allows you up to 10 devices, which is still a lot, but less impressive. 

Winner: Surfshark

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Are routers supported? 

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You can install both Surfshark and Proton VPN on select routers.

Setting up a VPN on your router protects every device that connects to the internet through it (including smart TVs, Amazon Alexa, phones, and game consoles) without needing to install the VPN on every individual device. 

The process is significantly more complicated than your phone or laptop, but both providers have detailed guides to help you through every step.

Proton VPN currently only uses the OpenVPN protocol on routers, limiting you to fewer router models. OpenVPN is also a much older, slower, and less secure protocol. 

Surfshark supports OpenVPN and WireGuard on routers. So, you can install it on more brands and get a faster, more secure connection. Surfshark’s setup process is also slightly easier than Proton VPN, and it offers 24/7 live chat support if you need someone to guide you. 

Winner: Surfshark

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”surfshark” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Get Surfshark[[/post-object]]

What websites do they unblock? 

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As far as streaming goes, both Surfshark and Proton VPN performed excellently in our tests.

They accessed the big players in Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu. However, Surfshark also accessed Sky Go, CBS, and NBC, while Proton was blocked by these sites.  

So if you’re looking for some streaming variety, Surfshark’s the way to go.

Surfshark is also better at bypassing censorship and other geo-restrictions (like banking or money transfer apps that only operate in certain countries). 

For example, Surfshark’s Noborders VPN obfuscation mode helps it break through China’s infamous “Great Firewall” censorship that blocks almost every non-Chinese app in the world. This includes apps you use every day, like Instagram, Google, and even TikTok. It also bars most VPNs from operating in the country. 

While Proton VPN uses obfuscation tools and works against many regional censorship and anti-VPN tools in countries like the UAE, they’re not as powerful. Also, it gave up trying to work in China years ago. 

Surfshark is one of the few VPNs still working in China, which we salute. 

Winner: Surfshark

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”surfshark” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Get Surfshark[[/post-object]]

Netflix libraries

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We recommend Surfshark over Proton VPN if you plan to watch Netflix’s global content or access your local library from abroad.

While both VPNs can access the US, UK, and Japanese libraries – Surfshark goes further with Canada, Australia, and several European countries.

Surfshark also has a much more extensive server network in more countries that includes dedicated streaming servers. As a result, it’s generally faster and more reliable than Proton VPN, and there’s less chance of its network getting crowded.

Winner: Surfshark

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”surfshark” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Get Surfshark[[/post-object]] 

Torrenting capabilities

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Both Surfshark and Proton VPN support P2P and torrenting, but Surfshark performs much better for a few reasons.

Both VPNs follow strict no-logs policies that ensure they never record your browsing activity or data. And both VPNs are headquartered in privacy-friendly countries with no data retention laws (Surfshark in the British Virgin Islands and Proton VPN in Switzerland). However, Surfshark stands out for using more advanced RAM-only servers that are automatically wiped to ensure no residual data is lingering on them from your sessions. 

Both VPNs also use automatic kill-switches to instantly block your internet if your VPN connection is disrupted, so nothing leaks out. This reduces the risk that your internet service provider will see you using a torrenting app. 

Surfshark and Proton VPN also include obfuscation features that hide the fact you’re using a VPN, adding an extra layer of privacy. You’ll need to turn this feature on for both VPNs. 

So, while it’s close, we prefer Surfshark for torrenting because it includes advanced P2P tools like port selection and port forwarding that speed up your file sharing within a P2P network. It also allows torrenting on most servers, whereas Proton VPN only supports it on dedicated P2P servers. Surfshark has dedicated-P2P servers, too, but you’re not restricted to these. 

Surfshark is also faster than Proton VPN, so your torrenting will be much quicker. 

Winner: Surfshark

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”surfshark” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Get Surfshark[[/post-object]]

Setup & usability

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Surfshark and Proton VPN have easy-to-install and use apps on the most popular devices (including Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux), and provide detailed setup and configuration guides.

Both VPNs make connecting to a server instant, with “one-tap” connection buttons. Surfshark offers manual server selection in a list format, while Proton VPN offers a server list and map that lets you navigate to specific countries.

Both providers offer 24/7 customer support, including live chat and email support, to assist users with setup and troubleshooting.

In general, we prefer using Surfshark’s apps. They’re better organized, look nicer, and do a fantastic job of including advanced tools and extra features like dark web monitoring and dedicated server types (streaming, torrenting, obfuscation, etc.). 

Surfshark’s connections are also more stable, making it easier to use. 

Winner: Surfshark

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Mobile features

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Surfshark’s mobile app is clean and easy to use. It has the same excellent security features on iOS and Android as on the full desktop app, such as CleanWeb (its ad-blocker and malware scanner), an automatic kill-switch that disconnects you from the internet if your VPN connection drops, and GPS spoofing that alters your location.

Proton VPN’s mobile app is also user-friendly, with a simple interface and an option to choose between the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols. It also offers a “Quick Connect” feature that automatically connects users to the best available server for their location.

Proton VPN offers a free version of its mobile app, but it only allows access to servers in three countries and limits usage to one device per account (so you can’t use it on your laptop, for example). It’s also slow and doesn’t work with streaming sites. 

Overall, we found Surfshark easier to use on mobile (impressive, considering its many features), faster, with access to more servers in more countries, and better compatibility with streaming, torrenting, and gaming.  

Winner: Surfshark

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”surfshark” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Get Surfshark[[/post-object]]

Performance & speed

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Surfshark has over 3,200 servers in 100+ countries. You can use itsQuickConnectfeature to automatically connect to the fastest server based on your location or manually select one based on your needs (streaming, P2P, extra security, etc.). 

Proton VPN has 2,700+ servers in over 67 countries. You can also let its apps choose the best server or manually select one yourself, but its options are more limited. 

Other VPNs use the WireGuard VPN protocol, one of the fastest in the industry. However, Proton VPN limits you to the older, slightly less secure OpenVPN on certain devices. 

In our tests, both VPNs delivered fast, reliable, and stable connections in locations across the globe. However, Surfshark’s much larger server network means it outperformed in more remote or small countries. It has more servers in Africa, the Caribbean, and other regions overlooked by Proton VPN. 

Surfshark also does a better job of integrating advanced security tools without compromising speed. We tested its obfuscated servers, IP address masking tools, and similar features. Each time, once we turned them on, there wasn’t much difference in our connections. 

In contrast, Proton VPN’s security features, like its SecureCore tool, boost its security but slow your connection. 

So if you want a VPN that combines industry-leading speeds with airtight security, we recommend Surfshark. 

Winner: Surfshark

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Surfshark and Proton VPN are incredibly secure VPNs, deploying industry-standard features and a few extras to hide your data, location, identity, and online activities. 

Both VPNs use unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption (the same standard relied on by banks, governments, militaries, and spy agencies), the latest VPN protocols, IP address masking, automatic kill-switches, DNS/IPv6 leak protections, and much more. 

Both support the OpenVPN with Forward Secrecy and WireGuard protocols. Both have obfuscation to get around VPN restrictions on some websites and countries – Surfshark’s is called NoBorders, and Proton VPN’s is named Stealth. They have kill-switches, malware detection, and ad and tracker blockers.

Both VPNs secure your traffic between servers and devices using RSA-2048 encryption keys. 

And they use server obfuscation technology to hide the fact you’re using a VPN – a valuable tool in countries where VPN use is illegal, like China, the UAE, and Russia. 

Surfshark and Proton VPN are similar in almost every security feature. 

However, Surfshark’s security tools are generally more advanced than Proton VPN’s, easier to use, and backed up by a bigger server network that delivers fast, reliable privacy to more countries. 

It’s also much better value. 

Winner: Surfshark

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Surfshark and Proton VPN boast impressive privacy credentials. 

Proton VPN is based in Switzerland, a country famous for its privacy laws. It’s not a member of the EU, has been neutral since 1815, and isn’t a member of any large-scale surveillance. This means Proton VPN is not compelled to comply with any requests to share your data. 

(However, the Swiss government occasionally considers and accepts data requests from other countries.)

Surfshark, meanwhile, is based in the Netherlands, a country that’s a member of the secretive Nine Eyes global surveillance alliance. While this is a concern, Surfshark follows one of the strictest no-logs policies in the world and uses RAM-only servers that are automatically wiped on a regular basis – and the Netherlands generally respects its citizens’ privacy use and of VPNs. 

Both VPNs undergo regular third-party audits to ensure they follow their privacy policies and don’t store, share, or expose sensitive user data. 

They also accept cryptocurrency payments, but Proton VPN is restricted to Bitcoin, while Surfshark also accepts Ethereum and Ripple.

Winner: It’s a draw

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Customer service

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Surfshark has done a remarkable job at customer support. 

You can get assistance 24/7 and choose between live chat (with human agents), support ticketing, and email. Their response times are not the best we’ve seen, but they’re reasonable.

For self-assistance, Surfshark has a comprehensive FAQ section on its website that’s capable of handling common issues. It also has detailed troubleshooting articles and setup guides.

Proton VPN also has email support with a good response time and a well-organized support page on its website. However, that’s all you get, and these may not be enough for complex or urgent problems (router compatibility and support instantly spring to mind).

If you’re new to VPNs and not very tech-savvy, Surfshark’s customer support will make a big difference.

Winner: Surfshark

[[post-object type=”gotolink” provider=”surfshark” class=”btn btn-md btn-primary”]]Get Surfshark[[/post-object]]

Methodology: how we compare VPNs

We used rigorous review criteria to test Surfshark and Proton VPN and compare the results. These are the same criteria we use on every VPN we test – including the ones we don’t recommend. 

You can use our testing process as a guide to choosing the right VPN for you. Here are the most important factors we consider (and you should too):

  • Security: We reviewed both VPNs’ encryption standards, protocols, leak protections, and other tools to ensure they can keep your data, location, and identity hidden. 
  • Large server networks: We connected to servers belonging to both VPNs located across the globe to ensure they deliver fast, reliable, and secure connections. 
  • Fast connections: We tested the speeds of both VPNs’ servers and ensured they’re fast enough for streaming, gaming, video chats, and much more. 
  • Access to content: We checked whether both VPNs work with popular streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and that they can bypass censorship. 
  • Transparency: You should be able to read your VPN’s privacy policy and understand exactly how it collects data (it shouldn’t) and whether you can trust it. 
  • Ease of use: Just because VPNs are incredibly technical doesn’t mean they should be challenging to use. We only recommend beginner-friendly VPNs. 
  • Value: The best VPNs offer affordable, simple subscription models with generous money-back guarantees. 

You can check out our comprehensive VPN review process to test Surfshark and Proton VPN for yourself. 


Surfshark outperforms Proton VPN in some crucial areas, including security, speed, streaming, and torrenting. It’s also much better value. 

If you’re looking for a top budget VPN, you can’t go wrong with Surfshark. Make use of its 30-day money-back guarantee to test it out risk-free.

But if you are considering other VPNs and don’t have the time to test them, check out our top comparisons.

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