Comparing VPN providers can be tricky since there may not be any noticeable distinctions between them, making it challenging to pick the right one. In this Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN comparison review, we will guide you through the benefits and drawbacks of each so you can choose the best VPN for you.

Table of contents

    Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN: at a glance

    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    Price
    $2.49/mo
    $4.99/mo
    Money-back guarantee
    30 days
    30 days
    Simultaneous connections
    Unlimited
    10
    Servers
    3200+
    1728
    Server countries
    100
    63
    24/7 support
    Independent audit
    10Gbps servers
    *
    *

    * Available in most locations.

    After a quick look, it seems that Surfshark and ProtonVPN mainly differ in price, simultaneous connections, and servers.

    Yet, the table above barely scrapes the surface, so the differences between the providers might still be unclear. You must dig deeper into the technical details before deciding whose hands to put your safety in. So let’s dig together!

    Security

    First and foremost, both VPN service providers guarantee complete security as they practice a strict no-logs policy. That means they don’t keep a record of your online activity. Surfshark is based in the Netherlands, and ProtonVPN’s headquarters are in Switzerland – ideal locations for data protection. 

    Technically speaking, there are a few intricacies that would allow me to assess the security section of both VPN providers, one of the most important ones being encryption.

    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    VPN protocols
    WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
    WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
    Data encryption
    AES-256-GCM (WireGuard), AES-256 (OpenVPN, IKEv2)
    AES-256 (OpenVPN, IKEv2), ChaCha20 (WireGuard)
    Encryption key
    RSA-2048
    RSA-4096
    Security
    Kill Switch
    Kill Switch
    DNS status
    Private DNS
    Private DNS

    VPN protocols and DNS status

    There is no crucial difference regarding VPN protocols and DNS (Domain Name System) status when comparing Surfshark and  ProtonVPN. They both offer WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. Also, both VPN providers ensure that your DNS requests will be handled by their private DNS so no one can access them in an unencrypted format.

    Encryption

    From VPN protocols to data encryption, you can see that most of the security features between Surfshark and ProtonVPN are similar. Both providers offer the same VPN protocols, Kill Switch, and use robust AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption.

    Data encryption

    Along with AES-256 encryption, Surfshark and ProtonVPN also use ChaCha20 encryption for the WireGuard protocol. Both are very similar, but the main difference is that AES-256 divides data into blocks, whereas ChaCha20 ciphers each bit of data separately. Hence, some consider the latter to be faster, although the differences in speed and complexity are minor.

    Encryption key

    ProtonVPN uses a 4096-bit version of the RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman) encryption key, but the 2048-bit version is already secure enough. The RSA-2048 bit key would take approximately 300 trillion years for an ordinary conventional computer to crack. So doubling the number of bits to add that extra layer of protection brings one drawback – speed.

    Closing thoughts on security

    Surfshark and ProtonVPN guarantee strong and unbreakable encryption to protect your online activities and data.

    Security winner: It’s a tie.

    Speed

    Imagine your internet connection was as fast as Lightning McQueen when connected to a VPN. Wouldn’t that be amazing? While your VPN connection speed defeating Chick Hicks would be a unique conversation starter, VPN and car speeds are measured differently (obviously). But let’s press the brake pedal and learn how the VPN speed is measured.

    Have you ever heard of Gbps (gigabits per second) or Mbps (megabits per second)? These measurement units indicate your internet speed. 

    Surfshark and ProtonVPN servers offer a speed of at least 1Gbps. Both VPN services also say that in most locations, their server speed can reach 10Gbps. That’s not too bad, considering you only need 3Mbps for video calls and 30Mbps for browsing.

    WireGuard protocol

    As mentioned, both Surshark and ProtonVPN use the WireGuard protocol as they identify it as the fastest one.

    How do we know it is the fastest? Well, we carried out many tests – just like in school. We tested the server speed of both VPN providers across the US, the UK, Australia, and Japan. Our research baseline was 300 Mbps download speed and 250 Mbps upload speed. 

    A few words before the big reveal: speed can differ. It depends on many factors, such as location, device, network, ISP (Internet Service Provider), etc. So let’s move on to the results, shall we?

    WireGuard
    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    Download average
    268 Mbps
    234 Mbps
    Upload average
    163 Mbps
    180 Mbps

    As you can see, there aren’t any significant differences. Surfshark provided a better download speed, and ProtonVPN’s speed was better for uploads. Interestingly, giving upload speeds up to 12 Mbps in some locations caused setbacks for both VPN services.

    OpenVPN protocol

    While we were at it, we also tested Surfshark and ProtonVPN servers on the OpenVPN protocol.

    OpenVPN UDP
    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    Download average
    154 Mbps
    130 Mbps
    Upload average
    121 Mbps
    112 Mbps

    Surfshark performed better on both download and upload speeds on the OpenVPN protocol. However, the differences aren’t that significant.

    Closing thoughts on speed

    Surfshark’s upload speed was faster on both WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols, and its download speed was faster on the OpenVPN protocol. ProtonVPN took the lead on upload speed on the WireGuard protocol.

    Speed winner: Surfshark

    Features

    Apart from serving a VPN’s main purpose – protecting your connection online – both Surfshark VPN and ProtonVPN are packed with additional features under their hood. Truly a cherry on top.

    For your convenience, we will briefly explain all the features.

    AdBlocker

    Prevents your browsing from ads, trackers, malware, and phishing attempts. Surfshark offers CleanWeb and ProtonVPN has a NetShield feature – both work as ad blockers.

    Cookie pop-up blocker

    Avoids the annoying cookie consent pop-ups. It is available as a Surfshark browser extension feature. It is not available with ProtonVPN.

    Kill Switch

    Disconnects your device from the internet if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly. Both Surfshark and ProtonVPN offer extra protection through a Kill Switch.

    Tor over VPN

    Accesses the anonymous Tor network: hidden services and onion sites. ProtonVPN offers particular servers that can reroute internet traffic through the Tor network. Surfshark doesn’t provide such a feature.

    GPS Override

    Tricks GPS-enabled apps such as Google Maps, Uber, and Snapchat into thinking that you’re elsewhere. Surfshark offers this feature on Android devices. GPS spoofing is not accessible with ProtonVPN.

    P2P servers

    In a P2P (Peer-to-peer) network, all computers are equal and access all or some part of the same resources and data. P2P sharing is available using both Surfshark and ProtonVPN.

    NoBorders

    Allows you to use VPN through network restrictions such as geoblocking or government censorship. Surfshark offers this feature on all operating systems. ProtonVPN doesn’t provide this feature.

    Split tunneling

    This feature allows you to select particular apps & websites to bypass the VPN tunnel. Surfshark calls it Bypasser, and ProtonVPN sticks to the original title of Split tunneling.

    VPN Accelerator

    Delivers the best VPN speeds and more stable VPN connection. ProtonVPN has built it in all ProtonVPN applications, whereas Surfshark doesn’t support such a feature.

    Private DNS

    Both VPN services can boast about having their own private DNS. It converts domain names into IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. That said, no one, even your ISP and DNS provider, will ever have access to them in an unencrypted form.

    Browser extensions

    Secures your browser only instead of the whole device. Surfshark offers extensions for Chromium-based browsers (such as Microsoft Edge, Brave, etc.) and Firefox. Browser extensions are not available with ProtonVPN.

    Double VPN

    This function provides you with double encryption. In other words, it makes your connection even more secure by connecting you via two different VPN servers. Surfshark calls it MultiHop, and ProtonVPN calls it Secure Core.

    SmartDNS

    Use private DNS while streaming on your SmartTV in case it doesn’t support the Surfshark app. Surfshark makes sure to cover even unsupported devices, such as AppleTV. This feature is not available with ProtonVPN.

    With Surfshark, you can enrich your base VPN subscription for an extra price and get the Surfshark One bundle. Use Surfshark Antivirus to protect your devices from viruses and malware, Surfshark Search to perform anonymous and ad-free searches, and Surfshark Alert to protect your accounts against data breaches.

    Closing thoughts on features

    Although both VPN services provide a wide variety of additional features, Surfshark VPN takes the lead here as it has more features available to its users.

    Features winner: Surfshark

    Server locations

    When using a VPN, you connect to your VPN provider’s available locations to hide your IP address and protect your online connection.  If there are more server locations, there are more alternatives for hiding your internet traffic. On top of that, if a service provides more servers in particular locations, you can get less busy traffic, which results in better speeds.

    Surfshark outshines ProtonVPN in this section. It offers more than 3,000 servers and is deployed in almost 100 countries.

     

    Comparing servers and their locations

    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    Servers
    3200+
    1746
    Countries (total)
    100
    63
    The Americas
    17
    10
    Europe
    46
    35
    Asia Pacific
    25
    13
    Middle East & Africa
    7
    5

    If we’re looking at servers within specific countries, the most significant difference is in the US. But either provider will work if you use locations in the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, or Germany.

    Comparing specific countries

    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    The US
    25
    14
    The UK
    4
    2
    Australia
    5
    4
    Canada
    3
    3
    The Netherlands
    1
    3
    Germany
    2
    2

    Restricted countries

    You have to ensure that your VPN will perform while connecting to or being in a restricted country. Surfshark offers servers in countries known for network and VPN restrictions – Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, the UAE, and Uzbekistan. To counter network restriction issues, Surfshark offers the NoBorders feature. If Surfshark’s app notices network limitations, it provides you with a selection of the best servers at that moment.

    As for ProtonVPN, they have implemented alternative routing. If their software cannot establish a direct connection to their servers, it will route your connection through unblockable third-party services. As well as that, they provide the Smart Protocol feature that enables you to connect to Proton VPN even if some VPN protocols or standard ports are restricted.

    Closing thoughts on server locations

    Surfshark offers more countries and has a more significant server count. More servers – less loaded traffic. Both VPN services provide complete lists of server countries, so check that out before choosing the right VPN provider for you.

    Server locations winner: Surfshark

    User-friendliness

    It’s nice to have a service compatible with all your devices. So, let’s imagine a situation. You get a VPN and decide to spend an evening binging your beloved TV series on your laptop. But your laptop breaks in the middle of the final episode. You try to connect to the VPN on your TV, but nothing happens – you don’t have a VPN app on your TV. You double-check your provider’s website and learn that your VPN is not compatible with your TV. What a bummer!

    Compatibility

    The moral of the story is you have to think about the devices you regularly use and the service’s compatibility with them. It will help you make a better decision.

    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    Windows
    macOS
    Android
    iPhone/iPad
    Linux
    Chromebook
    AndroidTV
    FireTV
    Chrome
    Firefox
    Edge

    Also, remember that Surfshark doesn’t limit the devices you connect to your account.

    Interface

    ProtonVPN’s interface includes a world map and only comes in a dark theme on their app. You have an option to fold up the map and stay with a list of locations. It looks like this:

    Surfshark’s interface can be either light or dark. It doesn’t contain any distractions – you can see the complete list of servers, the selected server’s details, and your location information. Pretty handy, right?

    Closing thoughts on user-friendliness

    Surfshark is compatible with more devices and services and can be used on an unlimited number of devices.

    User-friendliness winner: Surfshark

    Pricing & plans

    Surfshark and ProtonVPN both offer three plans – a 1-month, 1-year, and 2-year plan. While you can see that ProtonVPN offers a cheaper 1-month plan, Surfshark takes the win in the long run by providing a more reasonable 2-year plan.

    Plan/Vendor
    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    1-month plan
    $12.95/mo
    $9.99/mo
    1-year plan
    $3.99/mo
    $5.99/mo
    2-year plan
    $2.49/mo
    $4.99/mo

    Both VPN services come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. So if you decide to give either service a shot, you can do so risk-free.

    Closing thoughts on pricing & plans

    Although Surfshark VPN offers a more expensive 1-month plan, it’s much cheaper in the long run.

    Pricing & plans winner: Surfshark

    Customer support

    We believe how a service takes care of its customer needs says a lot about the service itself. That’s why we will also evaluate Surfshark and ProtonVPN’s customer support.

    Customer Service
    Surfshark
    ProtonVPN
    Live chat
    Ticket
    Email
    Call
    Searchable knowledge base
    Video guides
    Average email response time
    3 hours
    58 minutes

    As you can see from the table, ProtonVPN responds faster via email. They accomplish a quick response by pushing a support form for customer inquiries.

    On the other hand, Surfshark offers live chat and Youtube video guides – a lifesaver for quick answers or solutions.

    Closing thoughts on customer support

    Both services provide great online support. ProtonVPN’s email response time is faster, but Surfshark offers a live chat function and video guides.

    Customer support winner: It’s a tie.

    Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN: the results

    Section
    Winner
    Remarks
    Devices
    Surfshark
    What could be better than ten simultaneous VPN connections? Unlimited connections!
    Compatibility
    Surfshark
    Surfshark offers a wider variety of compatible devices. Do you want to protect your browser only? Easy – get the extension.
    Interface
    Draw
    Surfshark has light and dark theme options, and ProtonVPN has an interactive map. A personal choice indeed.
    Speed
    Surfshark
    The tests revealed Surfshark offers a higher speed in most locations.
    Security
    Draw
    ProtonVPN uses an RSA key that provides moderately higher security but decreases the speed. Other than that, the security is similar for both services.
    Features
    Surfshark
    Surfshark offers a more extensive selection of unique additional features.
    Server locations
    Surfshark
    Surfshark wins the race here as it has servers in more countries.
    Price
    Surfshark
    This one is plain and simple: no one can match Surfshark’s 2-year plan for $2.49 a month.
    Customer support
    Draw
    ProtonVPN responds to queries faster. But Surfshark has a live chat function and informative video guides.

    Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN: who wins?

    While both Surfshark and ProtonVPN offer excellent service, this race has to end with the winner announcement. That said, after analyzing all the areas, we have to give the win to Surfshark.

    Surfshark wins this Surfshark vs. ProtonVPN comparison race for:

    1. Having the ability to connect unlimited devices;
    2. Being available in more substantial locations and providing better speed;
    3. Having more additional features in the base subscription;
    4. Providing a live chat customer support and video guides;
    5. Offering reasonably low prices.

    While we consider Surfshark to be better, it all comes down to your daily needs. You’re in charge of the steering wheel, and deciding where to park in this VPN market is up to you.

    Secure your digital life now

    Get Surfshark

    FAQ

    Is Surfshark VPN better than ProtonVPN? 

    Both VPN services provide outstanding service. However, Surfshark provides:

    • Slightly better server speeds; 
    • More server locations;
    • Additional features like live chat customer support and unlimited simultaneous connections.

    Is ProtonVPN trustworthy? 

    Yes, it is. ProtonVPN uses the robust AES-256 encryption that is almost impossible to crack. The source code for each ProtonVPN app on different devices is publicly available to check if it is safe.

    Is ProtonVPN the best VPN?

    ProtonVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market. It uses powerful encryption, is user-friendly, offers good speeds, and supports up to ten connections and P2P file sharing.