In this Surfshark vs IPVanish comparison, we put both VPNs through a barrage of tests to see which one comes out on top. IPVanish is a popular VPN service, but Surfshark is one of the fastest VPNs on the market and is packed with features. We ran our tests and you are about to find out which VPN is worth your attention.
Over time we have come up with what we think is the best approach to comparing VPN services. Before we do one of these “A vs B” type articles, we do in-depth testing on each product. Then, we extract the most relevant data from that testing and compare the products head-to-head on those key characteristics necessary to be a top VPN service.
This guide will help you decide which of the two VPN services you want to investigate more. Here are the IPVanish vs Surfshark categories that we’ll examine:
- Company and Jurisdiction
- Security and Encryption
- Privacy and Logs
- Netflix, Streaming, and Torrenting
- Reliability and Support
- Price and Value
Here we go.
1. Company and Jurisdiction: IPVanish vs Surfshark
You use a VPN to protect your privacy online. A secure VPN service will do that, since their system will securely encrypt your data so outsiders can’t read it. But you have to be able to trust the VPN not to spy on you or do anything shady in the background. For that, you’ll want to know the company and the jurisdiction it is based in.
Surfshark company and jurisdiction
Surfshark LTD is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). The BVI is an excellent jurisdiction for a privacy company like Surfshark. We see that it is home to both Surfshark and ExpressVPN, among others.
With strong privacy laws, independence from the United States and European Union, and no membership in any international surveillance alliances, your personal data is safe here. Surfshark LTD was incorporated in 2018. The company has no history of privacy or security issues.
Surfshark VPN passes the background check and it is based in a great jurisdiction.
IPVanish company and jurisdiction
IPVanish has gone through a few owners in the last couple of years. They are currently owned by J2 Global. This is a problem since J2 global also owns a number of websites that publish VPN reviews, such as PCMag. The result is that you get major review sites recommending products owned by their parent company. Not so good.
IPVanish also has a troubling history. Back in 2018, we reported on the IPVanish logging scandal. This was when IPVanish complied with FBI requests to log user data and hand the records over to the FBI, all while claiming to be a “zero logs” VPN service. Since the logging scandal, IPVanish was sold to StackPath, and then later sold to J2 Global.
Making matters worse, IPVanish is based in the United States, a founding member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. US-based privacy companies can be (and have been) forced to log user data for US agencies and other authorities. Aside from IPVanish, Lavabit and RiseUp are two other examples.
IPVanish has been caught logging data for US authorities in the past, and there is no guarantee they won’t do it again. IPVanish VPN fails the background check.
Background Check and Jurisdiction winner: Surfshark
2. IPVanish vs Surfshark speed tests
While you can expect any top VPN to provide comparable levels of privacy and security, the speed of VPN services varies all over the place. Some, like NordVPN with its NordLynx protocol, are lightning fast. Others move more like molasses than lightning. When it comes to IPVanish vs Surfshark speed tests, the results will tell the tale.
Thanks to their upgrade to the WireGuard VPN protocol, Surfshark is now one of the fastest VPNs in the world. IPVanish has not upgraded to WireGuard. They still run the industry-standard OpenVPN protocol, which tests out much slower than WireGuard. Usually, WireGuard seriously outperforms OpenVPN, as we saw in the NordVPN vs IPVanish comparison. So let’s see if the same holds true here.
Note: We run our speed tests on a 500 Mbps internet connection from our lab in the United States.
Test #1: Los Angeles
Surfshark Los Angeles results: 346 Mbps.
At over 300 Mbps, this is an excellent speed test result from Surfshark. Can IPVanish do better?
IPVanish Los Angeles speed test results: 68 Mbps.
This is certainly not fast. Surfshark was about five times faster than IPVanish for the Los Angeles location.
Test #2: Seattle
Surfshark Seattle speed test results: 308 Mbps.
Another great speed test result from Surfshark, still over 300 Mbps.
IPVanish Seattle results: 79 Mbps.
While this is slightly faster than the Los Angeles server location, it’s still pretty slow. Here we see that Surfshark is significantly faster than IPVanish, by about 229 Mbps.
Test #3: New York
Surfshark New York results: 397 Mbps.
At nearly 400 Mbps, this is one of the best results we’ve seen for a New York connection.
IPVanish New York results: 5 Mbps.
This is one of the worst results we’ve seen for a New York connection. This means that Surfshark is nearly 80 times faster than IPVanish for this location. From the three locations we tested, it’s clear that Surfshark is putting up the best USA VPN speed test results.
Test #4: United Kingdom
For our last test, we connected to servers in the United Kingdom. By this time it was pretty clear that Surfshark would be the winner. And so it was.
Surfshark Manchester, UK results: 330 Mbps.
Impressive results like these are just one reason we rate Surfshark as one of the best VPN services for the UK. Now let’s see how IPVanish clocks in.
IPVanish London, UK results: 43 Mbps.
IPVanish got clobbered here too, but their UK results are a definite improvement over their horrible New York results.
Speed test winner: Surfshark
Note: Surfshark is really fast when using their WireGuard implementation and it clearly gives it an edge over the competition. We also saw this with NordVPN in the NordVPN vs PIA comparison.
3. IPVanish vs Surfshark features
If a VPN doesn’t offer the features you need, nothing else matters.
This section contains a quick overview of the most important features of each VPN. While we pick a winner based on their overall feature sets, you need to make the final call. After all, a great VPN that lacks the one key feature you need is of no use.
One killer feature of Surfshark is the great speed it gets from the WireGuard VPN protocol. Not only does it offer blazing-fast download speeds, it also allows you to connect faster, and is better at maintaining connections for mobile devices. We also tested it out in our NordVPN vs CyberGhost comparison. To enable WireGuard with Surfshark, you can easily select it in the Surfshark VPN app settings:
Surfshark currently boasts a network of over 3,200 VPN servers in 65 countries. The network includes fast, reliable standard VPN servers as well as double-VPN servers that encrypt traffic twice for extra security, and Camouflage mode (obfuscated) servers designed to defeat internet censors. The obfuscated servers are useful if you need a good VPN for China, where VPNs are typically blocked.
Surfshark offers a large collection of user-friendly VPN apps for Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android devices. They even support Smart TVs and gaming systems (see our VPN for gaming guide discussing setup). All VPN apps include a kill switch to keep your traffic from leaking onto the internet if the VPN connection fails. They also have a WhiteLister split tunneling feature, which allows you to route traffic or websites outside of the VPN tunnel.
Here is the Surfshark Windows app we tested for the review:
But wait, there’s more. Surfshark offers a CleanWeb is a feature that blocks ads, trackers, and malware domains from ruining your day or worse. This goes beyond a standard VPN ad blocker. Surfshark also offers a few paid add-on features:
- Surfshark Alert lets you know if your private information has been stolen and published somewhere online.
- Surfshark Search is a private search engine, which eliminates another possible location where hostiles might spy on your online activities.
Connections – Surfshark has one more feature you might like: support for unlimited simultaneous connections. Most VPNs, including ExpressVPN and NordVPN, support five or six simultaneous connections. And while this is enough for most people, Surfshark gives you even more.
IPVanish doesn’t offer as rich of a feature set as Surfshark. They do give you basic leak protection in their apps, along with a kill switch. The kill switch worked well in our testing, but it would have been nice if the app told you that the switch had activated, instead of leaving you to guess why your connection was dead. You also get Scramble, their server obfuscation feature for defeating internet censorship. But when chatting with support for the IPVanish review, we learned it does not work in China.
They also offer a moderate set of VPN apps, which should suffice if you don’t have any particularly exotic devices you want to protect. Below is the IPVanish Windows VPN app, which felt a bit clunky and old-fashioned compared to Surfshark apps.
Like Surfshark, IPVanish also offers a dedicated app if you need a VPN for Firestick, which is available in the Amazon App Store.
What about servers? IPVanish offers a good number of servers, (1,600+ in all) in 75 locations around the world. This is about on par with other large VPN services, including CyberGhost and ExpressVPN.
Connections – Like Surfshark, IPVanish also gives you an unlimited number of connections. So in this area, both VPNs stand out from the crowd.
All in all, this isn’t a bad feature set, but Surfshark comes out on top by offering many more features than IPVanish. We also saw IPVanish came in second place for features in the ExpressVPN vs IPVanish comparison.
Feature set winner: Surfshark
4. Security and Encryption
For a VPN to protect your privacy, it needs excellent security. And to have excellent security, it must use excellent encryption. So let’s take a quick look at the security and encryption provided by Surfshark and IPVanish.
Surfshark security and encryption
When you use Surfshark’s WireGuard VPN protocol, your traffic is protected by a ChaCha20 cipher and other advanced encryption technology. When you use their OpenVPN or IKEv2 VPN protocols, Surfshark uses AES-256 cipher for encryption to give your traffic excellent security.
We ran leak tests with the Surfshark VPN apps and did not identify any leaks, bugs, or security problems:
Another security benefit you get with Surfshark is that all servers run on RAM-disk volatile memory with no hard drives. With all data stored in volatile memory, even if a Surfshark server gets seized by hostile forces there will be no disk drive to hack for user data. No hard drives = no data.
Note: NordVPN, Perfect Privacy, and ExpressVPN have also converted their networks to diskless operation.
Further cementing their standing as a secure VPN, Surfshark commissioned the German cybersecurity firm Cure53 to conduct an independent security audit of Surfshark’s browser extensions. This makes it an excellent choice if you need a VPN for Chrome. You can get more details about the audit in our Surfshark review.
IPVanish security and encryption
Unlike Surfshark, IPVanish does not support WireGuard, which is the latest development in VPN encryption. We really like WireGuard because of the performance and upgraded security. Currently, IPVanish supports the OpenVPN, IKEv2, and PPTP VPN protocols. The last protocol, PPTP, has some serious security vulnerabilities and should probably not even be offered.
Like Surfshark, we also did not find any leaks, bugs, or security flaws in our tests of the IPVanish apps:
Unlike Surfshark, we have not seen any evidence that IPVanish has passed any third-party security audits. Even after the logging fiasco, this VPN has not undergone a no-logs audit to try to win back trust. There are currently about ten different VPNs that have undergone a no logs VPN audit.
Security and encryption: Surfshark
5. Privacy and Logs
Surfshark privacy and logs
Note: The service optionally sends anonymized crash reports on mobile apps, but this can be easily disabled in the preferences.
Surfshark also publishes a warrant canary to warn users about privacy violations. As of January 12, 2021, the warrant canary showed no issues. On the privacy front, Surfshark is looking good.
IPVanish privacy and logs
IPVanish has a less sterling privacy record. We already covered the logging scandal above in the Background section.
Even though IPVanish claims to be a “no logs” service today, we have trouble really trusting these claims for two reasons:
- IPVanish has violated its own “no logs” policy in the past, and could do it again at any time.
- IPVanish operates from the US jurisdiction, where it can be forced to log data by US authorities.
While it may be an alright VPN for Kodi and streaming, IPVanish earns low marks in the privacy category.
Privacy and logs winner: Surfshark
6. Netflix, Streaming, and Torrenting
Many VPN users depend on their VPN to safely stream, download content, or unblock websites. But only certain VPNs can bypass the geo-blocking software deployed by streaming media services. Many users depend on their VPN to protect their privacy when downloading content by torrenting or P2P file sharing. Let’s compare IPVanish vs Surfshark on these capabilities.
Netflix and streaming
The ability to unblock Netflix and other streaming services is important. One that can do those things and is fast enough to display HD video has a shot at the top of this category.
Surfshark does it all, making it one of the best VPNs for Netflix. Officially, Surfshark supports about 17 different Netflix libraries around the world, including all of the most popular regions, such as the US, UK, Canada, and more. Below we are streaming UK Netflix through a Surfshark server in London:
IPVanish can sometimes get through to the Netflix US library. But this access was unreliable during our testing and does not consistently work. We had similar problems connecting to other geo-blocked services. Similarly, it is also not a good VPN for BBC iPlayer and was blocked in our tests.
IPVanish is not a good VPN for streaming geoblocked content.
When it comes to P2P file transfers and torrenting, the most important characteristics are speed and knowing your IP address will never be exposed.
Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for torrenting. With leak protection and kill switches built into their apps. Additionally, with the WireGuard protocol, Surfshark can deliver blazing fast speeds for P2P torrenting on all servers.
IPVanish provides good security against leaking your IP address, but server speeds were bad. Additionally, there are some concerns about IPVanish being in the US, which is home to some of the harshest copyright violation laws we’ve seen.
Netflix, streaming, and torrenting winner: Surfshark
7. Reliability and Support
Surfshark has a reputation for being a reliable service, and was reliable during out testing. And if you do have a problem or question, customer support is always available through their responsive 24/7 live chat system. We contacted them several times during our testing. The Surfshark team was always fast and helpful.
IPVanish functioned reliably during out testing. They also offer 24/7 live chat support. During our testing of this service, the support team was competent, although we sometimes had to wait 5+ minutes to be connected to a chat representative.
Reliability and support winner: Surfshark by a nose (fin?)
8. Price and Value
IPVanish pricing is ok, at least initially. $3.49/mo on the monthly plan is good, but after the first month it goes to $9.99/mo. Likewise, $27.99/yr is a very good price, but after the first year that jumps to $79.99/yr ($6.67/mo) which is very middle of the road.
Now let’s compare this to Surfshark.
Surfshark is an all-around cheap VPN service with the longer plans. It has a $12.95/mo monthly plan, a $38.94 ($6.49/mo) six month plan, and a $59.76 ($2.49/mo) two-year plan.
This makes Surfshark cheaper than IPVanish when you go with the two-year plan.
Refunds – Both VPN providers give you a 30 day money-back guarantee, but only the yearly IPVanish subscription qualifies for a refund.
Where VPNs offer different capabilities or performance, your personal circumstances and needs determine which one provides the most value to you. But at other times, one service will be a better value under virtually any circumstances.
This is our situation today. Surfshark does everything that IPVanish does. And it does each of those things as well or better, while also having a better privacy record and being based in a better privacy jurisdiction.
Price and value winner: Surfshark
Conclusion: Is Surfshark or IPVanish best?
Surfshark won every category in this IPVanish vs Surfshark comparison. It is clearly the better product, and also offers a better value. In fact, we consider it to be one of the best VPN services in the world.
With IPVanish, we aren’t even recommending it. In fact, after the big logging scandal in 2018, we have not considered this VPN to meet our criteria for trust. This is the same with PureVPN, which was also found to be lying about logs.
This wraps up our comparison of Surfshark and IPVanish. If you want to give Surfshark a try, be sure to get the best deal with the coupon below. And remember you also have 30 days to test out the service risk free.
Have you used Surfshark or IPVanish? Feel free to share your own review below in the comments.