Relative newcomer Surfshark is moving in fast on its virtual private network competitors, giving the more established Norton Secure VPN a reason to be worried. When it comes to speed, security and price, here's how the up-and-comer VPN stacks up against one of the industry's best-known brands.
Read more: How we evaluate and review VPNs
It won't be long until big-name VPNs realize what kind of threat Surfshark really is: It's faster than a VPN of its size should be, has stronger security than you'd expect, offers a suite of impressive features and has cutthroat prices to go with its unlimited simultaneous connection allowance. During our 2020 testing, Surfshark has given even our most highly recommended VPNs a run for their money on speed, security and cost.
You want to watch Netflix from any country? Surfshark's watertight DNS features make that possible. You want to torrent quickly and privately? Surfshark routes you to its own P2P-configured servers out of the US. You want to block fingerprinting trackers, use a private search engine, and camouflage your traffic so it looks completely normal with the assurance of a kill switch? Surfshark's CleanWeb ad-blocker, Blindsearch search engine and on-board obfuscation covers you.
With just 1,000 servers in 60 countries, we lost only 27% of average internet speeds during our Surfshark speed tests (Surfshark has since increased its servers to 1,700 in 63 countries). The service immediately blew past NordVPN's and Norton Secure VPN's tested speeds (which averaged 32% speed loss and 57% speed loss, respectively), and into competition with the likes of other speed-intensive VPNs such as ExpressVPN and IPVanish.
Surfshark is currently living up to its name with an aggressive pricing scheme. Right now, it's offering an 83% discount, bringing costs down to $2 a month for a two-year plan ($48 in total). That offer stands up easily to Norton's $60 annual plan, and offers unlimited simultaneous connections compared to Norton's 10-device limit. Surfshark is also available for Linux, Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV. Norton, on the other hand, works with only Windows, Android, MacOS and iOS.
There are few more familiar names in information security than Norton and LifeLock. But with limited server options and a few dealbreaker security issues, it's clear that the Norton Secure VPN from NortonLifeLock still has some work to do before it can meet the high standards set by its sibling security products.
In terms of speed, Norton's are on par with other midtier VPNs: During my testing, it achieved only about 43% of the average 187 megabit-per-second speed achieved on a 1 gigabit-per-second-capable fiber connection during testing, while still maintaining an average of around 81Mbps globally. But unlike many other VPNs, Norton doesn't allow you to choose the city you connect to -- only the country. Norton's Hong Kong servers dragged down overall speed scores, averaging just 6Mbps. So if you're looking for a VPN to use while traveling in China, you may want to consider a different option.
Norton offers what it calls bank-grade encryption -- standard AES-256 -- but offers no kill switch, which would prevent network data from leaking outside of its secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. I'd generally consider a lack of kill switch a deal breaker. Norton also didn't mask my IPv6 address, and I experienced DNS leaks during testing -- major security red flags from a product that is supposed to mask your browsing activity.
This also led to difficulties accessing Netflix. So if you're looking for a VPN that will allow you to access your normal media subscriptions while traveling, we recommend seeking a different VPN for now. We likewise recommend looking elsewhere if you want a VPN that allows torrenting, can be used on a wide variety of devices, or can be paid for in bitcoin.
Norton Secure VPN is only available on the four main platforms -- Windows, Android, Mac and iOS. Depending on your subscription, you can opt for one, five or 10 simultaneous connections. The least expensive plan is the $5 monthly plan, which allows only one device at a time. The most expensive is the 10-device annual plan for $60. That's more than you should be paying for something that doesn't disguise your location, doesn't support Netflix, and drags on speed.
On the plus side, the application comes with a built-in ad-tracking blocker.