You HAVE to have a brake controller box to have any brakes with electric brakes on the trailer. There is a wide variation of quality of braking control by the various electric brake controllers.
Surge brakes are the most primitive type of trailer brakes-certainly not a step up from electric brakes. That's why there are legal limits for surge brakes. But electric brakes are not as good as hydraulic brakes-not to be confused with hydraulic surge brakes.