Mullvad is a Swedish VPN, and a name that carries a lot of clout in the industry. The reason why is simple – the best VPN providers all promise to protect your digital privacy, but Mullvad turns these claims into reality.
You don't need to supply a name, email, or other personal details to use the service. All it takes is a quick click of a button to create an account number. Mullvad even recommends that you use Bitcoin or cold, hard cash to pay for your subscription and further protect your anonymity, although you can opt for more conventional methods (including PayPal, card, bank transfer, Swish, Giropay, Monero, Eps transfer, iDEAL, Bancontact, and Przelewy24).
In May 2022, it upped the ante again by publishing the first security audit of its DNS servers in order to back up its security claims (and you can read the report here).
That's a great start, and in my expert Mullvad review, I'll dig deeper into Mullvad's features, speeds, and unblocking power to determine just how reliable this old favorite is.
Mullvad on paper
|Feature||Details||Header Cell - Column 2|
|Number of servers||650||Row 0 - Cell 2|
|Server countries||43||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|Supported platforms||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Firefox||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|Simultaneous connections||5||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|Split tunneling||Yes (Windows, Linux, Android)||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|Kill switch||Yes||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|Protocols supported||OpenVPN, WireGuard||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|Country of registration||Sweden||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|Support||Email, help centre||Row 8 - Cell 2|
Mullvad 1-minute review
Mullvad is packed full of features designed to maximize your digital privacy – and that includes high-strength encryption through AES-256 GCM or 4096-bit RSA certificates with SHA512. You'll also benefit from various layers of DNS and IPv6 leak protection and some handy stealth features that can help bypass VPN blocks. What's more, Mullvad only uses the OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols.
It was all good news when I dug into the OpenVPN implementation. The control channel uses TLS 1.3 (whereas other providers are still using 1.2), and equally impressive AES-256-GCM for the data channel. Mullvad also uses a fresh version of OpenVPN that's only four months old at the time of review. I've seen plenty of other VPN apps using versions of the protocol that are well over a year old, which means that they're not benefiting from the latest patches and updates.
This is as close to a clean bill of health as you can get. All of Mullvad's apps are open source, too, which means anyone can take a look at the code.
Although it 'only' has 650 servers (the likes of ExpressVPN boast upwards of 3,000), they're scattered across 43 countries, all support P2P traffic, and are surprisingly quick.
Currently, the VPN offers apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux, as well as a Firefox extension. You'll be able to connect up to five devices simultaneously – and while some providers are more generous (like Surfshark, which offers unlimited simultaneous connections), this is still more than enough to cover all of the most important gadgets in your house.
Now for the bad news. If you're an avid streamer and want to unblock your favorite streaming services when traveling abroad, Mullvad is a bust. Well, almost. It did unblock niche services in my tests, but you can forget about accessing Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime.
The service costs €5 a month no matter how long you sign up for, and it's simple enough to use, although the apps are basic-looking. Dig deeper, however, and you'll find great advanced features, like the ability to block adult content and gambling sites. If you get stuck, you'll need to rely on the Help Center or email the team directly seeing as there's no live chat support.
Mullvad isn't an all-rounder, but if your core concern is privacy, and you want to create a VPN account without handing over a shred of personal data, it's tough to beat.
- No-logging policy proved by police raid in April 2023
- Authoritative DNS server audit completed by Assured AB in May 2022
- Post-quantum-safe VPN tunnels available on desktop apps
- Account numbers are now available via Amazon (an anonymity plus)
- Expansion of diskless server infrastructure
- Recurring subscriptions revoked (allows the VPN to collect even less data)
- Content blockers for mobile apps (which filter gambling and adult content)
- Port forwarding is no longer supported
Mullvad price and payment
|Plan length||Overall cost||Monthly cost|
|1 month||€5 (around $5.40)||€5 (around $5.40)|
|1 year||€60 (around $65)||€5 (around $5.40)|
|10 years||€600 (around $650)||€5 (around $5.40)|
Unusually, Mullvad has only one pricing plan at €5 (around $5.40) per month. Whether you pay for one month, one year, or a decade, the price stays the same, and this is pretty cheap compared to plans you'll find elsewhere. Customers still miss out on huge potential savings, however, as there are no loyalty discounts. For example, Surfshark comes in at around $2.49 per month before deals if you purchase a two-year subscription.
Still, not everyone wants to dive head-first into a multi-year commitment, so the current price is quite reasonable in my view. Mullvad has also been charging the same monthly fee since it launched the service in 2009. The company says it does not "ever" have a sale, so there's no need to wonder if you're getting the best deal.
As mentioned earlier, you don't need to input your email address, name, country, or other personal details to get started. Instead, the service generates an account number, which is all you need. You can shore up your anonymity even further by paying via Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Monero, and there's a 10% discount if you use the aforementioned cryptocurrencies.
Don't worry if that all sounds like a lot of hassle—Mullvad accepts PayPal, Swish, bank transfer, and credit card payments. It's even possible to pay with cold, hard cash. Simply put the money and your payment token (which is randomly generated on the VPN website) in an envelope and send it to Mullvad directly. This is an awesome, if unusual, option to take advantage of if you're serious about flying under the radar, and the company accepts a wide range of currencies (including USD).
It's worth noting that Mullvad no longer supports renewals for privacy reasons. This means that you'll need to resubscribe manually at the end of your plan to continue using the service.
Does Mullvad have a free trial?
No. Mullvad says it avoids them because so many VPN free trials actually come at a cost, whether it's annoying intro ads, data collection in some form, or limited functionality.
However, the company does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee (unless you're paying with cash, thanks to anti-money laundering regulations). So you can effectively sign up to Mullvad and try it out risk-free without an official "free trial".
How private is Mullvad?
Mullvad uses 256-bit AES encryption, which is the gold standard I've come to expect from all top secure VPN providers. The company logs nothing, with only the number of concurrent connections per account being monitored.
During my testing, my real IP address remained hidden at all times, even when changing between servers. That indicated to me that Mullvad really does take its promises of anonymity and "total privacy" seriously.
In June 2020, Mullvad released the results of its independent audit. They were generally positive, with minor issues flagged by Cure53 addressed quickly, and the VPN joined the likes of ExpressVPN and NordVPN by cementing itself as a credible and secure provider. Undertaking a full audit of its desktop and mobile apps is a smart move on Mullvad's part – it means that there's readily available (and independently gathered) proof to back up its privacy claims.
In May 2022, the company's DNS servers underwent an independent audit by Assured AB security consultants (here's the report). Assured AB found no critical issues and no logging, but did make a few recommendations that have now been implemented.
I put this to the test by forcibly closing the OpenVPN and WireGuard connection in a few different ways. The kill switch handled it like a dream; it immediately notified me about the problem and displayed a 'Reconnecting' alert, cut my internet connection to stop IP leaks, and then, after just a few seconds, displayed a 'Secured' notification when the connection was re-established.
What's more, in April 2023, Mullvad's offices were visited by police officers demanding data. The long and short of the story is that there was no data to hand over, meaning that Mullvad can truly be trusted to keep your activity private.
A VPN kill switch will usually only protect you when your VPN connection drops during a session, but Mullvad goes the extra mile by providing a 'Lockdown mode'. This super-secure feature, once enabled, will prevent you from accessing the internet at all unless you're connected to the VPN. It's a little inconvenient, but it does mean you'll be covered 24/7 – and it's totally optional to use. It's well worth using if you're going on vacation and frequenting unknown Wi-Fi hotspots.
Next, I used a few sites (including DNSLeakTest.com and DNSLeak.com) to check Mullvad's desktop and mobile apps for DNS leaks. Mullvad passed with flying colors, and no leaks, in every situation.
I'm also hugely impressed that there's an ad-blocking feature included in Mullvad's Windows VPN, Mac VPN, and iOS VPN apps. It allows users to separately block ads, trackers, and malware, in addition to adult content and gambling sites.
Naturally, I had to put it to the test. It blocked 74% of 156 common trackers, which is pretty impressive seeing as most VPNs manage 70% to 90%, and warned me about 99% of 379 malicious URLs. Finally, it scored 90% in terms of ad blocking, which is at the high end of the 40% to 90% range that most VPNs fall into.
The software is very effective, although you shouldn't rely on it completely. It's no substitute for the best antivirus package.
My next text involved using the Blacklight privacy inspector to scan websites for integrated trackers from a variety of sources, like Google and social media. You'll typically find most VPNs have about five trackers, but Mullvad had none – and that's pretty awesome.
εxodus, an Android app scanning site, came to an even more promising conclusion, confirming that Mullvad had no trackers and required just four permissions, which is minuscule compared to the ten to twenty permissions of other VPNs.
How fast is Mullvad VPN?
Mullvad has a solid network of 650 servers in 43 countries. That’s quite a bit smaller than some other VPNs, like NordVPN and its fleet of 5,000 servers, but don't be fooled – Mullvad is no slowcoach.
The service performed impeccably across the board. In my UK tests, I reached speeds of 300 to 530 Mbps with OpenVPN, which sends Mullvad right to the top of the rankings. In fact, it's about two or three times faster than some of its competitors.
Switching to WireGuard, I clocked similarly impressive speeds that reached 660 to over 950 Mbps. Again, that puts Mullvad among the fastest VPNs on the market with only a few, like TorGuard, NordVPN, and Hide.me, offering better all-round speeds.
The good news continued into my server location tests. Lots of VPN providers use virtual locations, and these servers will give you an IP based in one country even though they could be located somewhere else entirely. While this can come in handy if you're near the server, it can also mean that you'll experience unexpectedly slow speeds if you're not.
I picked eight Mullvad locations and found that they were all in, or very close to, the countries they claimed as a base.
So, Mullvad may not be the very fastest service I've tested, but it's by no means a slouch, and offers speedy enough performance for the vast majority of users. It's just a shame that those speeds can't be leveraged by those who want to unblock streaming services...
How good is Mullvad for streaming?
|Disney Plus||Not working|
|ITV Player||Not working|
A VPN is an essential tool for anyone who wants to stay safe online, but they have lots of other advantages. One of the biggies is the ability to unlock geo-restricted streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Sling.
A streaming VPN can come in extremely handy when traveling abroad, since most services take note of your location and then prevent you from watching movies and TV shows when you're outside of your home country.
Unfortunately, since Mullvad is focused on user privacy above all else, its unblocking capabilities aren't too impressive. The service failed to grant me access to UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan Netflix libraries, and couldn't unblock BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, or Disney+.
When it comes to regional services, however, the outlook is a little sunnier. Mullvad had no trouble with UK channels ITV and Channel 4, and 9Now in Australia, but it couldn't unblock 10Play.
If you tend to favor smaller streaming services over the big names, then Mullvad might offer all the capabilities you need. Unfortunately, you'll need to look elsewhere for reliable access to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime. ExpressVPN, Hide.me, NordVPN, PureVPN, and Surfshark, for example, are all capable of unblocking most major streaming services, and excel as Netflix VPNs.
How good are Mullvad's apps?
Mullvad's interface is rather basic compared to other VPNs. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however, especially if you're a VPN newbie.
If you have used other VPNs before, you'll find that some of their apps vary massively across platforms. This isn't the case with Mullvad. Its open-source Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux apps are almost identical. A Firefox browser extension is also available, but Chrome VPN users will be left wanting.
All of the apps have a color panel and a useful map that pinpoints your current location, and I found the UI incredibly easy to navigate. Clicking the location name will bring you to a list of countries and cities, so you can take your pick, although there's a distinct lack of options available here.
There's no favorites system, ping times aren't displayed, server load indicators are missing, and it's not possible to sort options with filters, either. While this stripped-back approach keeps things simple, I'd like to at least see an option to automatically select the nearest server rather than having to hunt it down manually.
The VPN does have a slightly unusual option to filter results to show Mullvad-owned servers. Doing so will narrow your selection to locations in the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Switzerland. Nine countries isn't exactly a feast, but only Mullvad has full access to these servers, which might boost your security.
Once you've picked out a server, getting connected only takes a few seconds using WireGuard. OpenVPN is a little slower, clocking in at six to eight seconds, but that's still less than half the time it takes with some other VPNs.
What customer support does Mullvad offer?
Let's face it, things can and do go wrong even in the world of VPNs, and there's some great troubleshooting content on the Mullvad Help Center. You'll find comprehensive setup guides for its VPN mobile apps and examples of how to use certain features. The detail in these articles doesn't stack up when compared to ExpressVPN or Nord, but they're still well-written and easy to follow.
Unfortunately, they're not as easy to find. The Help Center doesn't put in-demand articles front and center, which means that even if you have a relatively common query, you might need to hunt for an answer via the somewhat unreliable search function.
Although there's no live support (which is a bit of a letdown), you can contact Mullvad via email or within the app. I asked a question and got an answer in under 90 minutes – it was accurate, more detailed than the Help Center, and provided by a friendly agent. That's a win in my book.
Mullvad VPN review: Final verdict
If your main concern is anonymity and privacy, then you'll love Mullvad. The company has taken many steps to prove its commitment to protecting your personal data. From not needing to input personal details when creating your account to the ability to pay for your subscription with cash, Mullvad has taken all possible precautions to safeguard the anonymity of its users. Add the open-source apps and audits to all of that, and the trustworthiness and credibility of the company skyrockets.
Speed and performance are equally impressive, although the Mullvad apps are basic, some core features are missing, and you won't be unblocking big-name streaming services anytime soon. So if you want to watch Netflix, Disney+, and others, look elsewhere (you can’t go wrong with ExpressVPN).
All things considered, Mullvad is a reliable choice that puts anonymity and privacy above all else. If security is your top priority, it's well worth a look.
Tom's Guide rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
✔️ You want one of the most secure VPNs on the market today. Mullvad has proven its commitment to digital privacy with third-party audits, a reliable kill switch, and DNS leak protection.
✔️ You want ultra-fast OpenVPN and WireGuard speeds. Few VPNs can match Mullvad when it comes to speed, and you'll have no trouble streaming in HD, gaming online, or torrenting.
✔️ You want straightforward desktop and mobile apps. New to the world of VPNs? Mullvad's apps all come with a clean, clutter-free interface that’s easy to navigate – even if you're not an expert.
✔️ You want an affordable VPN with a transparent pricing structure. The monthly cost of a Mullvad subscription is the same whether you opt for a long-term plan or a few months of protection.
Don't subscribe if:
❌ You want to unblock streaming services such as Netflix. Mullvad is a privacy-first provider that simply doesn't work with the majority of streaming sites – which is bad news for movie buffs.
❌ You want 24/7 live chat support. If you run into trouble, you'll need to email Mullvad, or reach out via the app, which isn't as convenient as live chat.
❌ You want a VPN that automatically re-bills you at the end of your plan. While other providers let you "set it and forget it", you'll need to continuously (and manually) renew your commitment to Mullvad.
|Design||A basic design means apps are easy to use, but there are a few missing features (like a favorites system)||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Ease of use||Beginners and VPN veterans will have no trouble with Mullvad||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Performance||An incredibly speedy service – especially if you’re using WireGuard||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Unblocking||Can’t access on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer||⭐|
|Security and privacy||Outstanding, including 256-bit AES encryption and a proven no-logs policy||⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|Customer support||Falls behind competitors with a lack of live chat support||⭐⭐⭐|
|Price||Straightforward structure that is reasonably priced, but no discounts on long-term plans||⭐⭐⭐⭐|
How we test VPNs
Understanding how our team of experts tests VPNs is important. It lets you know that we really have got hands-on with these products, and that we’ve considered every feature, no matter how small. Some sites just give a rundown of specs found on a provider’s website – we endeavor to do quite a bit more than that.
First of all, we do check the provider websites, and note useful information like the number of servers and locations, whether you’re allowed to use every server for P2P, which encryption protocols are supported, the variety of operating systems it runs on, and tons more. We also check the pricing at this stage.
This initial scan gives us a baseline understanding of the service, and if there are any bold claims on-site we note them to make sure the customer isn’t being misled.
We’ll then dig into privacy policies. This is a very important piece of literature for any company, but for VPNs they need to be absolutely watertight. We’ll also go through the logging or zero-logging policy to look for gaps, and read any information available on independent audits.
Then it comes to testing the applications themselves. We test how easy it is to download and install, noting if any data collection options are clearly outlined to the user. We then inspect the default configuration to see what you have to ‘opt in’ for, and what features are available overall. We then play around with any additional features, such as ExpressVPN’s server speed test or NordVPN’s Double VPN. After we’ve gone through everything on the surface, the fun bit starts – trying to break things.
We throw all sorts of curveballs at these VPNs, like connecting to oddly configured networks, and killing processes to see if we can get the VPN to stop without activating the kill switch.
After we’ve had our fun, we check in with the support team to see if they’re helpful. Then, we’ll check a wide range of streaming sites to see if the VPN is able to access geo-blocked content, and we’ll run a series of speed tests over a few days and nights to get an accurate picture of what sort of connection speeds you can expect.