Mullvad is a famously privacy-focused VPN with headquarters in Sweden. Where other VPNs make overtures to user anonymity, you can connect through Mullvad’s 663 international servers without ever surrendering your name, email address, or other personal details.
In our Mullvad review, we’ll take a look at what makes this provider different, whether the company’s claims of complete user anonymity are true, and if it’s a good VPN to pick as your first line of defense online.
Plans and Pricing
Mullvad has just one pricing plan at €5 ($5.40) per month. This is around half the price of most monthly VPN plans, but as Mullvad doesn’t offer a discount for longer contracts, it’s undercut by VPNs like Surfshark ($1.99/month if you pay for two years upfront.) Not everyone enjoys being locked into a long contract, though, and we imagine plenty of users would pay the reasonable €5 a month for the luxury of being able to cancel on their terms.
Getting started with Mullvad begins with generating an account number and buying some time. You need not hand over your email address, name, country, or any personal details, and with payment choices including Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, you never need to identify yourself to the company.
If this seems like too much hassle, the company also accepts PayPal, bank transfer, Swish, and credit card payment. Most interesting, though, is the option to pay cash – yep, you can send Mullvad an envelope of notes via snail mail to a real-life PO box. Out of the big VPN providers that’s pretty unique, and for the truly paranoid it’s an excellent option.
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Mullvad has a network of 663 servers in 36 countries. That’s a lot smaller than, say, NordVPN, which has around 5,200 servers, but it’s adequate for most needs. Client software is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, and it’s all open-source – a positive for security-conscious users who like to know what’s going on under the hood of their software.
On the Mullvad website the company spells out in impressive detail the records it stores on the server. In short, it logs nothing, and it only actively monitors the number of concurrent connections per account.
We noticed that when we changed between servers, our real IP address remained hidden at all times, something that many other VPNs overlook. Again, the company has put in the extra effort to ensure the privacy of users.
Mullvad also has a kill switch feature that automatically blocks internet traffic if the VPN fails for any reason. We put it to the test several times by forcibly closing the connection in different ways, and each time the software immediately noticed the problem and blocked our internet connection until the VPN reconnected.
On June 25, 2020, Mullvad released the results of its independent audit. It seems to have been generally positive, and the minor issues detected by the firm Cure53 have been addressed. This is good news, as Mullvad joining the ranks of fully-audited VPNs such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN can only boost its credibility as a secure provider.
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Interface and in use
Mullvad’s interface is decidedly bare compared to most, which we’re sure some users will find refreshing. After clicking Secure My Connection, you’re presented with a list of countries and cities from which to choose. There’s no option for finding the fastest server for your current location, no filters, and no favorites.
Though Mullvad is more focused on user privacy than unblocking regional content, we decided to test it against Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube. Of these, using Mullvad only gained us access to Netflix and YouTube, but that might be enough for some users.
However, we did find Mullvad’s speeds impressive. Testing it on our 75Mbps UK line gave us excellent speeds of 68-69Mbps, and on our 600Mbps US line, it delivered 270-310Mbps – much faster than most of the competition. Only a few VPNs that prioritize speed, such as Hotspot Shield and Speedify, have performed better in our recent tests.
Finally, while Mullvad hasn’t got huge device compatibility, with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux support, the vast majority of users will be covered. The apps are all stable and share a similar interface, which means there’s no learning curve when switching from your desktop to your phone.
The Mullvad website has comprehensive setup guides for the VPN apps and examples of how to use each of its functions. Although there are only around 10 additional guides for using things like SOCKS5, Tor, BitTorrent, and split tunneling, they’re well written and complemented by many searchable FAQs.
You can also email Mullvad support, and we appreciate how a GPG key is available so you can use PGP-encrypted email if you want to maintain absolute privacy. However, live-chat is not available, and now we’re used to it from our top-rated VPNs, we really do miss it.
For a reliable, security-focused VPN service with a larger network, you can’t go wrong with ExpressVPN. It has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, an excellent support website with hundreds of useful guides and tutorials, and 24/7 live chat support.
Another privacy-focused VPN available is StrongVPN, which has a zero-logging policy. You can connect up to 12 devices at a time, but its monthly plan costs around twice as much as Mullvad’s.
Mullvad: Final verdict
There’s a lot to like about Mullvad, particularly the company’s commitment to protecting your personal data. Independent audits are encouraging, and the company appears to have done everything possible to secure the privacy and anonymity of people using the VPN. We feel much more confident in Mullvad’s trustworthiness than we do in most of the competition.
Connection speeds are also excellent, but Mullvad doesn’t have the best regional content unblocking, and the apps are somewhat basic. However, if you’re just after a reliable VPN that does the basics well, Mullvad is a solid choice.
Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
Supported protocols: OpenVPN, WireGuard
No. of servers: 663
No. of countries: 36
Country of registration: Sweden
Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Bitcash, Swish, bank transfer, cash
Real name necessary? No
Encryption protocol: AES-256
Data usage: Unlimited
Bandwidth usage: Unlimited
Max. no. of simultaneously connected devices: Five
Customer support: Email and help centre
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