Mullvad offers a super private VPN service with plenty of extra security features. It boasts a user-friendly desktop app for VPN newbies and many configurable settings for the more tech-savvy, for just $5.80 a month. On local connections, it’s fast enough for general browsing, streaming in HD and P2P activity. We like that performance is just as consistent connecting internationally too. High latencies make it hard for us to recommend Mullvad to avid gamers. We could access both Netflix and BBC iPlayer in our most recent tests, but access has been very inconsistent in the past.
Mullvad does well for privacy due to its sensible minimal logging policy, the option to pay in cash and the lack of personal details required on sign-up. Advanced security features, such as integrated DNS leak blocking and split tunneling, paired with the default OpenVPN protocol make this provider very secure. The user-friendly desktop computer apps are great for VPN newbies, but a lack of native apps for smartphones could be off-putting for some. Customer service is friendly but occasionally slow, with no live chat function.
Pricing & Deals
Unlike most providers, Mullvad offers no subscription plans or discounts for long-term commitments to the service. Instead, you pay one set monthly price and ‘top up’ for however long you want to use the service.
For just $5.80 a month, Mullvad is a relatively cheap provider, especially considering you aren’t tied in for 12 months or more. However, if you want to subscribe to a VPN provider on a long-term basis, choosing one with an annual plan could save you money in the long run.
Mullvad Pricing & Deals
Mullvad offers its users three hours of free service on download, no payment details required, after which you pay the flat rate. The free trial may be too short to fully test out the software, but the provider also offers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee, which is available to all except those paying in cash. You will receive a refund for any reason if you claim within the 30 days, making it a relatively risk-free purchase.
Mullvad accepts most standard forms of payment, such as credit/debit card and PayPal. It also accepts some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. You can pay by bank wire and Swedish mobile payment, Swish, too. Other popular international payment methods, such as Alipay, aren’t yet available.
Mullvad is one of the only providers we have come across that allows you to pay in cash, which is great for those seeking total anonymity. Just send them an envelope containing any amount of money in any currency along with your account number and they will top up your account accordingly.
Speed & Reliability
Mullvad’s performance doesn’t quite measure up to that offered by top-tier providers, but it does offer fairly quick speeds on local connections. Connecting to any nearby servers, you can expect performance more than good enough for general browsing, torrenting and HD streaming, but probably not on more than a couple of devices at the same time.
Local downloads peaked at a quick 71Mbps in Germany and remained pretty consistent across all European connections (we test from London). We were also very impressed with performance connecting out to the US East Coast, coming in at 50Mbps, which is more than enough for HD streaming. Speeds dropped over longer distances, but we still found performance to be fast enough for general browsing and single-device HD streaming, with speeds reaching 25Mbps connecting out as far as Australia.
We found latency to be unacceptably high, even on local connections- the lowest latency we found was a very unimpressive 15ms, and that was connecting to a server in the same city. For this reason, we definitely can’t recommend Mullvad for avid gamers, especially since some providers boast zippy ping times of less than 1ms.
We experienced a few connection drops during our testing, particularly when we selected a city-level server rather than connecting to a country, which was frustrating. Thankfully the kill switch kicked in each time to ensure our true IP address wasn’t exposed. Switching between servers was occasionally on the slow side, taking over 10 seconds to reconnect at times, but again the kill switch sprung to action, blocking our internet traffic.
We were impressed by Mullvad’s upload speeds on local connections, which peaked at 83Mbps in the Netherlands, making it a great choice for P2P users. Once more, this dropped significantly on long-distance connections, plummeting to a measly 3Mbps in Singapore. This won’t be an issue for the majority, but if you want to torrent internationally, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Mullvad is speedy enough for everyday users looking to browse and stream in HD on one or two devices simultaneously. It is also a good option for torrenters due to fast local upload speeds. However, if you need to connect internationally, we’d recommend looking at our top-tier providers that offer reliable performance both on local and long-distance connections.
To find out more about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
With just 33 countries on offer, Mullvad has a pretty limited server network, and a very Eurocentric one at that. For many users, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem as the most popular countries are covered, but if you do need more choice, providers such as HideMyAss! boast up to 190 server countries.
Mullvad currently operates a respectable 250+ servers, but with just one IP address per server, users may experience some decreased performance during peak times. Thankfully, this has not been the case during our testing.
We like that Mullvad allows users to drill down to city-level in seven countries and we are especially impressed by the server choice in the US, with a whopping 28 cities represented. There are also four city locations across Australia, which is a welcome change to the usual Sydney-focused services.
Unfortunately, users are limited to just one country in South America (Brazil) and have no choice at all in Africa. If you are located in these regions you may need to look for providers offering more coverage in your area for the best possible performance.
You can find the complete list of Mullvad server locations by country and purpose on their website below.
Platforms & Devices
Mullvad offers user-friendly custom apps for Microsoft Windows, MacOS and Linux. A lack of native apps for smartphones means that users will have to manually configure their devices with the OpenVPN software, which could frustrating for those looking for a one-click solution. Mullvad informed us that Android and iOS apps are in development, however it will be ‘a while before something is released’.
If you get stuck installing the software on any device, Mullvad’s website offers helpful step-by-step installation guides, including resources for DD-WRT and OpenWrt routers. Unfortunately it’s not possible to buy a router with the VPN software pre-installed, so those not comfortable with an element of manual configuration should look elsewhere.
Mullvad doesn’t offer any browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari, which is unlikely to be a problem for most people. However, if you are a heavy browser user, some of our top-tier providers, such as ExpressVPN, offer VPN and proxy browser extensions for a more lightweight experience.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
There are a couple of different ways to use Mullvad with your games consoles and streaming devices. The most simple way to protect your devices would be to connect them to a configured router using the step-by-step instructions on the Guides section of the website. This means that every internet-connected device in your home will be protected by the VPN without having to install individual apps on each one.
If your router isn’t compatible, another method is to piggyback off the VPN connection from another device running the Mullvad app, such as a desktop computer. Mullvad generously allows five simultaneous connections, so you can protect all your own devices and your family members’ too.
Streaming & Torrenting
Mullvad hasn’t been the most reliable provider when it comes to easy and consistent access to popular streaming sites, however in our most recent tests we were able to access both US Netflix and iPlayer. Due to a lack of dedicated streaming servers, we found ourselves having to test out each server location one by one, which was time consuming, but after several tries we found Netflix to work through a couple of the US servers and thankfully experienced speeds good enough for buffer-free HD streaming.
Watching BBC iPlayer was also possible after testing out a few different UK servers. However, if you’re looking for one-click access to these services, you’d be better off opting for a provider with dedicated streaming servers, such as SaferVPN.
Mullvad authorizes P2P activity on all of its servers, significantly reducing the risk of server congestion even at peak times. Paired with reliable local speeds and a range of advanced security features, this provider is a secure and reliable option for torrenters. They even offer a comprehensive guide to using BitTorrent with the VPN.
Encryption & Security
Mullvad boasts loads of extra security features and is a great choice for those seeking top-level privacy. Encryption is via top cipher AES-256 and you can also choose between two VPN protocols: OpenVPN and WireGuard. Currently, we recommend OpenVPN, the app’s default protocol, since it is the industry standard and offers a good balance between performance and privacy. WireGuard is an in-development protocol that promises faster speeds and potentially a higher level of security than OpenVPN due to the simplicity of its coding and strong encryption. Using it requires manual configuration and bear in mind that it’s a work in progress, so security isn’t completely guaranteed at this point, but we do see a lot of promise in it.
The built-in kill switch, which prevents your true IP address from being exposed should the connection drop, is a must-have and we like that it doesn’t require manual activation. Mullvad also offers integrated DNS leak protection and operates its own DNS servers, meaning your web traffic isn’t routed through less secure third-party servers, which would risk exposing your true IP address. Unfortunately, WebRTC leaks on the Chrome browser are a common issue and Mullvad recommends using Firefox instead, but we found that clearing our cookies and switching off location sharing solved the issue.
Mullvad also offers split tunneling, which allows you to route privacy-sensitive data, such as online banking, through the VPN and less important stuff through your normal internet connection, improving performance. SOCKS5 proxy is also a plus for torrenters. Mullvad was also recently included in a report by the CDT (Center for Democracy & Technology) investigating the “Signals of Trustworthy VPNs”, where they revealed the extra steps they take to ensure user privacy. This includes building their apps in Rust, a programming language made for building secure programs, and also using code signing for app and server code.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- First-party DNS
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- Supports TCP Port 443
- VPN Kill Switch
- Split Tunneling
Due to China’s recent crackdown on VPN providers, it’s becoming increasingly hard to recommend Mullvad for use in that country, however there are a couple of options that may work. Customer support suggested using the Shadowsocks proxy, but this is not as secure as a VPN and should be avoided if privacy is your priority. There are also claims that the WireGuard protocol works in China, which is worth trying, but currently not guaranteed. Should you use wish to use Mullvad in the country, we’d recommend having a backup solution, such as a free trial from another provider who confirms that their service works in the country.
Although other high-censorship countries, such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, are generally less aggressive in their approach to VPNs in comparison to China, we can’t recommend Mullvad due to its limited server choice outside of Europe.
Mullvad shows a clear dedication to privacy, with a sensible minimal-logs policy that only collects anonymous connection metadata relating to server usage. No personal details are even needed to create an account and instead you are assigned a randomly-generated account number, further protecting your identity.
The provider does not log any traffic, user bandwidth, or originating IP addresses. It does monitor a user’s total number of simultaneous connections, but this data is never stored.
Mullvad is incorporated in Sweden, a member of the ‘Fourteen Eyes’, an intelligence alliance made up of 14 countries who collect and share mass surveillance data. This is a potential red flag, but considering the provider’s sensible minimal-logs policy, no data requested by the authorities can be linked back to an individual user.
Ease of Use
Mullvad provides a sleek and simple desktop client for Windows, Mac and Linux users. The main screen is clutter free, displaying only your connection status and selected server. When connected, the banner at the top turns green and the app reads ‘secure connection’. A red banner indicates that the VPN is not connected. The app is buried in your toolbar each time you click elsewhere, which is pretty annoying.
Changing server location is simple and can be found by clicking ‘Switch Location’ on the main screen- you can drill down to city level in some locations and even choose a specific server/ The main settings are located in the top right corner, but lack access to many of the advanced features, such as split tunneling, which again require manual configuration. The app’s advanced settings only allow you to toggle between UDP and TCP and select your preferred port.
Our biggest gripe about Mullvad’s usability is that no one-click solution is available for mobiles. Instead you have to go through a lengthy process to configure your device with OpenVPN. This makes it harder to recommend to VPN newbies.
Downloading and installing the custom apps for Windows, Mac and Linux is simple and quick, taking just a few minutes from account signup to connection. You only need to pay once your 3-hour trial is over.
The process comprises of downloading the relevant software from the site, following a few installation prompts, logging in and then you’re just a click away from securing your internet connection. If you get stuck, the website offers easy-to-follow set-up guides with screenshots for extra clarity.
It’s worth noting that the process for downloading the VPN on any other device, including mobiles, is much more lengthy and involves setting up OpenVPN on your device and then downloading Mullvad’s configuration files. There are step-by-step guides for this on the website but VPN newbies might want to stick to providers that offer custom mobile apps.
Mullvad currently has no live chat feature and the speed of email replies is variable, from a couple of minutes to 12 hours, which is frustrating if you want answers immediately. However, the customer support agents were friendly and helpful when they did reply. Mullvad also provides a street address, which is a refreshing change in this digital age of screens and faceless customer support agents.
Should you have any urgent queries, most answers can be found in the provider’s comprehensive FAQs, Guides and Blog on their website. There is, however, no search function, meaning you may have to look through a few different articles before you find what you’re after. Some of the guides and FAQs need updating to reflect software changes.
The Bottom Line
- Peak local download speeds of up to 71Mbps
- Access to Netflix & iPlayer currently possible
- P2P activity permitted on all servers
- Connect securely to 32 countries
- Loads of extra security features, such as split tunneling
- Access to Netflix & iPlayer inconsistent
- No one-click solution for smartphones
- High latencies on local and international connections
- Limited server network
- Email support can be slow
Mullvad is a great provider for those seeking the closest possible thing to online anonymity. For just $5.80 a month and no long-term commitment, it’s also a relatively inexpensive option. On local connections, it’s more than quick enough for general browsing and HD streaming across a few devices. Access to Netflix and iPlayer is currently possible, but has been very inconsistent. High latencies will deter avid gamers, but fortunately, P2P users can torrent to their heart’s content as it’s permitted on all servers.
The desktop apps are user-friendly enough, but if you’re not tech-savvy and want to use a VPN with your smartphone, we’d recommend looking at other providers as Mullvad requires manual configuration to work on these devices. This is also the case if you want full access to all of Mullvad’s advanced security features, such as split tunneling.
Despite being based in privacy-unfriendly Sweden, the lack of personally-identifiable logs means that nothing you do online can be traced back to you. You can pay in cash and signup doesn’t require any personal details, making this provider great for privacy. There is talk of it working in China by using the experimental WireGuard protocol, however this is neither guaranteed nor secure. Email support is friendly, if occasionally slow, but Mullvad’s online resources should be sufficient for most basic queries.