For those who are looking for privacy online, the Swedish VPN service Mullvad might be the best provider out there. It uses a unique account-creation system that provides you with a randomly generated account, which allows the service to operate without collecting so much as an email address or name. You can also pay by cash to keep the paper trail to a minimum.
On top of this, Mullvad was an early adopter of the OpenVPN protocol more than a decade ago, which is now considered the gold standard for security (read our ExpressVPN review to see it in action). Today, Mullvad promotes and helps fund the development of a new, cutting-edge protocol called WireGuard.
Although this sounds like the ideal VPN, there are also a number of shortcomings that we’ll look at in this Mullvad VPN review that keep it from making our best VPN list.
Mullvad lags behind many competitors when it comes to streaming and features, which causes it to ultimately land somewhere more in the middle of the pack, despite the excellent security and privacy offered. To see how it does against a more mainstream competitor, check out our comparison with NordVPN.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Does not log any identifying information
- OpenVPN & WireGuard protocols
- Excellent security & privacy
- Affordable short-term pricing
- Easy to use
- Poor streaming performance
- Limited features
- Relatively small network
Alternatives for Mullvad
- : PayPal, Credit card, Cash, Bank Transfer, Bitcoin, bitcoin cash, Swish
- : 5
- : No
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, AmazonPay
- : 10
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
Most software lies on a spectrum that runs from “feature-rich but hard to use” on one end to “simplistic but easy to use” on the other. Mullvad sits on the far end of the ease-of-use side of that spectrum and offers very little when it comes to features.
In the settings, you’ll find options for whether or not the application launches on startup and whether it connects automatically when it does. However, you cannot choose where the VPN connects to automatically. Mullvad will always choose the most recently used location.
Mullvad has a kill switch that cannot be turned off, but there is also an option in the settings for blocking all internet traffic when the VPN isn’t connected.
This goes a step beyond the standard kill switch configuration, which blocks traffic only if the VPN is connected first and then loses its connection. You can also pair it with the auto-connection option so that your computer never has a window of exposure while initially connecting to the VPN.
We expect every VPN service to offer both a kill switch and auto-connect options because these features can directly impact security. Beyond this, Mullvad doesn’t offer any eye-catching extras built into the app.
However, it is possible to get some features, such as split tunneling and port forwarding, working with some manual setup. The guides for how to do this are on Mullvad’s website, but if you’re not familiar with or interested in setting up configuration files to do it, then Mullvad might not be the ideal solution for you.
If you’re looking for a more feature-rich VPN that doesn’t require manual setup, we suggest taking a look at our ExpressVPN vs CyberGhost article.
- : PayPal, Credit card, Cash, Bank Transfer, Bitcoin, bitcoin cash, Swish
- : 5
- : No
- : 764 servers in 36 countries
- : Windows, MacOS, Linux
- : Android, iOS
- : No
- : No
- : No
- : 256-AES
- : OpenVPN, WireGuard
- : No
- : No
- : 24/7
- : No
- : No
Mullvad’s pricing is ingenious in that it has only one price. Most VPN services offer three or four plans in differing time frames. If you look at our Private Internet Access review, you can see a prime example of a VPN that offers multiple plans with a steep discount when signing up for long periods.
Mullvad breaks this mold by charging a flat five euros per month. Not only does this simplify things greatly, but it also means you can get a great price without having to sign up for a long period. Although the price doesn’t get quite as low as if you were to purchase a year or more with some providers, it’s one of the best short-term prices out there.
For payment, Mullvad accepts credit cards, PayPal, bitcoin, Swish, bank wire and cash. Yes, cash. If you want to maximize your anonymity, you can mail cash to Mullvad’s headquarters in Sweden for a VPN account with no paper trail. Once paid for, each account allows for up to five simultaneous connections.
Mullvad offers a 30-day refund period, which is something of an industry standard at this point that we’re big fans of. This is a great way for people to try out a VPN without necessarily committing anything to it. Although a free trial would be better — such as the one you can read about in our ProtonVPN review — a money-back guarantee is the next best thing.
Ease of Use
From signing up to using the software, Mullvad has a very refined user experience that is one of the best we’ve seen. If you can use a computer, you can use the Mullvad VPN. Starting with the website, things are very well laid out, and finding what you’re looking for is a breeze.
Account creation is one of the ways that Mullvad distinguishes itself from much of the competition. You do not need to tell Mullvad your email address, name or anything at all to make an account.
All you do is click the button on the Mullvad website that says “generate account” and you are given a unique, randomly generated 16-digit number. This account number essentially acts as both your Mullvad account name and your password. Compared to the arduous process of signing up for TorGuard, it’s a nice change of pace.
You can then pay using your credit card, PayPal or another preferred method to add time to that account number. This is an easy way to handle account creation, but it also adds a layer of anonymity for the end-user because it means that Mullvad has no identifying information on you.
The software is also well designed for ease of use. It clearly shows where you will be connecting to and a large button to actually connect to the VPN.
Although there isn’t a map, like you can see from both providers in our TunnelBear vs NordVPN article, the layout of the server list is still easy to browse and even makes it simple to pick exactly which server you want in each location. Even the interface font seems to complement the overall ease of use with its excellent readability.
With all that said, there were just a couple of oddities that interrupted this otherwise pristine user experience during this Mullvad review. To start, the first time we opened the VPN app, it automatically connected us to Malmö, Sweden.
This makes sense, since it’s nearby to where Mullvad is based. We didn’t ask it to do this, though, and we had to immediately disconnect and reconnect to the location we actually wanted.
This one-time occurrence is a very minor inconvenience, but the other thing we experienced was a Google Chrome crash while using the VPN. Chrome has never crashed on this computer, and Mullvad was the only other thing running at the time.
We were using WireGuard, which is a new protocol we’ll talk about shortly, so it could be a side effect of a protocol still in late development (check out our VyprVPN review to see another VPN with a unique protocol.) Alternatively, it could just be this computer showing the first signs of age. We can’t be certain either way, but we thought it was worth mentioning.
Mullvad has decent speeds, though it was unable to earn a spot in our fastest VPN guide. There are two protocols: the tried-and-true OpenVPN and the new (and supposedly cutting-edge) WireGuard. We’ll look at these in more detail in the “security” section, but we thought we’d bring it up now so we can compare this new protocol to the reigning king in a speed test.
|United Arab Emirates|
To start off, we tested OpenVPN by selecting what should have been the nearest location, the U.S. server. Strangely, while using OpenVPN, we were connecting to either Colorado or California despite being on the East Coast. This pushed up ping times significantly. WireGuard, on the other hand, connected to a server in New York, which is much closer.
Despite this, OpenVPN still saw decent speeds and felt responsive while browsing the web. The UK server performed well and also felt quite quick. Although the Hong Kong and UAE servers saw progressively lower speeds in our testing, streaming videos still worked fine — even in HD — and websites loaded quickly.
Moving on to our WireGuard results, we saw a statistically significant jump in upload and download speeds in the U.S. and the UK, but a notable drop in download speeds in Hong Kong. Ultimately, all of Mullvad’s servers felt about the same regardless of protocol, but this shouldn’t be too surprising, looking at the numbers on paper.
The difference between the 160 Mbps we were getting using OpenVPN and the 216 Mbps we saw using WireGuard is not something you would notice under normal circumstances.
As a guideline, for example, 4K video takes only about 32 Mbps to stream. This means the difference between these protocols will be most apparent when making large downloads with Mullvad, such as torrent files.
As a reminder, the WireGuard team describes the protocol as still being in “heavy development,” so this might not be representative of what the protocol might be capable of in the future. However, we’ve seen with services like NordVPN that WireGuard can be very powerful, especially in terms of latency. Read our VPN for gaming guide to learn about that.
Protocol and encryption are the two main aspects that combine to form the foundation of a VPN’s security. As we’ve mentioned, Mullvad offers two protocols that, together, represent both the best on offer today and the best option moving forward.
OpenVPN, which you can read about in our VPN protocol breakdown, is the protocol we suggest most people use today. It offers excellent security with a proven track record while also allowing for reasonably good performance. Mullvad was actually one of the early adopters of OpenVPN, and today it pushes for WireGuard.
WireGuard, on the other hand, is a new protocol that isn’t even included in our protocol breakdown article yet. This protocol is still in development, meaning that most people should avoid it for applications where security is critical, since it lacks any kind of proven track record and could still have severe but undiscovered issues.
That said, in the future, WireGuard promises to offer excellent security as well as top-of-the-line speed and performance. As for encryption, you’re locked into AES-256, which you can read about in our description of encryption article.
Mullvad has leak protection that, like the kill switch, is built into the app and cannot be turned off. We tested for any kind of leaks and never saw our real IP address exposed or had DNS requests going through our ISP like it would by default. You can learn to set this up yourself without a VPN in our how to change your DNS address article.
Mullvad is a shining example when it comes to giving users complete privacy. Your account is not associated with a name or even an email address, but is instead just a randomized string of 16 numbers. Mullvad is completely unable to identify you through your account or this account number.
For those who really want to maximize their privacy, paying with bitcoin or even cash can help reduce — or even eliminate — any paper trail.
Streaming is arguably Mullvad’s weakest aspect. Using OpenVPN, we were not able to get a single streaming site to work. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer all blocked us for using a proxy or, in the case of BBC iPlayer, for not being in the right country.
WireGuard was a similar story, but with one key difference. Amazon Prime Video did work, and we were able to watch a bit of a movie without a problem. The performance was impressive, as well, making this a bit disappointing news. However, we might see this improve as WireGuard is refined and developed.
If you’re not willing to wait for that, though, we suggest heading over to our top VPN for Netflix or top VPN for BBC iPlayer articles.
Since our last Mullvad review, its number of servers has jumped from a meager 288 to a modest 667. However, the number of locations has stayed largely the same, with the network covering 58 cities in 36 countries.
Although there has been an improvement and the number of locations will suit most people’s needs, this offering from Mullvad still pales in comparison to an industry leader, such as NordVPN. Check out our NordVPN review to read more about its network with 5,700 servers.
Mullvad’s help page has an FAQ that answers a fair number of general questions about payment and VPNs in general. There are also guides here, along with a search bar to help you find the guide you need.
The guides are pretty extensive and cover most of what you would ever need to know with this simple VPN, including setting up more sophisticated features, like split tunneling and port forwarding.
Mullvad does not offer live chat customer support, but you can send an email and wait for a reply. The Mullvad customer support reps seem knowledgeable and were able to answer our questions, but it wasn’t always a lightning-fast response.
Although Mullvad excels in some of the most vital areas of VPN performance, namely security and privacy, it still falls short in some of the aspects that many people still put a very high value on, such as streaming.
Sadly, this largely negates a lot of the work Mullvad has put in toward being so great and lands it firmly in the middle of the pack. If privacy is what you’re looking for and you don’t plan to stream anything, Mullvad could still be an option worth considering.
If you’ve used Mullvad before, or if you decide to try the 30-day refund policy, let us know your thoughts in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.
Is Mullvad VPN Free?
Mullvad VPN used to have a free three-hour trial period when a new account was generated, but it does not seem to anymore, likely because people abused it. However, it does offer a 30-day refund period with no questions asked.
Does Mullvad Keep Logs?
Mullvad is one of the best VPNs on the market when it comes to not logging any information about you. Mullvad does not collect any identifying information about you during account creation, and you can choose to even pay in cash or bitcoin.
Who Owns Mullvad?
Mullvad was launched in 2009 by the Swedish company Amagicom AB. Mullvad is still owned by the same company, but it has since partnered with Mozilla to start providing VPN services for an upcoming Firefox Private Network using Mullvad’s WireGuard servers.
What Does Mullvad mean?
Mullvad is the Swedish word for “mole,” which is the animal featured on the Mullvad logo wearing a hardhat. Similar to TunnelBear, this mole imagery is supposed to invoke the idea of tunneling and becoming unseen.