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Mullvad VPN review: Ultra-private, now with extra features

mullvadheroImage: Mullvad

At a Glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

Good speedsInexpensive monthly planUnrivaled anonymityOpen-source

Cons

Struggles with unblocking streaming servicesSmaller server networkLacks some extra features that other VPNs offer

Our Verdict

Mullvad VPN easily fits among the most private and secure VPNs on the market. It also offers a user-friendly interface, good speeds, and it’s open source. All of these things and more make it one of the top VPN services—especially for the privacy-conscious user.

Price When Reviewed

$5.37 per month

Mullvad VPN in brief:

P2P allowed: YesDevice connections: 5 simultaneous connectionsBusiness location: SwedenNumber of servers: 650+Number of country locations: 41Cost: $5.37 per month

Sweden-based Mullvad is like the Swiss Bank account of VPNs — it doesn’t ask questions and gives you the best privacy and security possible. 

When I say that Mullvad takes your privacy seriously, I mean it. Unlike other VPNs, Mullvad doesn’t attach your account to an email address; the company auto-generates an account number for you, which is all that’s required to log in. And this level of anonymity goes well beyond just registration, permeating everything you do with the app.

Since our last review the service has undergone an independent security audit further cementing its place as one of the most trustworthy VPNs on the market.

What are Mullvad VPN’s features and services?

Sam Singleton

When you open Mullvad’s Windows app it strikes one as modern and clean, and very much like a Windows Store app. It starts with a non-interactive map in the primary section of the window to show which location you’re connected to, or your default location at the country level.

Towards the bottom of the app screen you’ll find a button showing your currently selected VPN server and below that a Secure my connection button, which you can click to connect to the server.

When connected, you’ll see a Switch location and Disconnect button at the bottom of the window. The top of the screen, meanwhile, shows a green banner with the Mullvad VPN logo, indicating you’re connected.

Sam Singleton

If you jump into the country listings, you can either select a country, select a specific location within the country if more than one is available, and drill down to individual servers. The app doesn’t show any specific metrics about each server such as ping times or load, but if there’s a red circle next to it that means it’s not available for use. Green, meanwhile, means it’s working.

With around 650 total servers, Mullvad VPN’s server network is rather small compared to some of its competitors. Services such as CyberGhost VPN and Private Internet Access boast server networks over 10,000. Still, I never felt that I was limited in my options while using Mullvad’s service.

The app itself is very easy to read and understand both in the Windows and Android versions. The default window panel is permanently fixed to the bottom-right corner of the screen, but you can change this under settings if you wish.

Mullvad traditionally hasn’t been big on extra features or services compared to other VPNs. It doesn’t promise to get past Netflix VPN restrictions (though sometimes it does), there aren’t any double-hop connections, or smart DNS; however, that doesn’t mean it’s a barebones VPN by any stretch.

Sam Singleton

The service still provides the most important and frequently used features such as a kill-switch, split-tunneling, and ad-/tracker-blocking. It even takes its kill-switch one step further with a feature called Lockdown mode that will only allow your device to connect to the internet when it’s connected to a Mullvad VPN server. All of these features can be found by clicking the gear icon on the homescreen to access the settings menu.

Go to Settings > VPN settings, and you can enable Mullvad’s IPv6 option, as well as manually choose between using OpenVPN or WireGuard. Mullvad was one of the earliest VPN services to implement WireGuard. Its multi-hop feature for WireGuard is also available here as well.

Another nice tool to use with the VPN is Mullvad’s connection check webpage. It lets you know if the app is working and currently connected to Mullvad. It also checks to see if you are leaking DNS requests, suffering from a WebRTC leak, or using a blacklisted IP address.

Mullvad has apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android, all of which are open-source.

How much does Mullvad VPN cost?

Mullvad VPN

Mullvad’s pricing is pretty cut-and-dried. For one month you’ll pay €5, or about $5.37 at the time of writing. It also offers subscription options for one year and a staggeringly long one decade — that’s practically a lifetime in the VPN market. 

Despite these long-term subscription options, the price still remains the same €5 every month. To compare, other VPN services typically offer their monthly subscription for around $10 per month and longer-term subscriptions average out to around $3 per month. That makes Mullvad VPN an extremely affordable short-term month-to-month VPN, but quite an expensive long-term option.

It’s also worth noting that Mullvad recently did away with automatic-renewals on its subscription plans. According to the company, this was “in order to store less data” such as on-file credit cards and other private information.

From the time that you first pay for the Mullvad its commitment to privacy is apparent — even allowing you to pay with cash.

How is Mullvad VPN’s performance?

In order to test Mullvad VPN’s speeds I measured connection speeds across its servers in six different countries around the world and then compared them to my baseline internet speed. I did this using both OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols.

The average download speeds across both protocols were rather impressive, clocking in at 47 percent of base speeds. The upload speeds were similar, maintaining an average of 49 percent of the baseline. That makes Mullvad a contender for one of the fastest VPNs and right up there with speed demons such as Hotspot Shield and ProtonVPN.

While testing speeds using different protocols I didn’t notice too much of a difference, with WireGuard expectedly having slightly faster averages than OpenVPN. But the margins were so slim in my testing that I would be hard pressed to recommend one over the other for speed.

The bottom line is that, overall, you should be happy with the speeds from Mullvad, with the usual caveat that your experience may vary depending on your location in the world, equipment, and ISP.

In recent years Mullvad decided to start renting servers instead of owning every single server that runs its VPN. Despite this change, there have been no apparent speed decreases, and from what I could tell, virtually no differences between the servers it owns and those it rents. If you’re interested, you can see which servers are owned and rented on its servers page.

While Mullvad has a lot going for it, one area where it doesn’t impress is in unblocking streaming services. In my testing I found that the ability to access geo-restricted services such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max was extremely hit-or-miss.

How is Mullvad VPN’s security and privacy?

Short answer: excellent.

Mullvad prides itself on user privacy, anonymity, and security. It shows, too. Even from the time that you first pay for the service it takes this seriously. You have multiple options to pay for the VPN including by cash — unique among all other VPNs to my knowledge.

Should you choose to mail cash, for example, Mullvad says it will take the cash, add credits to the account number included in the envelope, and then shred the envelope and the note. If you choose to use credit cards or PayPal, however, you will be identifiable through those payment services.

My DNS leak tests for both the Windows and Android apps came up clean with no leaks detected. This means you can trust Mullvad to keep your true IP address hidden while connected to its servers. By default its DNS leak protection is always-on and can’t be disabled.

Sam Singleton

In regards to VPN protocols, Mullvad keeps it simple by only offering the choice between OpenVPN and WireGuard. These are the two most secure protocols currently available and probably the best options anyways. You also have the option to tweak and configure each connection to your own needs by choosing Ports, Obfuscation, and whether you want to use a Quantum-resistant tunnel.

Moving onto its privacy policy, Mullvad’s has exactly what you’re looking for in a VPN. Though it has now been split into two different documents: the general privacy policy and the “no-logging of user activity” policy. In those two documents the company says it does not “store any activity logs or metadata.” There’s no logging of your online traffic, DNS requests, connections, timestamps, IP addresses, bandwidth, nothing. 

The only data Mullvad saves are the total number of current connections of all users on its network, the CPU load per core on its servers, and the total bandwidth used per server. It also logs the real-time number of connections per account as the service allows five simultaneous for each account.

In 2023, Mullvad completed migration of its servers to RAM-only diskless servers, meaning data does not persist on its servers nor can it be confiscated should the servers be physically removed.

Another welcome development since our last review is that Mullvad underwent an independent security audit by Assured AB in 2022. The audit proved that no user data was leaked or logged. Independent audits are always a good sign that a VPN is sticking to its no-log policy and they go a long way towards building user trust.

Mullvad is owned and operated by Amagicom AB and based in Sweden. This means that it could be subject to mandatory government data sharing regulations since Sweden is a member of the 14 Eyes signals intelligence sharing alliance. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s good to be aware of, especially for the ultra-privacy conscious. Admirably though, Mullvad does seem to publish a notice on its blog whenever it’s subject to a search warrant.

Is Mullvad VPN worth it?

Mullvad VPN promises privacy and security and delivers it in droves. It might not have all of the flashy extraneous features of some other VPNs, nor does it do a great job at unblocking Netflix, but in practically every other area it shines.

Its dedication to protecting user anonymity has never been in question and the latest independent security audit further proves this point. With this commitment to privacy as well as performance, Mullvad remains one of our top recommendations.

Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.

Sam Singleton is a tech editor and PCWorld’s jack of all trades. When he’s not on the hunt for the best computer deals he’s covering VPNs, productivity software, laptops, and a wide gamut of consumer-grade hardware and software.

Recent stories by Sam Singleton:

Best VPNs for Android 2024: Our picks for phones and tabletsProtonVPN review: Great paid plan, even better free planTunnelVision hack allows attackers to bypass VPN protections

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