Mullvad VPN Review Overview
- High anonymity
- Military-grade encryption
- Works with Netflix & BBC iPlayer
- Based in Sweden
When it comes to online privacy, a solid VPN is your best friend.
And as far as most VPN comparison sites are concerned, Mullvad is one of the best (in fact, MacWorld actually considers them to be the top VPN provider).
But of course, we take everything other VPN comparison sites say with a huge pinch of salt, because their opinions are often based on how much any particular provider is paying them in affiliate fees.
For this reason, we decided to do our own review – one with no BS and absolutely no bias.
Let’s get started!
How Mullvad VPN Compares to the Competition
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Mullvad doesn’t get off to a good start in being a Swedish company.
Sweden is one of the most active of the 14 Eyes nations – and the country’s unfavorable privacy laws, despite changing somewhat for the better, don’t instil a sense of trust.
Now, usually, we strongly recommend against using any VPN based in a 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes jurisdiction.
However, there’s this saying about an exception to every rule.
Mullvad is definitely a notable exception here – and that’s largely thanks to their incredibly strong attention to providing customers with anonymity.
The Strongest Anonymity
We’re not exaggerating – Mullvad puts most other VPN providers to shame when it comes to anonymity.
True online anonymity is still something of a pipe dream, but Mullvad will get you closer to it than most of their competitors.
Let’s start with their strict no-logs policy. Their VPN servers use temporary memory to check whether clients are staying within their simultaneous connections limits (more on this later) – and that’s about it.
All accounts are identified with an anonymous number, so even if Mullvad’s servers are compromised (which is highly unlikely), it’s virtually impossible to identify anyone.
That’s right – instead of signing up with an email address, you simply request an account number. This means the only way even Mullvad can identify you is through your payment method or email support.
But they’ve got you covered there too – it’s 100% possible to stay virtually anonymous on both fronts. We’ll explain this in more detail in the relevant sections below.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
Mullvad doesn’t say much about the encryption standards used, but we were able to confirm they use the OpenVPN tunneling protocol by default on all apps, with the exception of Android.
For Android, WireGuard is the only VPN protocol currently available.
We recommend taking a look at our Beginner’s Guide to VPN Protocols to get a better understanding of the technology involved. For now, rest assured OpenVPN is considered the best, while WireGuard is a strong contender.
With OpenVPN, you’ll enjoy the industry-standard 256-bit AES military-grade encryption.
But, if you really want to, you can manually switch to WireGuard.
We don’t personally recommend doing so, as WireGuard is technically a work-in-progress and uses a different (though still highly secure) encryption/cryptography standard.
However, Mullvad tweaked their version of WireGuard to be a little more secure than the protocol normally is, so if you’re an advanced VPN user, you can safely use it.
Kill Switch, Split Tunneling, DNS Leak Protection
Moving on with the security features, we’re happy to report Mullvad has a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a split tunneling feature.
The kill switch is super important. If your device loses connectivity with the VPN server – even for a nanosecond – it can result in your IP address being leaked.
And if that happens, your online privacy is compromised, meaning hackers and your ISP have a window (albeit a small one) to access your data.
Mullvad’s kill switch kills your internet connection until your traffic can be routed via the VPN servers again.
Similarly, DNS leak protection stops outside parties from identifying you based on the DNS requests your device makes. In simple terms, every time you visit a website, your device uses the IP address to initiate that connection.
If your own IP address becomes exposed, you can be identified – this is called a DNS leak. The kill switch helps further prevent this.
Finally, we come to split tunneling.
Split tunneling basically allows you to run certain apps, or connect to certain websites, without that connection having to run via the VPN server, while other connections do.
It’s a fairly advanced user feature, especially with Mullvad, as you need to manually configure exceptions.
We’re a big fan of using The Onion Router (TOR), as the proxy browser mimics a VPN by re-routing your online connections via 3 servers to obfuscate your location.
It does offer some encryption too, but not at the same level as a VPN.
The main issue with using TOR at the same time as VPN is it can drastically slow your internet speed down – even more so than just using a VPN will. But if you’re super concerned about your online privacy, it’s a great option to have.
Which is why we’re happy to see Mullvad is 100% TOR compatible. So much so, in fact, that they even have their own TOR site and a dedicated guide on connecting via TOR over VPN.
Server Connections 1-2-3
At the time of publication, Mullvad only has 495 servers available in 59 cities, spread over 36 countries. This is a lot less than we usually like to see (and a fraction of the other Best Overall VPNs we’ve reviewed).
To be fair, this is partially due to one of their hosting providers closing some of their locations recently. Mullvad says they’re working on replacing the lost servers ASAP.
In the meantime, there are plenty of others to choose from – some of which are owned by Mullvad, rather than rented.
284 of them work through the OpenVPN protocol, 105 through WireGuard, and 17 act as “bridges,” allowing you to access Mullvad from behind restrictive firewalls – including the Great Firewall of China.
The big issue with a small server network is the risk of server overload – when the server is handling more data than it should for optimal performance, resulting in reduced connection speeds.
But Mullvad stays on top of that risk by monitoring aggregated server loads and offering a dedicated guide to help users improve connection speed.
You can also mimic a regular Double VPN/Multi-Hop feature using the Bridge Mode to connect via 2 VPN servers. If you’re worried about TOR over VPN having too much of a negative impact on your connection speed, this is the way to go with Mullvad.
Speaking of connection speeds – just how well does Mullvad perform in this regard?
As always, we tested using a few different server locations – the same ones we always use (US and UK).
This helps to get a better idea of how a VPN provider compares to its competition, as the distance between the user and server affects connection speed.
Bear in mind there are a few other factors that come into play, including the current server load, your ISP’s bandwidth limitations, the type of device you’re using, etc.
This means your results will probably differ from ours.
Lucky for Mullvad and its users, server speeds were wildly unaffected by network overload during our tests. In fact, for only 400+ servers, Mullvad pulled in high enough speeds to rival its competitors with 2000+ servers.
Device Compatibility and Connections
Time for some bad news – Mullvad isn’t compatible with as many devices as we prefer:
- Android (including Chromebook)
You’ll also need to go through a manual configuration set-up to get Mullvad working on Android/Chromebook and iOS, as well as routers.
It’s possible to get Mullvad working on other devices supported by OpenVPN, but this can be just as complicated to set up (if not even more so).
The good news is you get up to 5 simultaneous connections with your Mullvad account. As we mentioned earlier, the provider relies on temporary server memory and individual account numbers to enforce this limit.
It isn’t the most outstanding number we’ve seen (CyberGhost offers 7 and Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections), but it’s considered roughly industry-standard.
For most users, it should be more than enough. You can also try to connect more devices by using a router, but this doesn’t seem to work too well with Mullvad.
Subscription Plans and Pricing
Mullvad’s subscription plans and pricing are super simple: after generating an anonymous account number, log in and pay the €5/month subscription fee ($5.55 at the time of writing).
You can choose between several payment options:
- BitCoin and BitCoin Cash
- Credit card
- Wire transfer
There aren’t any longer subscription plans available, though Mullvad does say you can opt to pay several months in advance if you prefer.
If you want to score a 10% discount and keep your account as anonymous as possible, pay with one of the supported cryptocurrencies, BitCoin or BitCoin Cash.
The discount is available because there are fewer transaction and administration fees involved, but be aware the refund process is far more complicated (we’ll touch on this later).
Mullvad does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, but not for cash, due to money laundering concerns.
Streaming and Torrenting
Streaming and torrenting are two of the biggest reasons most people want to use a VPN in the first place.
Unfortunately, Mullvad loses some points on the streaming front. We didn’t have any difficulties with Netflix UK and BBC iPlayer. However, Netflix US is completely blocked, so we recommend you check our guide on the Best Netflix VPNs if that’s a priority for you.
Torrenting, on the other hand, is a different ballpark. While Mullvad doesn’t explicitly state they support torrenting, they do have a dedicated guide on using the qBittorrent client.
That said, you’ll have to play around to get qBittorrent working with Mullvad though. Alternatively, we also have a guide on the Best Torrent VPNs.
Usability and Support
Mullvad is quite easy to install and set up once you pay the subscription fee and activate your account.
If you’re using Windows or Mac, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes to do so.
For Linux, Android, and iOS, however, there’s some manual configuration necessary.
The app is also incredibly easy to use; a vast improvement on earlier designs.
Everything you need is easily accessed via the gear icon in the top-right corner, and you can switch server locations without any fuss.
The only features you might have to fiddle with manually are (as mentioned earlier) split tunneling, TOR optimization, and switching between VPN protocols.
Unfortunately, support is a little disappointing.
For starters, there’s no live chat option, so your best bet in any situation where you require fast action is to contact Mullvad via their Facebook page.
Your only other options are to use the search function in their Help Center (which is limited, but also shows results for their blog articles) or email.
If you’re worried about preserving your online anonymity while contacting Mullvad for support, encrypted email is the way to go. But you’ll also need to use a “fake” email address instead of your normal one.
How to Cancel Mullvad VPN and Get Your Money Back
Canceling your Mullvad subscription is super easy. All you need to do is stop using your account – it doesn’t automatically renew, unless you’re using PayPal.
If you set up automatic payments via PayPal, all you need to do is click “Unsubscribe” under the PayPal tab on your Mullvad Account page.
Getting a refund, on the other hand, is a little more complicated:
- For PayPal refunds, send your request and Transaction ID to firstname.lastname@example.org
- For credit card refunds, send the Mullvad token on your bank statement to email@example.com with your refund request
- For Swish refunds, include the first 8 digits in your Order ID (found in the Swish App), the date and time you made payment, and the amount paid
- For bank wire refunds, include your name and address, country of tax residence, bank account number (or IBAN), and your bank’s BIC number
We recommend going through Mullvad’s refund guide for BitCoin and BitCoin Cash refunds, as these are far too complicated to properly cover within the scope of this review.
In brief, refunds are sent to the final address Mullvad received payment from, but there’s a signature process for getting it sent to a different address if need be.
And, as mentioned earlier, there are no cash refunds allowed, due to regulations protecting against money laundering.
Depending on your payment method, you should receive your refund within 5 to 10 business days.