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MULLVAD REVIEW: Fast VPN with unusual features

Last updated: July 8, 2020 By Dean Chester
Pros of Mullvad Cons of Mullvad
  • High speeds
  • Doesn’t ask for an email when you sign up
  • Owns its DNS servers
  • Bridge mode
  • OpenVPN, WireGuard
  • No streaming support
  • No iOS app
  • No Split tunneling
  • Doesn’t support some modern platforms

Mullvad VPN ReviewMullvad is a unique paid VPN service. Not only does it protect your privacy reliably but also allows registering without using an email for 100% anonymity. How important is it? Just as much as you value your privacy.

What is also curious about Mullvad is that it supports one of the most promising modern VPN protocols – WireGuard. Besides, it lets you build so-called bridges (chains of two VPN servers).

In November 2019, Mullvad added an app for Android, updated its Windows and Mac software, increased the number of its servers and improved its website.

And that’s far from it about this Swedish VPN provider.

What are the other advantages of Mullvad?

  • Fast and stable connections on all available platforms
  • High speeds
  • High level of security and privacy
  • Torrenting support
  • Great price if you buy it for a short period (€5 per month)

At the same time, this provider has certain drawbacks that can significantly influence the decision of whether or not to choose it:

  • No iOS app
  • Some functions work worse on some OSs than on others
  • No streaming support (Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
  • Based within the 14 Eyes (questionable drawback)
  • Somewhat expensive if you use it for long

This review contains the analysis of Mullvad’s features, customer reviews, test results, and a lot of useful advice.

You can read it in order or skip ahead to the section you want by using the quick nav menu:

Take a look at the basic characteristics of Mullvad:

Supported platforms All OSs, but it only has apps for Windows, Mac and Android
Encryption standard AES 256
Data leaks None found
VPN protocols OpenVPN, WireGuard
Jurisdiction Sweden
Servers 480+ in 36 countries
Logs Doesn’t keep logs (and emphasizes it)
Torrenting +
Streaming Doesn’t support

As you can see in the spreadsheet, this service doesn’t work with streaming (can’t bypass geo-restrictions of Netflix, Hulu, and other video services). Other basic modern characteristics are on either the average or high level.


3 differences between Mullvad and other VPNs

Mullvad does indeed differ from most VPN services. It’s not only related to its support of a modern protocol, bridge-type connections, but also with its pricing and stance on keeping logs.

What are the peculiarities of Mullvad VPN?

1. WireGuard protocol

As I’ve said, Mullvad supports the WireGuard protocol created by Jason Donenfeld and developed for the past 11 years with help from Mullvad and other known VPN services. Its advantage over the more regularly used OpenVPN and IPsec is its higher efficiency and speed that do not sacrifice protection. WireGuard is supported by Astrill, AzireVPN, IVPN. Even Private Internet Access was planning to support it but now that it’s been bought by Kape Technology (which also owns CyberGhost VPN) we can’t say for sure if those plans will come to fruition.

2. Pricing

Unlike the vast majority of VPNs, Mullvad offers a single fixed price independent of the duration of a subscription (€5 or around $5.5). This allows it to honor its users’ full privacy because this way, it doesn’t have to store any information about the tariff they choose.

3. “Bridge” connections (Shadowsocks)

 All of Mullvad apps support the use of Shadowsocks technology. This technology allows a device to connect to one VPN server while another one is visible at the output. The user can choose both input and output servers. This technology works a bit like Double VPN which NordVPN and Surfshark have but doesn’t launch another VPN channel on top of the first one but connects the servers sequentially. This doesn’t affect the connection speed as much as Double VPN does. At the same time, such a method doesn’t create double encryption and therefore, is weaker than double VPN if you need some “paranoid” security measures.

In this section, I only enumerated Mullvad’s visible differences. In the next one, I will describe all of the provider’s features, its performance on various platforms, and analyze its privacy policy.


Research of Mullvad (Pros, cons, tests, advice)

How is Mullvad doing in terms of security and privacy protection? Why isn’t it equally convenient to use on all platforms? What are some quirks of its privacy policy?

To answer these questions, I used WireGuard, a powerful analytic utility. Besides, I compared Mullvad’s privacy policy to those of other services.

Chapter contents:

Security of Mullvad

Mullvad security test

Mullvad passed my security tests. No, not just that. It’s absolutely safe!

In the screenshot, you can see the intercepted traffic on the computer’s Wi-Fi adapter (this is information transferred to and from the Internet). Inside the blue rectangle in the lower left of the picture is the only outside IP address to which the computer is connected via a communications protocol.

It means that all the traffic including DNS queries is packed inside the VPN tunnel. A deeper analysis of the packets proved that it’s impossible to unencrypt this channel.

Mullvad also uses its own DNS servers. You can see it by using ipleak.net:

Proof that Mullvad owns its DNS servers

The screencap shows that the main IP address and the DNS address are almost the same (they belong to the same network). Many VPNs don’t have their own DNS servers, which can lead to DNS leaks. This problem can be partially solved by using public DNSs of another country by it doesn’t protect you from third parties’ possible access to the web addresses you visit.

Thus, it is confirmed that Mullvad reliably protects traffic, personal data, and addresses of the resources you visit.

Mullvad features tests

What can Mullvad VPN do? How that we’ve confirmed that it’s safe to use, let’s move on to the analysis of its features and implementation areas, peculiarities of use on all OSs and some modern platforms.

1. Speed

Mullvad’s speed is high. Some servers have speeds on par with the fastest VPNs. There are rather slow locations but if you don’t choose a server manually but let the app do it, it will select the best option for you.

Below, you can see an example of a low-speed US server. But I chose it by going to the list of servers available in a specific location:

Mullvad: speed of a US server

When I didn’t choose a specific server but just clicked the name of a city, the system chose the best variants itself.

Here are automatically selected servers for the Netherlands and Japan:

Mullvad: location speed in NL
Netherlands

 

Mullvad: location speed in JP
Japan

Personally, I noticed no difference to the worse compared to other good VPNs in terms of how convenient it is to browse the Internet with Mullvad. The VPN did not affect the performance of my devices. It is a great advantage of Mullvad.

5 out of 10 tested Mullvad locations*

Location Download/upload speed (Mbps)
US 20/20
Netherlands 70/40
Japan 25/10
Canada 20/15

* - shows the approximate average speed over the course of 3 days of the test. During that time, the speed did not change significantly.

2. Streaming

Netflix doesn’t work with Mullvad

If you ask in what aspects is Mullvad lacking, I’m going to say Netflix.

This provider doesn’t support the unblocking of geo-restricted video content. I read in one Mullvad review that an operating server can be found if you go through a few UK ones but it didn’t work for me.

Besides, it is the US Netflix that garners the most demand. It doesn’t work either.

Not much positive can be said about Hulu:

Hulu doesn’t work with Mullvad

3. Torrenting

Mullvad doesn’t advertise its support of torrents but it is successful in supporting them.

What features of Mullvad are good for torrenting?

  • Speed
  • Kill switch
  • WireGuard

And indeed these three characteristics allow using VPN technology for torrenting at high speeds, securely, and without overloading the CPU.

Other than that, Mullvad offers a step-by-step manual on how to set qBittorent up as safely as possible.

But it’s not a necessary thing to do. In most cases, all you need is to turn the kill switch on (Block when disconnected) in the settings of Mullvad.

If you’re going to use the manual, wait until you’re on step 9 before you do steps 1-4. If at that step, there is no point that you need on the list, go back to steps 1-4. Also, keep in mind that the name of the adapter in step 4 can be different from the one in the manual. To determine the adapter you need without a mistake, connect to Mullvad and you will see an active TAP-adapter. This is the one you need.

4. Google Search and using Gmail

Access to Gmail and search in Google are not affected by using Mullvad.

Some VPNs cause issues with Gmail access and make Google ask you for a confirmation that you are a human. Mullvad doesn’t have these issues.

5. IP leak test with an unstable connection

This is one of the most important tests. It is in real conditions and not in a controlled environment that you can evaluate the performance of a VPN objectively. Who has never lost a 3/4G signal on their smartphone? Can’t a VPN server turn off by itself? What happens at that moment with a confidential data transfer or hiding the IP address?

In most cases, the protection will act no longer while the traffic and location will become disclosed.

But it’s not so for all VPNs. A safe VPN will block the traffic of the device and prevent a leak. To do that, the app should have a kill switch function (or Block when disconnected, as Mullvad calls it).

But the experience shows that not all VPNs (at least, not on all OSs) block traffic reliably even with a kill switch.

I tested Mullvad with our IP leak testing utility.

This provider protects your real IP address with great efficiency:

Checking Mullvad’s protection efficiency

The screengrab shows how the IP address of an Android phone (the platform with the most issues) is changed when the device is switched over from one access point to another. We see only the IP addresses that belong to the VPN in all cases while the real address of the device is hidden.

I should emphasize that this protection is only in effect when the ‘’Block when disconnected option’’ is on.

The test has been successfully passed. Mullvad copes with any difficulties.

6. Other issues with Mullvad

What about other inconveniences that occur when you use Mullvad?

I guess the WireGuard protocol not being available from the Windows app came off as the biggest disappointment to me. It can only be used by installing third-party WireGuard software and setting it up manually.

Besides, I couldn’t activate the Bridge connection on Windows.

Mullvad: Bridge won’t start on Windows

A connection couldn’t be established no matter what the input and output servers were. Moreover, this type of connection is unavailable on Android. In reality, I could only build the Bridge connection on Mac.

Apps for iOS and Linux are missing. Mullvad is available on these OSs only with third-party VPN clients.

I have also found at least one dysfunctional location in the US. Even though I managed to connect to it, no website would open because of DNS issues:

Mullvad: A US location issue

Mullvad for Windows

All of Mullvad’s Windows-related flaws were described in the previous chapter:

  • No WireGuard in the app;
  • Bridge mode wouldn’t launch;
  • No streaming support (true for all platforms).

However, during the tests, the app worked great in every situation that can possibly happen in real life: it connected as intended after leaving sleep mode, didn’t cause any issues when locations were changed or reconnected to frequently, and the speed didn’t fluctuate.

In general, Mullvad works well on Windows with regular use. If you need an advanced protocol, however, you’ll have to install and set up a third-party WireGuard client. Double protection also may not work.

What features and options of Mullvad are available on PC?

  1. OpenVPN protocol (TCP and UDP)
  2. Kill switch (Block when disconnected)
  3. IPv6
  4. Bridge mode
  5. Local network sharing

I’d like to elaborate on that last point. Local network sharing allows or disallows other devices in the local network to connect to the computer (it can be the devices connected to the same Wi-Fi access point, for example). This option is set to be off by default on most VPNs that have it (so it allows connections). Mullvad has it enabled by default. That’s great for protection in public Wi-Fi networks but can waste your time if you try to print something out via Wi-Fi.

At the same time, though, the kill switch is off by default. I recommend you turn it on immediately after installing Mullvad. It can get a bit annoying if your VPN is disconnected (as your connection to the Internet is lost in such cases). But on the other hand, it makes you more disciplined and teaches you to go online in a safe mode more often.

Pros of using Mullvad on Windows:

  • User-friendly functionality
  • Fast connections (faster than most competitors have)
  • Fast and efficient performance without any negative effect of the VPN
  • Reliable protection of the data and visited website addresses
  • Convenient choice of servers including a specific server within a location, allowing users to connect from the same IP address for a while

Cons:

  • WireGuard is inaccessible from the app
  • May not work in the Bridge mode
  • The app window is inaccessible by using Alt + Tab key combination (for those who use it)

Mullvad for Windows can be downloaded from this page of the official website.

Mullvad for Mac

The Mullvad VPN app for Mac is similar to the Windows one but has three key differences from it:

  1. It has WireGuard protocol
  2. Bridge mode works as intended
  3. And the most important setting – Monochromatic tray icon (J just kidding)

Other than that, the functionality and appearance of this app are the same as on PC.

Mullvad for macOS has no cons.

You can only download the Mullvad app for macOS from this page of its official website as it isn’t on the Apple App Store for Mac.

Mullvad for Android

Smartphones have taken the place of desktops for many users. And it’s no secret that the most popular mobile platform is Android.

As I’ve said, Mullvad has made its use as safe and private as possible. But are there any drawbacks?

Well, there are but they are more like functionality restrictions than drawbacks:

  • No kill switch. However, your IP address isn’t leaked at a reconnection. The only time a leak is possible is when you consciously disconnect from the VPN. A simple change of location doesn’t make you lose your protection.
  • No Bridge mode.
  • No OpenVPN protocol (but to my mind, it’s actually an advantage).

Thanks to using WireGuard, the device doesn’t need quite as much computation capacity as OpenVPN. Mullvad barely affects the battery charge, which makes it a good choice for tourism and trips, for example.

As of now, you can only download Mullvad for Android from this page of the official site as an .APK file. Since it’s in beta, it isn’t on Google Play Market yet.

Mullvad for iOS

There’s no version for iOS yet.

But you can use Mullvad with the help of the WireGuard app.

You can find an in-depth manual on how to set it up on the official website.

Mullvad for Linux

Mullvad has no app for Linux.

Just as with iOS, Mullvad can be used with the help of WireGuard software.

I found it interesting that it allowed even the kill switch and multihopping (Bridge mode). That’s why I decided to use the manual and install Mullvad on Ubuntu. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to because of an error:

WireGuard installation error on Ubuntu

Perhaps, this issue (the installation of the required repository) can be solved but it isn’t the point of this article. I couldn’t install WireGuard on Ubuntu ‘’out-of-the-box’’ so the test didn’t happen.

Mullvad for Chrome

This provider doesn’t offer any software for Chrome or Firefox. You can only use Mullvad with these browsers if you install its app on your OS.

Mullvad for other platforms

What about routers, Kodi, Android TV, and other platforms?

This service provides settings for routers. It has both WireGuard and OpenVPN settings, which is good because the OpenVPN settings are all-round and supported by most platforms. Using them, you can set up almost any device, albeit manually.

Customer reviews

Since it’s the first time we test Mullvad on vpn-review.com, it’s reasonable to assume that it has some peculiarities we could have missed. So we turned to Reddit for information.

Did we learn anything new?

Not really but we have confirmed the results of our tests:

Reddit: Mullvad doesn’t support streaming

Mullvad doesn’t support Netflix

Reddit: Mullvad has good speeds

Good speeds of Mullvad

Reddit: Mullvad is good for torrenting

Mullvad is good for torrenting

I can’t, of course, publish comments about all areas of implementation of a virtual private network in this review. I should mention, though, that the only negative reviews about this VPN that we’ve found were about unblocking video streaming services.

Privacy policy analysis

As a data security expert, I liked Mullvad’s Privacy policy.

What’s so unique about it?

First of all, according to Mullvad’s rules, accounts are created anonymously without being tied to credit cards:

We want you to remain anonymous. When you sign up for Mullvad, we do not ask for any personal information – no username, no password, no email address. Instead, a random account number is generated, a so-called numbered account. This number is the only identifier a person needs in order to use a Mullvad account. This is a fundamental difference that sets us apart from most other services.

You can say, “But when I pay for the code, my billing information is seen!”

That’s true. But Mullvad claims that it only keeps this information when you pay with a bank card, Stripe, Swish, or PayPal, and only for 45 days. To prove it, the service publishes its database structure:

Mullvad’s database structure

The provider says that it stores the information just to be able to issue a refund within 30 days of purchase.

Secondly, it bears mentioning that Mullvad is the only VPN that I know of that has made attempts to prove its honesty by disclosing its database structure and some settings.

This screenshot partially shows server configuration settings:

Redirecting the log stream to /dev/nulL

I should turn your attention to a certain fine point that isn’t easy to spot at once. Look at the spelling in the screenshot. Linux is case-sensitive. /dev/nulL is not the same thing as /dev/null. Is it a typo or an attempt to deceive? I’m almost sure that it’s a typo.

So, the Privacy policy of Mullvad points at the service not keeping logs and quite convincingly explains how it managed to improve their users’ anonymity.


Analysis of prices and plans of Mullvad VPN

As I’ve said before, Mullvad has one tariff plan that doesn’t depend on the term of the subscription. It’s more correct to say that there is no subscription whatsoever, in fact. You can just buy an activation code for any period you want.

The price of Mullvad VPN

Price per month €5 (approximately $5.5)

The provider offers no free trial but guarantees a 30-day refund in the case of cancellation of services.

Most VPN services issue refunds only if the user hasn’t used their services before. Mullvad, if you choose to believe its Privacy policy, has no access to such information. Therefore, it should give their money back to anyone who paid for the code less than a month before asking for a refund.


History of Mullvad and information about the owner

Location of Mullvad VPN
Image taken from Google Maps

Mullvad was founded in 2009 by a Swedish company Amagicom AB. It hasn’t changed its owner since. The Swedish jurisdiction is not the safest one around because Sweden is a member of the so-called 14 Eyes alliance. At the same time, I haven’t heard about any scandals or exposés related to Mullvad.

Besides the VPN service, the company is known for its active participation in developing high-capacity WireGuard protocol.

Address of Amagicom AB:

Box 53049

400 14 Gothenburg

Sweden

CEO Amagicom AB:  Jan Jonsson.

Website: mullvad.net


My conclusion

So should you use Mullvad VPN?

  • Yes, if you need an efficient and reliable VPN for desktops and Android devices.
  • No, if you need the support of Netflix and other streaming services or prefer to use a VPN on iOS without the need to set it up manually.

The provider’s technological infrastructure is not very developed (fewer than 500 servers in 36 countries) and is expensive if you use the VPN for a year or more.

At the same time, Mullvad has good security and data protection and reliably protects torrenting.

To summarize:

+ Efficient and stable performance

+ Very good data protection

+ Owns its DNS servers

+ Doesn’t keep logs

+ Bridge mode

+ Kill switch

+ Affordable price when buying for 1-3 months

+ Cryptocurrency support

- No app for iOS

- No WireGuard on Windows

- No streaming support

- Doesn’t have certain modern features that its competitors have (Split tunneling, apps for TV platforms, Kodi, etc.)

Leave a comment with your questions and arguments or share your experience. Thank you for your attention to our work.

VPN-Review - Chief Editor
Dean Chester
Cybersecurity and online privacy expert and researcher. He's been published on OpenVPN, EC-Council Blog, DevSecOps, AT-T Business, SAP Community, etc. Dean has been testing VPNs for 8 years.

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4 user reviews for MULLVAD REVIEW: Fast VPN with unusual features

Mullvad Review missing/erroneous facts.

as a long time user, some things need to be clarified/corrected:

1- You have a Mullvad Client on Linux. Same as Windows with both OpenVPN and Wireguard protocols built-in.

2- On Android you can use both openvpn and wireguard Android apps then import the Mullvad config files, you are just not using a dedicated mullvad client. You can even use bridge mode (relaying via 2 servers).

3- you don't mention the type of server used, very important point when it comes to VPNs.
Mullvad Servers are all "bare-metal" ( aka proprietary physical servers, which are costly hence their limited number) unlike the thousands of Virtual Servers used by the big names (Nord, etc...) which are less costly and secure cybersecurity-wise since they are shared.

Closest location

Is there any point in connecting to the closest location? I mean, that seems a bit too obvious if you wanna stay anonymous. Should we maybe connect to countries with better jurisdiction?

Captchas

Alright I ran into a problem. I’ve been using Mullvad for over a year now and it’s been great for all I need to do. But recently, like in the past month, I started getting too many requests to solve captchas. Basically on every site I go to. This doesn’t seem to be the case when I browse without Mullvad so I guess it must be caused by it. Is there anything I can do to stop it? It’s really annoying but I would like to keep using Mullvad because other than this issue it’s been absolutely fantastic. Thanks in advance!

OpenVPN on Android?

Hi, is there a way to use OpenVPN in my Android Mullvad app? It seems that only WireGuard is in the settings.