Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (2024)

Mullvad VPN has been popular among privacy buffs for some time now, but I’ve always wondered about its other features. Does it offer good value for your money? To find out, I tested its mobile and desktop apps and did some thorough research on its features.

From this, it’s clear that Mullvad VPN offers more than privacy and has strong security features — it isn’t far behind the premium VPNs. What really surprised me was its security features and speeds, which have undergone some big improvements. However, it still falls short on its streaming abilities as it still struggles to unblock a lot of streaming sites.

If you’re not big on streaming and don’t mind basic customer service, I’d highly recommend Mullvad VPN. You can check out all of its features with the promise of a refund, should it not work out. If that is the case, there are a number of other VPNs you can choose from as well.

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Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings

Pros

  • Stream your favorite shows on Netflix. I unblocked Netflix libraries and HBO Max in the US and other countries. However, I couldn’t unblock other streaming sites. Click here to find out all the sites I could and couldn’t unblock.
  • Fast speeds.I could stream and game without any problems. Jump to the speed section to see my speed test results.
  • High-end security and privacy features. This includes AES-256 bit encryption, multiple security protocols, a built-in kill switch that can’t be disabled, and a strict no-logs policy. You don't even need to provide any of your personal details to sign up. I’ll tell you everything about Mullvad’s security features below.
  • Minimalistic apps for most devices. Easy-to-use apps for both desktop and mobile devices, making it suitable for both beginners and veterans. Find out how to make the most use of its app.
  • Reasonably priced. Mullvad uses a flat-rate pricing structure, which means you’ll pay the same monthly rate, no matter how long you subscribe. It also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Click here to see how much you’ll pay.

Cons

  • Poor customer service. You can only ask questions via email because there isn’t a live chat team available. See what happened when I emailed them here.
  • Not guaranteed to work in China. Mullvad claims to use the shadowsocks proxy to bypass the Great Firewall. See everything about China here.
  • Decent server network, but not great coverage.This includes 885 servers in 39 countries, all of which are optimized for P2P sharing. I’ve tested most of its server locations — here’s what you need to know.

Mullvad VPN Features — 2023 Update

7.0

💸 Price 5.53 USD/month
📆 Money Back Guarantee 30 Days
📝 Does VPN keep logs? No
🖥 Number of servers 885+
💻 Number of devices per license 5
🛡 Kill switch Yes
🗺 Based in country Sweden
📥 Supports torrenting Yes

Streaming — Only Good for Unblocking Netflix

Mullvad unblocks US Netflix with ease, as well as Netflix libraries in other countries. However, it couldn’t unblock other streaming sites like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+.

Unblocked: Netflix and HBO Max

Mullvad can unblock Netflix from anywhere. I began my streaming tests by connecting to a Mullvad server in Los Angeles (US-LAX-010), and even though it took me about 25 seconds to connect to the server, I watched my favorite Netflix shows in HD.

After that, I tested its US servers in Chicago (US-CHI-009), New York (US-NYC-102), Dallas (US-DAL-102), and Salt Lake City (US-SLC-104), and I unblocked Netflix every time.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (1)Watching Netflix with Mullvad is easy

Next, I tried to unblock Netflix libraries in other countries. I connected to Mullvad servers in Australia (AU-SYD-002), Brazil (BR_SAO-001), Japan (JP-TYO-002), France (FR-PAR-003), and Germany (DE-FRA-003) for good measure. I once again unblocked Netflix without any hassle.

Apart from Netflix, the only other major streaming site I unblocked was HBO Max. For this one, I connected to the VPN’s US servers in New York (US-NYC-102) and Los Angeles (US-LAX-008). Again, I could watch HD shows without any lag.

Blocked By: Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, BBC iPlayer, NOW TV, ITV Hub, and All 4

Unfortunately, Mullvad can’t unblock popular streaming sites like Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, and BBC iPlayer. While I could log into Amazon Prime Video successfully, I kept getting this error message when clicking the play button:

“Your device is connected to the Internet using a VPN or proxy service. Please disable it and try again."

This happened on 4 of the US servers I tested (New York, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and Seattle), so it’s safe to say that Amazon Prime Video doesn’t work. I also tried to unblock Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+, ITV Hub, YouTube TV, All 4, and Plex, but I had similar problems yet again.

I then tried the VPN’s UK servers to see if it could unblock British platforms like BBC iPlayer and NOW TV, but I was disappointed again. Mullvad servers in London and Manchester could not beat these blocks.

Overall, Mullvad is a solid choice for unblocking Netflix, but not much else. Streaming isn’t something that it openly advertises, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you're looking for a VPN for streaming, there are many better options — some of which even offer servers optimized for specific streaming platforms.

Speeds — Fast and Consistent

Mullvad offers fast speeds across a range of short and long-distance servers. Its speeds were right up there with the premium VPNs, which really surprised me. Even though it slowed down a little on its long-distance servers, it was still fast enough to stream, torrent, and game. It’s expected for speed to drop on long-distance servers because your data has to travel further.

Using Ookla’s speed test tool, I measured my speeds based on the following factors:

  • Download speed — How long it takes to download files to your computer.
  • Upload speed — How quickly you can upload files and data, such as photos and videos.
  • Ping — A website’s response time after you’ve clicked on its link. In short, it’s the reaction time of your connection.

Local Speeds

To set a baseline, I tested the speeds of my local connection in Singapore without using a VPN. These were my readings:

Ping (ms)7
Download (Mbps)10.24
Upload (Mbps)1.31

Then, I connected to Mullvad’s server in Singapore (SG-SIN-203) using the WireGuard protocol because it's generally faster than OpenVPN. My results were as follows:

Ping (ms)31
Download (Mbps)10.05 (2% decrease)
Upload (Mbps)1.31 (same)

Even though the results differed on paper, none of my usual online activities were affected, and I didn’t notice anything different between the non-VPN and VPN connection when web browsing or streaming.

Long-Distance Speeds

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (2)I was really happy that even on servers tens of thousands of kilometers away, my speeds didn't drop significantly.

I connected to Mullvad servers in the US and UK for my long-distance tests, two of the most common worldwide server locations. I also connected to some other destinations, as per the graph above.

As expected, my speeds dropped a bit because of the long distance. The good news was that it was hardly noticeable. Here were my results for the US and UK:

US (US-LAX-201)

Ping (ms)202
Download (Mbps)9.23 (8% decrease)
Upload (Mbps)1.14 (13% decrease)

UK (GB-LON-005)

Ping (ms)195
Download (Mbps)9.92 (11% decrease)
Upload (Mbps)1.01 (14% decrease)

While I could still stream my favorite shows without issues, I noticed that it took longer to download pages on both servers. Even though the difference wasn’t massive, it was slightly inconvenient, especially when I waited for Netflix to download. But once it started streaming, there wasn’t any lag at all.

Mullvad’s speeds across long-distance servers were fairly consistent, except for a couple of locations. This level of consistency in speeds is usually only found in top-tier VPNs, so I was rather surprised. But if you crave a VPN with faster and more reliable speeds, then there are plenty available.

Are Mullvad’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes, Speeds Are Smooth on Most Servers

It’s possible to play without any interruptions on most of Mullvad’s servers. By connecting to Mullvad VPN when you’re gaming, you can bypass ISP throttling to improve your speeds and obtain expansion packs from other countries.

I tested several Mullvad servers worldwide while playing Brawlhalla online, and most of them were reliable. Out of the 5 countries I tried, I only experienced lag on 2 of them. These were the servers in Spain and Brazil, which were both over 10,000 km away from my location. The further you are from the server you’re using, the slower your speeds will be.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (3)Gaming on Mullvad’s servers in Brazil and Spain wasn’t smooth

I spent the most time playing Brawlhalla on the US and UK servers. Even though they were over 10,000 km from my actual location, I still played without any lag for a solid 30 minutes.

From my results, it’s clear that playing on international Mullvad servers has mixed results, but most servers are fast enough for lag-free gaming. But if you're after for a more reliable VPN for gaming, then you can find one here.

Server Network — Decent but Not Massive

Mullvad has 885 servers in 39 countries. While this is fewer than many top VPNs, the network provides fair coverage throughout the world. You’ll find most Mullvad servers in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, with dozens of city-specific server options. There are even connections in places like Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates.

When you visit Mullvad VPN’s server page, you can get real-time information on all of the company’s servers. You’ll see the hostname, location, provider, and ownership (either owned or rented) of every server, which tells you everything about the server. You can also filter your search on these factors or even search by VPN protocol. This level of transparency is rare among VPN providers, even the most well-known ones.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (4)Mullvad’s server page is truly unique and informative.

To ensure your security, Mullvad doesn’t use any virtual servers. These servers use an IP address of a country that they aren’t actually located in, meaning they run on virtual machines. For example, a virtual server for China might be located in Singapore. These virtual machines are often shared with other providers, which can leave your data open to third-party exposure.

Instead of virtual servers, it uses physical servers that it owns or rents, which are kept in highly secure data centers. Its website states that its rented servers aren’t shared with other providers, which means your data isn’t vulnerable to third-party breaches. Knowing that I can make an informed decision on the servers I use gives me great trust in Mullvad and its level of commitment to running secure servers makes me feel safe.

Another point to mention is that Mullvad doesn’t have any specialized servers. Specialized servers are good if you have a specific use in mind, such as P2P sharing or bypassing firewalls. However, all of its servers are optimized for P2P sharing, and you can find OpenVPN, WireGuard, and Bridge servers on its website. There are more than 300 OpenVPN and WireGuard servers and over 30 Bridge (Double VPN) servers.

When I tested Mullvad’s servers, I generally had positive experiences. Out of all the servers I tested in my speed tests, it took me no longer than 15 seconds to connect to each one. All I had to do was select the server location I wanted in the app. The connections were largely reliable, and I only got some downtime with the servers in Brazil and the UAE, which only lasted for about 10 seconds.

It's worth mentioning that every Mullvad server only has 1 IP address so there is a concern with overcrowding. You might experience slow speeds because all the users connected to that location will be sharing the same IP address on the same server.

Security — Robust and High-Quality

Security Breaches and Independent Audits

Mullvad had one minor security breach in early 2020. It was a privilege escalation attack on versions 2020.3 and older, and it only affected users who may have had a Windows account named build. By the time Mullvad reported the attack, most users were already protected because they’d already upgraded to version 2020.4 or were never in any danger because they didn’t have a Windows account with the necessary and specific name.

Mullvad had one independent audit in June 2020, which was conducted by Cure53. It was performed on the desktop versions of its app (both Windows and Mac) and its apps for Android and iOS.

The full audit is available on Cure53’s website, and it found 7 issues in total. Just 2 of those issues were classed as medium severity, while another 2 were classed as low. The remaining 3 were classed as info, which is lower than low. Nothing was classified as dangerous. By the time Mullvad received the report, 5 of the 7 issues had already been fixed. Since then, the other 2 issues were fixed in version 2020.5.

Cure53 stated that “Mullvad does a great job protecting the end-user from common PII (personally identifiable information) leaks and privacy-related risks." When using Mullvad, I can safely say that I don’t have any concerns about my privacy or online security.

Encryption and Security Protocols

Mullvad uses OpenVPN (both TCP and UDP ports) and WireGuard — two of the most advanced and popular VPN protocols. You can choose which you’d like to use or let Mullvad do it all for you by selecting automatic, which is the default setting. The default protocol is WireGuard for macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux apps. For Windows, it depends on your connection. Here’s a brief explanation of each protocol:

  • OpenVPN — OpenVPN is an open-source protocol that gives you an outstanding balance of speed and security. These features and its easy configuration with different port types contribute to it being the default protocol for a lot of VPNs.
  • WireGuard — A newer protocol that’s becoming popular, WireGuard aims to increase speeds by running from the Linux kernel.
  • Shadowsocks — This protocol is a proxy server that routes small packets of data between the server and user. It’s good at getting around internet restrictions because it’s a proxy and is useful on P2P platforms because of the faster download speeds from smaller data packets.

I use OpenVPN for activities where privacy and security are of more importance, such as using public WiFi. I find WireGuard is best for streaming and gaming because those activities are largely affected by speed. I use the Shadowsocks proxy to speed up download speeds while P2P sharing.

Mullvad uses AES-256 bit encryption, the strongest level of encryption currently available. With this method, it would take several lifetimes for the world’s most powerful supercomputers to break the encryption, meaning that your internet traffic is extremely secure. It also develops its apps in Rust, which is a super-secure programming language. However, it does recommend using the Firefox browser instead of Chrome since it's more secure when it comes to WebRTC leaks.

Leak Tests and Leak Protection

Mullvad has DNS leak protection that’s always enabled. A leak occurs when your DNS request goes through your ISP by accident, usually as a result of misconfiguration. When this happens, you risk exposing your hidden online activity to your ISP, which can be a big problem if you’re torrenting. Therefore, testing for this fault is crucial for privacy and anonymity.

I wanted to see if Mullvad’s DNS leak protection is secure, so I ran a few leak tests on ipleak.net. After connecting to servers in the US, UK, Australia, and Germany, I didn’t detect any leaks. Not only did my DNS requests go through Mullvad’s server, but my real IP address was masked.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (5)Mullvad’s IP leak protection works, so your DNS requests are protected.

Mullvad VPN offers protection for IPv6 connections against DNS leaks, which is not commonly provided by most VPNs. This feature is crucial as many IPv6 users often experience DNS leaks when using a VPN. Thus, this protection should offer users a sense of security.

Other Security Features

  • Kill Switch — A kill switch acts as your last line of defense when your VPN connection unexpectedly drops. Mullvad has a built-in kill switch that can never be disabled, but it's only available on its desktop apps.I tested it by trying to load a page when changing servers on my laptop, and it said my connection was cut off.
  • Split Tunneling — Split tunneling allows you to use your VPN connection and local network at the same time. The advantage is that you can use local apps while bypassing geoblocks on your browser. Mullvad only enables split tunneling on its Android and Linux apps, and are currently building a Windows version. When I tried it on my Android smartphone, I could use my local banking app while watching US Netflix through the encrypted VPN tunnel. If you're not using Android or Linux, then you can configure your routes on your OpenVPN or WireGuard protocol to enable split tunneling.
  • Double VPN — Mullvad's Bridge servers are a version of Double VPN or MultiHop. This is when your internet traffic gets redirected through 2 VPN servers instead of just 1 for extra security. It can also help you bypass firewalls on restricted networks. You can easily toggle Bridge on or off in settings. I was impressed that I didn't notice any decrease in speed when I used them — usually, the extra encryption layers reduce your speeds. However, you can't use Bridge servers on mobile devices, which was disappointing.
  • Tor compatibilityYou can configure your OpenVPN connection to use the Tor network through Mullvad. Once the configuration is done, then you'll need to configure your Tor browser to connect to Mullvad using the Shadowsocks proxy. This means that you can only connect to the Tor network through the Tor browser by using Mullvad as the exit node. Luckily, there are instructions available for this.

Privacy — Takes Privacy Seriously

Location — 14 Eyes Alliance Member Sweden

Mullvad is located in Sweden, which is part of the 14 eyes alliance. Intelligence agencies of the countries in the alliance often share intelligence, such as personal data, with each other — giving you a reason to be concerned. However, Swedish laws state that VPN providers aren’t required to keep any logs of their users’ activity, so you should have nothing to fear.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (6)Mullvad’s logging policy is easy to understand

Ownership — Trustworthy Company in Sweden

Mullvad AB, the parent company of Mullvad, is a branch of Amagicom AB. Both enterprises share the same proprietors, Fredrik Strömberg and Daniel Berntsson, and they've never faced any investigation. All this information is readily available on the Mullvad's website, which, to me, underscores their commitment to openness and reliability.

No-Logs Policy — Fully Upheld and Transparent

Mullvad doesn’t keep any activity logs whatsoever and has fully published its privacy policy on its website. The underlying belief in this policy is that they want you to remain as anonymous as possible, which should also be a fundamental right. The policy states that the only personal data they collect is your payment method, which is in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

It also collects some data from its servers: the number of current VPN connections and the amount of bandwidth used. None of this information is personal. In fact, you only need to provide your payment method to create a Mullvad account, which arguably displays its strong commitment to online privacy and anonymity. It also means that Mullvad won’t have anything to hand over if they are ever investigated.

Torrenting — Enabled on All Servers

All of Mullvad’s servers are enabled for P2P sharing. Simply connect to any server, and you’ll be able to download torrents quickly and anonymously. Mullvad doesn’t record any logs and uses AES-256 bit encryption, which prevents your ISP from viewing your torrenting activity or throttling your bandwidth. It also improves torrenting capabilities by using port forwarding.

During my tests, I connected to a US server (US-LAX-006) and downloaded the movie trailer for Fantastic Planets on uTorrent. My download speed averaged 255.1 KB per second, which let me download the 31.8 MB file in 2 minutes and 4 seconds. I then downloaded the same movie trailer on a non-VPN connection, and my download speed averaged 338.0 KB per second.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (7)Downloading torrents on Mullvad VPN was a quick and painless experience

Also, note that your torrenting speed largely depends on the number of seeds your torrent has rather than your internet connection speed. Even with this fact, I was very impressed that Mullvad didn’t slow down my torrenting speed significantly. The slight drop in speed is undoubtedly worth the privacy and security that comes with it.

Does Mullvad Work in China? Not Guaranteed

Mullvad claims to work in China, even though its marketing doesn’t mention it. When I emailed their support team I found it hard to get a straight answer, so I can't guarantee that it works. According to the representative, you will need to use a Bridge server, which utilizes the Shadowsocks proxy (an open-source proxy that's commonly used to bypass the Great Firewall). Shadowsocks works by creating a new proxy connection every time it’s used, making it difficult to identify and block. There aren’t many Bridge servers either, so you might get slow speeds.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (8)Mullvad says it bypasses censorship in China by using the Shadowsocks, but we can't be sure

I also asked them if Mullvad worked in countries like Iran, Russia, the UAE, and Turkey, and they said that some users had reported success in those places. Keep in mind, you should always be careful using a non-government-approved VPN in China — however, China fights VPN use by blocking the technology, not by chasing people down who use them. If you would rather use a VPN that's guaranteed to work in China, then there are several that do.

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As a seasoned cybersecurity expert with extensive knowledge of VPN technologies, I can provide a comprehensive analysis of the information presented in the article about Mullvad VPN. My expertise is rooted in hands-on experience and a deep understanding of encryption protocols, security features, server networks, and privacy concerns associated with VPN services.

Mullvad VPN Overview:

The article begins by acknowledging Mullvad VPN's popularity among privacy enthusiasts and raises the question of its value for money beyond privacy features. The author conducted thorough testing of both mobile and desktop apps and delved into the VPN's features.

Privacy and Security:

Mullvad VPN is commended for its robust security features, including AES-256 bit encryption, multiple security protocols (OpenVPN and WireGuard), a built-in kill switch that cannot be disabled, and a strict no-logs policy. The author notes that the company develops its apps in Rust, a secure programming language, and recommends using Firefox over Chrome for enhanced security against WebRTC leaks.

The VPN had a minor security breach in early 2020, which was promptly addressed, and an independent audit by Cure53 in June 2020 identified and resolved several issues, with the audit report publicly available. The report commends Mullvad for protecting users from common personally identifiable information leaks and privacy-related risks.

Server Network:

Mullvad boasts 885 servers in 39 countries, with a focus on transparency. The author appreciates Mullvad's unique server page, providing real-time information about each server's hostname, location, provider, and ownership. Unlike many VPNs, Mullvad does not use virtual servers and ensures that rented servers are not shared with other providers, enhancing user data security.

Streaming Abilities:

While Mullvad effectively unblocks US Netflix and libraries in other countries, it falls short in unblocking other popular streaming services like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+. The author suggests that if streaming is not a priority, Mullvad VPN is a solid choice.

Speed Performance:

Mullvad VPN is praised for its fast and consistent speeds, even on long-distance servers. The article includes speed test results for both local and long-distance connections, demonstrating Mullvad's capability for streaming, torrenting, and gaming.

Gaming Experience:

The author tested Mullvad's servers worldwide for online gaming and found them reliable, with only a couple of servers causing lag due to their considerable distance from the user's location.

Security Features:

Mullvad VPN offers a range of security features, including a built-in kill switch, split tunneling (available on Android and Linux apps), Double VPN (Bridge servers), and Tor compatibility. The author highlights the effectiveness of Mullvad's DNS leak protection and its provision of protection for IPv6 connections against DNS leaks, a feature uncommon among VPNs.

Privacy and Logging:

Mullvad's location in Sweden, a member of the 14 Eyes Alliance, raises privacy concerns, but the author notes that Swedish laws do not mandate VPN providers to keep activity logs. Mullvad's parent company, Mullvad AB, is presented as trustworthy, and the VPN adheres to a strict no-logs policy, collecting only payment method data in line with GDPR.

Torrenting Support:

All Mullvad servers support P2P sharing, and the VPN is commended for not significantly slowing down torrenting speeds. The article emphasizes the privacy and security advantages of using Mullvad for torrenting.

China and Global Use:

Mullvad claims to work in China, utilizing the Shadowsocks proxy to bypass the Great Firewall. However, the author highlights uncertainty and suggests potential challenges, such as slow speeds due to a limited number of Bridge servers. The VPN's effectiveness in countries like Iran, Russia, the UAE, and Turkey is mentioned, but caution is advised.

In conclusion, the article provides a comprehensive review of Mullvad VPN, covering privacy, security, server network, streaming capabilities, speed performance, gaming experience, and global usage. The author's recommendations are rooted in real-world testing and experiences, offering valuable insights for individuals seeking a VPN service with specific features and capabilities.

Mullvad VPN Review 2023: Safe, Secure... Worth the Price? (2024)

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