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 ability to access popular platforms, and the customer support is also pretty basic.
If you’re willing to look past that, I’d highly recommend Mullvad VPN. You can test it out for free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
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Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
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Mullvad VPN Features — Updated in January 2022
Money Back Guarantee
Does VPN keep logs?
Number of servers
Number of devices per license
Based in country
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 browse 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 files.
- Ping — A website’s response time after you’ve clicked on its link. In short, it’s the reaction time of your connection.
To set a baseline, I tested the speeds of my local connection in Singapore without using a VPN. These were my readings:
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:
||10.05 (2% decrease)
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 gaming.
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:
||9.23 (8% decrease)
||1.14 (13% decrease)
||9.92 (11% decrease)
||1.01 (14% decrease)
While I could still enjoy 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.
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.
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Server Network — Decent but Not Massive
Mullvad has 760 servers in 30 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.
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 Japan 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.
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.
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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.
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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 accessing websites because it’s a proxy. It also offers faster download speeds.
I use OpenVPN for activities where privacy and security are of more importance, such as using public WiFi. I find WireGuard is best for gaming because it is largely affected by speed. I use the Shadowsocks proxy to speed up download speeds.
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.
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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. 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.
Also, Mullvad protects IPv6 connections from DNS leaks, which is quite unusual for a VPN. IPv6 connections aren’t as common as IPv4 connections, so most VPNs don’t offer protection against it. This often results in IPv6 users experiencing DNS leaks when using a VPN, so ensuring this protection against it should give peace of mind.
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 access local apps even when you’re connected to a foreign server.
- 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. 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.
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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.
Ownership — Trustworthy Company in Sweden
Mullvad AB is the company that owns Mullvad, which is a subsidiary of Amagicom AB. Both companies are owned by the same people, Fredrik Strömberg and Daniel Berntsson, and have never come under scrutiny. Everything about this ownership is stated on Mullvad’s website, which in my opinion, further cements their transparency and trustworthiness.
No-Logs Policy — Fully Upheld and Transparent
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.
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Ease of Use
Mullvad’s apps are minimalistic and easy to navigate. I never got confused at all when I used them. As soon as you open your app, it will automatically connect you to a server with its auto-connect feature. The server it connects you with is in Sweden, its home nation. This setting can be disabled as well if you wish. It’s also possible to change the color of the tray icon to white, which is handy for colorblind users.
Changing servers is straightforward too. All you need to do is click the “select location” button on the home interface, and you’ll be able to select any server from the countries listed. If you click on the arrow on the right-hand side of the country, you can be even more specific with your search. What I like about its home interface is its interactive world map, which takes you to the location of your server.
You can access your settings by clicking on the wheel in the top right corner. Under Settings, you have the account, preferences, and advanced tabs. Account settings let you manage your subscription and payment settings, while preferences let you enable/disable notification or choose to launch the app upon starting up, among others.
Under advanced settings, you can choose your protocol and enable/disable bridge mode. All of the advanced settings are set to “automatic,” so you don’t need to do anything on your end.
The mobile app is largely similar to the desktop one, except that split tunneling settings are available. What was disappointing, however, was that there weren’t any browser extensions.
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Simultaneous Device Connections — Up to 5 Different Connections Simultaneously
You can connect up to 5 devices at the same time under one Mullvad account. To test this, I connected my Windows laptop, smartphone, Android tablet, old MacBook Pro, and old iPhone at the same time. As expected, I didn’t experience any lag or slow down whatsoever.
However, it’s possible to connect as many devices as you want by installing Mullvad VPN on your router. Just make sure your router is VPN compatible. Router setup guides are also available on Mullvad’s website, making it easy to set up.
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Device Compatibility — Highly Compatible With Most Devices
Mullvad works with all major operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. You can also install its app on Chromebook too. To use it on WiFi-enabled devices, you need to install Mullvad on a VPN-compatible router. The router setup instructions can be found on Mullvad’s FAQ page under “routers.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. However, you can install it via OpenVPN on Windows. I followed the OpenVPN setup instructions on its website and had it installed on my Windows laptop in 4 minutes. It wasn’t too complicated.
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Setup & Installation — Nothing Complicated
I didn’t experience any issues when installing the Mullvad app on my devices. After downloading the app from its website, I clicked on the install button to install it. Then, I just had to enter my 16-digit account number to log in. The desktop installation took me under 2 minutes, whereas the mobile installation took under 3.
Quick Guide: How to Install Mullvad in 3 Easy steps
- Create a Mullvad account. Go to the Mullvad website and click “Generate Account.” Then, choose a payment method.
- Download and install the app. Choose your operating system, click the “Download” button and then follow the installation instructions.
- Connect to a server. Use your Mullvad account number to log in and then select your location. Once that’s done, then click “Secure My Location.”
If you do run into any issues, then its website provides plenty of guides and tutorials.
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