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 isn’t far off from 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.
Short on Time? Here Are My Key Findings
- 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. See my streaming results here.
- Fast speeds for streaming and gaming. I could stream and game without any problems on a variety of Mullvad servers worldwide. Find out about my speed tests here.
- High-end security and privacy features. This includes AES-256 bit encryption, a built-in kill switch that can’t be disabled, and a strict no-logs policy. Read more about its security features.
- Decent server network worldwide. This includes 760 servers in 36 countries, all of which are optimized for P2P sharing. A live update of all servers is on its website too. Click here to learn about its servers.
- Works in China. Mullvad uses the shadowsocks proxy to bypass the Great Firewall. Learn how it works in China.
- Minimalistic apps for most devices. Easy-to-use apps for both desktop and mobile devices, making it suitable for both beginners and veterans. Read about its usability here.
- 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. Find out more about its pricing below.
- Poor customer service. You can only ask questions via email because there isn’t a live chat team available. Click here to learn about its reliability.
Mullvad Features — Updated in March 2021
|Number of countries with servers||36|
|Number of servers||760|
|Number of IP addresses||760|
|Does VPN keep logs?||No|
|Does VPN include a kill switch?||Yes|
|Number of devices per license||5|
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.
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, and I once again unblocked Netflix without any hassle.
From my tests, it’s clear that Mullvad has fixed any problems it once had with unblocking Netflix.
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, and All 4, but yet again, I had similar problems.
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 glorifies, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Mullvad offers fast speeds across a range of short and long-distance servers. In fact, its speeds were right up there with the premium VPNs, which really surprised me. Even though its speeds dropped on its long-distance servers, which was expected, my user experience didn’t suffer.
Using Ookla’s speed test tool, I measured my speeds on the following factors:
- Download speed — How long it takes to download files, such as images and videos, to your computer.
- Upload speed — How quickly you can upload files and data, such as music or gameplay, through the internet.
- 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:
- Download: 10.24 Mbps
- Upload: 1.31 Mbps
- Ping: 7 ms
Then, I connected to Mullvad’s server in Singapore (SG-SIN-203). My results were as follows:
- Download: 10.05 Mbps (2% decrease)
- Upload: 1.31 Mbps (same)
- Ping: 31 ms
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.
For my long-distance tests, I connected to Mullvad servers in the US and UK, 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:
- Download: 9.23 Mbps (8% decrease)
- Upload: 1.14 Mbps (13% decrease)
- Ping: 202 ms
- Download: 9.92 Mbps (11% decrease)
- Upload: 1.01 Mbps (14% decrease)
- Ping: 195 ms
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. The drop was expected though, so I won’t hold it against the VPN.
Are Mullvad’s Speeds Fast Enough for Gaming? Yes, Speeds Are Smooth on Most Servers
It’s possible to game online without any interruption on Mullvad. By gaming with a VPN, you can bypass ISP throttling to improve your speeds and obtain expansion packs from other countries — among other benefits.
I tested several Mullvad servers across the world while playing Brawlhalla online, and most of them were reliable. Out of the 5 countries I tested, only 2 of them were laggy. These were the servers in Spain and Brazil.
The servers I spent the most time playing Brawlhalla on were the US and UK servers. Even though both of them were over 10,000 km from my actual location, I still played without any lag for a solid 30 minutes. When playing Brawlhalla on the Spain server, I always experienced lag and unresponsive control.
From my results, it’s clear that online gaming on Mullvad has mixed results. However, the likelihood of finding a fast server is greater than not finding one.
Mullvad has 760 servers in 36 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, but there are connections in places like Hong Kong and the United Arab Emirates too.
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. 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 are servers that 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, they use physical servers that they own or rent, which are kept in highly secure data centers. Their website states that their rented servers aren’t shared with other providers, which means your data won’t be prone to third party breaches. Knowing that I can make an informed decision on the servers I use gives me great trust in Mullvad, and their level of commitment to running secure servers makes me feel safe.
Another point to mention is that Mullvad doesn’t have any specialized servers. However, all of its servers are optimized for P2P sharing, and its bridge servers give you Double VPN protection.
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.
Even though the breach was ultimately harmless, Mullvad accepts that it should have been more transparent about the attack at an earlier stage.
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), as well as 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.
In short, 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 protocols — two of the most advanced and popular protocols among VPNs. When using Mullvad, you can select 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 a great 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. However, it’s still under development and lacks the security of OpenVPN.
Mullvad uses AES-256 bit encryption, the strongest level of encryption currently available. With this method, there are 2^256 possible key combinations for decrypting your internet traffic. 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’s for this reason that AES-256 bit encryption is used by top government agencies to protect their most sensitive data.
Leak Tests and Leak Protection
Mullvad has its own DNS leak protection that’s always enabled. A DNS leak occurs when your DNS request goes through your ISP by accident, usually as a result of misconfiguration. When this occurs, you risk exposing your personal information and data to third parties, who can then use it for their gains (such as targeting you with ads).
I wanted to see if Mullvad’s DNS leak protection is secure, so I ran a few DNS leak tests on ipleaks.net. After connecting to servers in the US, UK, Australia, and Germany, no IP leaks were discovered. Not only did my DNS requests go through Mullvad’s server, but my real IP address was masked.
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. I tested it by trying to load a page when changing servers, 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 enables split tunneling on its mobile apps but not desktop. However, they are currently building a desktop version. When I tried it on my smartphone, I could use my local banking app while watching US Netflix.
- Double VPN — Double VPN is when your internet traffic gets redirected through two VPN servers for extra security. The catch is that it reduces your speeds because of the extra layers of encryption. Mullvad has a feature called Bridge which enables Double VPN protection, and it can easily be turned on or off in your settings. When I used it, my drop in speed was barely noticeable.
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.
Therefore, what really matters is that Mullvad adheres to its strict no-logs policy, not its location.
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
They also collect some data from their servers, which are 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 their 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, which is what torrenting is. 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.
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.
I was very impressed that Mullvad didn’t slow down my torrenting speed significantly. The slight drop in speed is certainly worth the privacy and security that comes with it.
Mullvad works in China, even though their marketing doesn’t mention it. It’s able to do this by supporting the shadowsocks proxy, which is an open-source proxy that’s commonly used to bypass the Great Firewall of China. Shadowsocks works by creating a new proxy connection every time it’s used, which makes it difficult for the Great Wall to identify and block.
Other VPNs that don’t use Shadowsocks come from similar sources of traffic, making it easy for the Great Wall to identify and block. I even emailed their support team to confirm if it works in China, to which they answered “yes.”