Mullvad VPN Review (2019): Is It Truly Anonymous?

Mullvad is a Swedish VPN that offers true anonymity. You don’t have to give your email to use it, and you can even pay by cash (and they shred the envelope afterward). All this privacy is great, but is this VPN well-rounded enough to deserve your money?

PROS

  • Truly anonymous
  • Extremely secure
  • Wireguard available
  • Slightly above average speeds
  • Cheap monthly price
  • Kill switch
  • Easy to use
  • Full access torrenting

CONS

  • No mobile apps
  • Not much streaming
  • Swedish location
  • No live chat

Speed & Expectations 

To measure speed, we tested the 3 main speed indicators:

  1. Download speed: The rate at which data is transferred from the server to your device. This is measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.
  2. Upload speed: The rate at which data is transferred to the server from your device. This is also measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.
  3. Ping (or latency): Tested by “pinging” the server, it’s the amount of time it takes for it to receive and process your request. This is measured in milliseconds (ms) and a lower number is better.

First we ran a baseline test using a default 100mbps internet connection in Chicago, IL.

Then we tested various Mullvad servers across the globe.

We ran each test 5 times to increase reliability.

Speed results

These are the results of our baseline test:

So the average baseline score was:

  • Download: 86.2mbps
  • Upload: 12.1mbps
  • Ping: 9.4ms

Next we ran our tests on a Mullvad VPN United States server:

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 43.2mbps (49.9% slower) 
  • Upload: 37mbps (205.1% faster)
  • Ping: 38.4ms (308.5% longer)

(You would expect these to give the fastest results since we’re performing the tests in the US).

Next we tested Europe:

Europe’s averages were:

  • Download: 22.2mbps (74.3% slower)
  • Upload: 10.3mbps (15.3% slower)
  • Ping: 107.2ms (1040.4% longer)

Here’s Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 33.6mbps (61% slower)
  • Upload: 19.8mbps (63.6% faster)
  • Ping: 231.8ms (2366% longer)

South America:

South America’s averages were:

  • Download: 18.6mbps (78.4% slower)
  • Upload: 10.9mbps (9.9% slower)
  • Ping: 161ms (1612.8% longer)

And finally Africa:

Africa’s averages were:

  • Download: 54.1mbps (37.2% slower)
  • Upload: 17mbps (40.2% faster)
  • Ping: 250.8ms (2568.1% longer)

We also compared these results against the average of other VPN tests. How does Mullvad measure up?

First up, let’s take a look at download speeds:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
Mullvad-50%-74%-61%-78%-37%
Ra4w-54%-51%-94%n/a-57%
Betternet13%-7%-28%2%n/a
Private Tunnel-19%-66%-69%n/an/a
IVPN-23%-45%-67%n/an/a
Avira Phantom-41%-97%-98%-75%n/a
Speedify-6%-39%-73%-69%-69%
ZoogVPN-59%-74%-80%-98%-87%
NortonVPN-34%-68%-72%-29%n/a
SurfEasy-43%-61%-65%-37%n/a
Celo VPN-75%-93%-93%n/an/a
proXPN-52%-73%-74%n/an/a
X-VPN-71%-75%-99%-62%n/a
SpyOFF-66%-57%-76%-65%-63%
VPN.ht-48%-78%-68%-67%-67%
vpn.ac-52%-51%-67%-47%n/a
Tiger VPN-48%-68%-68%-55%-72%
VPN Unlimited-27%-77%-79%-64%-61%
Cyberghost-35%-59%-71%-56%-68%
Torguard-37%-58%-81%-60%-67%
ProtonVPN-35%-50%-56%-77%-54%
PureVPN-26%-68%-94%-32%-89%
Trust.Zone-14%-99%-80%-66%-82%
AVG Secure VPN-56%-87%-69%-75%-68%
Hoxx VPN-12%-96%-93%n/a-68%
VPNSecure-68%-93%-98%-61%-77%
IPVanish-36%-54%-72%-76%n/a
NordVPN-40%-99%-69%-58%-75%
ExpressVPN-71%-58%-64%-95%-67%
Avast-45%-63%-72%-66%-77%
Windscribe-44%-57%-80%-98%-73%
Average-41.1%-67.6%-75.2%-62.6%-68.9%

Download speeds are well above average in Africa, and above average in Asia, but below average in the US, Europe and South America.

Next, how did upload speeds compare?

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
Mullvad205%-15%64%-10%40%
Ra4w30%-32%48%n/a-46%
Betternet24%16%12%55%n/a
Private Tunnel75%-15%13%n/an/a
IVPN77%-83%108%n/an/a
Avira Phantom252.9%-87%-60%-30%n/a
Speedify-36%-40%-29%-34%-25%
ZoogVPN117%24%50%3%24%
NortonVPN161%38%59%9%n/a
SurfEasy-4%-17%-50%-2%n/a
Celo VPN-35%-30%-40%n/an/a
proXPN-7%-15%-52%n/an/a
X-VPN-33%-61%-98%-77%n/a
SpyOFF-9%-18%-88%-52%-50%
VPN.ht-10%-17%-25%-23%-63%
vpn.ac-6%-18%-44%-16%n/a
Tiger VPN-3%-14%-20%-17%-42%
VPN Unlimited-13%-39%-85%-19%-56%
Cyberghost-8%-16%-92%-37%-48%
Torguard-9%-20%-35%-22%-41%
ProtonVPN-2%-15%-20%-41%-29%
PureVPN13%2.5%-54%-11%-72%
Trust.Zone-13%-45%-67%-28%-84%
AVG Secure VPN-19%-58%-75%-80%-77%
Hoxx VPN-5%-90%-24%n/a-51%
VPNSecure-9%-19%-92%-26%-56%
IPVanish-5%-19%-84%-22%n/a
NordVPN-13%-46%-26%-16%-70%
ExpressVPN-9%-24%-34%-72%-42%
Avast-13%-42%-78%-70%-77%
Windscribe-6%-17%-52%-97%-53%
Average22.2%-26.8%-31.3%-29.4%-45.9%

Upload speeds are above average in all regions, and well above in the US, Asia and Africa where there’s actually speed increases. In the US it’s a crazy 205% speed increase.

And finally latency:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
Mullvad309%1040%2366%1613%2568%
Ra4w655%1015%2234%n/a2615%
Betternet19%1164%2485%1483%n/a
Private Tunnel33%1046%2150%n/an/a
IVPN36%1321%2572%n/an/a
Avira Phantom35%1147%2322%1596%n/a
Speedify506%1160%2604%1689%3051%
ZoogVPN386%1931%4176%5004%6194%
NortonVPN194%1569%2276%1426%n/a
SurfEasy-9%792%1711%1058%n/a
Celo VPN915%1161%1654%n/an/a
proXPN194%996%2194%n/an/a
X-VPN-28%397%837%560%n/a
SpyOFF213%944%4278%2533%2598%
VPN.ht273%785%1667%1282%2109%
vpn.ac60%388%968%487%n/a
Tiger VPN9%895%1786%1105%2309%
VPN Unlimited33%935%3946%1411%2535%
Cyberghost27%1085%2344%1352%2415%
Torguard7%1036%2023%1384%2502%
ProtonVPN17%810%1840%1185%2017%
PureVPN-23%708%489%1018%1823%
Trust.Zone104%1206%2438%1396%2750%
AVG Secure VPN1021%1111%2419%3560%3336%
Hoxx VPN566%1098%2470%n/a2794%
VPNSecure281%1051%2519%1530%2917%
IPVanish240%1038%4144%1424%n/a
NordVPN34%1278%2328%1560%2696%
ExpressVPN98%965%2122%1545%2461%
Avast33%1133%2465%1556%2815%
Windscribe310%1018%1904%2042%2782%
Average211.2%1039.5%2313.9%1632%2764.4%

Latency was just above average in South America and Africa, average in Europe, just below average in Asia, but well below average in the US.

Speed (Summary)

Mullvad VPN has slightly above average speeds overall, with inconsistent speeds in terms of regions. Downloads were slightly below average, latency was around average, and uploads were super fast.

Performance & Features

In this section we look at the key features all VPNs have and see how Mullvad matches up.

Number of servers: 416

How many active servers are available to connect to across all countries, regardless of their physical location.

This is a medium amount of servers, definitely enough for most people, but overshadowed by a lot of VPN giants with 1-6k servers, for example NordVPN’s 5,600.

Number of countries: 38

How many countries the total number of servers cover, regardless of how many are located in a single country.

Again this is middle-of-the-road, quite high but a lot offer 50+ countries if you need less popular options, for example ExpressVPN’s 94+.

Mullvad has excellent North American and European coverage and a couple in the Middle East, which is often overlooked. However there’s still only 3 servers in Asia and 1 each in South America and Africa.

Number of connections allowed: 5

How many devices can be connected to a server (or number of servers) based on a single VPN account or subscription.

Mullvad come in average here.

Torrenting allowed: Yes

With Mullvad you can torrent on any server, which is excellent as a lot of VPNs only allow it on special P2P servers.

Kill switch available: Yes.

Whether the VPN software can disable your connection to the network in the event you disconnect from the VPN server. This prevents your IP address from being exposed.

Mullvad has a kill switch on all its apps, which sounds very impressive until you realise it only has desktop apps: Windows, Mac and Linux. No mobiles, which is massive downside. 

Performance and Features (Summary)

Mullvad looks impressive with a medium number of servers in a medium number of countries, with a kill switch on all apps, full access torrenting, and 5 connections. The only big disappointment is there’s no mobile apps.

Privacy & Security

Is Mullvad VPN secure and trustworthy?

First let’s look at the technical aspects:

Protocols/Encryption: AES-256 encryption with OpenVPN protocol, or Wireguard protocol with Chacha20 and Poly1305.

Mullvad uses industry-standard AES-256 encryption with the OpenVPN protocol. It also uses 4096-bit RSA certificates with SHA512 and Perfect Forward Secrecy.

There’s also in-built leak protection.

However, there’s also the option to use Wireguard, the next big thing in protocols. It’s got a minimalist code and connections are supposed to be faster.

A few of the more cutting-edge VPNs are developing Wireguard at the moment. You can either do this manually, or they’ve developed an actual Wireguard app. Neat.

This uses ChaCha encryption, the next big thing in encryption as well.

On top of this, they also offer multi-hop features for restrictive firewalls, using the Shadowsocks proxy. This is very handy if you’re in countries like China, Iran, Turkey, etc.

Honestly, you can’t really get much better in terms of security.

DNS leaks: None found.

IP leaks: None found.

WebRTC leaks: None.

Viruses/Malware: 1 false positive.

1 engine out of 66 supposedly found some malware, but this is almost certainly a false positive. They’re common with VPNs, and a real issue would be detected by a lot more engines.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: Gothenburg, Sweden. Sweden is a member of 14-eyes and the EU, so this isn’t great privacy-wise. It means data-sharing agreements are in place with 13 other countries. The EU tries to introduce a lot of blanket data laws as well.

Logging policy: No logs

Mullvad doesn’t store any logs, plus it has a truly excellent privacy policy.

It is crystal clear about exactly what it logs, even showing the exact data they store for each payment method.

It’s obvious this VPN is extremely concerned about user privacy.

First, you don’t have to give an email address or set a password to use Mullvad. Instead, they just generate a random account number. 

They don’t even use Google Analytics, and use minimal cookies.

They also warn you about communicating too much information if you contact their support, which is rare.

They don’t log:

  • traffic
  • DNS requests
  • connections, including when one is made, when it disconnects, for how long, or any kind of timestamp
  • IP addresses
  • user bandwidth
  • account activity except total simultaneous connections and payment information

If only every VPN had such a policy, and was so transparent about it.

Mullvad also performed an independent audit in 2018, one of the few that has, which further shows their commitment to transparency.

Privacy and Security Summary

Mullvad is one of the most secure VPNs around. There’s OpenVPN with AES-256, but also cutting-edge Wireguard and multihop with Shadowsocks. Unsurprisingly there’s no leaks or viruses. They’re based in Sweden, which is 14-eyes, but their logging policy is one of the best I’ve seen. They’ve also done an independent audit, one of the few VPNs to do so.

Usability

This section looks at the following aspects:

  • Streaming/Geo-spoofing
  • Compatibility
  • Overall UI/UX

Streaming/Geo-spoofing

Geo-spoofing streaming services is a great benefit of using a VPN, but many struggle to trick Netflix and like nowadays. Let’s see how Mullvad fares.

  • Netflix: Partially Detected. Netflix worked in Sweden and Brazil.
  • Hulu: Detected. Unfortunately, Hulu was blocked.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked fine on all servers.
  • Kodi: Undetected. Kodi worked fine with Mullvad.

Compatibility

Is Mullvad compatible with most devices?

We tested everything from Tor, iOS devices, Android devices, Smart TV’s, Amazon Firestick, Mac, Windows, to routers:

  • Tor browser: Supported. Tor works fine in conjunction with Mullvad.
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Not Supported. Shockingly, Mullvad doesn’t have an iOS app. However, manual configuration is available.
  • Android: Not Supported. Same for Android.
  • Smart TV’s: Not Supported. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t have Smart TV support either.
  • Amazon Firestick: Not Supported.
  • Windows: Supported. Mullvad has a Windows app.
  • Mac: Supported. Mullvad has a Mac app.
  • Routers: Partially Supported. Mullvad has manual setup guides for a variety of router brands using OpenVPN.

Overall UX/UI

Mullvad asks for your account number as soon as you open the app.

It has a small, simple and attractive interface.

It’s obvious when you’re not connected, due to all the bright red.

There’s a map showing your location, but you can’t actually use it to look for servers. It’s just aesthetic.

The default location is Sweden, Mullvad’s home base. This doesn’t make much sense and most VPNs default to closest or fastest location.

The server list is very simple. It shows country names in alphabetical order.

You can also drill down to different cities.

And even go fruther to select individual servers, which is excellent as lot of VPNs don’t offer this.

The green lights indicate the servers are working, as far as they know. There were no red lights when we tested.

The server list was well laid-out and easy to use, despite having a lot of servers to choose from. My only criticism is there’s no favorites, which would be handy given the numbers. There’s not even any sorting options or search bar. And lastly, there’s no stats such as ping or users.

Usually when you can select specific servers, there’s a lot more options available.

Once you click a server or location, it automatically starts to connect.

The top bar and map dot turns green. Outside the interface, the system tray icon turns green and there’s a desktop notification too. 

Connection times were fairly fast. We only had problems connecting to 1 server when we used it (Brazil). You can easily switch servers without having to disconnect first, which is a massive plus.

Overall using Mullvad was a very smooth experience.

The only issue I found was its system tray location. I don’t particularly like these as as soon as you click away from the interface it disappears, rather than staying open like in a taskbar-located app.

The initial settings screen doesn’t show much.

Preferences shows some very basic settings, including 1 start-up and 1 auto-connect setting.

Advanced has much better options. You can enable IPv6, plus there’s a kill switch. However, it’s a particularly aggressive one as it blocks the internet even if you quit the app.

It would be nice if it offered a less aggressive option for this kill switch. I guess maximum security is their aim though.

You can also choose your port for OpenVPN if you wish. Wireguard users must configure manually or use a separate app.

There’s also Bridge Mode. This is basically a multi-hop feature where you connect to 2 servers to disguise your initial location, and is handy for restrictive firewalls. It uses the open-source Shadowsocks proxy.

You can also set a value for MSS if you wish.

Usability (Summary)

Mullvad only had Netflix access in Brazil and Sweden, not particularly popular choices. It also only has desktop apps. However the apps were very attractive and easy to use. You can select all 400 servers. Settings are minimal but there’s a kill switch, protocol control and a multi-hop option.

Pricing & Refunds

Mullvad have an entirely unique pricing model.

The price is €5 a month. That’s it. Ridiculously simple.

You also don’t even have to give an email address or password to sign up.

They give you an account number as soon as you click on the Downloads page, which is all you need.

You can even download it via Tor for extra anonymity.

You also get a 10% discount if you pay through certain cryptocurrencies.

They’re also very flexible with payment schedules.

You can either pay each month, or pay for a few months or up to 1 year in advance with multiples of 5 (for example, 12 lots of 5 to cover 1 year).

This maximises anonymity, and means no commitment. This will be music to the ears of the hyper privacy-conscious.

It makes it easy to change account numbers too, if you feel like you’ve been compromised.

There’s a wide variety of payment options: card, Paypal, cryptocurrencies, bank wire, Swish, voucher, or even cash.

You can also subscribe, like most VPNs make you. Oddly there’s only one payment option if you do this: Paypal.

There’s also no discounts for signing up for a year, which will disappoint some.

They offer a nice 10% discount for approved cryptocurrencies.

They make it clear they don’t offer any dodgy lifetime deals, or free plans that steal your data.

They don’t have a free trial, which is a shame. However, they do have a generous 30-day money-back guarantee.

There’s no sneaky clauses to this either. In fact they have a guide clearly explaining how to get this refund, which is way more than most. The only exception this is cash payments.

Pricing (Summary)

Mullvad has an unusual pricing model. It’s €5 a month, and you can subscribe, pay month-to-month or pay in advance. There’s a wide variety of payment options including crypto and cash, and you don’t need an email to sign up. There’s no trial but a nice 30-day money-back guarantee.

Support

Mullvad only offers email support, which is a shame. No live chat. What’s more, these are only available 7am-6pm weekdays GMT+2.

This means no support’s available on weekends, plus the times won’t work well for US customers.

At least within those times they’re quick to respond, and competent.

There weren’t any copy-and-paste responses, and they seemed to know what they were talking about technically.

However, they completely ignored our question about Netflix.

In terms of the knowledgebase, there’s some great guides on Wireguard, Bridges, and setting up manually on mobiles and routers.

There’s also an excellent troubleshooting article solving common Mullvad errors.

However, it’s not very well-rounded, with a lot of key information missing.

For example, if you search for encryption, protocols, Netflix, and many other basic questions, it comes up with nothing.

They also have a blog, which mostly contains useful service updates.

Support (Summary)

There’s no live chat and email support is only available during Swedish full-time hours weekdays. This isn’t great, but they respond quickly within these hours and responses are adequate. The knowledgebase has some great troubleshooting and manual guides but isn’t too well-rounded.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

What does the rest of the internet have to say about Mullvad VPN? Here’s a roundup of other reviews.

Unanimously all loved the account number set up, meaning you can buy the VPN completely anonymously. One was slightly concerned with brute force attacks hacking these though.

Most were also very impressed with Mullvad’s high-end encryption and protocols, including Wireguard, and leak protection. However, one was disappointed it didn’t offer a wider range of weaker protocols such as LT2P/IPSec.

Like us, all agreed the no logs policy was watertight and one of the strongest they’ve ever seen. Like us they really appreciated the level of detail, and the fact it didn’t even log connection times or bandwidth used. One was disappointed it hadn’t gone through an independent audit, but this is out-of-date.

Most were only mildly concerned with the Swedish jurisdiction, due to the no-logs policy. However, one really didn’t like it, saying Sweden is extremely active within 14-eyes. For this reason, they wouldn’t recommend it unless paying with Bitcoin.

Streaming results were mixed. None got any Hulu access, and some reported no Netflix access. However, one found UK access and one found US access.

They all liked that Mullvad supports full-access torrenting, albeit not overtly. One was surprised by this, since Sweden jailed the founders of Pirate Bay.

Generally, other reviewers found faster speeds than us. Some found extremely fast speeds, especially locally. Some found above average speeds. However, some found unexceptional or slow performances. A real mixed bag here.

In terms of the interface, all were extremely disappointed in the lack of mobile apps. They found the manual configuration long-winded and annoying to use.

For desktops, a few mentioned the system tray location as being a bit irritating. Most liked the aesthetics of the interface, calling it clean-looking. However, one hated the static map, calling it awkward.

Most found it very easy to use and well-orientated to beginners. They found you could switch servers easily. One also reported no IP leaks during the switchover, which they said was the opposite of most VPNs.

Most said there weren’t many settings or much configurability on offer. One also found it to be a bit laggy.

Most found the support to be a big downside, since there’s no live chat and email is only during Swedish full-time hours. Responses generally only took a couple of hours, but a couple said they were a bit vague. However, one said they were polite and helpful. One said the knowledgebase wasn’t that great.

Reviewers agreed the pricing was simple and the monthly price was cheap or competitive, but were disappointed there weren’t any discounts for long term subscriptions like other VPNs. One said this is made it quite expensive annually

They were impressed that you could pay by cash or Bitcoin, but one said refunds weren’t great for these options.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Ratings were almost all excellent. They generally liked the anonymity, security, no logs, easy-to-use app and torrenting. They didn’t like the lack of mobile apps, mediocre support, lack of streaming, lack of configurability and Swedish location.

Our Verdict

A lot of VPNs that talk big about caring for your privacy, but Mullvad actually delivers.

You can sign up and pay completely anonymously through their genius account number system, their no logs policy is one of the best, and they’ve done an independent audit. Even their software is open-source.

They also actively discourage you from subscribing, with a cheap monthly price but no long-term discounts. They’re on top of their game encryption-wise, developing cutting-edge Wireguard with ChaCha.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more trustworthy, anonymous, secure VPN around.

Aside from that, there’s also full access torrenting, a kill switch, multi-hop, and an easy-to-use interface with slightly above average speeds. Netflix works in Brazil and Sweden, though not the US.

The major downside is the lack of mobile apps, which is a real shame. Support also isn’t great with no live chat or weekend hours. And there’s not a ton of configurability for advanced users.

If you’re a big streamer or mobile user, Mullvad probably isn’t for you. Sadly this is probably the majority, but other users should definitely consider this high-quality VPN. We would recommend this and rate it 4.2 out of 5.


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