Mullvad Review 2023: The Anonymous VPN
VPN providers usually make two promises: Better security and more privacy. Since all VPNs use the same encryption principle, more and more services try to stand out by offering something more.
For Mullvad VPN this entails allowing users to register without an email address and pay for their subscriptions in cash. Our review shows whether its added anonymity and privacy are bonuses to an already strong service or meant to cover up for its shortcomings.
What Is Mullvad VPN?
Anonymous registration and payment
Has undergone independent security audits
Relatively small server network
Installation and Features
Mullvad VPN might be a paid service, however, creating an account is much easier than with its competitors. You don't need to enter an email address, and will instead receive an account number from the company upon registration. Subscriptions can be paid for using PayPal, credit cards, bank transfers, Swish, as well as anonymous methods like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, gift cards, or even cash.
You don't even need an email address to use Mullvad VPN.
After downloading the client, enter your account number, and you'll be able to establish a VPN connection. Upon loading, Mullvad VPN automatically connects to Sweden, however, this can be changed with a single mouseclick.
While the client looks like those of other VPNs, it's pinned to the bottom of the screen in the Windows taskbar, which means that it cannot be freely moved across the screen. This small difference becomes unnoticeable after some time though.
After clicking on the green button, Mullvad's mole 'digs' a secure VPN tunnel for you.
Apart from this, usage is straightforward. A connection can be established by clicking on the green button, whereas clicking on the button above this allows you to select from different servers. Only the most necessary features are included here: There's no quick connect tool, server categories, favorites, or even server information. By clicking on the arrow to the right, you can view all available servers in each country.
The server list is clear but not categorized.
Settings are accessed by clicking on the gear symbol in the upper right. If you want the app to auto-start and automatically establish a VPN connection when it loads, you can specify this in the preferences area. Similarly, it's possible to permit other devices to use the same network.
Under 'Advanced', there's a kill switch and different protocol options, which we examine in greater detail below. The kill switch ensures that your Internet connection is severed whenever an issue with your VPN tunnel arises, preventing you from unknowingly surfing without its protection.
Multi-hop functionality is offered through Mullvad's "bridge mode" which routes your traffic through two different, user-defined VPN servers, helping to better conceal your activity online. In addition, it's also possible to input a user-defined DNS server.
Split tunneling, the selective use of your VPN connection only for certain programs or apps, is not possible.
Among the settings, multi-hop really stands out. Unfortunately, split tunneling is not offered.
Mullvad VPN's Android app is nearly identical to its desktop client, with the only real difference being its fewer settings (you won't find bridge mode, for example). To compensate for this, split tunneling is offered for smartphone users, through which you can specify which applications shouldn't use your VPN tunnel.
Mullvad VPN's smartphone app looks almost exactly like its desktop client.
Mullvad VPN shines thanks to its uncomplicated account creation procedure, anonymous payment options, as well as multi-hop (desktop) and split tunneling (mobile). Nevertheless, its apps feel somewhat 'empty', owing to the few options and settings in the server list, and the lack of a quick-connect feature.
Mullvad's server list is nothing to write home about: Its 754 servers are spread across more than 60 cities in 36 countries. Most of these are located in Sweden, the UK, and the US, as well as a number of European countries. In addition, there are a few locations in the Asian-Pacific (Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan), South America (Brazil), and the Middle East (UAE and Israel).
You can check the status of all available servers at anytime on Mullvad VPN's website.
Mullvad is far behind the top providers, which offer thousands of servers in dozens more countries. Since we first reviewed the provider (2019), there hasn't been much growth, so we don't expect any significant changes down the road.
We evaluated the speed of all VPNs in our sample using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. To assess their performance, random Mullvad VPN servers in the US and Germany were connected to throughout the day. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 12 months, arranged by download and upload speed (descending):
Although Mullvad VPN impressed us during our first assessment in 2019, its speeds have gotten even better. With a download speed of 200.8 MB/s and an upload speed of 18.1 MB/s, the service grabbed third place, only coming behind NordVPN and Surfshark.
The diagram below shows Mullvad VPN's average speeds over the past months.
Download: 158.9 Mbit/s 158.9
Upload: 22.5 Mbit/s
Download: 188.3 Mbit/s 188.3
Upload: 19.4 Mbit/s
Download: 181.5 Mbit/s 181.5
Upload: 19.3 Mbit/s
Download: 212.8 Mbit/s 212.8
Upload: 19.5 Mbit/s
With that said, speed isn't the only aspect of performance that's important for a VPN. We also used Mullvad for an entire day for regular surfing and can confirm our excellent first impression. On a few occasions, we had to complete annoying captchas, something that doesn't happen too often with other VPN providers.
When it comes to speed, Mullvad VPN is near the head of the pack, however, its incompatibility with major streaming providers is a big let down.
Security and Privacy
Mullvad VPN is ground-breaking not only for its no-email registration: When it comes to VPN protocols, the service has used the new gold standard, WireGuard for years, unlike most of its competitors. OpenVPN is also supported. Connections are encrypted using AES 256, which guarantees maximum security.
Mullvad VPN passed all of our leak tests.
According to Mullvad VPN's data policy, no user activity logs are collected. Combined with the ability to anonymously create an account, this means that your activity cannot be linked to you. Should you mail your subscription fee in cash without a return address, no personal data will exist tying you to your payment method or account. In terms of anonymity and privacy, Mullvad VPN truly goes the extra mile.
The location of the company's headquarters in Sweden means that Mullvad VPN must adhere to stricter data privacy laws than its competitors based in places like Panama or the British Virgin Islands. Further, Sweden is a party to the 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement. All the same, because of Mullvad's anonymous payment and registration methods, this doesn't really raise any concerns.
Mullvad VPN regularly allows for its commitment to anonymity to be put to the test. A 2020 independent security audit conducted by Cure53 only uncovered a handful of security risks in the application and its code, none of which were deemed critical or dangerous.
It's possible to access Mullvad VPN's help center directly through the client's settings menu. This is organized into topical areas, has a practical search feature, and includes a number of FAQs. Our only complaint is that the center's layout and visual design could do with some sprucing up.
Mullvad VPN's help center is a little too plain for our tastes.
The support team can be contacted directly by email (in English or Swedish). During testing, we waited roughly a day and a half (35 hours) for an extensive and personalized response to our question. Unfortunately, neither chat nor telephone support is offered.
Mullvad's help center is a bit underwhelming. The channels for contacting the support team are limited and the response time is only acceptable.
Since it only offers one option ($6 USD per month), Mullvad VPN makes it very easy to choose a subscription. In comparison to the monthly prices charged by other services, this is certainly reasonable, however, cheaper annual or two-year subscriptions are not available.
|Contract Period (Months)||1|
|Number of Devices||5|
|Number of Servers||800|
|Number of Countries||41|
|No Server Logs|
As mentioned above, subscriptions can be paid with PayPal, major credit cards, bank transfers, Swish, Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, gift cards, or cash. Mullvad does not offer special corporate rates or a free trial version.
Without being a niche product, Mullvad has found its place in the VPN market. Anyone who places a premium on privacy will enjoy the service's anonymous registration and payment options. Its VPN connections are not only secure but also fast: During our speed test, Mullvad secured third place.
While the provider's quality is good, corners have been cut in terms of quantity: The server network is relatively limited, and its apps and clients are perhaps too spartan, lacking additional features like split tunneling. Nevertheless, Mullvad has more strengths than weaknesses, making it a good choice, both for its target group, and more generally.
As of the time of writing, Mullvad has only received a small number of ratings on the review aggregators we consulted. Most of these are positive, stressing the provider's good speeds and privacy guarantees. The absence of a mobile client and problems when paying with a credit card were both criticized, however.
More well-known providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a wider variety of features and larger server networks. All the same, Mullvad VPN cuts a good figure in terms of security owing to its somewhat unique registration and payment methods.