Mullvad is quite an unusual VPN service because it prioritizes your privacy above everything else. If you’re looking to use a VPN for streaming geo-restricted content, forwarding ports for torrenting, or engaging in activities that might be considered a bit sketchy, then Mullvad might not be the right choice for you. However, if you’re a staunch advocate for online privacy, then you might find Mullvad appealing.
In April 2023, Mullvad faced off against the Swedish police over a server seizure warrant. They proved that they have a server infrastructure that doesn’t log user data, and there’s no legal requirement for VPN providers to keep logs in Sweden. As a result, the police left empty-handed. Mullvad is based in Sweden, and they have a legal team there to handle such situations. They also keep an eye on international developments that could impact the laws in their various endpoint countries.
Mullvad’s desktop client is excellent and comes with a range of features. These include a VPN kill switch that’s always active, a more stringent Lockdown Mode that only allows internet activity through Mullvad, split tunneling, and blockers for ads, trackers, and even adult content. You can choose between the WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols, with options for both UDP and TCP, and even some port customization. Additionally, on the desktop, there’s OpenVPN Bridge mode that uses Shadowsocks with v2ray proxies to make it harder for anyone to detect that you’re using a VPN. Mullvad takes obfuscation seriously, especially for users in regions that restrict VPN usage. Their Windows and Linux clients also support features like SSH tunneling.
Interestingly, Mullvad supports IPv6 communication within your encrypted tunnel. Although the internet’s transition to IPv6 has been slow, it’s reassuring to see a VPN provider offering support for it. With IPv6 disabled, Mullvad ensures there are no leaks.
Starting in July 2023, Mullvad decided to no longer support port forwarding. They believe it poses a potential security risk to users and was primarily used for illegal activities. This led to law enforcement blacklisting their IP addresses and canceling their hosting services. If you have a legitimate need for port forwarding, there are other VPN providers like Windscribe, Private Internet Access, and ProtonVPN that still offer this feature.
Mullvad boasts a user-friendly interface. It typically pops up above its notification icon, but you can undock and move the desktop client as you like, depending on your interface preferences. Mullvad offers graphical clients for Windows, Linux, and macOS, as well as mobile clients for iOS and Android. You can download the Android app from the Google Play Store or as a direct APK if you prefer to avoid Google services.
Mullvad’s commitment to privacy extends to its subscription process. When you subscribe, you receive a user number that you can top up using cash, cryptocurrency, or, if you don’t require complete anonymity, a standard payment card. ProtonVPN is the only other service in this group that accepts cash payments. Mullvad costs €5 a month, regardless of how long you choose to subscribe, which is approximately £4.34 at the time of writing. This pricing structure makes it an excellent choice if you only need a VPN for a short period.
In most of our performance tests, Mullvad delivered solid results. It achieved speeds of up to 199 Mbps when connecting to the UK and 126 Mbps when connecting to the Netherlands. However, when connecting to servers in the US, the speed maxed out at 54 Mbps. While this is not exceptionally slow, it falls short compared to some competitors that prioritize speed. It’s worth noting that it’s quite common to see a decrease in performance as the distance to the server increases. Interestingly, the UK and Netherlands speeds were not as high as usual during our testing.
Surprisingly, we were able to stream content from BBC iPlayer while connected to one of Mullvad’s UK servers. However, this seemed more like luck rather than a deliberate feature, as Mullvad does not actively try to bypass detection by streaming media services. Unfortunately, it failed to go unnoticed by Amazon and Netflix in the US. So, if your primary goal is to access geo-locked media, there are better options out there like NordVPN, VyprVPN, or Windscribe.
Where Mullvad truly shines is in its commitment to user privacy. It goes the extra mile to protect its users’ anonymity. Mullvad undergoes independent audits of its logging and security practices and has made a significant portion of its source code open to scrutiny. While it doesn’t maintain a warrant canary or a transparency document (which is more relevant for non-US providers), its actions and documentation of incidents, such as the recent police action, clearly demonstrate its dedication to transparency and customer security.
If your priorities align with a VPN service that values privacy and security, or if you simply need a cost-effective one-month VPN subscription, then Mullvad is an excellent choice.