The Mullvad VPN review takes a look at a little known Swedish companies offering into the market.
Developed by Amagicom AB and released in 2009, the software has some nifty features, but with the VPN market being inundated with other VPN’s, can they do enough to make them stand out, and be a proposition for Australian users where others fall down?
Being based in Sweden, the company is outside of any European jurisdiction, so they are exempt for needing to follow the European Union Data Retention Directive.
With this, they can stand up against any data retention initiative, internet censorship and NSA/GCHQ eavesdropping.
Although this might be nice and secure, is it enough to make the Mullvad VPN a worthy option over the market leaders, and do they offer more on top of this?
- Jurisdiction: Gothenburg, Sweden – Inside 14 eyes
- Connections: 5
- Usability: can be confusing for new users
- Logging Policy: Strictly no logs kept
- Support: Email only
- Tunnelling Protocols: Wireguard & OpenVPN
- Locations: 33 countries supported
Privacy and Security
Being based in Sweden, the company does fall inside the 14-eyes jurisdiction. However, Mullvad goes all out to protect their user’s privacy and has one of the best privacy policies you can find anywhere in the business.
The company keeps no logs whatsoever, and it doesn’t monitor any online activity. If there was any governing body who tried to enforce EU Data Retention, there is no need for any Australian user to be concerned. This only applies to ISP’s and telecoms operators.
The company goes even further and recommends users pay by cash or by Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash which is now accepted.
The company does provide an effective Kill Switch that will cut your internet connection should their VPN service be compromised or their service loses its connection. During testing, we saw there were no IP address leaks, and this did work as expected.
Your VPN connection with Mullvad is well catered for in the Encryption department. They use the industry standard AES-256 Encryption over UDP.
They also provide access to the progress open source VPN – WireGuard, and DNS protection is set by default which is a good thing.
It would have been nice to see more information regarding all of their security, but like a lot of information on their site, it is a bit scarce.
Other aspects of their encryption are 4096-bit RSA with SHA384. The company also owns all of their own equipment
Mullvad was tested by connection to a slew of different servers. It has to be said that internet connection speeds on the VPN servers around Europe were impressive, but this isn’t the only region where virtual private networks will operate.
This was reflected by the drop in speeds when connecting outside of Europe, and transatlantic speeds were underwhelming, to say the least.
This being said, to Australia, the VPN connection speeds were borderline being able to stream without significant buffering, and torrents too quite a while longer than they ideally should. Although they have a smallish network, they are reliable, and we experienced very few drops, so downtime is very minimal.
For out and out features, Mullvad doesn’t offer too many compared to some of the competition. The company don’t quote they can access US Netflix, but on occasion, they can.
These ad hoc connections are more than likely the blacklisted IP address has been changed, and another is being used. This, unfortunately, isn’t reliable enough to justify paying for.
Torrenting is also supported, but users should be aware. The company is based in Sweden and inside the 14-eyes, and regardless of what they say about zero logging. There was the Pirate Bay fracas which was in the same region.
The Mullvad VPN supports a few devices, and most of what users will be using, with custom clients. This includes clients for the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems which run directly from the downloads.
However, when it comes to other platforms, they begin to lack compared to other VPN services. There are no apps for either Mullvad Android or iOS, but there are OpenVPN configuration files available when you download Mullvad.
It is plainly apparent, Mullvad wants to know as little as possible about their users. This is reflected in their clients.
The interface is clean and straightforward, and there is nothing to show who is using the software.
Once you have installed the client, you are instantly connected and displayed a map which shows which server you are connected to.
Below you can see a switch location or a disconnect button. At the top of the screen, you can see a banner with the word Mullvad.
This banner stays the same colour if Mullvad is not connecting or it changes to green to show you are connected.
On occasion, users might find problems with the service disconnecting and attempting to connect to another server.
When checking the guide pages, there is a continual problem with TAP driver issues. This is explained how to correct the problem, but for users who are unaccustomed to VPN’s might find it slightly daunting.
Mullvad does supply configuration files for installation on some routers. It is worth checking to make sure if your router is supported.
From a company that does deliver substantial privacy and anonymity, it was a surprise to find their customer support is their weakest link. There is no live chat, and the only way they can be contacted is via email.
Response times are sluggish, and their times are all based on Swedish working hours. With the time difference between there and Australia, it could amount to almost 72 hours before an issue is resolved. This is if they are able to address the issue on the first go.
It is one area they really need to up their game if they want to be seen as a top contender, especially if they don’t have working apps for mobile devices.
If the zero logging policy was simple, then Mullvad pricing is right up there with it. Mullvad doesn’t offer anything apart from one plan and one price. No discounts for longer-term subscriptions.
They offer one price of €5 which when converted equates to around $6 USD. This is where the company does something very different from all other competition.
Not only doesn’t the Mullvad website have a dedicated pricing page, but the company will also just generate an account number.
You do get a 10% discount when you sign up with one of the cryptocurrencies because of lower fees and admin costs.
There is a 30-day money back guarantee on all payment methods apart from when you pay by cash.
This has something to do with money laundering regulations. If you wish to cancel the service, all you need to do is send your request to their support email address within the required time.
There are in total nine payment methods which include the crypto’s and cash plus PayPal, bank transfer and credit card etc, and apart from that, they don’t ask for any personal information, so all the way through the first steps, users will have nothing but peace of mind.
There is a free trial, but this must be the shortest in history and only lasts for three hours, so there isn’t much chance to test the service adequately.
No one can take anything away from Mullvad’s take on privacy because the random number is the only way you can be recognised unless you pay with a traceable method.
- Poor users support
- Doesn’t work reliably with Netflix
- Slow speeds
- No refunds on cash payments
- Limited device support – no Android or iOS apps
- The app interface not very user-friendly past the main screen
For users who wish to be sure they are safe online with high degrees of anonymity, Mullvad delivers as good a service as many other top-quality VPN’s and far better than a few of the better-known names.
However, no matter how secure you are, things soon start to fall a little flat when you connect to Mullvad from such a remote location as Australia.
This might change if they boost their network coverage, but at present, there are far better options which fall into the same price bracket.
The company does have a lot going for it, and issuing users with only a number is a stroke of genius, but this alone isn’t enough to gain new users or to make users who are fed up with their current VPN provider to jump ship.
The other concerning factor is their location. They appear to have the users interests at heart, but being based inside the 14-eyes jurisdiction could at some point be a weak point with ever-growing pressure.
For a no-frills service where users only need security and privacy, it can be one of the best options.
However, for anyone who wants to do anything slightly different such as streaming or torrenting, it is easy to find alternatives which offer more for the same, or for less.