Mullvad vs. ExpressVPN Comparison Review
Now, onto the main agenda, how does Mullvad compare to ExpressVPN? To help readers make the perfect purchase decision, we will compare the two providers by basing the discussion on the essential factors considered when buying VPNs. So, without further ado, let's get into it.
The software as a service (SaaS) industry is among the booming online markets, attracting hundreds of companies and brands; the VPN industry is no exception. There are dozens of VPN brands, some genuine while others are not worth the money. In this first round of this Mullvad vs. ExpressVPN comparison review, find out more about the reputation of the two VPN providers.
Mullvad is a renowned VPN brand that started operations back in 2009. The company is owned and operated by Amagicom AB, a Swedish company.
Mullvad VPN’s main strength is that it’s an open-source platform that has been at the forefront in the development of WireGuard, a communication protocol known for its user-friendliness, high speeds, and low attack surface.
We combed the online space to find out what users think of this VPN, and we are glad that it has positive reviews from consumers and cybersecurity experts. On Trustpilot, Mullvad has a Trustcore of 4.4/5 after 65 reviews.
ExpressVPN is also a top brand trusted by over 3 million users in 180 countries.
Established in 2009, the company is owned by Kape Technologies, a cybersecurity company that also owns other top VPNs, including CyberGhost, Private Internet Access (PIA), and Zenmate.
We also did thorough background checks to determine how trusted this VPN is, and we are glad it passed the threshold. It has been praised by top cybersecurity gurus and users as well. At the time of writing, ExpressVPN commands a 4.7/5 score after over 10,745 reviews on Trustpilot.
Gone are the days when VPNs were for masking online activity on PCs and mobile devices only. Today, these cybersecurity tools also come in handy in the shopping and entertainment scene. You will need a VPN to access geo-restricted discounts and geo-restricted entertainment content. That said, assessing which devices a VPN is compatible with is essential. Besides compatibility, you need to check the number of simultaneous connections the VPN supports. Here, you want all-round protection across multiple devices.
Mullvad is a great deal for those looking for protection on PCs. It is compatible with Windows PCs, macOS, and Linux. The VPN also has a Firefox extension.
Besides PC protection, you can rely on this VPN if you want to protect your mobile browsing, regardless of the platform, be it Android or iOS. Mullvad VPN also works with some routers.
Unfortunately, this VPN is not compatible with gaming consoles, smart TVs, and other connected devices. Regarding the maximum number of devices you can connect, a single Mullvad account can be used to protect up to 5 devices at a go.
ExpressVPN can also be used to protect all PCs, regardless of the platform, be it Windows, macOS, or Linux. There are also browser extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge.
ExpressVPN is also a VPN for mobile devices. It works with both iOS and Android platforms. Besides PCs and mobile devices, ExpressVPN works with routers, smart TVs, fire sticks, Roku TVs, and gaming consoles, among other devices, making it a better deal than Mullvad.
As for the number of maximum supported devices, a single ExpressVPN account can be used to protect up to 5 devices simultaneously.
The third factor to consider is the usability. While the techies may not have any problem getting started and configuring the VPN, the average internet user must find a user-friendly VPN. In this segment, find out which of the two VPNs offers the best usability.
The first step of getting started with Mullvad is generating an account number. Unlike other VPNs, you only need the account number to use Mullvad – no email, telephone number, or other personally identifiable information is required.
Hence, you get an extra layer of privacy and confidentiality. After generating an account number, you will have to purchase a subscription for that number, install the client software, and you are good to go. The user interface is intuitive.
Any average user can configure their connection to the preferred servers without a problem.
ExpressVPN, on the other hand, requires new users first to get a plan. Click on the ‘Get Started’ button to redirect to the plans page.
Next, select a plan, a payment method, and complete the checkout process. The next step will be to download ExpressVPN, the sign in using the email address registered or the verification code, and you are ready to go.
In the last step, choose a preferred server, and that’s it. ExpressVPN also has an intuitive interface with easy navigation.
As you may be aware, VPNs rely on public-key encryption to protect data. VPN servers use the VPN client's public key to encrypt the key and send it to the client program for decryption of the key using a private key. There are different encryption technologies, with the AES-256 cipher as the industry standard.
As an ultra-modern VPN, Mullvad uses the state-of-the-art AES-256 cipher, which is impossible to bypass. It would take millions of years and the fastest computers to perform a brute force attack on systems secured using AES 256-bit encryption.
Besides the AES 256-bit key, Mullvad relies on RSA-4096 as the handshake option and HMAC SHA-1 hash for authentication. Also worth mentioning is the DHE-4096 Hellman key exchange, which adds an extra layer of security to your encryption.
ExpressVPN is also a great deal when it comes to encryption. This VPN also deploys military-grade AES 256-bit encryption making the VPN solid when it comes to security. It’s practically impossible to hack into systems encrypted using the AES-256 cipher.
ExpressVPN also uses RSA-4096 as the handshake option and SHA-512 hashing for authentication. Like Mullvad, this VPN also has an elliptic curve, DH exchange, that enhances the encryption by generating a new key every 60 minutes.
Besides the encryption technology, it's also vital to ascertain which VPN protocols, otherwise known as tunneling methods, are supported. For starters, a VPN tunneling method is a set of rules and guidelines implemented when routing your data from your device to the servers and back. There are several VPN protocols, each custom tailored for specific applications. The more protocols available, the better.
Mullvad supports just two protocols – OpenVPN and WireGuard. The two protocols are the most popular tunneling methods today. They use high-end cryptography and are easier to configure and use.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN has 8 tunneling methods making it one of the most versatile VPNs we have reviewed. It supports PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, IKEv2, OpenVPN, WireGuard, IPSec, and Lightway. For the record, Lightway is a fast ExpressVPN proprietary protocol based on WireGuard.
Besides the encryption technology and protocols, there are several desirable security extras. So which VPN provider wins when it comes to beefing up security and privacy?
Mullvad comes with a kill switch that disconnects devices when the VPN connection drops. The DNS leak and IPV6 leak protection further enhance security and privacy, while Bridge comes in handy for users who want to multihop.
Another feature worth mentioning is split tunneling which lets you decide what traffic is routed via the VPN and which traffic should connect directly to the internet resource. Other worthy mentions include Shadowsocks proxy, Secure Shell (SSH), port probing, and traffic obfuscation.
ExpressVPN is also well endowed with security extras. It comes with a network lock switch that works like Mullvad’s internet kill switch.
The network lock switch is complemented by WebRTC and DNS leak protection, so none of your activity can leak inadvertently. There’s also split tunneling and encrypted private DNS.
7. Privacy & Confidentiality (Jurisdiction)
Where is the VPN provider located? Is the country part of any surveillance organizations? Today, matters of data privacy are a concern for many internet users. In some countries, data privacy is not respected at all, but in some, the governments champion for online privacy. The best VPN should be in a jurisdiction that is not part of any surveillance organizations, such as the 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes. As you may be aware, these organizations have agreed to share information, so your privacy is not guaranteed now that the government can force the VPN provider to share your data.
Mullvad is not a great option as far as privacy and confidentiality is concerned. The company is based in Sweden, which is part of the 14 Eyes alliance. This means the company can be forced by Swedish authorities to provide users’ data.
As for ExpressVPN, you can be sure that your privacy is not compromised as the VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), a jurisdiction that is not part of any surveillance organization.
8. Privacy & Confidentiality (Logging Policy)
Logging policy is another crucial aspect to consider. The big question is, does the VPN keep logs of your activity? If yes, what personally identifiable information is collected? That's what this section is all about.
Mullvad, despite being in a jurisdiction that is part of a surveillance alliance, guarantees privacy and confidentiality courtesy of a strict no logging policy.
The VPN doesn’t collect any personally identifiable information and goes further to facilitate anonymous payments. Unfortunately, there are no RAM-only servers so its logging policy can be questionable.
ExpressVPN has a strict no logging policy. This is among the companies that guarantee a 100% no logging policy. First, it uses TrustedServer Technology, which leverages RAM-only servers that delete all data after every reboot.
Interestingly, no data was found when the FBI raided ExpresssVPN’s servers following the assassination of a high-ranking Turkish official.
9. Server Network & Distribution
At the core of a VPN's infrastructure is the server network. The server network can be a deal maker or breaker. When looking for the best VPN, go for a provider with a vast server network distributed across the globe. Besides the number of servers, a provider with specialized servers is worth a few extra bucks. The rule of thumb is that the more specialized servers, the better the VPN performance. Today, there are servers for streaming, P2P-sharing and torrenting, servers for China, and so on. So, what do you get with these two VPNs?
Mullvad is a household name, but unfortunately, a lot needs to be improved regarding its server network and distribution.
As of 2022, this VPN provider has around 860 servers spread in 39 countries but mostly in North America and Europe. Some of these servers are owned by Amagicom, while others are rented from top providers, including DataPacket, Tzulo, iRegister, M247, and Integrid.
Still, on servers, there are no P2P and streaming-specialized servers, but still, Mullvad performs better than many expensive VPNs out there.
ExpressVPN, having been in business for over a decade, has used its experience to expand its server network. As of 2022, the VPN deploys over 3000 servers in over 94 countries. There are servers in the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa.
There are also virtual servers in several locations. The good thing about this VPN provider is the server specialization. There are plenty of 10Gbps servers for faster VPN service, and TrustedServer Technology which has set a new standard when it comes to security.
TrustedServer Technology leverages RAM-only servers which wipe all data after every reboot and run with no inconsistencies like your typical VPN servers.
10. Streaming, Torrenting, and Gaming
Nowadays, with plenty of geo-restrictions, VPNs are not just for online security and privacy. These cyber security tools enable users to access geo-restricted or geo-blocked content. Besides, they can be used in accessing discounts and other sales that are custom-tailored for consumers in specific regions. However, not all VPNs are up for all these tasks. Some may unblock Netflix for movie enthusiasts and prevent DDoS attacks for gamers but won't support P2P sharing and torrenting. So, how do the two VPNs in this comparison review compare?
Regarding streaming, Mullvad is not the best. We tried it on several streaming sites that block content, and it performed dismally.
It unblocked several Netflix libraries, but after a few minutes, Netflix blocked the IP. This was the same case for Hulu and BBC iPlayer.
Regarding P2P sharing and torrenting, we are glad it performed pretty well. There are no P2P-optimized servers, but dozens of servers are P2P-friendly. Lastly, on gaming, this VPN can enable gamers to prevent DDoS attacks and access geo-blocked gaming content and discounts.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for Netflix. It performed exceptionally well in our rigorous testing. It managed to unblock several Netflix libraries, including Netflix UK, Netflix US, Canada, Honduras, Japan, and so on.
It also performed satisfactorily when it came to unblocking Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and several other streaming sites.
As for P2P sharing and torrenting, ExpressVPN is also the best choice as it tags along with P2P optimized servers, so at no time did we experience bandwidth throttling during the four torrenting sessions we ran. It also has a good record for protecting PlayStation and Xbox consoles against DDoS attacks, and besides, it’s possible to access geo-blocked content and discounts.
Whether you are an advanced user who understands all the cogs and wheels of VPN or an average internet user, customer support should be critical when deciding which VPN to buy. Techies might know the ins and outs of VPN configuration, but they might not be able to solve billing issues, among other challenges. On the other hand, the starters might have challenges configuring the VPN to their desired state. In both cases, customer support is key. So, which of the two VPN providers wins in this round?
Mullvad VPN endeavors to serve all customers experiencing challenges, but unfortunately, there is no live chat, which is the industry standard in customer service.
The only option is the email address provided, but unfortunately, it takes longer to get feedback. We tried it out and got feedback after three hours, under normal working hours on a weekday.
But fortunately, the usability of this VPN is excellent, and more so, there is a detailed FAQ section with the answers to common questions that users ask. The FAQ has plenty of resources on the VPN’s routers, bridges, Mullvad apps, connectivity, WireGuard protocol, account and payments, and so on.
Onto ExpressVPN, this is a company that understands that the customer is king. ExpressVPN has invested in a multichannel customer support infrastructure.
Users can get instant help courtesy of the live chat support available 24/7.
There is also an email address, but feedback is not instant. Last is a knowledgebase with guides and FAQs.
12. Plans, Pricing, Free Trials, and Payment Options
In this last round, let's find out the available plants for each VPN, the pricing, free version/trial, and payment methods available.
Mullvad has no free version or free trial. You must have a subscription to use the service. The good thing is that the subscriptions have been harmonized, whether you are buying a long-term or a short-term plan.
A 1-month plan goes for €5 a month and is backed by a 30-day moneyback guarantee. The available payment methods include cash, Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin, Monero, bank wire transfer, credit cards, PayPal, Swish, Eps transfer, Giropay, Bancontact, iDEAL, Przelewy24, etc.
Like Mullvad, ExpressVPN has no free version or free trial. Luckily, the plans are flexible and relatively affordable, considering this is a top VPN brand. A 1-month plan starts at $12.95 a month, while a 6-months plan goes for $9.99 a month, billed every 6 months.
The best bang for the buck is the 12 months plan for $8.32 a month billed every 12 months. The payment methods available include PayPal, Bitcoin, UnionPay, iDEAL, Sofort, Visa, AMEX, Mastercard, Discover, etc.