TunnelBear

Unbiased Review and Comparison of May 2018

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Total Score: 7.4
Rate it!(4553)
  • Poor(132)
  • Average(322)
  • Good(97)
  • Great(5445)
  • Excellent(577)

Highlights

blueOKicon User friendly
blueOKicon Accessible for free
blueOKicon Extra protection via encryption

Rating for ExpressVPN

  • Privacy
    9.2
  • Speed
    7.0
  • Location
    6.1
  • Usability
    8.5
  • Support
    7.4
  • Value
    7.2

Recommended for

  • Privacy
    Impregnable with extra features such as the VPN Killswitch, extra layer of encryption and full control of the OpenVPN settings.
  • Access
    Equipped with the GhostBear mode that offers more security for your data and elusiveness from censorship.
  • Global Use
    Easy to set up and use around the globe.

Summary

TunnelBear comes to you via Canadian company TunnelBear Inc. They are a fun loving bunch and it shows in their VPN service. We're big fans of their free version, which comes with decent amount of application. Their security and privacy is strong but they need to improve on their server locations.

Top TunnelBear Plans for May 2018

  • Little
    FREE
    blueOKicon500MB data limit
    blueOKiconExtra 1GB for twitter
    blueOKiconFull features available
    VIEW PLAN
    SAVE
    0%
  • Grizzly - 12 Months
    $5.83
    per month
    blueOKicon500MB data limit
    blueOKiconExtra 1GB for twitter
    blueOKiconFull features available
    VIEW PLAN
    SAVE
    42%
  • Giant- 1 Month
    $9.99
    per month
    blueOKicon500MB data limit
    blueOKiconExtra 1GB for twitter
    blueOKiconFull features available
    VIEW PLAN
Little
FREE
per month
blueOKicon500MB data limit
blueOKiconExtra 1GB for twitter
blueOKiconFull features available
VIEW PLAN
SAVE
0%
Grizzly - 12 Months
$5.83
per month
blueOKicon500MB data limit
blueOKiconExtra 1GB for twitter
blueOKiconFull features available
VIEW PLAN
SAVE
42%
Giant- 1 Month
$9.99
per month
blueOKicon500MB data limit
blueOKiconExtra 1GB for twitter
blueOKiconFull features available
VIEW PLAN

TunnelBear Overview

TunnelBear is a simple Canadian VPN which offers good value considering it's free. This VPN is upgradable to the paid version. The easiest thing to notice with this VPN is the bear centric theme with cute images of bears and witty bear puns spread all over. It is made to be very intuitive and easy to use for newbies and despite its playful look and feel, TunnelBear is equipped with cool features and a transparent strategy in matters of internet privacy.
TunnelBear's success has caught the eyes of one of the leaders in cybersecurity, McAfee and they have consequently been acquired. It is important to be vigilant of their terms and conditions as it will be subject to change considering TunnelBear will now have to service its users under US data laws. As for the software itself, not much will change as the team behind TunnelBear will operate as a separate entity within McAfee thus retaining their identity.
The free version of TunnelBear is an excellent way to try your hands on the software before committing to a paid plan as there are no refunds. Granted, with the 500MB monthly limit, you can't really do much with the free version. You get an extra 1GB with which you can tweet but that's probably not the best for privacy. Another tangible shortcoming of the free version is the restriction from the Australian server, available only to premium users. It comes with servers in just 20 countries and for the most part, you get reasonable performance from nearby servers but the same can't be said for far away servers.
  • About TunnelBear

    Parent Company: TunnelBear Inc
    Country of Incorporation: Canada
    Founded: 2011
    Simultaneous Connections: 5
    Refund Policy: No refunds
    Platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
  • Pros

    blueOKiconVery easily accessible and used even for beginners
    blueOKiconAdditional 1GB data for tweeting
    blueOKiconExcellent privacy features
  • Cons

    blueOKiconQuite heavy on the bear theme
    blueOKiconBased in Canada known to be a tad hostile towards privacy
    blueOKiconLimited server network reach with average performance

Privacy

Privacy is an area where TunnelBear really shines. It comes with inbuilt features, available on the free and paid versions, like the VPN Killswitch and the GhostBear function which provides an extra layer of encryption that allows you run circles around censorship. It is practically impossible for your ISP to monitor your browsing activity given that TunnelBear run their own DNS servers. Also TunnelBear gives you a lot more control with options to manually switch from the default OpenVPN UDP protocol to TCP. The iOS app runs with IPSec/IKEv2. The tradeoff made for the simplicity of the software is the exclusion of other standard protocols.
You can also trust that TunnelBear doesn't collect any more metadata than they require. Their privacy policy is very transparent and open for all to understand and the only data they collect is around bandwidth used and connections made. Timestamps and IP addresses are never collected.
Perhaps the major reservation to be had is the fact that TunnelBear is incorporated in Canada, a country known to be very cooperative with the US and UK when sharing intelligence. The fact that you're enticed into sharing your twitter handle for additional data is also an area of concern.
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FeatureTunnelBearExpressVPN NordVPN
Open VPN (Auto)
question
Is the selection between Open VPN, UDP or TCP automatic?
less blueOKicon less
Open VPN (UDP/TCP)
question
Can you manually choose between Open VPN, UDP or TCP?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
PPTP
question
Does this app have PPTP VPN protocol?
less blueOKicon blueOKicon
SSTP
question
Does this app have SSTP VPN protocol?
less blueOKicon blueOKicon
L2TP/IPSec
question
Does this app have L2TP/IPSec protocol?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
IKEv2
question
Does this app have IKEv2 protocol?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Supports TCP Port 443
question
Does the VPN support secure TCP Port 443 which is used on secure HTTPS traffic?
less blueOKicon less
Supports Multihop
question
This technology passes your internet traffic through multiple servers to make you harder to track
less less blueOKicon
Permits P2P
question
Is this VPN compatible with P2P and other torrenting applications?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Strongest encryption
question
What is the highest level of encryption that this VPN service have?
AES - 256AES - 256AES - 256
First party DNS servers
question
Does the VPN service pass your traffic through their own DNS servers or use third party ones?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
DNS Leak Blocking
question
Does the VPN service include tech that blocks DNS leaks?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Killswitch
question
In the event of the VPN losing its connection, does the VPN cut off all internet traffic?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Accepts cryptocurrency
question
Does this VPN accept subscription payment with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Accepts Paypal
question
Does this VPN accept PayPal payments for its subscription?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Activity logging
question
Are your online activity logs and browsing history being saved or used by the VPN?
less less less
Connection logging
question
Are your connection logs being kept and monitored by this VPN?
blueOKicon blueOKicon less
Tor over VPN server
question
Is this VPN have features that have been tailored to work with the TOR browser?
less less blueOKicon

What does this table mean?

The information here is quite technical and only very tech savvy people will be able to figure out what it all means. However, this does not mean you can't make a wise decision based on it. Every tick is good things so the more ticks you see for TunnelBear the better.
This rule applies throughout the table except for the logging rows where ticks actually undermine your privacy.
Score: 9.2

Speed & Performance

With TunnelBear, you get decent streaming quality when you use nearby servers but it goes downhill when streaming across the Atlantic. This is a major issue as users in Australia who wish to connect to UK and US servers won't get the best of speeds. Performance was particularly impressive across Europe and in Canada.
Another issue is multitasking the VPN network. For instance, you won't be able to simultaneously watch BBC iPlayer while downloading torrent. A lot of inconsistency is observed in terms of speed across the network and connections were sluggish. You won't experience too many delays when gaming but you might want to look elsewhere if you are a hardcore gamer considering the limited number of servers available.
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FeatureTunnelBearVPNZenMateNorton
Avg global DL speed
question
This is a rolling average of the download speed accummulated over all the server locations we have tested
84.62 (FR)85.48 (DE)65.11 (DE)
Avg global UL speed
question
This is a rolling average of the upload speed accummulated over all the server locations we have tested
65.52 (UK)87.15 (UK)86.62 (NL)
Ping time
question
This refers to the shortest latency recorded in our tests. Shorter ping times indicate higher performance
5ms13ms4ms
Unlimited bandwidth
question
This indicates if the VPN has a cap on the bandwidth usage
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Average time to connect
question
This measures how long it takes to connect with a server location.
15s2s19s

What does this table mean?

For most users, speed is the next most important factor when selecting a VPN. No matter what VPN you choose, there will be some reduction in speed so the best VPNs are those with the least impact on speed and other parameters that affect it.
Ping time has to do with how fast data is received, especially for streaming and is almost as important as direct upload/download speeds. Short ping times and high download bandwidth is the best combination for the fastest streaming experience.
The quicker the VPN connects to a server essentially directly impacts how quickly you can access the internet so shorter connection times are best.
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Server LocationDownload Speed (Mbps)Upload Speed (Mbps)
australiaAustralia6.870.82
GermanyGermany52.3428.32
UKUK78.2368.21
USAUSA17.857.35
SingaporeSingapore11.652.11
NetherlandsNetherlands61.8549.23
FranceFrance84.8739.68
CanadaCanada36.735.25
JapanJapan16.452.62

How we get these VPN speed data?

blueOKicon We constantly evaluate the performance of all the VPN providers we have reviewed so that our information is always up to date so that you can make the best decision always.
blueOKicon We employ our very own proprietary speed test tool which measures speeds between servers for every location while using the VPN service.
blueOKicon The purpose of these tests is to show you what is obtainable speed wise so you can judge if your location of choice will meet your needs.
Score: 7.0

Locations

TunnelBear is very limited in the number of servers available in the network. The bright side is you get access to all the servers except for the Australian server which is only available in the paid version. The usual suspects such as US, UK, Australia, France and Germany are all part of the network however regions such as South America, Asia and Africa have been passed over. For someone who has no particular need for true global coverage, TunnelBear will do the trick.
In a bid to make VPN accessible to everyone, TunnelBear has not really been open about the number of servers and IP addresses they make available to its users. They continue to make the claim that "this number is always changing as [they] scale the number of servers/IP addresses based on load".
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FeatureTunnelBearExpressVPNNordVPN
Server locations
question
This is the total number of server locations the VPN has available
2014861
Servers
question
This is the total number of servers the VPN has available
Won't Say2,000+3,500+
IP address
question
This the total amount of unique IP addresses the VPN has available
Won't say20,000+3,500+
Dynamic server switching
question
This indicates whether or not the VPN has a feature that automatically switches you to a faster server within the same server location
less less blueOKicon

What does this table mean?

More server locations mean that it is more likely that the user density will be lower and consequently your connection will be faster. So the higher servers and server locations, the better. Your privacy is protected more if there are more IP addresses to choose from as it makes it harder for you to be tracked.
Dynamic server switching adds to that difficulty as it switches you to the best servers available automatically making you even harder to track.
Score: 6.1

Usability

  • Pros

    blueOKiconSimple and Easy to use for beginners
    blueOKiconEnjoyable approach
    blueOKiconDetailed tutoring of advanced settings
  • Cons

    blueOKiconAnimations can get annoying
    blueOKiconCould do with a simple version
    blueOKiconYou can't get information on connections
The overall bear theme of TunnelBear will evoke differing emotions depending on the disposition of the user. To some it might just be cute and pleasing to the eyes while to others it might feel too much like a toy. TunnelBear is quite easy to use: all you have to do is select your preferred location from the world map graphic and sit back, relax and watch the bear digging under the earth and emerging at a random place. All of the advanced tools and settings have been explained in detail and the visuals are generally aesthetically pleasing to the average Joe.
There are certain aspects of the process that we didn't care much for. One of such is the fact that you have to click and drag around the map to select a location. There is no other way to do this and it can get quite annoying having to select places like Australia from the UK. Also, you're stuck with the animations and it would have been nice to be able to skip them. After a while, it just gets boring to watch. Information around your connection info is very limited and this extends to the visual display also. It kind of feels drab. If you are a Linux user, you can't get any support as its compatibility ranks low. There is hope however with browser extensions which you can install on Chrome.
With the free version, you pretty much get access to all of its functions. The only limitations albeit major are the 500MB cap which is very low and the fact that Australia is restricted and available only in its paid version. The extra 1GB for tweeting is not bad but there's no real advantage to that.
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Device/OS/BrowserTunnelBearExpressVPN NordVPN
WindowsWindows blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
WindowsMac blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
LinuxLinux less blueOKicon Manual
iOSiOS blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
AndroidAndroid blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
RouterRouter less blueOKicon Manual
Games consolesGames consoles less Manual less
Fire TV StickFire TV Stick less blueOKicon Manual
Chrome extensionChrome extension blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Games consolesFirefox extension blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Games consolesSafari (for mac) extension less blueOKicon Manual

What does this table mean?

Here are the most common devices, operating systems and browsers that people connect to the internet through. Anywhere there is a tick on the TunnelBear column signifies that it can be installed.
Manual means that TunnelBear will work but the process of setting it up will be more complicated. Instead of an automatic setup, you may need to use third-party/open source software and reconfigure your device.
Score: 8.5

Customer Support

We got a recent response time with the Email support at a little over four hours but it was a letdown when our questions about the server network where basically dismissed. These queries are important ones for potential new customers. It is also quite the hassle having to register an account before questions can be sent in. you can go around this by creating a temporary email but it still amounts to more hoops to jump.
You don't get a live chat option but the resources made available explaining some of their processes and terms and conditions are easy enough to read and follow. This is a good thing for newbies and less technically-savvy folk. However if you are looking for more in depth information, you will be disappointed to find that there is none available.
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FeatureTunnelBearExpressVPNNordVPN
Support quality 
question
This is a measure of the overall quality of the VPN's customer service
7.1109.2
24/7 support
question
Does this VPN offer round the clock support?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Live chat
question
Does this VPN have representatives available for live chat?
less blueOKicon blueOKicon
Knowledge base
question
Are there detailed how-to videos and tutorial available online or within the VPN apps?
blueOKicon blueOKicon blueOKicon
Video tutorials
question
Does this VPN have tutorial videos available to show users how to use the software?
less blueOKicon blueOKicon

What does this table mean?

For most people that know enough to use a VPN, they most likely will know their way around. However, that is not a reason for a company to ignore customer care services.
They need to assume the user is a complete novice and be prepared to answer all questions no matter how rudimentary. That's the mark of a great service
Score: 7.4

Value for money

  • Pros

    blueOKiconAvailable for free
    blueOKiconExtra security with Kill switch and double encryption
    blueOKiconCompatible with Netflix and BBC iPlayer
  • Cons

    blueOKiconNo refunds for paid plan
    blueOKiconLimited server reach
    blueOKiconSmall bandwidth for free version
Score: 7.2
Table of Content
Privacy Speed Locations Usability Support Value
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