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TunnelBear Free Review

Rebecca Duff
By Rebecca DuffUpdated
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TunnelBear Free screenshot
Our Score6.8
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TunnelBear Free: Ranked #52 out of 99 VPNs that we tested

  1. Local downloads of up to 63Mbps
  2. User-friendly apps for popular devices
  3. Minimal logging policy
  4. Connect securely to 22 countries
  5. VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection
  1. Stingy 500MB monthly data cap
  2. No access to Netflix or iPlayer
  3. No live chat support

Works with

N/A

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android

Speed & Reliability

Surprisingly good performance speeds

Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.

Before using TunnelBear Free:

  1. DownloadMbps

    95

  2. UploadMbps

    78

  3. Pingms

    12

When connected to TunnelBear Free:

  1. DownloadMbps

    52

  2. UploadMbps

    45

  3. Pingms

    34

Download speed without TunnelBear Free: 95Mbps

Download speed with TunnelBear Free: 52Mbps

Our download speed loss when TunnelBear Free is running: 46%

Testing TunnelBear Free’s performance was very time-consuming thanks to the highly limiting 500MB monthly data cap. We had to create four different accounts to test the speeds in nine different countries as we kept reaching our bandwidth limit.

Disregarding that, the performance was surprisingly good – almost as quick as the premium service, allowing for buffer-free streaming and multiple file downloads.

Local latency was also one of the lowest we’ve seen from a free provider, just 8ms in London. Uploads were also pretty promising, but less consistent, across the board. Keen gamers may want to consider alternatives that offer even lower ping times, such as one of our top picks, IPVanish.

Server Locations

Decent sized network for free service

Globe with a blue flag22Countries
Image of a city landscape22Cities
Image of a pink marker?IP Addresses

For a free service, TunnelBear Free’s server network is a decent size – 22 countries. The popular locations are covered, and there are a few located in Asia, one in South America, but none in Africa. If you live far from the servers you may suffer poor performance.

TunnelBear Free mobile screenshots

There’s no city-level choice, but then again, this is also the case with the premium version of the app. You can find the complete list of TunnelBear server locations by country on its website by clicking the link above.

Streaming & Torrenting

Completely worthless for streaming and torrenting

TunnelBear Free is absolutely no good for streaming or torrenting. Not only were we not able to stream content from either Netflix or BBC iPlayer, the stingy 500MB monthly data cap means that you won’t be able to watch more than half an hour of HD video content.

If you’re looking for quick, easy access to popular streaming sites, you’re most likely going to have to consider a paid provider – our top pick is ExpressVPN.

Torrenting

TunnelBear Free permits torrenting in all locations. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to upload or download much content without running out of data, which is a real shame considering the great local server speeds and robust privacy policy.

Looking to torrent with a VPN? See our best VPNs for torrenting here.

Bypassing Censorship

Not guaranteed to work in China, but GhostBear mode circumvents censorship

Ever since China started imposing harsher restrictions on VPN providers, we can’t recommend the free version of TunnelBear for use there.

The software does offer additional obfuscation tools to help you bypass the Great Firewall (GhostBear mode), it isn’t guaranteed to work 100% of the time, with some complaining that it won’t work at all.

Still, this is a decent option for high-censorship countries, thanks for its proprietary GhostBear protocol designed to disguise your connection to a VPN. The data cap is an issue but it’ll do the job if you just need to quickly access a few government-blocked sites.

Platforms & Devices

Popular devices covered, but no manual workarounds

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux

TunnelBear is available on your usual platforms and possible to use with Linux with some manual configuration. There are no manual workarounds for any other platforms, including routers.

You can use the TunnelBear Free app on up to five devices at once, but we wouldn’t advise it considering the 500MB data cap.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

There are also TunnelBear Free proxy extensions available for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera browsers. These don’t provide the same level of protection as the other custom apps but will suffice for those just looking to spoof their IP address in order to access blocked content.

Encryption & Security

Very good security measures

Protocol

IKEv2/IPSec

L2TP/IPSec

OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)

Encryption

AES-256

Security

DNS Leak Blocking

First-party DNS

VPN Kill Switch

Advanced features

Split Tunneling

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

TunnelBear Free provides the same level of privacy as its paid service, which is great. OpenVPN is also the default protocol, balancing security and performance. And encryption is is via top cipher AES-256.

We also really like ‘VigilantBear’, TunnelBear Free’s version of a VPN kill switch. Our tests also confirmed protection against DNS leaks.

Logging Policy

Clear and trustworthy logging policy that collects minimal information

TunnelBear’s logging policy is applicable to its premium and free users, and it’s one of the clearest policies we’ve seen so far.

TunnelBear Free is pretty close to zero-logs, collecting only basic connection metadata including bandwidth used, lifetime connections and whether you’ve connected in the last month. These are not personally identifiable and are used for troubleshooting purposes to monitor data caps on the free plan.

TunnelBear was also recently featured in a report conducted by the CDT (Center for Democracy & Technology) on Signals of Trustworthy VPNs. It states that each VPN server features full disk encryption, malware scans, and intrusion protection techniques, designed to protect user privacy as much as possible. It also releases an audit of its methodology on an annual basis and makes this available for the public to read.

Excerpt from TunnelBear Privacy Policy from the TunnelBear Website

Jurisdiction

TunnelBear’s headquarters are in Toronto, Canada, meaning it’s subject to intrusive surveillance laws and intelligence-sharing agreements with countries like the US and UK. The policy states that it will comply with Canadian law enforcement agencies if supplied subpoenas, warrants, or other legal documents.

However, this isn’t too much of a concern as it doesn’t collect any information that could trace your online activity back to you.

Ease of Use

Fun bear-orientated apps with good advanced settings

How to Install & Set Up TunnelBear Free

If you like bears, you’ll love TunnelBear Free’s custom apps, which are the same for free users as for paid ones. They’re really simple to install and use. All you have to do is click on a server location on an interactive world map and wait for the bear to tunnel through the earth and pop out in your chosen geographic region.

You can keep track of your bandwidth usage, which is a nice touch. The downside is that you don’t receive a pop-up when you’ve exceeded your limit. That means if you don’t have VigilantBear mode on, your true IP address will be exposed with you knowing.

It’s really refreshing to see a free VPN offering some advanced settings – you can find these behind the cog icon on the left-hand side of the screen. The TunnelBear Free mobile apps are much the same as the desktop app, but tapping and swiping around the world map to find a server location can get very boring after you’ve already done it a few times.

Customer Support

No live chat, but resources and email support is very friendly to beginners

Email support via an online form

TunnelBear’s customer support for free users is up there with some of the best we’ve seen from any complimentary service. The online resources are well put together and make an effort to ensure an accessibility for beginners. However, it’s all quite basic and doesn’t offer much to experienced users who want detailed answers.

There’s noTunnelBear live chat, only customer support via email. We submitted a form and received a response 24 hours later, which is later than we’d like but it answered the question fine. You have to create an account in order to contact support, which is no good for those who have questions before they sign up.

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