TunnelBear

April 2018 Review & Coupons

Visit TunnelBear website
7.4
Our verdict

“Great beginner's VPN that packs in lots of extra privacy features”

7.4
RECOMMENDED FOR
  • Privacy
  • Travel
  • Unblocking
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cute, easy-to-use app
  • Free version available
  • Extra encryption mode
Works with
  • Netflix
  • BBC iPlayer
  • HBO
  • Torrenting

Top TunnelBear plans for April 2018

Little
FREE
  • 500MB data cap
  • Tweet for extra 1GB
  • Full access to features
View Plan
Grizzly (12 Months)
$9.99 $4.99 per monthsave 50%
  • Unlimited data, pay yearly
  • 20 server locations
  • 5 simultaneous devices
View Plan
Giant (1 Month)
$9.99 per month
  • Unlimited data, pay monthly
  • 20 server locations
  • 5 simultaneous devices
View Plan
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Top10VPN Rating for TunnelBear

Recommended for

TunnelBear Overview

TunnelBear is a cutesy Canadian VPN that offers one of the better, if still very limited, free VPNs along with a paid version. TunnelBear doubles down on the bear theme, creating a memorable brand and user experience that’s heavy on cartoon bears and bear-related puns. It’s very accessible to VPN beginners and despite the quirky bear shtick, TunnelBear does pack a few interesting features and a sincere approach to internet privacy that elevates it from a joke product or gimmick.

The brand has recently been acquired by McAfee, one of the world’s top cybersecurity companies. This means that TunnelBear will soon be operating under US jurisdiction, so keep an eye out for changes in their terms of service and privacy policy as they’ll be forced to comply with stricter data laws. Other than that not much will change in terms of the software, with the company planning to operate as a separate team within McAfee.

TunnelBear Free is a good way to try before you buy (there’s no refunds on the paid plans) but with a 500MB monthly data cap, it won’t get you far even just browsing. You can tweet for an extra 1GB but that’s hardly ideal for privacy. Otherwise the only other restriction is access to the Australian server, which is for paid users only. The overall server network is rather small at only 20 countries, while performance of nearby servers will serve most needs, it’s nothing to get excited about. Speeds on distant servers were disappointing however.

What we like
  • Simple and fun VPN that's accessible to anyone
  • Free users can tweet for an extra 1GB data
  • Some cool privacy features
What we like less
  • Bear theme can wear a little thin
  • Incorporated in privacy-unfriendly Canada
  • Small server network with mediocre performance

Privacy
9.2

TunnelBear does a lot right for privacy. We love the VPN killswitch that’s available on free and paid versions (Vigilant mode) and the double encryption (GhostBear) that gives you another option to beat the censors. They also operate their own DNS servers so there’s no chance of your ISP being able to view your browsing activity. OpenVPN UDP is the standard protocol for all desktop/Android connections but you can also manually switch to TCP, which is great. The iOS app uses IPSec/IKEv2. All sensible choices but it’s a shame other standard protocols have been sacrificed for the sake of simplicity.

Its privacy policy is one of the most transparent and clearest that we have ever seen. TunnelBear is very close to being zero logs – the only connection metadata it collects is total bandwidth used, total lifetime connections and whether you’ve connected in the last month. No timestamps or IP addresses are collected at all.

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We’re less fond of TunnelBear’s incorporation in Canada, a nation that shares intelligence data with the US and UK. We also don’t like that you’re encouraged to share your Twitter handle in exchange for extra data.

FeatureTunnelBearExpressVPNNordVPN
Open VPN (Auto) FalseTrueFalse
Open VPN (UDP/TCP) TrueTrueTrue
PPTP FalseTrueTrue
SSTP FalseTrueTrue
L2TP/IPSec TrueTrueTrue
IKEv2 TrueTrueTrue
Supports TCP Port 443 FalseTrueFalse
Supports Multihop FalseFalseTrue
Permits P2P TrueTrueTrue
Strongest encryption AES-256AES-256AES-256
First party DNS servers TrueTrueTrue
DNS Leak Blocking TrueTrueTrue
Killswitch TrueTrueTrue
Accepts cryptocurrency TrueTrueTrue
Accepts Paypal TrueTrueTrue
Activity logging FalseFalseFalse
Connection logging TrueTrueFalse
Tor over VPN server FalseFalseTrue

Speed & Performance
7.0

TunnelBear is fast enough to stream video without too much trouble on nearby servers but transantlantic users may be disappointed with the mediocre speeds on offer. Server distance is an issue so Australian users hoping to connect to UK and US servers will also struggle to get satisfactory performance. We were particularly impressed with performance across Europe and in Canada.

Don’t expect to be able to torrent at the same time or download a game on Steam while you’re watching BBC iPlayer. Speeds were inconsistent across its small network and connection time is rather slow. Latency is low enough for gaming but with a limited number of servers available, we wouldn’t recommend it for hardcore gamers.

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FeatureTunnelBearZenMateNorton
Avg global DL speed 84.63 (FR)85.11 (DE)65.13 (DE)
Avg global UL speed 68.05 (UK)87.32 (UK)86.56 (NL)
Ping time 5ms13ms4ms
Unlimited bandwidth TrueTrueTrue
Average time to connect 15s2s19s

Speed breakdown

Server LocationDownload Speed (Mbps)Upload Speed (Mbps)
Australia6.160.60
Germany52.5028.16
UK78.6268.05
USA17.577.92
Singapore11.392.59
Netherlands61.4949.40
France84.6339.07
Canada36.365.13
Japan16.372.44

How do we test these VPN speeds?

  • We continuously test the performance of all our featured VPN providers to ensure you have all the latest information you need to choose.
  • For this provider we use the Ookla speed test tool, on our fibre-optic line in central London and via our own paid-for VPN subscriptions.
  • Our base (no VPN) download speed is around 80Mbps, upload 90Mbps and ping 3ms and results are from London to the listed locations.
  • Our tests are intended to give you an idea of the range of connection speeds. The closer the server and faster your connection, the faster your speeds.

Locations
6.1

TunnelBear has a very small network of server locations. The good news is that all but one location (Australia) are available on the free version as well as the paid. The big, obvious locations like US, UK, Australia, France and Germany are all available but we were disappointed to see so few options in South America, Asia and Africa. Check out their server location list as your needs may well be covered if you don’t need to have access to a truly global network.

TunnelBear should be applauded for making VPNs accessible but it comes at the cost of a lack of transparency. Unlike its competitors, TunnelBear won’t reveal the number of servers and IP addresses it makes available to its subscribers, claiming 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 2014861
Servers Won't say2,000+3,500+
IP addresses Won't say20,000+3,500+
Dynamic server switching FalseFalseTrue

Ease of use
8.5

What we like
  • Very beginner-friendly
  • Fun and original approach
  • Clear explanations of advanced settings
Read more
What we like less
  • Can't skip animations
  • Needs a simple version
  • No connection info available

TunnelBear is either fun and cute or grating and gimmicky, depending on your point of view. It certainly takes a concept (bears) and runs with it. On the positive side, TunnelBear is very simple to use: just click on the location you want on the nicely-illustrated world map and watch the animation of a bear tunneling under the earth and popping out in Mexico, Singapore or wherever. The small number of advanced settings are well-explained and useful (a VPN killswitch branded much less threateningly as Vigilant mode and GhostBear, which adds extra encryption). The visual style is well done, regardless of your general attitude to quirky bears.

What we liked less was that clicking and dragging around the map was the only way to select a location – not so much fun when selecting Australia from the UK for the 100th time. The animations cannot be skipped and the novelty wears off after a while as you wait for the bear to finish tunneling. It would improve the app to be able to switch to a simple mode with drop-down lists for example. There’s also little visual feedback about your connection info. It’s a fine line between fun and dumbed-down. Limited device compatibility is also disappointing although the lack of Linux support is partly offset by the Chrome browser extension.

The free version is full-featured but, aside from Australia being locked, the main limitation is data. 500MB per month is absolutely paltry. We got through nearly that much running speed tests. You’d be lucky to see the end credits of a single TV show without hitting the cap. Yes you can tweet for an extra 1GB but it’s still hardly fit for modern browsing.

Is TunnelBear compatible with my device?

Device/OS/BrowserTunnelBearExpressVPNNordVPN
Windows TrueTrueTrue
Mac TrueTrueTrue
Linux FalseTrueManual
iOS TrueTrueTrue
AndroidTrueTrueTrue
Router FalseTrueManual
Games consoles FalseManual False
Fire TV Stick FalseTrueManual
Chrome extensionTrueTrueTrue
Firefox extensionTrueTrueTrue
Safari (for mac) extensionFalseTrueManual

Customer Support
7.4

Email support was certainly quick enough at a shade over four hours. However we were disappointed to be fobbed off regarding questions regarding the server network, which we believe are valid queries for a potential customer. We are also not fans of needing to create an account and sign in (essentially as a free customer) to ask a question. Sure you can spin up a throwaway email but it’s a pain.

There’s no live chat option either. However, the online resources are very well written and make huge efforts to make VPNs accessible to newcomers and non-technical people. This is a good thing. We especially like the plain English annotations of the Terms of Service. However, it’s ultimately all a little shallow and has little to offer curious users wanting to delve deeper.

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FeatureTunnelBearExpressVPNNordVPN
Support quality 7.1109.2
24/7 support TrueTrueTrue
Live chat FalseTrueTrue
Knowledge base TrueTrueTrue
Video tutorials FalseTrueTrue

Value for money
7.2

What we like
  • Free version available
  • VPN killswitch and double encryption
  • Works with Netflix and BBC iPlayer
Read more
What we like less
  • No refunds available
  • Small server network
  • Free version extremely limited by data cap
Our Rating
7.4
“Great beginner's VPN that packs in lots of extra privacy features”
Visit TunnelBear website