TunnelBear Full Review: Simplicity in VPN
TunnelBear provides unbreakable AES 256-bit encryption, an ad-blocker, and guarantees no data loggings for all of its users. TunnelBear has more than 350 VPN servers situated in 20 countries around the world. TunnelBear has a free VPN service that serves millions of users worldwide.
In this section, we checked how TunnelBear fares against its competitors in terms of speed tests, the number of servers, their geographic distribution, and their fastest available protocol.
1. Speed tests
TunnelBear, unfortunately, struggles when it comes to speed. It scores low relative to other VPNs when it comes down to the speed it provides. This makes TunnelBear not very functional in terms of high speed requiring activities such as streaming, torrent, and gaming.
2. Number of servers and geographic distribution
Short explanation: TunnelBear has 4000 servers distributed over 26 countries.
Long explanation: TunnelBear runs 4000 servers in over 26 countries worldwide. When you first connect to it, you will be automatically connected to the closest server.
TunnelBear's user-friendly design allows you to switch your server connection to your desired country easily. It has servers in North and South America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.
3. Fastest available protocol
Short explanation: IKEv2 is the fastest available protocol by TunnelBear (recommended to use).
Long explanation: In the VPN world, many protocols exist, with differences between protocols making the difference in how secure a VPN is, how fast, and whether it can bypass geo-censorship.
Typically, the trade-off is between speed and security, with the PPTP protocol typically being the fastest but the least secure. In TunnelBear's case, its fastest available protocol is the IKEv2, as it lacks the WireGuard protocol.
Security and Privacy
TunnelBear provides high-quality security protocols in order to protect your information. They publish regular independent security audits to provide their users with insight into its policies and security protocols.
The most important features regarding security and privacy include:
1. Encryption and protocols
TunnelBear provides AES-256-bit encryption, which is the standard for the industry. It is so secure to the point that governments, militaries, and banks utilize this type of encryption to secure their data.
Are you new to VPNs?
For TunnelBear, use IKEv2 protocol for speed, use OpenVPN protocol for security, use OpenVPN protocol to bypass geo-censorship (obfuscation).
Pro mode: The protocols available for TunnelBear include:
OpenVPN is used by default, which creates secure point-to-point or site-to-site connections. In addition to the OpenVPN protocol provided by TunnelBear, it Also provides IKEv2 Protocol. Relative to other VPNs it has fewer available protocols to choose from.
Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
Security and encryption
AES 256-bit encryption
UDP ports 500 and 4500, and ESP IP Protocol 50
uses 443 port (hard to block)
Faster than OpenVPN
Slower than IKEv2
2. Logs policy
Short explanation: TunnelBear does not have a true no-log policy (no activity logs policy).
Long explanation: TunnelBear has a strict no-activity logging policy, which means that none of your data or information about the applications, services, or websites you use while using the VPN will be collected, stored, or logged.
As a Canada-based company, they are required to comply with the Canadian law; therefore, they are obliged to hand over any personal information they've collected about you, such as; Your full name, email address, amount of data used, and the last four digits of your credit card number.
3. Kill switch
Short explanation: TunnelBear has a fully functional kill switch feature.
Long explanation: TunnelBear offers an impressive feature called VigilantBear, which acts as a kill switch when it comes to security. VigilantBear protects you while you're connecting and disconnecting, and even if your WiFi drops or goes out of service, VigilantBear prevents any data leaks.
4. RAM-based servers
Short explanation: TunnelBear doesn’t have RAM-based servers.
Long explanation: A RAM-based server means that the data, instead of being saved to SSD drives, is saved on RAMs. This is advantageous to security because RAM is wiped clean every time the servers reboot.
5. VPN based country
Short explanation: TunnelBear is based in Canada.
Long explanation: TunnelBear is based in Canada, which is inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance. VPN companies based inside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance are considered a possible security threat as these countries are known to spy on their citizens and share information internally. (Read more What Is the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance).
6. Warrant canary
Short explanation: TunnelBear doesn’t have a warrant canary system.
Long explanation: A warrant canary is an indirect method to warn customers of governmental attempts to subpoena where the presence of the warrant on the company’s official website means the local government hasn’t tried anything yet.
If the warrant canary is removed from the company’s page, it means they were asked. Tunnel bear undergoes yearly third-party security audits to gain trust.
TunnelBear in Practice
In terms of the applications of VPN in the real world, we dive further into how TunnelBear fares against the rest in the following categories:
Bad news Alert! TunnelBear cannot unblock Netflix US, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, or any streaming platform with well-established security and can override the VPN's DNS servers. If you're searching for a VPN for streaming, we believe that TunnelBear isn't what you're looking for.
If you're looking to have a smooth streaming experience and unblock geo-restricted content across all the popular streaming platforms, then we would recommend NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or CyberGhost.
Short explanation: TunnelBear allows torrent. However, TunnelBear doesn’t have specialized torrenting servers.
Long explanation: Earlier, TunnelBear didn't allow torrenting at all. However, recently, they confirmed that their VPN service does allow torrenting. You have to note that you could experience a significant drop in speeds while using it.
Short explanation: TunnelBear doesn’t have specialized gaming servers
Long explanation: When it comes to gaming, the reason why you would want to use a VPN for games is variable, but one thing is clear, which is that no one wants to lag at all. (Read more on The Uses of VPN in Gaming).
Companies with specialized gaming servers make sure your gaming experience will be smoother than with companies that don’t have specialized gaming servers.
4. Dedicated IP servers
Short explanation: TunnelBear doesn’t have dedicated IP servers.
Long explanation: While using a VPN, you would want a dynamic IP (an IP that changes whenever you reconnect to a server). In certain situations, this is not the case. A dedicated server is recommended in the following situations:
- Business security
- Frequent online payment security
- Avoid getting blacklisted on websites
- Avoid CAPTCHAs
If you find any of the above reasons apply to you and decide you need a dedicated IP server, then we recommend you try NordVPN.
5. Geo-censorship bypass (obfuscation)
With the OpenVPN3 implemented by TunnelBear, their geo-censorship bypass powers have been upgraded. Previously when they used the OpenVPN2, they required an extra step of using a proxy (OBFS4PROXY) in order to connect; this extra step would cause extra drops in speed.
Now that OpenVPN3 has been developed, the geo-bypass has become smoother and faster.
6. Split tunneling
Short explanation: TunnelBear has split tunneling only on mobiles.
Long explanation: The split tunneling feature means you can selectively use your VPN on a certain type/source of data outgoing from your device.
Split tunneling in certain situations is favorable. For example, you're torrenting while playing a video game or watching a YouTube video.
In such a scenario, you would want only the torrenting to be encrypted. VPN encryption will slow down the connection speed relative to not using a VPN since the encrypted data is larger than non-encrypted.
TunnelBear only provides this feature for mobile devices but not for desktop/laptop. If you want a VPN for both your desktop/laptop and mobile, I suggest you take a look at ExpressVPN, it is a bit pricier, but it does its job really well.
7. Tor over VPN
Short explanation: TunnelBear has Tor over VPN support.
Long explanation: Torrent onion router (Tor) is a P2P program used to enter the dark web. Using a VPN adds an extra layer of anonymity, especially at the entry node, with the addition of data encryption.
Tunnelbear treated Tor and torrenting the same previously until it finally allowed both. However, the issue with the extreme speed drop makes it feel almost unusable.
TunnelBear allows up to five simultaneous connections to a single subscription plan. Their apps are available for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. The VPN offers browser extensions on Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. TunnelBear's Ads and Trackers blockers are available for free as a browser extension.
TunnelBear is compatible with:
- Linux (limited support)
TunnelBear is available as an extension on:
- Google Chrome
1. Supported languages
TunnelBear supports the following languages:
2. Customer support
TunnelBear provides an average level of Customer Support. You can only contact the company for support through email, where you fill out a contact form on their website. The FAQs section on the website is substantial and offers a lot of answers.
TunnelBear provides customer support in the following forms:
- Live chat
- Knowledge base
- Email and tickets system
Pricing and Payment
TunnelBear does not offer a money-back guarantee; however, they provide a free version of their VPN. The free version is called Little Bear, and it allows 500MB of data per month.
In the Little Bear App, all of TunnelBear's servers are available. On the other hand, they offer two paid packages, called Unlimited and Teams.
The TunnelBear for Teams plan is aimed at companies with a central control system. The price changes depending on the number of users, even though on their website, it's set up to 200 users at a time. However, this number can be exceeded by directly contacting TunnelBear's team.
The Unlimited plan is subdivided into monthly, yearly, and 3-year plans, while the Teams plan is a yearly plan, and it's cheaper.
The Unlimited plan will cost you $9.99 per month for unlimited data, while the annual plan will cost you $59.99 (approx. $5/month), and you have to pay upfront for 12 months, as for the 3-year plan, it costs around $360 which can be paid as $120 every year (this price excludes any discounts). However, it offers limited payment options, which includes; Credit Card and Bitcoin.
As for the money-back guarantee, unfortunately, it's not a no-questions-asked policy; rather, it's a case-by-case study. Hence it's not guaranteed and can be declined in some cases. VPN providers typically allow for a month's test drive with their products for you to judge the full power of their VPN.
Available payment methods include:
- Major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, etc.)
- Cryptocurrency (Bitcoins)
Our Final Decision
In general, TunnelBear is an appropriate VPN option, offering servers in several countries around the globe. We recommend it and believe it is one of the best VPNs on the market; however, you have to note that choosing it highly depends on what you need a VPN for.
If you need a VPN to protect your privacy while browsing without any complications or high-tech features, then it is a great choice.