As you already know, TunnelBear can often be found among top-recommended VPNs – at least in terms of its user-friendliness. It’s easy to see why, after taking a glance at its official website which is filled with comedic elements. It goes a long way to present a complex technical solution as an easy-to-use one. However, let’s not forget that VPNs need to have cutting edge features to protect and secure your online data. With this said, we’re going to inspect everything that TunnelBear VPN offers. We’ll take a deep dive into its features related to security, privacy, data leak protection, and website unblocking. So, welcome to our hands-on review of the TunnelBear VPN!
We don’t want to overwhelm you with technical terms right off the bat. This is why we’ve prepared three tables you’ll see in this introductory segment. The first one tells you about the most important aspects of this VPN, so take a quick look.
|Jurisdiction||The USA & Canada.|
|Logs||No personally identifiable data.|
|Number of Servers||23 countries; An unknown number of servers.|
|Encryption Standards||AES-256; OpenVPN (TCP/UDP), IKEv2, IPSec.|
|Speed Reduction||31%, on average.|
|Live Chat Support||NO|
|Supported Platforms||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Web browsers.|
|Price||Starts at $4.99/month|
Get TunnelBear VPN
Next, let’s not forget those who want to use a VPN for media streaming. We’ve tested TunnelBear with a number of popular media streaming websites, so here are the results.
|Media Streaming Support|
|Amazon Prime Video||NO|
We have one more table for you (the last one, we promise). Some of you might not have the time to go through this entire review – so we want to highlight our findings. Here are the biggest pros and cons of using TunnelBear.
|The Bottom Line|
|Pros||Great for first-timers; User-friendly UI; Solid performance; Doesn’t log data; Highly secure encryption; Top-rated VPN protocols.|
|Cons||Limited server network; Can’t access Netflix; No P2P traffic; Missing live-chat support.|
|The Final Verdict||TunnelBear certainly isn’t for everyone, as it comes with a number of drawbacks. However, we can recommend it to home users with basic needs.|
If you keep on reading, you will learn all there is to know about TunnelBear VPN. We’ll be dissecting this VPN to its smallest bits, so there’s plenty to go through.
TunnelBear VPN – TechNadu’s Hands-On Review
We’ve tested dozens of VPN services so far. This means that we know what and how to test them, and we know what our readers care to know. If you’d like to learn more about this process, we’ve published a dedicated article aboutour process of reviewing VPNs.
Background, Jurisdiction & Reputation
We’re going to find out where TunnelBear comes from, what that means for its users, and whether there were any previous data leaks.
Jurisdiction & Applicable Laws
VPNs often come from exotic locations such as Panama or Gibraltar. That’s because those countries don’t force ISPs (Internet Service Providers) or other data controllers to collect personal information. With this said, if a VPN doesn’t say where it comes from on its official website (or if this information is somewhat hidden), this is a cause for concern.
This company comes from Canada, known for its strict laws. You’ve probably heard about the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance before, and you should know that Canada is a member of that alliance. It has its own mass surveillance laws, and it exchanges data with the USA and other countries. Canadian ISPs can telecom operates are also battling against pirates and ‘copyright-infringing’ VPNs. This is one of the reasons why TunnelBear doesn’t allow P2P traffic.
Last year, TunnelBear was acquired by McAfee, a reputable brand in the world of digital security. However, the problem is that McAfee comes from the USA – which is perhaps the worst country in the world for any VPN-related business.
To give you some peace of mind, TunnelBear went through several independent audits during the last couple of years. The report on the most recent audit was published in January 2020.As it turns out, this VPN doesn’t collect any data that could identify what you do online. This company also revealed that it receives occasional requests for user data (which is hardly surprising) – but it never answered those requests.
Previous Data Leaks
We’re happy to report that TunnelBear comes without any data leaks in the past. There are no reports of this VPN exposing their users via any vulnerabilities, active data leaks, or unauthorized data collection.
The bottom line is that TunnelBear seems like a promising VPN for those seeking online anonymity. However, we can’t hide the fact that it comes from Canada and it’s also associated with the USA.
Supported Platforms & Devices
To see which devices and platforms are supported by TunnelBear, take a look at the following table. We’ll list only native apps offered by this VPN provider.
|Desktop Platforms||Windows, macOS.|
|Mobile Platforms||Android, iOS.|
|Web Browsers||Chrome, Firefox, Opera.|
In terms of desktop operating systems, there are native apps for Windows and macOS. Interestingly enough, TunnelBear also works on some Linux flavors – but it doesn’t support this platform natively. Please note that if you’re a Linux user, we don’t recommend this VPN as it often comes with numerous compatibility problems (and you can easily find VPNs with native Linux support).
When it comes to mobile platforms, there are native apps for iOS and Android. And if you care about Web browser extensions, note that Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are supported. And that’s pretty much it when it comes to the currently supported platforms.
What must be mentioned is that TunnelBear can’t be manually configured on routers. Also, devices such as Android TV, Amazon FireOS, or gaming consoles are not supported either.
Installation & Initial Configuration
TunnelBear offers both free and paid accounts. The free one is being heavily limited in terms of bandwidth. To experience everything this VPN has to offer, you need to get a TunnelBear subscription. You’ll first get to select a plan, fill out your personal details, and proceed with the payment. You’ll also see promo offers for this company’s password manager, called RememBear. In the end, you’ll be redirected to the page that contains this VPN’s native applications, allowing you to download the correct version on your device.
We’ve tested this VPN on our Windows 10 PC, where the installation file comes in at around 150MB. Double-click to start the procedure, choose an installation directory, and you’ll be all set within a few seconds. TunnelBear will open its log-in screen and you’ll also see a three-step guide to using it. This is when you can connect to a secure server and enjoy all the benefits it offers.
In this segment, we’ll take a quick look at both basic and advanced featured offered by TunnelBear. To get an idea of what to expect, check out the table found below.
|VPN Features Checklist|
|DNS Leak Protection||YES|
|IPv6 Leak Protection||NO|
|Unlimited Server Switches||YES|
Let’s start with the basics. To protect your personal information from leaking, TunnelBear includes a DNS leak protection. This is considered to be the standard feature of today’s VPNs. Then, you should know that there’s no IPv6 leak protection. Instead, this protocol is disabled by default, which means you’ll have to rely on IPv4 instead. In terms of security, this isn’t a major downside even though we start to see more VPNs supporting IPv6 via their server networks.
When it comes to more advanced features, there are two interesting featured called VigilantBear and GhostBear. The first one is actually a kill-switch, preventing any leaks while you connect/disconnect, or in times when a secure connection becomes compromised for any reason. And when it comes to GhostBear, this feature uses obfuscated servers to fight anti-VPN measures. As such, this feature is needed in countries with heavy censorship, as this is perhaps the only way to overcome obstacles related to restrictive networks.
Finally, let’s not forget that TunnelBear doesn’t impose any limitations, whatsoever. This means that you’ll get to switch between different servers at any moment, and there are no limitations related to bandwidth or data. Of course, we’re talking about a premium version of this VPN.
Many VPNs are quick to point out that their server networks are huge. If you can’t find this number on a VPN’s website, this usually means that you can expect a rather small server network. And that’s the case with TunnelBear as well.
|Server Count Info|
|Number of Servers||N/A|
|Number of Locations||N/A|
|Number of Countries||23|
|Specific Cities Selection||NO|
We’ve tested plenty of VPNs so far, as we’ve been doing this for a while now. And we have to say that TunnelBear is the first VPNs that hides the number of its servers. Instead, you’ll find information that 23+ countries are on offer. This is true, as you’ll be able to connect to servers in those countries, but that’s pretty much it. You can’t connect to specific locations (cities or regions) or specific servers.
TunnelBear is also telling us that their server network isn’t made of virtual servers. Instead, it comes with bare-metal servers, owned by this company. In other words, they’re saying that they don’t have too many servers – but that we shouldn’t worry about the safety of our data as they control their entire infrastructure.
Ease of Use
The home screen of TunnelBear leaves a positive first impression. The biggest portion of this screen consists of a large-sized map. You will see comedic illustrations all over, along with a list of countries that allow you to connect to their servers. Click on any of those and you’ll be asked to ‘tunnel’ to that particular country. It takes only a few seconds to make this connection active.
Aside from relying on the map only, you can connect to a server in two additional ways. There’s a prominent ON/OFF toggle that is set to ‘Automatic’ by default. This means that TunnelBear can connect you to the nearest server, which should provide the best possible speeds. On the right side of the toggle, there’s a drop-down menu with the list of supported countries. If you click on any of those, you’ll be once again asked if you wish to ‘tunnel’ to the selected destination.
To dive a bit deeper into what this application offers, you can click on the ‘hamburger-style’ button in the top-left corner. This is where you’ll see a button that will take you to TunnelBear’s settings. Let’s see what can be found here.
- General: You can enable TunnelBear on system startup, enable/disable notifications, and choose from different types of software behavior. If you’re experiencing issues connecting to TunnelBear, don’t forget to enable ‘TCP Override’ which should improve the overall performance.
- Security: There are two options here, named VigilantBear and GhostBear. As previously explained, you can use these to block all traffic while TunnelBear connects, while GhostBear is used to get enhanced encryption that could battle anti-VPN measures.
- Trusted Networks: If you connect to a bunch of different Wi-Fi networks, you need to set which of these are ‘trusted.’ This means that TunnelBear will be active the moment you connect to a network that’s not on the list.
- Account: The final tab allows you to check for updates. You can also review your account information with a button that takes you to the VPN’s official website.
In general, TunnelBear is designed for average home users. In case you don’t want to fiddle with different settings, types of encryption, and VPN protocols, you’ll like this VPN. If you’re a more advanced user who wants a deeper control, you’ll find your needs to be met by some other VPNs.
Media Streaming & Torrenting Support
We’ve tested TunnelBear with a range of widely popular media streaming services. To check this VPN’s capabilities, take a look at the following table.
|Media Streaming & Torrenting Support|
|Amazon Prime Video||NO|
Sadly, TunnelBear isn’t designed for media streaming or P2P file transfer. We’ve tested it with Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video – and all of those services have managed to see that we were using a VPN service. Needless to say, our access was quickly blocked.
When it comes to downloading torrents, TunnelBear doesn’t allow this type of file transfer. In the majority of cases, your P2P traffic will be fully blocked. If you manage to download P2P files, you should know that there’s a chance of this VPN identifying what you did (if copyright infringement is involved). Please note that your account might be terminated if you’re caught doing anything illegal, including copyright infringement.
Security & Privacy
Having seen that TunnelBear isn’t recommended for media streaming, we can only hope that it’s designed for total online anonymity. This is why we’ll check its encryption protocols, logging policy, and more.
Supported Encryption Protocols
Depending on your platform of choice, TunnelBear offers a combination of different encryption levels and VPN protocols. On Windows, you get to use OpenVPN/IKEv2 along with AES-256-CBC encryption. On macOS, you’ll use OpenVPN with AES-256-GCM.
Then, we also have mobile devices. On Android smartphones, TunnelBear uses OpenVPN along with AES-256-CBC. And there are also iOS users who will get to use IPSec/IKEv2 coupled with AES-256-GCM.
All of the previously mentioned protocols are highly secure. In fact, OpenVPN is considered to the best VPN protocol right now, as it doesn’t have any known vulnerabilities. And when it comes to encryption, it doesn’t get better than AES-256bit, which is the strongest type of commercial encryption available right now.
As stated above, TunnelBear claims not to collect any data. Of course, this applies to data that could identify what you do online. These claims were recently verified through an independent audit, concluding that TunnerBear respects the privacy of its users.However, it’s important to be highlighted that some information is being collected, nonetheless.
When it comes to the logged types of data, this includes ‘operational data’. We’re talking about your OS version, TunnelBear app version, total bandwidth, and similar. We believe that it’s safe to say that TunnelBear is truly a no-logs VPN – which means that it deserves your trust, at least for the moment.
DNS Leak Test
As evident from the screenshot above, this VPN doesn’t reveal your data to third-parties online. Once you connect to a secure server, you’ll get a virtual IP address, hostname, ISP, and you’ll appear as if you’re in a different country. This means that third-parties will only see this virtual (fake) information, instead of knowing who you really are.
Speed & Performance
In general, TunnelBear brings satisfactory performance. It’s not the fastest VPN around but it’s far from being a problematic one. Our Score: 8/10.
We’re sure you’re interested in knowing what kind of performance to expect. Well, we’ve done our homework on testing TunnelBear, and here are the results.
To set up some baseline data, we need to check the performance of our bare Web connection. This means that we’ve done a speed test without involving a VPN into this equation. As you can see from the image above, we got 147.29 Mbps for downloads and 9.66 Mbps for uploads.
As noted earlier, TunnelBear can be set to connect you to the nearest server. If it turns out that this server is in close proximity, you can expect above-average performance. Once connected to a nearby server, (we’re located in Europe) we got 139.07 Mbps for downloads and 9.05 Mbps for uploads. This is a much better result than we expected, and we’re happy to see TunnelBear providing such performance.
Then, we connected to a server in the USA. This is a remote server for us, and it’s also a highly popular VPN destination. We received the following test results: 62.97 Mbps for downloads and 7.57 Mbps for uploads.
|Download Speed||Upload Speed||Speed Reduction|
|Baseline Speed||147.29 Mbps||9.66 Mbps||0%|
|Nearby Server||139.07 Mbps||9.05 Mbps||5.5%|
|Remote Server||62.97 Mbps||7.57 Mbps||57.2%|
On average, TunnelBear throttled the speed of our Web connection by 31%. However, we have to praise its performance, nonetheless. In case you live in a country where one of TunnelBear’s servers is located, you’re in luck. If you only have to rely on a remote connection, you can expect your Web speed to deteriorate.
Sadly, live-chat isn’t available. However, you can count on a nice set of self-help resources, and you can always open a support ticket. Our Score: 8/10.
In case you ever need help with this VPN, here are all the ways that TunnelBear will be able to assist you.
- Installation Guides & FAQ: There are nicely explained installation guides for different platforms, along with a comprehensive set of frequently asked questions. These are written in a user-friendly way, without any complicated technical terms. Therefore, you can use these to resolve some problems or to simply get to know this software a bit better.
- Troubleshooting: This section contains a series of questions and answers. Different types of issues are explained, nicely categorized, and easily accessible.
- Support Tickets: Finally, you can send an official support inquiry via a contact form on the official website. Explain the problem you’re having, upload a screenshot if necessary and type in an email address that’ll be used to receive a reply. It can take up to 48 hours to hear from this company’s support team.
As you can see, live-chat is missing here. This means there’s no way to talk to a real person in real-time, and have your issue resolved in a quick way. We would have really liked to see this option, as it would dramatically improve this company’s treatment of its subscribers.
Assuming that you want to take full advantage of this VPN, you’ll need to get its premium subscription. So, let’s see how much this costs.
|Total Price||Per Month||Savings|
As you can see, you can get started with TunnelBear for $9.99 per month. We have to say, after everything said in this review, that TunnelBear is a high-priced VPN. Considering that media streaming is out of the question and that you can’t download P2P files, in addition to its small server network, you can easily find a better deal out there. However, things somewhat change if we take a look at its 12-month plan.
You can subscribe to TunnelBear and save 50% off its regular price, which brings the price down to $4.99 per month. This is certainly a more attractive offer, even though we still wished to see it being more affordable.
And also, you can pay for TunnelBear via credit cards and Bitcoin.What’s troubling here is the fact that TunnelBear comes with no money-back guarantees. There is a refund policy in place instead, which is definitely not reassuring.
Differentiating Free vs. Paid
The reason why TunnelBeal doesn’t offer a money-back policy is that you can use it for free. By getting a free account, you can use TunnelBear for as long as you want – but be prepared to face some limitations.
|Free Account||Premium Account|
As you can see, the only limitation here is that you’ll get 500MB of data per month. This is a good way to test-drive this VPN but it’s not enough to use it in the long term. However, we do appreciate that TunnelBear is offering this option.
Do We Recommend TunnelBear VPN?
One thing is sure – TunnelBear has the means to keep you safe online. This VPN doesn’t store your personal data, it uses highly secure protocols, and there are no reports of previous leaks. This means that if you want a VPN that will keep you 100% secure online, this one might be a good pick. However, the same can’t be said for those who want to unblock websites, access the American version of Netflix, and download torrents.
- PROS: Easy to install; Highly polished UI; User-friendly; Solid performance; Tough encryption; Secure VPN protocols; No data logging.
- CONS: Doesn’t support routers; Limited server network; Can’t unblock media streaming websites; Doesn’t allow torrenting; No money-back guarantees; Missing live-chat support.
- OUR SCORE: 6.0 out of 10!
If you think that TunnelBear might meet your needs, why not check it out on your own? After all, you can get started free of charge, and then upgrade to its premium plan. Therefore, go ahead and visit TunnelBear’s official website, where you’ll find additional information.
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