TunnelBear Review (2020) | Nice and User-friendly, but no Netflix or Torrents
TunnelBear is one of the most cheerful VPNs on the market. Most people will know this provider as a good free VPN service with a lot of bears. Because the free version of TunnelBear almost works just as well as the paid option, this is a good provider for people who are new to VPNs.
The TunnelBear headquarters can be found in Canada. Recently, this VPN was bought by internet security company McAfee. TunnelBear gives you access to 20 different locations. However, they do not indicate how many servers they have. Moreover, you have to be able to bear some puns, because this provider excels at them.
Below you can read how TunnelBear scores on the different aspects of a VPN. First you will see how this VPN will affect your connection speed and your online safety. Then you can read about their user-friendliness, server network, and additional option. Hopefully, our test run of TunnelBear will help you figure out if it is the provider that fits all your needs.
Speed – How fast is TunnelBear?
The speed of a VPN connection is very important if you want to do more than just browse the internet. If you want to be able to watch a movie or play online games, you will notice when a VPN isn’t as quick. We tested the speed of our connection to the TunnelBear servers to see if there was any lag. We did this by performing speed tests and by assessing the speed of the provider during our regular internet use. Below you will find the results.
Speed test results TunnelBear
First you will be able to see the results of our speed tests. We tested our regular speed first to see how the connection to the TunnelBear servers would influence the speed. After that we have tested the connection with a local server and a server in the U.S. Depending on your own internet speeds and locations the results can be different.
Speed without a VPN (Speedtest.net):
These are the results of our internet speed without a VPN, meant to serve as a starting point.
Speed with a local server (Speedtest.net):
This was the speed we could obtain when we connected to a local TunnelBear server. As you can see the download and upload speed have decreased slightly but not significantly. Moreover, the ping has stayed virtually the same.
Speed with a USA server (Speedtest.net):
When we connected to the fastest server in the U.S. we got the following speed test results. As you can see the ping has sky-rocketed and the download and upload speed have decreased by quite a lot. However, these speeds are probably still acceptable for most internet users.
Speed during daily use
TunnelBear is very fast. During regular browsing, watching YouTube, and downloading we could not notice any change in speed. While our lag and ping did increase during gaming, you can still use TunnelBear to play your favorite shooters or RPGs.
TunnelBear will automatically connect you to the fastest server for you. If you select the “auto” options, TunnelBear will connect you to the server closest to you. If you click on a different location, the software makes sure you connect to the fastest server they have available in that region. This way you will always connect to the fastest possible server.
Sadly, we couldn’t test Netflix or torrent downloading because TunnelBear doesn’t allow these anymore. But more on that later.
Conclusion speed TunnelBear
- TunnelBear is quite fast
- During daily use there is no big difference in speed
- TunnelBear will automatically connect you to the fastest server option
Safety – How secure is TunnelBear?
Perhaps the most important feature of a VPN is the level of security it can offer. People use a VPN to make sure their data stays private and their identity is hidden. With TunnelBear you won’t need to worry about your online safety. They adhere to the highest international standard for encryption and offer some of the safest VPN protocols. In 2018 TunnelBear was bought by McAfee. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, some people view it as a disadvantage that the VPN service has ended up with an American company.
TunnelBear has a strong 256-bit encryption, which is considered the standard for VPNs. On most devices TunnelBear uses the OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocol. For iOS 9 and later versions, TunnelBear makes use of the IPSec or IKEv2 protocols.
Below you find a table that gives you an overview of the different protocols TunnelBear uses on different devices.
|Device type||Protocol||Data encryption|
|Mac OS X||OpenVPN/IKEv2||AES-256-GCM|
|iOS 9 onwards||IPSec/IKEv2||AES-256-GCM|
Logging and privacy
That TunnelBear is in one of the 5 Eyes countries isn’t ideal for privacy purposes. However, they claim not to keep any IP or traffic logs. TunnelBear does track a few other things, but they are refreshingly open about this. If you want to find out exactly what they track you can go to their privacy page which explains it all.
While most VPN providers will claim not to keep any logs, most of them do collect similar information as TunnelBear. It is nice to see that TunnelBear isn’t afraid to address this on their own website. The most important thing is that they do not keep any traffic or IP logs. This means they won’t be able to see what you do when you use their VPN.
Tunnelbear has had an independent party test their safety and they published the results. In this research you can read that this third party has checked the safety risks of the TunnelBear software. Based on this report TunnelBear has made several necessary changes. This shows they are willing to fall on their face, if this ultimately means that their service will be better.
Kill switch: VigilantBear
TunnelBear has its own kill switch option called VigilantBear. While this sounds very impressive it works very similarly to other VPN kill switches. VigilantBear is a safety option within the TunnelBear software that ensures your data is protected even when the connection to your VPN in temporarily lost. Normally this would mean your data is vulnerable for a moment, but with a kill switch your data remains protected. The VigilantBear option will make sure your data stays safe no matter what.
What information does TunnelBear need?
To create an account with TunnelBear you only need an email address and password. You can pay with Bitcoin, which means you can create an account with TunnelBear anonymously. However, if you pay with other options like your creditcard, TunnelBear will have more of your personal information.
Conclusion safety TunnelBear
- Just like most VPNs, TunnelBear has strong 256-bit encryption
- TunnelBear has strong safety protocols for all devices (OpenVPN, IKEv2 and IPSec)
- TunnelBear does not keep IP or traffic logs and is honest about the data they do collect
- The TunnelBear headquarters are in a 5 Eyes country
- TunnelBear uses independent third-party research to improve their security
- TunnelBear has a kill switch option called VigilantBear
- To create an account, you only need an email address and password
Usability – How user-friendly is TunnelBear?
More and more people are interested in VPNs which is why it is important for VPN providers to have user-friendly apps. Creating an account, installing the software, and communicating with customer support should be easy. Below you can find out if TunnelBear is a user-friendly provider.
The TunnelBear Website
The TunnelBear website is very clear. It is easy to create an account and gain information about TunnelBear and its services. Everything on the website is kept very simple so you are not overloaded with information you do not need. However, if you want to learn more about the details of the TunnelBear services, you can find a lot of information in the footer (at the bottom of the page).
The account page is also very clear. All the interesting information is grouped in 3 tabs. Here you can find your account info, your subscription, your invoice history, and the opportunity to download all the information they have on you. TunnelBear appears to believe in the philosophy that less is more, and this shows in their software.
Generally, their clean style is pleasant. However, if you are looking for specific information it can be difficult to find.
Installing TunnelBear isn’t difficult. You can download the software from the website onto your desktop pc. You can also find the apps in different app stores for your iOS or Android device. Installation might take a while, but the installation wizard will do all the work for you. The only thing you need to do once you have downloaded the software is open it and log in with your account details. Then you are ready to go online safe and secure. You can install TunnelBear on Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android. Furthermore, TunnelBear also has an easy-to-use browser extension.
TunnelBear’s appearance and ease of use
The appearance of the TunnelBear software is amazing. They have clearly put time and effort into every visual detail. Moreover, they have tried to make using a VPN fun. All this results in clear VPN software. Because the software is playful and visually-appealing it is fun to use TunnelBear.
The user-friendliness of the TunnelBear software is great. As a user you aren’t overloaded with options and settings. Choosing a server location and connecting to the server can be done by pushing one button.
As you can see above the TunnelBear software is very clear. What you see is what you get. Apart from maybe some extra options, what you see in the picture above is all you need.
Pricing and methods of payment
TunnelBear isn’t the cheapest VPN but it isn’t the most expensive VPN either. TunnelBear asks for $4,17 a month if you get their subscription for a year. They also have a free option. The downside to this free plan is that you only get 500 MB of data. This amount won’t last you long enough to watch a movie, so for most of us the free subscription isn’t a viable option.
As you can see in the picture above, TunnelBear has the following prices for their subscriptions.
- A free subscription with a 500MB datalimit
- A monthly subscription for $9,99 a month
- A yearly subscription for $49,99 a year or $4,17 a month
You can only pay for your TunnelBear subscriptions with a credit card or Bitcoin. There are several credit card-options. However, if you pay with a credit card you give TunnelBear quite a lot of your personal information. Thus, if you want to stay anonymous it is best to pay with bitcoin. It would be nice if TunnelBear would accept payments through PayPal and more local payment methods in the future.
Sadly, TunnelBear does not offer any money-back guarantees. Especially if you want to attract new users this isn’t ideal.
The TunnelBear customer support could be better. Our questions were answered well and kindly, but it was difficult to get into contact with them without an account. Even with an account you cannot contact them directly. You can send in a question through their standard support form and you will probably get a response within 24 hours. Sadly, you cannot ask more than one question every hour.
This makes the TunnelBear customer support very difficult to get to. A lot of VPN providers have a Live Chat option, which enables you to get answers to your questions quickly. TunnelBear does answer your questions politely but it does take more time than with most other providers.
Conclusion usability TunnelBear
- The TunnelBear website is clear
- You can install TunnelBear on any device without any problems
- The TunnelBear software looks awesome and is easy to use
- You can pay for your TunnelBear subscription with credit card or Bitcoin
- The TunnelBear customer support is okay, but difficult to reach
Server network TunnelBear
To be able to unblock certain content online it is important that your VPN provider has servers in different countries. If you want to access the American Netflix content, for instance, you need a VPN provider with servers in the U.S. You can also use the VPN to bypass censorship in your country by connecting to servers in another country. Below you can find all the information on the TunnelBear server network.
Number of servers and locations
TunnelBear has servers in over 20 locations. Sadly, Tunnelbear won’t disclose how many servers they actually have. They argue this would endanger the safety of their servers. On their website you can see in which countries they have servers, just not how many.
TunnelBear does make it easy to connect to the fastest server. Whenever you use their service you are automatically connected to their fastest server.
If you look at the amount of servers, the TunnelBear offer isn’t very impressive. However, they do have good servers in the most common locations. Moreover, all of their servers offer a stable internet connection.
Dedicated IP address
TunnelBear does not offer dedicated IP addresses. They do say that they want to start doing this for businesses in the future, through their “TunnelBear for Teams” plans. If they will ever offer this to private users is unclear.
Conclusion server network TunnelBear
- TunnelBear has fast servers in more than 20 locations
- For security reasons TunnelBear does not disclose the amount of serves they own
- TunnelBear does not offer dedicated IP addresses
- TunnelBear will automatically connect you to their fastest server
Not all VPN providers offer the same features. The additional features can be exactly what you are looking for sometimes. For instance, not all providers support Netflix or torrents. Below you can read about all the TunnelBear options, including the combination of their service with Netflix and torrents.
TunnelBear and Netflix
TunnelBear does not support Netflix. This means that you won’t be able to use Netflix when you are connected to a TunnelBear server, neither the content in your own country nor the content of, for instance, the American Netflix. If you want to be protected by a VPN but also be able to stream your favorite show on Netflix, you might be better off with ExpressVPN, Surfshark or CyberGhost.
TunnelBear and torrents
TunnelBear does not allow P2P traffic. This means you cannot upload or download any torrents when you are connected through a TunnelBear server. The provider does not want to encourage the downloading of illegal files. Sadly, this means that you cannot download legal torrents either. If you want a VPN provider that does allow torrents you can take a look at NordVPN or IPVanish.
GhostBear: an extra weapon against censorship and speed restrictions
GhostBear is an extra feature of TunnelBear. This feature helps to disguise your encrypted data as normal data. Some ISPs, companies, or governments can limit your internet speed or freedom when they detect that you are using a VPN. By making the encrypted data look like regular traffic with GhostBear, nobody will suspect you are using a VPN.
The TunnelBear browser extensions for Chrome and Opera
TunnelBear has a browser extension for Chrome and Opera. The extension works the same as a regular VPN, just in your browser. This is ideal if you do not want all your traffic to pass through your VPN. Moreover, it is a user-friendly way to bypass any geographical restrictions, for instance, when you use Linux.
TunnelBear Blocker for Chrome
TunnelBear has developed their own ad blocker for unwanted advertisements. The Blocker for Chrome does not only block ads but also helps to protect your privacy. The Blocker blocks email tracking, to make sure nobody can use tracking-pixels in marketing emails on you. It also blocks ultrasonic tracking. This way the sounds picked up through the microphone of your phone cannot be used in tracking. Moreover, it protects against Adobe Flash, cookies, scripts, malware and browser fingerprinting. It does all this to protect your privacy online.
TunnelBear for teams
TunnelBear also has a VPN service for businesses, which they call TunnelBear for Teams. This offers the same features as their regular VPN but with some added perks. For instance, it has an additional administration option, priority support, and the opportunity to add people. The business option of TunnelBear works very well. Moreover, because they do not allow Netflix or torrent downloading the service is ideal for larger companies.
Conclusion – Our experience with TunnelBear
|Nice and user-friendly software||No Netflix access|
|Easy to install||No torrents allowed|
|Fairly cheap||No dedicated IP|
|Built-in kill switch||Customer support is difficult to reach|
|Free version with a 500MB data limit|
|Good deal for businesses|
|GhostBear option that works well against censorship and speed restrictions|
|TunnelBear is open about their logging policy|
|100% more jokes about bears than any other VPN|
TunnelBear scores well on most of the regular VPN features. Their speed is high, the servers are stable, and they offer great security and privacy. Moreover, it is refreshing to see how honest and open TunnelBear is about their logging policies. However, there are VPN providers that offer more safety and privacy.
TunnelBear is a pretty good VPN for most users. The software is easy to use, offers enough protection, and looks awesome. TunnelBear truly makes VPNs accessible to all.
For the more advanced VPN users, TunnelBear probably doesn’t offer enough. A downside to TunnelBear is that they do not support Netflix or allow torrent downloading. Moreover, they only have servers in 20 locations, which isn’t a lot on the VPN market. TunnelBear focusses on encryption and privacy, not on, for instance, bypassing geographical restrictions. They try to compensate this with GhostBear, but this still fails to lift the Netflix ban.
All in all, we would recommend TunnelBear to new VPN users that are looking for some extra security and privacy.