Wondering what makes TunnelBear VPN special? Let us help by pointing out where it excels and where it’s lagging behind other VPN providers. Afterward, you get to decide whether you want to use it. But before we break it down in detail, here’s a hint: This VPN provider is a great way to get a free VPN. Of course, you can also purchase a subscription eventually or from the get-go. Regardless of the payment plan you pick or even if you decide to opt for another VPN we reviewed, we’re just glad you want to hide your IP address. Now, let’s get into our TunnelBear VPN review.
TunnelBear VPN – A Brief Introduction
TunnelBear is a popular VPN provider that has been on the market since 2011. However, in 2018, it was purchased by McAfee, a giant in the antivirus software industry. Thus, it has added value to the brand name. The VPN is also freemium, offering both a free and paid version. Albeit both are somewhat subpar; when compared to some of the other mid-tier VPNs on the market.
The free version offers a data limit of 500 MB per month. It is where the premium VPN outshines the free one. However, due to its ownership, the VPN is subject to the privacy laws of two different countries.
|Number of Servers||2600+|
|Server Locations||25 countries|
|Customer Support||Email, Social|
Is TunnelBear Safe?
TunnelBear professes to be a safe VPN, and it is to some extent. However, the VPN is headquartered in Canada and is subject to their privacy laws. And due to its McAfee ownership, it also falls under the purview of US privacy laws. Sadly, both countries are members of the Five Eyes Alliance, which is a major no for the privacy-centric crowd.
The VPN is free to use, sure. But for a complete experience, you might need to go for the premium version, which would cost you $3.33 per month for both the annual and 3-year plans. TunnelBear is one of the best VPNs for beginners. But from a safety point of view, you might want to try something else.
As for the logging policy, the VPN does record some data, such as your device information and bandwidth used, but it is acceptable as the provider has to track usage over time for the free version. However, we won’t recommend torrenting with the VPN.
TunnelBear VPN Features
TunnelBear can be used to secure your online browsing. But, does it have enough features to attract you? Let’s take a look. Here are some of the features of TunnelBear VPN that make it tick:
TunnelBear has 2600+ servers in 25 countries worldwide. Although the number is fine, the server network is limited, which reduces the potential of bypassing location-based VPN blocks.
TunnelBear VPN does not store logs of your activity or connection history while connected to any of their servers. Only basic data, required for payment and improvement of service, but not enough to identify you, is collected.
TunnelBear VPN utilizes AES-256 military-grade algorithms with SHA-256 authentication to encrypt your Internet traffic.
The speed and latency are perhaps the most important part of our review of TunnelBearVPN. With that said, we automatically connected to a VPN server in our country (in Europe) and saw a download speed reduction of only 6%. The latency only rose by 5 ms. By connecting to a server in the United Kingdom, we experienced a shrink in download speed by 66%, while the ping increased six-fold. Unfortunately, the situation declined rapidly with a United States server. Download speed went down by 94%, while ping went up 12 times.
What about streaming?
Streaming speed while connected to a local VPN server is close to ideal. However, connecting long-distance, especially to the UK and US servers, makes streaming impossible. In the US we experienced permanent buffering, and SD/480p quality at best. Streaming was very limited in the UK too, up to 720p/HD quality.
TunnelBear VPN allows up to 5 concurrent VPN connections on one subscription.
IP and DNS leak test
When we used VPN test sites to check our VPN, we found TunnelBear VPN had no IPv4, IPv6, DNS, or WebRTC leaks.
Streaming Services Unblocking
We managed to bypass the Netflix VPN block in the US, Canada, and the UK. Additionally, the VPN provider unblocked the following services:
- Prime Video
- HBO Max
We weren’t able to unblock BBC iPlayer, ESPN, ESPN+, or Disney Plus.
TunnelBear VPN has only implemented IKEv2 (Windows and iOS) and OpenVPN (Windows, Android, and macOS). You cannot select a protocol manually, unfortunately.
Does TunnelBear Work in China?
Yes, TunnelBear works in China, but only when a GhostBear is enabled.
The following are some of the extra features of TunnelBear VPN:
TunnelBear VPN allows P2P traffic e.g. torrenting but doesn’t offer specialized servers for it.
Yearly Security Audit
Starting in 2017, a reputable security firm, Cure57, did an annual audit of TunnelBear VPN’s practices, infrastructure, codebase, and web and desktop apps. The VPN provider publishes results, and highlights which security flaws and data breaches they patched.
VigilantBear is this VPN provider’s name for a kill switch feature. It will kill your Internet traffic if your VPN connection fails, preventing an identity and location leak.
SplitBear is their name for a split tunneling feature, allowing you to take certain apps outside of the VPN tunnel while keeping others in.
GhostBear is TunnelBear VPN’s obfuscation feature that akin to Stealth Mode in our Windscribe VPN review. It hides your VPN by scrambling data and making it look like a regular HTTPS connection, allowing you to circumvent VPN firewalls. Unfortunately, the added security also means your VPN speed is reduced.
TunnelBear VPN’s built-in Ad-Blocker feature is effective at blocking ads, scripts, and malware you come across while browsing.
The VPN provider does not have 24/7 web chat Customer Support. They offer a bot that redirects to a knowledge base and support via e-mail and social media.
TunnelBear VPN Installation and User Interface
Both desktop and mobile TunnelBear VPN apps are easy to use and have a minimalistic, lime-green colored user interface. Connecting to a VPN requires a single click thanks to The Closest Tunnel feature, which connects you to the fastest (and closest) VPN server automatically. Moreover, you can enable Trusted Networks, which connects you to a VPN automatically when a trusted network is detected. Interestingly, mobile apps use bear sounds for notifications.
TunnelBear VPN has apps for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, and VPN browser extensions for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. You can also install TunnelBear on your router, but can’t use it as a VPN for Linux, nor on consoles or Smart TVs.
TunnelBear VPN Pricing
We mentioned in the beginning that TunnelBear is one of the best free VPN software. It’s far from the best, though, with only 500 MB monthly, but the speed is identical to the paid version. As for the price of TunnelBear VPN, you can choose between:
- Unlimited. $3.33/month (license for one person)
- Teams. $5.75/month per person (business license with added Dashboard for billing and management).
You can pay with MasterCard, Visa, American Express, and Bitcoin.
- 2600 servers in 25 countries
- Zero-log policy
- Unblocks some major streaming services
- High-grade AES-256 encryption
- Independent security audits published annually
- Functions in China
- Great local VPN for browsing or gaming
- Built-in ad, tracker, and malware blocker
- Apps are user-friendly
- Affordable short-term plan
- Has a free VPN option
- Supports paying with cryptocurrency
- Based in Canada and under US jurisdiction
- SplitBear only works on Android
- GhostBear doesn’t work on iOS
- Slow VPN Speed on international servers
- Streaming is high-quality might be impossible
- No 24/7 Customer Service
- No money-back guarantee
During our TunnelBear VPN review, we were annoyed by the slow speeds and high ping when connected to international servers. While a drop in speed is normal, we couldn’t have anticipated such a significant one. It forced us to stick with local servers or those in nearby countries and prevented us from streaming in high resolutions. Consequently, gaming and torrenting were impossible. So, we quickly realized it’s a cheap, privacy-oriented VPN provider and concluded our review of TunnelBear VPN with a wish for improvements, mainly with multimedia and the implementation of a 24/7 web chat and a money refund guarantee.
TunnelBear VPN Review
TunnelBear is a secure, fast, easy-to-use VPN service for anyone looking forward to securing their internet connection.