TunnelBear is a company that provides a secure and reliable virtual private network (VPN). The service is jam-packed with various features and provides software options compatible with all platforms. The Internet is full of feedbacks, both positive and negative.
This TunnelBear review was created to give you a detailed insight into this VPN solution: let’s overview TunnelBear’s strong and weak sides, approach to privacy settings, and the quality of customer service. With these points in mind, you’ll be able to make the right decision.
TunnelBear VPN service was established in Toronto (Canada) by Daniel Kaldor and Ryan Dochuk in 2011. In 2018, it was acquired by McAfee corporation. Currently, this virtual private networks operate under Canadian legislation.
The provider has only 22 server locations spread over the world – that doesn’t impress. For the record: other leading providers, such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN, operate about 200 servers in almost every country of the world each. However, according to the most recent information, now the system has expanded exponentially, and the company owns over 1,000 servers – most likely, they’ll cover new regions soon. That would make them highly competitive. When you use the VPN, there’s no downtime and no technical issues – the team maintains servers perfectly.
The company positions its products as ‘really simple safety apps,’ and such name is genuinely justified. The interface is minimalistic, and navigation is intuitive – VPN management is a matter of a couple of clicks. Its iOS and Android applications and browser extensions (Chrome, Opera) are easy to use even for dummies.
You can use TunnelBear on Mac, Windows, Linux, and other suites – it offers various clients. Besides, TunnelBear Chrome extension and Opera plugin can be installed on your browser. Unfortunately, there’s no Mozilla extension – probably, it will be introduced a bit later. With VPN browser plugins, you ensure only the protection of your browser – other applications are not protected. There’s only one downside: one license covers only five simultaneous connections (devices), which is enough for a family, but not for a company.
TunnelBear’s salient features are the following:
- Numerous privacy & security features;
- Zero-logs policy;
- High connection speed;
- Agreeable pricing policy;
- Various agents provided.
Does it all make TunnelBear a reliable solution?
What do you get with TunnelBear?
Is TunnelBear a worthy VPN provider? To make things clear, let’s outline its significant advantages and drawbacks:
- Excellent price, especially if you order the service for a year
- Free 7-day trial as well as a free package provided
- Simple in use
- Excellent connection speed (the 5th fastest VPN service in the world)
- A huge number of agents provided: TunnelBear Chrome and Opera extensions, Windows, Android, iOS agents, and so on
- You cannot use TunnelBear for torrenting, it doesn’t work with US Netflix – the servers are based in Canada
- Not many servers provided – about 20
- Not so many settings and options compared to other providers
- The long-distance connection can make loading slow
- No Mozilla extension so far
You always get what you pay for: TunnelBear is a non-expensive solution that’s limited in options and possibilities. It should rather be used by those who browse the Net and don’t need access to torrents and streaming services.
Now let’s take a closer look at each feature.
Privacy and Security
- user’s email address;
- only first name;
- the amount of data transferred monthly;
- OS version of the device (which is convenient, because the provider knows which type of agent you need and can send notifications about updates).
All of that doesn’t put you in serious privacy risk. What’s interesting is the data that is NOT collected: records of which services and websites you access, session data logs (IP addresses used).
What about SLA? Here, the provider is fair by claiming: ‘Sometimes things break. We do our best’, and the document is short and simple. Generally, the conditions of use are acceptable, and even with significant consumption of bandwidth, you’re unlikely to face any issues.
Encryption and Protocols
TunnelBear APK consists of several protection protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2, and IPSec) and is protected by AES 256-bit encryption. These are the most powerful security options today.
Aside from rock-solid encryption methods and zero-logs policy, TunnelBear protects users’ data with a few extra methods, such as Anonymous IP and Kill Switch, or, as it’s called in TunnerBear, VigilantBear.
To top it off, there’s that TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature – it hides the fact user is exploiting a VPN. This is a useful tool for hiding your activity from ISPs and government. However, before you activate GhostBear, start with the standard TunnelBear connection. GhostBear will slow down the connection a bit, so it shouldn’t be left switched on all the time.
More than just a VPN
Aside from the regular VPN, users can protect their traffic with Blocker tool for browsers. It’s available for Chrome only and should be installed additionally. The instrument blocks advertisements and other irritating content like pop-up notifications, and so on. Users are free to decide which content to block: some publishers can be whitelisted.
Does TunnelBear Log Data?
TunnelBear VPN keeps connection secure and minimally invasive: there are practically no logs about the users. It’s one of the best things about this service. TunnelBear does not obtain the following information:
- IP addresses when a user accesses websites;
- IP addresses used for service connection;
- DNS queries;
- The data connected with applications, services, and websites exploited by users when they connect to the service.
Moreover, Blocker does not allow for tracking: customers are free to handle files and browse the Net as it pleases them. No third party will get information about traffic and browsing behavior.
Both VPN and TOR browser have their pros and cons, and if you want to reap maximum advantage out of both, use Tor through VPN. While VPN spoofs your location and provides optimal performance speed, Tor ensures 100% anonymity.
Until recently, TunnelBear didn’t support P2P connection, but things have changed. Now you can install TunnelBear on your router and then run the Tor browser – things should work this way. The main benefit of such solution is that Tor will hide your traffic.
We have tested the VPN service as a Windows-based software suite and as a Chrome extension. It should be noted, that when using TunnelBear on Windows, you can face some bugs and slow work of the application: if you’re not a tech-savvy user, you may need to make several attempts to establish a connection with the server. If the application gets frozen, you will need to restart Windows to connect to the Internet again.
When it comes to the speed of connection, TunnelBear doesn’t live up to users’ expectations. While some users report having pretty good download speeds, our tests show that average 100 Mbps connection falls to 50-40 Mbps on European servers – this is a considerable drawback. The average download speed is even lower: it reaches 28.2 Mbps only.
The results of the speed test also depend on the server location to a great extent:
- On the UK servers, TunnelBear displays the best results: the speed peaks to 68.5 Mbps with a fiber broadband 75Mbps line. If you have a faster connection, you might witness better results.
- On European servers, the best you can expect is 55-65 Mbps, but that’s what the majority of VPN companies offer.
- US speed keeps in the range of 35-55 Mbps. The fastest servers are in New York, the slowest – in San Francisco.
The further you go, the slower the speed is: in New Zealand and Australia, the rate averaged 30-35 Mbps, in Singapore, it was about 20-30 Mbps, in Japan peaked to 38 Mbps.
Therefore, in terms of speed, TunnelBear cannot be called a leader.
No Leaks Detected
TunnelBear claims that users’ browsing activity is ‘protected by a bear, illustrating its mascot defending connection. What did our tests show?
We tested TunnelBear for DNS and IP leaks. Surprisingly, we didn’t detect any DNS or IP leaks with this provider. There were no Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), or Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) leaks either.
TunnelBear uses OpenVPN by default, paired with the most advanced, uncrackable encryption standard on the market in AES-256. Its intuitive interface with high-end encryption makes this leak-free VPN solution an excellent choice for Internet users who value their privacy.
Simplicity of use
How to start using TunnelBear? The process is quite simple. You need to visit the official website and register: some minimal personal information will be required, including your name, email and a few more credentials. Select the plan (free, monthly, or annual) and pay for it.
After that, you need to download the corresponding agent for the platform you need. The setup process takes 5 minutes and is a no-brainer: you will be shown the steps. As soon as the software is installed, you can log in with your email and password. Then the software will quickly explain you the features and abilities of the platform. Don’t forget to check your inbox for the account confirmation email. When the account is verified, you can start using your VPN.
Now you need to select the server location: choose one of 22 servers available according to where excellent websites are hosted. Additionally, you can change the settings. To boost security, you may activate VigilantBear – the in-built kill switch, or GhostBear – double VPN that adds a new security level to your data (the encrypted information is less visible for Internet providers).
Torrenting and Streaming
One of the main reasons why users resolve to VPN is access to torrenting, streaming and other ways of obtaining content. Until recently, TunnelBear prohibited P2P communications. Luckily, it changed the policy, and now users can at least download torrents.
Is torrenting allowed?
Previously, TunnelBear forbade the use of its services for P2P file sharing or BitTorrenting. But now you are free to enjoy torrenting solutions, though the terms of service do note that using TunnelBear for illegal activity (such as breaching copyright law) is forbidden.
While torrents are allowed in all server locations, TunnelBear recommends using specific tunnels in (Canada, US, UK, Romania, Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden, if you have problems elsewhere.
What about Netflix?
Since TunnelBear has allowed for all P2P connections, Netflix is supposed to be accessible, too. Don’t forget that its terms and conditions mention that TunnelBear shouldn’t be used for illegal activity (namely, violation of the copyright law). Some users report they have no problem accessing Netflix from US servers, while others claim it’s still impossible.
The thing is once Netflix detects and blocks the group of TunnelBear’s IP addresses, some time should pass until the VPN provider implements a new set of IPs that aren’t blacklisted yet.
How much does TunnelBear cost?
TunnelBear ’s pricing policy isn’t the best one, but agreeable. First, you can order a free 7-day trial. Secondly, there’s a free plan which includes 500 Mb of monthly bandwidth.
Currently, available pricing plans are as follows:
- Little Free Plan
- Giant 1 month Plan – $9.99/mo, no discount
- Grizzly 1 year plan -$5/mo, 50% discount.
Therefore you can use tunnelBear for free, but if you need more bandwidth, opt for the Giant plan, and Grizzly plan is the most cost-efficient solution. TunnelBear’s pricing is below average, while the quality of service is excellent.
You can pay for TunnelBear extension or software by a credit card (most major brands are accepted), or by anonymous BitCoin transactions (an excellent option for those who seek maximum conspiracy). If you’re a starter and want to figure out what is what in VPNs, TunnelBear free package will be exactly what you need. The only thing you should remember is that software doesn’t have money-back guarantee because this way people start using it for free.
Here and there, you can find a TunnelBear review mentioning the lack of customer support options. If you need assistance, you can visit the Help page (the link is at the bottom of pages) – there are several sections like ‘Windows App Help,’ ‘Android App Help,’ and so on. As a rule, TunnelBear’s manuals are enough to solve some simple issues.
However, if you cannot find the answers to your questions on the help page, you have to contact the team directly. They don’t have a live chat – you can only use the online contact form. The replies are usually sent within 6 hours to your email, but some users claim they have to wait for 24 hours. If you send a simple general question, the chance you’ll be answered within an hour is quite high.
Generally, the team is user-friendly and eager to help clients.
Do we recommend TunnelBear?
In this TunnelBear VPN review, we’ve observed the basic features and peculiarities of the service. The company puts focus on quality rather than quantity. Although there are not so many server locations available, the network is functioning quickly, and the risk of data compromising, and downtime is minimal.
It is definitely not a perfect product, though. TunnelBear clearly lacks the locations of servers, as well as some extra features for advanced users. From the speed standpoint, it shows average results – again, the location of servers is what makes up for a huge distance for data traveling and, as a result, high latency. The strong side of this VPN is the security: you can be sure your data won’t be leaked. IP tests prove that the service hides your actual IP address.
All in all, the program is a perfect choice for those who need VPN for simple browsing and communication. If you’re going to download torrents, connect to distant locations, and watch Netflix streams, you should definitely search for an alternative solution. Thanks to its stylish and minimalistic interface design, as well as fair pricing policy, this VPN service can be recommended to beginners.