TunnelBear Review — Performance & Security Deep Dive in 2024
Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs for short, are becoming a vital part of everyday life for millions of people worldwide. This is partly due to the increased internet surveillance, meaning your online activities are now being used to feed the likes of advertisers our data.
There’s also a steady increase in cyberattacks, which can lead to financial fraud, identity theft, and much more. These are a real cause for concern, and top VPNs like TunnelBear aim to keep you safe online.
In this TunnelBear review, we explore how this provider secures you against increased surveillance and cyberattacks. We also review TunnelBear’s best features, pricing, and other vital areas.
TunnelBear Pros and Cons
Before we delve into the key features of TunnelBear
- Offers a free plan for those of you who want to try before you buy
- Very user-friendly apps for all devices, ideal for beginners
- Decent security features, including AES-256 encryption
- Adheres to a no-logs policy, so none of your data is stored by the provider
- It doesn’t unblock many streaming services
- Unreliable connections
- No live chat option
Is TunnelBear Good?
TunnelBear is an exciting entry into an already crowded market space. It looks good, and the user-friendly interface deserves recognition as it’s suitable for beginners. TunnelBear also has enough advanced features to make it enjoyable for more experienced users.
It offers robust security features, including AES-256 encryption plus a SHA-256 hash for further authentication. While this isn’t groundbreaking, it’s enough to keep you safe and secure online, away from most prying eyes.
The provider also has undergone multiple third-party audits to back up its security measures, with the latest report from Cure53 providing a solid overview of the steps TunnelBear has in place to ensure you’re secure when using the VPN.
Sadly, this is where the plaudits end, and we’ll explain why. Firstly, back in 2018, TunnelBear was purchased by McAfee, so it’s now under the jurisdiction of the US – this is bad news for any VPN, given the poor privacy laws.
Furthermore, it struggles to bypass geo-blocks on popular streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video. Even if you do, the connections are often unreliable; at times, we were disconnected or couldn’t connect to a server.
You do get Wireguard support, so when the connection does decide to kick in, the speeds on offer are decent for watching videos. But if you want to use a VPN to torrent, we wouldn’t recommend TunnelBear, as torrenting very rarely works on its servers.
Is TunnelBear Safe?
Overall, TunnelBear is safe to use and hasn’t ever been caught up in any data breaches at the time of writing. It also runs independent audits on its service, ensuring their no-logs claims and others are held up.
The provider offers features like an effective kill switch and leak protection to further ensure your safety, which is the hallmark of any good VPN. Following our tests, we found that both worked incredibly well and as advertised.
There are also no reports to suggest that TunnelBear has fulfilled any demands made by law enforcement regarding a person’s data, which is always great to see.
As this is a US-based VPN, there is always a risk of law enforcement pressuring a VPN provider into handing over data to support court cases – but we found no evidence of this from TunnelBear.
Best Use Case for TunnelBear – What Does It Excel At?
As we’ve touched upon previously, TunnelBear certainly won’t be winning any awards for its streaming or torrenting performance, and those are best left to one of the top VPNs for streaming, like Nord or ExpressVPN.
It’s one of the easiest VPNs to get started with, as there’s a helpful free plan, and the setup procedure is a piece of cake. Once the setup is complete, you’re greeted by an attractive interface and the famous TunnelBear mascot, all of which provide an experience that is both intuitive and easy on the eye.
Being user-friendly might not seem like a standout feature compared to security or speed, and let’s be honest – for good reason. But there is a market for VPNs that aren’t aimed at the most tech-savvy individuals or those who just want an easy way of staying safe online.
TunnelBear fills this gap nicely, offering decent speeds for everyday use, a large server base spread across the globe (3000 in 48 countries), and easy-to-use apps for iOS, Android, and desktops.
For some of you, that’s all you’ll need, and TunnelBear will work just fine for your daily browsing and watching YouTube videos.
It’s time to dive into TunnelBear’s key features to see how it’s made strides to stand out amongst other top competitors. We vigorously tested this VPN and ran it through several scenarios to come to these conclusions, so stay tuned to find out what we thought.
TunnelBear VPN prides itself on offering a remarkably user-friendly interface, and it lived up to this reputation in our hands-on testing. The application’s design is visually appealing and intuitive, making it easy for users of all technical levels to navigate.
The bear-themed graphics and animations add a touch of charm and contribute to the overall simplicity of the user experience.
The interface remains consistent across various platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable user experience.
The core features, such as the server list, settings, etc., can be accessed from the central hub. This means you don’t need to spend hours and hours trying to figure out where everything is,
Robust Security and Encryption
The service employs AES-256-bit encryption, a gold standard in the industry, ensuring that your data remains highly secure.
We also tested the VigilantBear feature, the built-in kill switch, and found it effective in preventing data leaks by cutting off internet access when the VPN connection was lost.
However, this feature isn’t currently available on iOS, which is in line with an annoying quirk we see with a lot of popular providers like Windscribe and ProtonVPN – they offer watered-down versions with far fewer features for iPhone users, so keep that in mind if you’re an iPhone user who values privacy.
Strict No-Logging Policy
TunnelBear states that it doesn’t log any activities, which means that whatever you do while connected to the VPN won’t be recognizable. They won’t gather any information on your behavior.
However, they collect personal data like the cardholder’s last name, device OS, and data usage.
Additionally, it has access to the information kept by Stripe and PayPal, their third-party payment providers, which often contain the billing address for your card.
There’s also a distinct lack of cryptocurrency payments on offer, as at the time of writing, TunnelBear accepts zero crypto payment methods.
When you consider the lack of anonymous payment methods, coupled with the fact that they are headquartered in a country under the Five-Eyes Alliance, we’re not too confident about the overall privacy of your data.
If you’re looking to make totally anonymous payments, we’d suggest trying either NordVPN or CyberGhost – both of which allow you to pay using various cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum and Bitcoin.
Good Server Network
TunnelBear’s server network is crucial in determining its performance and accessibility. We explored the service’s presence, which currently sits at 3000 servers in over 40 countries.
This solid global network allows you to access content from different countries, even though we found it frequently struggled to bypass geo-blocks when we were testing on popular streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
VigilantBear is TunnelBear’s answer to a kill switch – one of the most essential areas of any VPN. Our testing confirmed its effectiveness in preventing data leaks in the event of a connection loss.
The VigilantBear feature adds an extra layer of security, ensuring that your online activities remain private even during unexpected interruptions.
In essence, TunnelBear Blocker is an ad blocker. You can use this tool without a TunnelBear account by simply adding it to your browser (Chrome is the only supported browser currently).
The number of web trackers Blocker has stopped will be displayed once you install this to your Chrome browser.
This feature also blocks ads, Flash scripts, pixel tracking, microphone access, social media buttons, and WebRTC. Additional blocklists containing websites suspected to contain malware are also included.
Some countries are always looking to restrict the use of VPNs. They may be able to tell from your traffic patterns that you’re using a VPN in certain situations.
Because of this, Tunnelbear offers a feature aptly named GhostBear, where the servers have been disguised using unique algorithms to make your traffic appear like regular non-VPN traffic.
Unfortunately, this feature is also not available to iOS users, which is quite common for many advanced VPN features.
However, if you’re looking for one of the best VPNs for iPhones that don’t skimp out on features, we’d recommend trying NordVPN.
TunnelBear Speed and Performance
For optimum performance, the added WireGuard support is a big plus and something we look for in any VPN service.
In our hands-on performance testing of TunnelBear, we assessed its speed and reliability for various online activities. While it may not be the fastest VPN on the market, TunnelBear demonstrated reliable performance for everyday tasks.
Streaming, browsing, and general internet usage were seamless, with acceptable speeds for most.
However, don’t get your hopes up if you’re hoping to torrent on TunnelBear. We couldn’t torrent on any of the servers, which was disappointing. If you’re looking for one of the best torrenting VPNs, we’d suggest you try ExpressVPN. But its speeds are top-notch for every use, mainly thanks to the WireGuard.
You won’t notice a massive drop in speed for watching videos, gaming, and other daily activities, or at least not more than you would with any other VPN.
It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying performance of ExpressVPN’s Lightway protocol or NordVPN’s NordLynx – but there’s more than enough to be impressed by here.
The only real downside was the need for more support for torrenting. Unlike some top providers like CyberGhost, there are no optimized servers for torrenting, and we couldn’t manage it on any of the ones we tried.
But this won’t be a problem for many people, and as we said earlier, TunnelBear is best suited for those who don’t demand the latest and greatest features. If you want to stream videos, play games, or browse the net,TunnelBear works perfectly well.
TunnelBear Pricing – Is It Worth Paying For?
TunnelBear offers a decent free plan for those who want to try out the features before signing up for the paid plan. With it, you get 2GB of free data and access to a handful of servers – so while it isn’t the best free VPN on the market, it’s a good introduction.
In terms of premium plans, there’s only one aimed at personal usage: the Unlimited plan. It’ll cost you $3.33/month, so it’s right in the middle regarding pricing compared to other VPNs. It’s exactly half the cost of ExpressVPN, one of the leading providers, and matches NordVPN’s price.
It’s hard to argue that TunnelBear is good value for money, as you get so much more with a NordVPN premium plan than you do here.
There’s also no money-back guarantee on offer, as TunnelBear claims that each case will be determined on a case-by-case basis, so it’s up to customer support to decide whether you get your funds returned.
Overall, the feature-to-cost ratio here isn’t great when, for the same price, you can have all the excellent NordVPN offers. While it isn’t the most expensive VPN out there, it certainly isn’t the cheapest, and you’ll find better deals with more feature-rich VPNs.
TunnelBear Ease of Use
So far, we’ve been a bit critical of TunnelBear and what it offers, but in this section, we’re pleased to report that the provider is in our good books. That’s because we found it one of the easiest VPNs to set up, use, and maintain.
Whether you’re using the mobile apps for Android and iOS or the desktop versions for Windows and MacOS, each is a genuine pleasure. The cute bear animations that greet you make it feel like a fun experience rather than a lesson in advanced VPN technology.
Everything you need can be found from the main dashboard, which is helpful, as features like GhostBear are turned off by default (we have no idea why.) This certainly isn’t one for the die-hard VPN enthusiasts, as there’s very little in the way of top features.
Instead, it’s best for those who just want the basic levels of protection, good speeds, and apps that are easy to use.
The only real gripe comes with the lack of live chat support on any of the apps – at the time of writing, this isn’t something that TunnelBear offers. So, if you find yourself in a sticky situation, you’ll have to go through a slightly lengthier email support process.
TunnelBear vs Top VPN Apps
Now, we look at how TunnelBear squares off with some of the other leading VPN providers on the market. Below, we’ve created a helpful table that compares the key features, uses, and pricing.
|Top Choice For
|GhostBear, Wireguard, Security Audits, VigilantBear
|Tracker Blocker, Lightway Protocol, Trusted Server Technology, Private DNS
|Dedicated IP, Meshnet, NordLynx, Double VPN, Onion-Over VPN, Split Tunnelling
|IPv6 Leak Protection, Secure DNS, Dedicated IP, DDoS Protection, 10 Simultaneous Connections
|PureKeep, One Click Protection, Hidden IP, Port Forwarding, Dedicated IP, Always-on-Audit
Other TunnelBear Reviews
To help back up some of the claims we make throughout our reviews, we like to explore what others say about TunnelBear or any product we review, which allows us to ascertain what real users are saying about a piece of software or hardware.
We use trusted sources like G2, Trustpilot, and Reddit to see what actual users have to say, as this helps us figure out if any issues are consistent or just one-off errors. Below, we’ve included some user feedback we’ve encountered when researching TunnelBear.
This person was quick to praise TunnelBear on how user-friendly it is, something we echoed throughout this review, so it’s good to see we’re not the only ones who think so. They also touched upon the free plan, another strong area amongst few for the provider.
Sadly, Reddit users were slightly more unkind, with many drawing upon that TunnelBear is based within the Five-Eyes Alliance. There is a brief mention of user-friendliness, which is good to see from an overall negative review.
However, many shared the privacy concerns and doubts over the provider no-logs policy in the comments.
Why You Can Trust Our TunnelBear Review
In the case of TunnelBear, we used it as our main VPN over a few weeks, as this helps us spot one-off issues and locate patterns of consistency or inconsistency. Doing this helps us provide a more accurate overview of the VPN over a longer period of time.
We test average speeds, how well they fare at bypassing geo-blocks, explore the pricing, and much more.
To back up any of our claims, we always look for accounts from verified users, so for TunnelBear, we browsed trusted review sites like G2 and Trustpilot, as well as the know-it-alls over in the Subreddits.
These methods help us remain balanced and are another great way to see if fellow users shared areas we liked or disliked. Spotting consistencies in performance is a great way to verify that a feature works well and helps spot problem areas at scale.
Guide: How to Use TunnelBear
TunnelBear is one of the simplest VPNs to start, but if this is your first time using a VPN, stay tuned. Below, we’ve run through the steps to download, install, and get up and running with this VPN provider.
1. Head to the TunnelBear Website
First, go to the official TunnelBear website and click the ‘Plans’ button from the top menu. Please note the advertised plan was available at the time of writing, but may be time-sensitive.
2. Pick your Plan
From the ‘Plans’ tab, you get the option of the free tier, Unlimited, or Teams plan. zSelect whichever one suits your needs best. You need to get your card details ready if you opt for any of the paid plans.
3. Select your Desired Plan Period
Now that you’ve selected your desired plan, you’ll need to choose the time you want to commit yourself to. The options are 1-month, 1-year, or 3-years. Typically speaking, the longer you commit, the cheaper it will be.
Next, you need to enter your card details and some other basic info, then proceed to the next step.
4. Download and Install TunnelBear
Now, you can download TunnelBear on all of your devices.
Head to the Google Play Store on Android or the App Store on iOS, or click the ‘Download’ button on the TunnelBear website to download the app onto your Windows or Mac computer.
5. Sign in and Get Protected
The last step you need to take is to launch your newly downloaded TunnelBear app on your chosen devices and log in using the information you supplied in step 3.
Once complete, simply connect to one of the TunnelBear servers to secure your internet connection immediately.
TunnelBear might not be the most feature-rich VPN on the market, but there is still a market for a VPN like this. Its pleasant user interface and ease of use make it a good choice for those new to VPNs who aren’t up for a steep learning curve.
It offers enough encryption and security to keep you safe, and the connection speeds on Wireguard are pretty strong. However, for those who demand the best from their VPNs, it’s clear that this isn’t a suitable choice.
The provider struggles to bypass geo-blocks on websites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, and the torrenting performance is non-existent. So, if that’s your primary use for a VPN, you’ll be better suited with ExpressVPN or Nord.