TunnelBear VPN review: Putting privacy features to the test (2023)

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TunnelBear was founded in 2011 in Toronto, Canada and acquired by cybersecurity company McAfee in 2018. The provider offers 5,000 servers, which is a larger server base than some of the top providersVPNin the shop. When it comes to server locations, the provider only fails in 47 different countries and runs out of servers in countries with repressive internet policies like Russia, Ukraine, and Hong Kong. However, TunnelBear offers a good level of security and its privacy policy is transparent.

60 second assessment

Judgement:★★★

TunnelBear offers its paying subscribers a high level of security, including features such as a kill switch, split tunneling, and an always-on option. In addition, they have a strict no-logs policy that has been independently verified multiple times.

The VPN's performance was one of its drawbacks, and our researchers' speed tests weren't as good as some of the top providers we tested. We also found that the desktop app wasn't beginner-friendly.

How we research and evaluate VPNs

Our researchers strive to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision about buying a VPN that meets your needs. We only recommend a provider after hours of testing, feature comparisons, verified customer reviews, and feedback from industry experts.

Our TunnelBear review score is based on unlimited paid plans and is determined by the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30 percent)
  • Features and functionality (30 percent)
  • Reputation and credibility (25%)
  • Subscriptions and prices/value (10 percent)
  • Customer experience (5 percent)

We researched and tested a total of 25 products in these categories, including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload and download speed, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees and customer service
  • Independent security assessments at the server site

All our articles are checked by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be sure that our content is as accurate and up-to-date as possible.

TunnelBear review

  • Lowest price:$3.33 (£2.68) per month for a 36-month subscription
  • Free version:I
  • Maximum number of connected devices:Unlimited
  • Number of servers:5.000
  • encryption:AES-256
  • VPN logs:OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2
  • No logging policy: To the right
  • Verified:I
  • Headquarters:You have

Pros and cons

AdvantagesDiscomfort
Unlimited number of connected devicesThe head office is located in Canada
AES-256 encryptionThe desktop application is not easy for beginners
Free version availableTest results at low speed
The no-logs policy has been checked

How does TunnelBear compare?

TunnelBear has over 5,500 VPN servers, all physical servers, which is far more than some of its competitors like Surfshark and ExpressVPN. However, these servers are located in 47 different countries around the world, which is definitely not as good a choice as the top providers we've reviewed.

The provider offers a good level of data protection, including AES-256 encryption (used by governments and the military to protect sensitive information) and adheres to a strict no-logs policy that has been independently audited. In addition, like most of its competitors, TunnelBear offers a kill switch and split tunneling.

The desktop app and internet speed test scores are some of the drawbacks of the provider compared to other VPNs, which we'll discuss in more detail later.

ProductpriceFree versionnumber of serversMaximum number of devicesNetflixBBC iPlayerDisney+AmazonsHBO MaksTest
TunnelBeerFrom $3.33 (£2.68)/mI5.000+UnlimitedI
ExpressVPNApprox £5.51/mNEE3.000+5I
NordVPNAbout €2.69/m²NEE5.500+6I
SurfhaiApprox £1.86/mNEE3.200+UnlimitedI
CyberGhostAbout €1.85/m²NEE9.7737I

Some prices do not include VAT or local taxes. Prices valid from 24/05/2023

How much does TunnelBear cost?

TunnelBear offers two types of plans: Unlimited and Teams. The Unlimited plan can be paid monthly, annually, or every three years, with the latter option being the cheapest option. Most providers offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, but our researchers found that TunnelBear's Unlimited plan didn't. In its Terms of Service, the company states that all payments are non-refundable, but "TunnelBear may, in its sole discretion and on a case-by-case basis, consider certain subscription refund requests."

That said, TunnelBear does offer a free version with a 2GB data limit - which isn't much, but it's enough for new users to try out the service before purchasing a paid plan.

Subscription period

price

Monthly

$9.99 (£8.04) per month

12 nice

$4.99 (£4.02) / month ($59.88 / £48.18 upfront)

36 nice

$3.33 (£2.68) / month ($120 / £96.57 upfront)

Prices are exclusive of VAT or local taxes, if applicable. Prices valid from 24/05/2023

payment options

There is only one way to pay for a TunnelBear VPN subscription: credit or debit card. While this will probably suit most people, most other VPN providers offer multiple payment options, such as PayPal and Bitcoin.

Features TunnelBear

TunnelBear offers its customers a high level of security and privacy. It has a larger server base, adheres to a no-logs policy, and offers privacy features such as a kill switch and split tunneling.

Always on

TunnelBear's always-on feature protects users who would otherwise forget to turn on the VPN. When always on is enabled, the service starts when the device starts and automatically connects to the server. This means users don't have to worry about manually connecting to the VPN every time they turn on their device.

spook beer

TunnelBear's GhostBear feature is currently available for macOS and Android apps. This feature makes your data less visible to governments, businesses, and internet service providers (ISPs). You can use this feature if you are having trouble connecting to the VPN due to your geographic location or if you are unable to maintain a normal connection. While using GhostBear may slow down your internet speed, it provides a secure and stable connection and bypasses troublesome geolocation issues.

Number of servers and countries

TunnelBear has over 5,000 servers and is constantly expanding its network - currently its servers are located in 47 different countries around the world. All secure servers are physically located in the countries listed in the list of available servers. Some providers have virtual servers hosted on virtual machines that are not located in the country of your choice. In general, virtual servers only become insecure if the provider does not own or rent physical hardware.

While we can't say that TunnelBear has a huge choice of countries, the number of servers is much higher than ExpressVPN and Surfshark.

No-logs and headquarters policy

TunnelBear is very transparent about what data it does and doesn't log from its users - and to put it simply, it seems to track as little information as possible.

TunnelBear states that it does not collect, store or log:

  • IP addresses
  • DNS-query's
  • online sessions
  • a sign of the times
  • All information about apps, websites or services used while connected to the VPN

Like most of its competitors, TunnelBear has a no-logging policyindependently verified. In fact, the provider has undergone five annual audits by Cure53, a German cybersecurity company - all confirming that the company does not store or share any user data.

Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, TunnelBear is a member of Five Eyes, an information-sharing alliance that oversees the electronic communications of citizens and foreign governments and includes four other countries: the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. This may alert some customers and draw attention to whether TunnelBear is safe.

However, as noted, the no-logs policy has been independently reviewed more than once and approved each time, so in theory a company can only get a court order to release user information if a court order is served to give it what it has done. shops - and it is very little.

Safety button

The privacy feature included in most VPN providers' plans is a kill switch that protects your IP address and other sensitive data if your VPN connection drops.

The TunnelBear kill switch does just that, and the feature is available on macOS, iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

Split tunneling

There are times when you decide to connect to a VPN, but don't need or want to run all of your apps or internet traffic through a secure remote server. Here you can use the split tunneling feature to customize your service at any time.

TunnelBear puts you in control of which apps and websites go through Tunnel Bear's VPN. This privacy feature can also improve service performance by saving bandwidth. In addition, there are applications that require your real IP address. So instead of turning off your VPN to use these apps, you can tunnel them outside the tunnel.

Encryption and protection of data

All VPNs encrypt all internet traffic coming from your device and mask your IP address, but only one digit proved unbreakable. The 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), commonly referred to as AES-256, is the highest level of encryption used by governments and the military to protect sensitive information.

Like most of its competitors, TunnelBear only uses this level of encryption. In addition, it supports three VPN protocols: WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2. Once connected, you can select your preferred protocol or let TunnelBear choose the protocol.

TunnelBear performance test results

With any VPN service, privacy and security features are among the most important, but sometimes they can have a negative impact on internet speed.

While using a VPN can affect your internet speed, you can take an internet speed test to find out how much it affects your browsing experience. There are three main things to check: download speed, upload speed, and latency (ping).

  • Download speed:Refers to the speed at which digital data is transferred from the Internet to your device
  • Upload speed:The speed of data transfer from the device to the Internet
  • Latentie (ping):The time it takes for a record to be sent to a server on the Internet and back to the device

Our researchers tested TunnelBear to find out how much our internet speed affected our connection to many of its servers. To make a fair assessment, we first tested our internet speed without a VPN connection to benchmark and determine the degradation of both upload and download speeds. To conduct this research, our reviewers used the Ookla Speedtest.

Download Speed ​​(Mbps)Uploadsnelheid (Mbps)Latentie (ping)Percentage of base download speedPercentage of basic upload speed
No VPN72,8718.7711 ms
From Britain to Britain67,6317.6313 ms92 %94%
From Great Britain to the USA62.1910.33157 ms85%55%
From Great Britain to Australia58.0514.57302 ms78%78%

TunnelBear's speed test results were mixed, and compared to the other providers we tested, it wasn't the best VPN for speed.

When connecting to a UK server, our speed tests were similar to our results without the VPN. Our download speed was only 8 percent slower than a non-VPN connection, and our upload speed was only 6 percent slower, both of which would be ideal for streaming and gaming.

Connecting to the US server turned out to be slower - our internet speed dropped by 15 percent and our upload speed was 45 percent slower than our connection without a VPN. Both speeds are significantly slower than your average connection speed. We also noticed a slight lag in playback while browsing the web and performing video and audio tasks.

The Australian connection to the TunnelBear server was stable, and both our download and upload speeds were 12 percent slower than our connection without a VPN. While both are slower than average, we found that web browsing and using apps felt uninterrupted. However, the video and audio experienced some playback issues due to the high latency.

WebRTC-lektest

WebRTC (Real-Time Communication) is an open source technology that optimizes real-time browser communication and is useful for voice and video communication and file sharing.

WebRTC is a feature that many internet users use without knowing it, but it has a serious downside. It is possible that your IP address will be released. Most likely, this applies to anyone who wants to keep their online activities private. By using a VPN, you can be sure that WebRTC will not reveal your IP address.

Our researchers ran a leak test while disconnected from TunnelBear and found that our real IP address could potentially be revealed to a third party. We then ran the same test after connecting to the TunnelBear server and finding that our IP address was private and secure.

Violations and audits

The VPN provider has a certain responsibility to protect the privacy of its users, so it's reassuring to know that its privacy policy is independently verified. Most providers have a no-logs policy, and some conduct independent audits of these policies to gain customer confidence.

TunnelBear's no-logs policy has been independently audited five times by security firm Cure53, and each time the company has confirmed that TunnelBear does not store any data from its users, essentially confirming that they are a trusted provider.

Compatibility and apps

TunnelBear has apps that run on the following computers and devices:

  • Computers: Windows and macOS
  • Mobile devices: Android and iOS

desktop application

The TunnelBear desktop app is available for download for both Windows and macOS devices. Setup is easy, and if you get stuck, there are several setup guides available on the provider's website.

The application is compatible with the bear theme, with a bear icon and the user interface that shows the location of the server on the map as a bear icon. The application is non-intrusive and opens in a small window that can be displayed to a web browser, which our researchers liked. Changing the server location is very easy and a few clicks will take you to the full list of available servers.

The bottleneck in the desktop application, which our researcher considers a flaw, is access to the privacy features. Most of the VPN apps we tested list all of the service's security features in the app. To access these features on TunnelBear, you'll need to go to your device's settings. This can be a bit confusing for customers new to VPNs. While it was relatively easy to switch protocols and enable privacy features like the kill switch in our device's settings, it can be confusing that you can't find them in the app itself.

app

The TunnelBear mobile app is similar in appearance to the desktop app and has the same bear theme.

But that's where the similarities end, which we thought was a good thing. Unlike the desktop app, the mobile app offers everything users need in one place, just like other VPN providers. There is a settings button that allows you to customize TunnelBear's privacy features.

In the mobile app you can customize the split tunneling feature and choose your preferred VPN protocol - everything is simple and should be easy to use even for a novice.

You can also choose whether to receive notifications from the TunnelBear app, change the appearance of the app icon, and enable or disable the VigilantBear feature in the settings.

Overall, our researchers strongly preferred the mobile app, as all features were available in one place.

Router compatibility

VPNs can be installed on most devices, including TVs and game consoles - TunnelBear currently only has desktop and mobile installation options. In addition, a VPN can usually be installed directly on the router. This eliminates the need to reconnect your device to the service every time you connect to Wi-Fi.

Unfortunately, TunnelBear's VPN is currently not compatible with your router configuration. The provider also gives no indication that it will support routers in the future.

Customer service

There aren't many ways to contact TunnelBear if you need customer support. The only way to communicate with the company is via email, although the provider also provides installation instructions for their apps on their website.

The company states that one of its customer service representatives will attempt to respond to all inquiries within 48 hours. This help form allows customers to describe their problem in detail by selecting the correct answer from the drop-down menu. There is also an option to add more details, select a device and Wi-Fi type, and upload a screenshot of the issue.

For non-urgent issues, TunnelBear provides several setup and installation guides on its website. These guides contain detailed instructions for both the desktop and mobile apps, as well as how to set up a VPN on all compatible devices.

What do customers say?

TunnelBear gets 3.4 out of five starsTrust the pilot, 4.4 stars onApple App Storeand 4.4 stars furtherGoogle Play Store.

Customer reviews often complain about connectivity issues and slow connection speeds.

  • reliable pilot:3.4 out of five stars (75 reviews)
  • Apple App Store:4.4 out of five stars (16,600 reviews)
  • Google Play store:4.4 out of five stars (304,000 reviews)

“Unfortunately I had to disable this VPN. It disconnects frequently (randomly), won't allow access to the simplest of websites (regularly), and has to be reset frequently because I can't use the internet normally (I have to manually disconnect and reconnect the VPN almost every hour). What an ache and pain. A complete waste of money. Buy another VPN. Not worth the price or endless hassle.

“I've been using TunnelBear for over two years and it's the best VPN with great customer service. Many of my friends in the IT industry use TunnelBear as a brand and their reputation has always been excellent. Anyone who reads negative comments about TunnelBear should definitely check Google, they really are the best."

“I have downloaded so many apps from the AppStore and none have ever worked. They claim to be VPNs, but do nothing! However, TunnelBear is completely different! I have tried it and so far it is very user friendly and easy to use. Many different locations that are easy to connect. You don't have to pay for any subscription service as it is free unless you want more data. However, I have a few issues as it slows down my internet speed a bit and some third party connections can still detect that I'm using a VPN."

“I contacted the support team and they responded very quickly. There was a problem with my app automatically opening and connecting to the VPN server without touching it. I was asked for more information about my problem and given a list of possible solutions. After looking at several possible solutions, I think my problem is solved. After activating GhostBear, the app no ​​longer opens. I assumed it wouldn't be a solution because I'm on my home network [WiFi], but it was."

Advice from the independent consultant

TunnelBear has a lot to offer its customers in terms of privacy features. The provider offers a kill switch, split tunneling, and an always-on feature designed to keep users safe at all times.

While we think TunnelBear's features are on par with the competition, this isn't the case when it comes to performance. Speed ​​tests performed by our researchers were subpar and connecting to an Australian server seriously affected our internet speed.

Also, the TunnelBear desktop app wasn't particularly user-friendly, especially for beginners. While this provider offers a good level of privacy, it's not the best for those new to the VPN world.

Total scores:★★★

Point distribution

Ruf★½
Privacy★★★★
performance and features★★★½
Plan and cheap★★
customer experience★½

Reservation

The data in this review is presented from an unbiased point of view and should be used for informational purposes only. We review VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product is based on the safety it offers the user
  • App user experience
  • The level and quality of customer service

The Independent Advisor does not condone streaming content from non-subscription regions or downloading or using pirated content.

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