TunnelBear's overall performance is consistently solid, but it's detected by most streaming services. In addition, its no-logging claims haven't been tested in court, unlike Private Internet Access.
- Free version available
- Clear no-logging policy
- Wide range of privacy and security features
- Can't stream Netflix or BBC iPlayer
- Can't be used for torrenting
- Review Price: £45.26
- £7.55 per month
- 500MB per month free account available
- £45.26 per year
- Connect up to 5 devices
- Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec
- Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Opera, Chrome
- Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients
What is TunnelBear?
Bought by security giant McAfee in March 2018, TunnelBear is best known for its free VPN service, which gets you 500GB of data every month on any of the service’s wide range of supported platforms. It also has an endearing ursine mascot and reasonably priced paid-for subscriptions.
Related: Best VPN
TunnelBear – Features and usability
TunnelBear provides both free and paid-for VPN services across a wide variety of platforms, with clients for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, browser plugins for Opera and Chrome, and instructions available on configuring the OpenVPN client for Linux to work with the service.
Its Windows client opens on a world map that you can use to select an endpoint in the country of your choice, while a pull-down menu at the top of the window lets you select an endpoint location from a list if you prefer. A button lets you quickly connect and disconnect from your VPN.
A settings tab lets you configure the client’s behaviour, with options for users who want extra security including VigilantBear, a kill switch that temporarily halts all your internet traffic if you become disconnected from the VPN; and GhostBear, an experimental feature that attempts to hide the fact that you’re using an encrypted VPN connection at all. You can also configure TunnelBear to activate automatically on any Wi-Fi networks that aren’t on a trusted list.
- Read our view on the free version of TunnelBear in our Best free VPN roundup
TunnelBear – Performance
TunnelBear put in a consistently strong performance in all our HTTP and FTP throughput tests, and has fixed the FTP connection issues we experienced during some previous tests.
In the UK, HTTP download speeds were 7.03MB/sec (56.24Mbps). However, we were unable to successfully connect to our test server via FTP. Performance from TunnelBear’s Netherlands endpoint was similar at 7.43MB/sec (59.44Mbps) for HTTP, with a quick 9.08MB/sec (72.64Mbps) FTP transfer speed. US speeds were particularly fast – quicker than they were without a VPN connection and well above average – at 7.58MB/sec (60.64Mbps) and 8.14MB/sec (65.12Mbps) for HTTP and FTP respectively.
TunnelBear isn’t a good choice if you’re looking for a region-shifting VPN to watch overseas streaming media; it failed our Netflix, All 4 and iPlayer tests – although Shudder and Crunchyroll’s undemanding US services were both accessible.
Related: What is a VPN?
Why buy TunnelBear?
Free users can get an extra 1GB per month – for a total of 1.5GB – by tweeting about TunnelBear, assuming they have a public account and enough followers.
If you need more than that, TunnelBear works out £7.55 for a monthly subscription or £45.26 per year, with the annual fee working out to a very reasonable £3.82 a month. The company accepts payment in bitcoin if you want to add an extra layer of privacy.
TunnelBear has an explicit no-logging policy and is independently audited for security, which will reassure the privacy-conscious, although the audit doesn’t specifically focus on logging. It blocks standard BitTorrent ports, citing “a high volume of complaints from content providers” so that it wasn’t put in the position of having to log user activity in accordance with Canadian copyright law. This means no matter how legitimate your torrent activity, you can’t use TunnelBear for it.
TunnelBear’s overall performance is consistently good, and its free tier is extremely useful for those who occasionally need a VPN but don’t have the inclination or financial resources to subscribe to one. Streaming media fans should look to NordVPN or BullGuard, while Private Internet Access has proven its no-logging claim in court.
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