TunnelBear Review

Verdict

TunnelBear’s overall performance is consistently decent, if unremarkable compared to some rivals, and its free tier is still useful enough. However, although it’s capable and reasonably priced, TunnelBear doesn’t really stand out in a crowded market right now.

Pros

  • Free version available
  • Clear no-logging policy
  • Wide range of privacy and security features

Cons

  • Poor streaming performance
  • No torrenting

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £49.43
  • 500MB/month free account available
  • UK pricing: £8.25 per month, £49.43 per year
  • US pricing: $9.99 per month, $59.88 per year
  • Connect up to five 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 (virtual private network) 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.

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TunnelBear

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 OpenVPN profiles available for Linux users.

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, and 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 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.

Related: What is a VPN?

TunnelBear – Performance

Endpoints/VPN UK Netherlands United States
TunnelBear HTTP 115.20Mbps 135.12Mbps 40.80Mbps
TunnelBear FTP n/a 100.39Mbps 39.77Mbps

TunnelBear put in a consistently decent performance in all our HTTP throughput tests, although none of the UK endpoints we connected to this month could provide a stable FTP connection to our reference server.

In the UK, via our newly upgraded high-speed test connection, we got HTTP download speeds of 14.4MB/s (115.2Mbps) – around average in a generally high-performing group test. Its UK FTP transfer failed, as it usually does, seemingly due to configuration issues.

Performance from TunnelBear’s Netherlands endpoint was well above average for HTTP at 16.89MB/s and a bit slower over FTP at 12.55MB/s. Unfortunately, TunnelBear’s US speeds are continuing to deteriorate. They’re still good enough for streaming, at around 5MB/s, but are below both the mean and TunnelBear’s own performance in previous months.

TunnelBear isn’t a good choice if you’re looking for a region-shifting VPN to watch overseas streaming media – it failed almost all our streaming tests. We could watch Shudder in the US, but not Netflix, Crunchyroll, iPlayer or All 4.

Should I buy TunnelBear?

TunnelBear’s free account isn’t as appealing as it used to be, as 500MB a month doesn’t compare well to Windscribe‘s free 10GB or ProtonVPN’s unlimited free tier. 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 costs around £8.25 for a monthly subscription or £49.43 per year, with the annual fee working out to a middling £3.99 a month. That’s a decent annual price but the monthly rate in particular is showing the impact of a weak pound. 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 that, no matter how legitimate your torrent activity might be, you can’t use TunnelBear for it.

Verdict

TunnelBear’s overall performance is consistently decent, if unremarkable compared to some rivals, and its free tier is still useful enough. However, although it’s capable and reasonably priced, TunnelBear doesn’t really stand out in a crowded market right now.

Streaming media fans should look to NordVPN or Windscribe, which are much cheaper, while Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN have proved their no-logging claims the hard way.

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ExpressVPN

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ProtonVPN

Proton VPN is one of the newer VPNs on the market. It has a strong focus on privacy and has a verified no logging claim. Sign up for as little as $4 a month and save up to $72 on your yearly bill.

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