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 is much cheaper, while Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN have both proved their no-logging claims.
- Free version available
- Clear no-logging policy
- Wide range of privacy and security features
- Poor streaming performance
- No torrenting
- Review Price: £48.52
- 500MB/month free account available
- UK pricing: £8.10 per month, £48.52 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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Related: Best VPN 2019
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
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 114.96Mbps (14.37MB/s) – 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 100.08Mbps and a bit slower over FTP at 11.7MB/s. TunnelBear’s US speeds have stabilised at around at around 41.28Mbps (5.16MB/s) over HTTP. That’s still good enough for streaming, but both this and an FTP speed of 7.48MB/s are below the mean.
Although its speeds might be up to the job, 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, 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, achieving 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 £8.10 for a monthly subscription or £48.52 per year, with the annual fee working out to a middling £4.04 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.
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.
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