TunnelBear’s is consistently fast and its free tier is modest but useful. However, it isn't a good option for streaming and doesn’t allow users to torrent.
- Free version available
- Clear no-logging policy
- Wide platform support and sophisticated security features
- Fast speeds
- Poor streaming performance
- No torrenting
- Review Price: £8.14 per month
- 500MB per month free account available
- Connect up to five devices
- Supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec
- Clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Opera, Chrome
TunnelBear has been owned by McAfee since 2018 and little has changed in that time. The Canada-based service is perhaps best known for its free VPN, which still gives you 500GB of data every month to use as you please on the service’s wide range of supported platforms.
While it used to feel very generous, that free allowance is rather overshadowed by rivals such as Windscribe and ProtonVPN’s free services. TunnelBear also has an endearing ursine mascot and reasonably priced paid-for subscriptions.
Pricing and subscriptions
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 £8.14/$9.99 for a monthly subscription or £48.80/$59.88 per year, with the annual fee working out to a middling £2.72/£4.99 a month. The company accepts payment in bitcoin if you want to add an extra layer of privacy.
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 OpenVPN profiles available for Linux users.
Its Windows client opens on a world map 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 – useful if you’re visiting a country or even just an office building where VPNs are forbidden. You can also configure TunnelBear to activate automatically on any Wi-Fi network that you haven’t added to a trusted list.
TunnelBear – Performance
|Reference Group Average HTTP||179.7Mbps||160.13Mbps||91.805Mbps|
|Reference HTTP without VPN||604.8Mbps||544.8Mbps||700.8Mbps|
All of my testing was carried out on a virtual desktop physically located at a data centre in London with a high-speed internet connection. This testing setup produces results under optimal connection conditions. I test VPN clients on their default settings.
TunnelBear is always a reliably fast performer in data transfer speed tests, across years worth of results, and it’s doing particularly well right now. Unfortunately, although its speeds are up to the job, TunnelBear isn’t a good choice if you’re looking for a region-shifting VPN to watch overseas streaming media. If a streaming service puts any effort into spotting proxies and VPNs, you can be fairly confident it’ll spot a connection from one of TunnelBear’s endpoints.
Should you buy Tunnelbear?
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 good, and its free tier is still useful enough. However, streaming media fans should look to Surfshark, NordVPN or Windscribe which is much cheaper, while ExpressVPN has proved its no-logging claims the hard way.