TunnelBear Review

For casual and non-committal VPN users, the TunnelBear free-tier VPN is as great as it is grizzly

Pros

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

Cons

  • Poor FTP performance from UK endpoints
  • More expensive than many rivals

Key Features

  • 500MB per month free account available
  • £7.64 per month
  • £45.87 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.

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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, 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 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.

TunnelBear – Performance

The service’s performance has seen significant improvements since we last tested it, and it beat all its rivals – and our 4.75MB/s no-VPN reference score – with transfer speeds of 5.4MB/s to the USA.

TunnelBear

In Europe, I got a decent throughput of 6.4MB/s via the Netherlands, although the UK endpoints I connected to were unable to support the FTP connection that Trusted Reviews uses for large-file transfer tests. Web browsing still worked well, though.

TunnelBear isn’t a good choice if you’re looking for a region-shifting VPN to watch overseas streaming media – it failed all our Netflix and iPlayer tests.

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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 £7.64 for a monthly subscription or £45.87 per year, with the annual fee working out to a reasonable, but unremarkable £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. 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. That 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 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 Windscribe, though, while Kaspersky Secure Connection is cheaper and faster and Private Intenet Access has proven its no-logging claim.

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