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TunnelBear VPN Review

A speedy VPN that trips up at torrenting

Verdict

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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.

Pros

  • Free version available
  • Clear no-logging policy
  • Wide platform support and sophisticated security features
  • Fast speeds

Cons

  • Poor streaming performance

Availability

  • UKRRP: £8.14
  • USARRP: $9.99

Key Features

  • Free tier available: TunnelBear VPN has a free tier that gives users 500MB of secure browsing every month.
  • Endpoints for 49 different countries:TunnelBear VPN has an astonishing number of endpoints, even with the free tier, which is useful if you want to use a server in a specific location.

Introduction

TunnelBear has been owned by US security firm McAfee since 2018 and little has changed in that time.

The Canada-based service is perhaps best known for its free VPN, which gives you 500MB of data every month to use as you please via any endpoint location.

While it used to feel very generous, that free allowance is overshadowed by rivals such as Windscribe and ProtonVPN’s free services. TunnelBear also has an endearing ursine mascot, reasonably priced paid-for subscriptions, and recently changed its no-torrenting policy.

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, by tweeting about TunnelBear (assuming they have a public account and enough followers) achieving a total of 1.5GB.

If you need more than that, TunnelBear costs around $9.99/£7.67 for a monthly subscription or $59.88/£45.99 per year, with the annual fee working out to a middling $4.99/£2.56 a month. The company accepts payment in bitcoin if you want to add an extra layer of privacy.

Privacy and Protection

  • Features a no-logging policy
  • Has been independently audited

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.

TunnelBear used to block standard BitTorrent ports so that it wasn’t put in the position of having to log user activity in accordance with Canadian copyright law, but has now enabled torrenting via its tunnels in Canada, the US, UK, Romania, Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden. This is helpful for anyone uses software that’s distributed via torrents, such as many Linux distros.

Features and usability

  • Supports wide range of platforms
  • Can hide the fact you’re using a VPN

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. There’s also a button that lets you quickly connect and disconnect from your VPN.

TunnelBear free VPN Windows 10 desktop client

A settings tab lets you configure the client’s behaviour, with options for users who want extra security. Features include 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.

Performance

  • Faster than group test average
  • Performs poorly with streaming video

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 at their default settings.


UKNetherlandsUnited States
Tunnelbear290.40 Mbps244.80 Mbps123.20 Mbps
Tunnelbear free220.80 Mbps262.40 Mbps186.40 Mbps
Reference Group Average HTTP310.77 Mbps306.83 Mbps194.52 Mbps
Reference HTTP without VPN489.60 Mbps532.80 Mbps490.40 Mbps
VPN’s HTTP speed test results compared against group average and connection speed without a VPN

TunnelBear is always a reliably fast performer in data transfer speed tests, across years worth of results. Although not among the very fastest VPN providers, its speeds were consistently well above average.

Don’t expect to be able to watch streaming video while connected to the VPN, though. 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. Split tunnelling is currently only available on Android, although new features are set to arrive on the desktop apps soon.

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Should you buy it?

You want a free VPN with lots of endpoints:

TunnelBear has an appealing free tier that lets you use access a large variety of country endpoints. Just be aware that it’s monthly data cap is very low compared to ProtonVPN and Windscribe.

You want to stream video:

During testing, we noticed that TunnelBear was often detected by streaming services. And with split tunnelling only available via Android, it means you have to turn off the VPN completely when watching the likes of Netflix and Disney Plus.

Final Thoughts

TunnelBear’s overall performance is consistently good, and its free tier is still useful enough. However, streaming media fans should look to Surfshark or NordVPN. Similarly, Canadian compatriot Windscribe is cheaper, while Perfect Privacy has proved its no-logging claims the hard way.

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How we test

We run tests from a London-based connection that typically sees speeds between 500Mbps and 700Mbps, which means that we’re able to get a good idea of what each VPN’s maximum speeds currently are.

We test multiple endpoints from each provider in three locations: the UK, the Netherlands and the U.S.

Tested speeds with three endpoints: UK, USA and the Netherlands.

Researched security and no-logging claims

Tested all available features

FAQs

Is TunnelBear VPN free?

Yes, TunnelBear does have a free tier, although it has a monthly 500MB bandwidth cap which limits use.

Is TunnelBear trustworthy?

Yes, TunnelBear has a no-logging policy and has also been independently audited. It’s also owned by the well-known company McAfee.

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