TunnelBear VPN Review 2020

The continued leaking of personal data over the years has really put into perspective the dangers we face online every day. And one clear sign that people are now woke is the increased popularity of VPN software.

Unfortunately, some vendors promise security but are actually the ones exposing your data. This is why it’s important you do your research before settling for a particular VPN software.

In this post, we will be talking about TunnelBear VPN and whether it is worth your money. The software is based in Toronto, Canada and is owned by security company Mcafee. This is in itself an assurance.

Some of the questions we will be answering in this review include:

How secure is TunnelBear VPN?

Can it be used to unblock Netflix and other streaming services?

Does it support torrenting?

How much does it affect your connection speeds?

Hopefully, by the end of it, you can make an informed choice on whether it is the ideal solution for you.

My Verdict about TunnelBear VPN

TunnelBear is, perhaps, the simplest VPN software you will come across. And although unconventional, beautiful is the accurate word to describe its user interface.

The software does not bother you with advanced configurations such as choosing the appropriate VPN protocol to use which makes it the perfect solution for beginners.

Admittedly, the simplicity may be kind of a deal-breaker for VPN experts.

I would say that my biggest concern with TunnelBear is its location. Canada is a member of the big five alliance that are known for collecting and sharing surveillance data from their citizens. Under Canadian law, TunnelBear is obligated to share your data with the government. But there is a silver lining. TunnelBear does not log any compromising data. And to verify these claims, they went ahead and hired a third-party audit firm.

This means that even if the government comes knocking, then they have no data to share with them.

So, do I recommend TunnelBear? Absolutely. 

Willingness to Recommend 7.5/10

PROS

  • Offers both a paid and free plan
  • Really Simple to use
  • Solid security features
  • Increased trust through auditing
  • Has a stealth mode

CONS

  • Canada is not the most VPN-friendly location
  • Cannot unlock Netflix and other streaming services

Streaming

If video streaming makes up for a huge percentage of your internet usage, then it’s important you establish how a particular VPN affects the quality of service. Also, if the VPN can unlock geographical restrictions imposed by streaming services then the better.

In terms of video quality, TunnelBear was excellent. I tested it on YouTube, Netflix and Prime Video and in all instances, I was able to get uninterrupted streaming in full HD. There was the occasional fluctuation in video quality but it cleared in less than a minute.

Also, the videos took a noticeably longer time to load but once they began playing, I did not experience any buffering.

Unfortunately, I was not as successful when it came to unlocking blocked content. Unless you count YouTube which you can unlock using any VPN software. My attempts to access Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, and Prime Video US were all blocked. The same was true for the UK, France and German Netflix.

This is a downer especially considering there are other similarly priced VPN software that can unblock these streaming services.

Security and Privacy

TunnelBear Uses OpenVPN Protocol

When evaluating the security of a VPN then the first thing you should check is the supported VPN protocols. There are 5 major VPN protocols and each has its benefits and limitations.

Any VPN worth its salt needs to be compatible with OpenVPN protocol since it’s the most secure. If the software also supports additional protocols then the better.

The good news is that TunnelBear supports OpenVPN. The bad news is that it’s not guaranteed you will be using OpenVPN at all times. This is because it also supports the IKEv2 protocol and the first protocol to establish a connection is the one that will be used until you end that session. Like I said earlier, TunnelBear does not allow you to manually select the protocol to use.

Android and macOS users have nothing to worry about though. These operating systems only support OpenVPN.

TunnelBear Uses Military-grade Encryption

In addition to OpenVPN, this software also uses AES-256 bit encryption which is one of the strongest forms of encryption. Even better, it uses SHA256 for data authentication which will help to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks. And as a final measure, TunnelBear uses handshake encryption to protect you from hackers that may be posing as a TunnelBear server.

Extra Security Features

There are two other TunnelBear features that we must mention as long as we are talking about security and privacy.

The first is VigilantBear which ensures that your IP does not leak whenever TunnelBear has connection problems. Other VPNs simply refer to it as a kill switch. 

Then there is GhostBear, a unique TunnelBear feature that masks the encrypted data to look like regular data. Anybody looking you up including your ISP cannot tell you are using a VPN.

TunnelBear also allows you to create a list of trusted Networks so that anytime you connect to a new network, then the VPN is automatically launched. This is a great way to ensure that you are not vulnerable when browsing on public networks.

Speed

As expected, your internet speeds will always take a deep when using a VPN due to encryption and the routing of data to the VPN servers.

Usually, in an attempt to overcome this problem, VPN vendors use optimized servers. So for instance, if it’s streaming you want then there will be specific servers for streaming which offer the best speed.

This option is not available for TunnelBear. What they do have, however, is an automatic connection option. Choosing this option allows the software to direct you to the best server based on your location.

To prove the effectiveness of this feature, I did a speed test for the automatically connected server and then did it again for randomly connected servers.

These were the results.

Baseline Speed Before Connecting to TunnelBear VPN

Speed When Connected to the German server

This is the server I was automatically directed to and, true to their word, it gave me the best speeds.

Speed When Connected to the US Server

Speed When Connected to the Canadian Server

The Canadian server had the least speed in my test. It was also the furthest from me compared to the others.

Speed When Connected to the France Server

Speed When Connected to the Netherlands Server

Cost

TunnelBear offers both a free and a premium edition. Normally, I would never recommend a free VPN but I think TunnelBear’s free version will work for one reason. It is a limited version of the premium plan that is meant to entice you into buying.

Otherwise, if a VPN offers you full functionality at no cost then you need to be wary.

With the TunnelBear free edition, you will have access to all the features of the paid plan but you can only use 500MB of data for the whole month. They will also give you an additional 1GB if you tweet about tunnel bear.

Still, not much bandwidth unless you stay off streaming and file sharing. However, it’s enough to test TunnelBear so that you have a real idea of what you are subscribing to.

Should you opt for the paid version, then it is available in two editions. There is the monthly plan which costs you $9.99 and then there is the annual plan which gives the best value at $4.99 per month.

Unlike in the free plan, the paid versions give you access to priority customer service so you don’t have to wait for hours for your ticket to be processed.

Additional Features

Multi-platform Support

Although it’s not as comprehensive as most people would like it to be, TunnelBear supports all the popular systems. These include Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android. However, it cannot be configured to work in a router nor will it work in devices such as Amazon Firestick and Kodi.

For the supported systems, TunnelBear can be connected to up to 5 devices simultaneously.

P2P File sharing

TunnelBear supports torrenting. But they are not very vocal about it probably because of the stringent copyright laws in Canada.

By-passes local censorship

TunnelBear can be used to access the web in countries like China and Saudi Arabia that have internet censorship. The GhostBear feature will particularly be useful in this case since these countries block any traffic that is detected to be originating from a VPN.

Ad-blocker

This feature is not available by default on the TunnelBear client apps. Instead, it is available as a free browser extension that you download separately.

Alternative VPN Options

TunnelBear is an overall great VPN. But there are some highlighted issues that may prove to be pain points. Like, its location for example. Or the inability to unblock streaming services. For this reason, we have included two alternative solutions that you can consider.

PrivateVPN

PrivateVPN builds upon TunnelBear’s shortcomings thus making it an excellent alternative. It does not have a free version but it comes with a 7-day free trial.

In terms of security, PrivateVPN supports multiple VPN protocols including OpenVPN, IPSec, L2TP, and IKEv2. And the great thing is that you can choose the one that you want to use. This is further reinforced by military-grade encryption and additional features such as IPv6 and WebRTC leak protection.

The VPN also comes with a killswitch to avoid IP leaks when it gets disconnected.

But the biggest advantage of PrivateVPN over TunnelBear is that it can unblock Netflix US and other streaming services like Hulu, BBCiPlayer and Prime Video.

This VPN can support up to 7 connections simultaneously.

NordVPN

NordVPN is also a great alternative for various reasons. For starters, it is based in Panama where it’s not subject to government surveillance. This means they are under no obligation to store or share your data.

Moreover, this VPN software ticks all the right security boxes by supporting OpenVPN protocol combined with AES 256-bit encryption. Additionally, it comes with a malware blocker, a kill switch, and DNS leak protection.

But it does not stop there. The VPN software allows you to use the Tor network over the standard VPN connection directly from the application. Other VPNs require that you download the Tor browser first.

NordVPN is also a great software for unblocking Netflix and can be used with all the popular operating systems including Windows, Mac, and Linux. It can also be configured in routers and other devices such as the Amazon Firestick.

This VPN does not have a free trial. Instead, they give you a 30-day money-back guarantee.


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