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TunnelBear review

Beginner-friendly VPN that covers most bases

TunnelBear review
(Image: © TunnelBear)

Our Verdict

TunnelBear might not be the most advanced VPN in the world, but it’s a simple, fast option for inexperienced users. Its clear no-logging and privacy policies instil confidence, and its systems and security are independently audited every year. However, it's let down by poor streaming support and an imperfect support system.

For

  • Super simple to use
  • Annual independent privacy audits
  • Intuitive UI
  • Great connection speeds

Against

  • Struggles with unblocking streaming sites
  • Too basic for advanced users

TunnelBear provides a reliable, beginner-friendly VPN service that operates across 23 locations, including Singapore, Europe, North America, Brazil, Australia, and others. It’s certainly not the most advanced VPN on the market, but it does a great job of simplifying things for those with limited tech knowledge.

Overall, we like TunnelBear – the user interface is intuitive and it’s backed by a neat no-logging policy and annual security audits by an independent auditor, but the lack of options might be restrictive for those whole want to delve deeper into their VPN.

In this TunnelBear review, we analyse everything you need to know about this VPN to help you make the decision on whether it’s right for you.

TunnelBear review - TunnelBear homepage

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

Plans and Pricing

There are three versions of TunnelBear available. You can get a basic free-forever option, an Unlimited plan that starts at $3.33 per month, and a Teams subscription that costs from $5.75 per month.

The free plan is very limited. It includes all the features found in the full version, but is capped at 500 MB of data per month. To put that into perspective, that’s really only enough to test the program out, as it equates to roughly six hours of browsing or around half an hour of standard-definition video streaming. In its free form it’s certainly not a great torrenting VPN.

Fortunately, you can upgrade to an Unlimited plan for just $3.33 per month with a three-year subscription. An annual plan will up the price to $4.99 a month, while if you choose to truly pay monthly, it’ll be $9.99 a month. As suggested by the name, this plan includes unlimited data, along with priority support. If you sign up for a three-year plan, you'll also get access to the RememBear password manager (usually $2.50 per month), which adds a nice bit of value if you’re in need of it.

If you’re looking for a VPN for your small business, the Teams plan costs $5.57 per user, per month (with a minimum of two users). It comes with a range of VPN management tools, including an integrated management dashboard and centralized billing.

It’s worth noting that there’s no money-back guarantee, so we’d recommend trialling TunnelBear’s free plan before committing to a paid plan. However, TunnelBear’s FAQ has a note on refunds, saying they may be offered on a case-by-case basis. We reckon that if you asked very nicely, did it sooner rather than later and had a good reason, the ‘friendly support bears’ might take pity and offer you a refund – but neither we nor TunnelBear make any promises.

Finally, for those that want to pay anonymously, Bitcoin payments are available with annual subscriptions.

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Features

Although TunnelBear is far from the most advanced VPN on the market, it still comes with plenty of great features. For starters, the VigilantBear setting allows you to set up an internet kill switch, which will cut your connection if the VPN connection fails. This is a great addition, as without it you may end up thinking your connection is protected, but in reality your VPN has dropped and you’re using your regular unprotected network.

Another interesting feature is the GhostBear setting, which is designed to disguise the fact that you’re using a VPN. This could particularly help users that need a China VPN to avoid the country's internet restrictions. You can also choose between OpenVPN TCP and UDP connections, although there’s no option to change your connection protocol.

TunnelBear review - TunnelBear features

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

Torrenting is something of a sensitive topic for VPNs, largely because P2P sharing is often used to download illegal or pirated content. While often not featured as a selling point on VPN providers’ websites, torrenting may actually be supported – and TunnelBear comes through with the goods. We spoke directly to the TunnelBear team, and they confirmed that torrenting is supported in all locations.

Unfortunately, TunnelBear isn’t a great choice for accessing geo-blocked content – even on a full plan. We tested it with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer – none of them worked.

However, TunnelBear is clear about its security and logging policies, and provides details about the information it collects and exactly what happens to it. On top of this, TunnelBear is audited annually by Cure53, an independent security company. The results of these audits are made public, resulting in great transparency. We appreciate this commitment to security, and think independent audits are something every VPN worth its salt should undertake.

Interface and in use

TunnelBear is aimed at those with limited tech knowledge, and its user interface doesn’t disappoint. It’s simple, intuitive, and available on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. Firefox, Chrome, and Opera extensions are also available, and there’s also documentation to help you install it on Linux devices. 

However, TunnelBear only offers 'limited support' for Linux, and does not support Kindle/eReaders, Windows mobile devices, Apple/Android TV, gaming systems, or routers and modems. While the majority of people won't be installing a VPN on their Xbox, it's a little disappointing to see this lack of support for niche systems – especially when many other VPNs can be used to protect pretty much every device you own.

The desktop interface shows a world map highlighting the available VPN servers – but you can also view these as a list, which for usability is probably a better bet. To connect, simply select the location you want to use and click the On button. The Android and iOS interfaces are very similar to the desktop app, so once you’ve got used to one, you’ll be able to get going on all of them.

Finally, the three browser extensions offer a fast, simple way to protect your data and internet browsing activity. However, these are limited, and basically only include a list of locations and an on/off switch. Note, also, that they only protect browser traffic, unlike the desktop and mobile apps.

TunnelBear review - TunnelBear VPN app

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

In terms of performance, TunnelBear performed impressively. On our 75MB UK line, the VPN averaged around 66MB – in practice that’s a negligible slowdown, and is good enough for pretty much anything you’ll be doing.

On our much faster 600MB US line, TunnelBear again impressed, delivering speeds of around 200MB. These connection speeds are up there with the best, and bearing in mind these tests were performed at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown which saw other providers’ connections slow to a crawl, this bodes well for the general reliability of TunnelBear’s servers.

Support

TunnelBear users have access to email support and a beginner-oriented self-help knowledge base. For starters, you can reach out to the support team via the Contact page on the provider website. In general, the team replies within hours and provides simple, accurate responses, but we’d really like to see live chat – the very best VPNs all provide excellent 24/7 support, and we’d love to see TunnelBear follow suit.

If you have a more general issue or need help setting your TunnelBear account up, there’s plenty of information in the knowledge base. Resources include articles answering common questions like ‘does TunnelBear keep logs?’, quick-start guides, and links to the company’s Twitter account, where maintenance and system outage information is posted.

The competition

TunnelBear is a great choice if you want a simple VPN, but there are numerous more advanced options on the market if you need something a little more powerful. For example, ExpressVPN ($6.67/month over 12 months) has over 3,000 servers in 160 locations and 94 countries. It runs on near any platform, is backed by powerful encryption tools, has excellent live-chat support and, importantly, can unblock just about any streaming service.

If you’re looking for a cheap and fully functional VPN, at just $1.99 per month Surfshark is another great alternative that offers more customisation than TunnelBear alongside excellent streaming power.

TunnelBear: Final verdict

TunnelBear certainly isn’t the most powerful VPN in the world, but it’s a great option for beginners and those with limited tech knowledge. It’s well-known for its transparent independent security audits and is backed by a good range of advanced features. However, it’s let down by its inability to access geo-blocked streaming services, and its support is lackluster compared to the very best.

All things considered, though, for users just looking for a simple, easy-to-use and secure VPN, the no-frills TunnelBear is certainly a viable option.

Specs

Supported platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (limited)
Supported protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2 (not user selectable)
No. of servers: 1,000+
No. of countries: 23
Country of registration: Canada
Payment options: Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin
Real name necessary? No
Encryption protocol: AES-256
Data usage: Unlimited
Bandwidth usage: Unlimited
Max. no. of simultaneously connected devices: Five
Customer support: Email
Privacy policy: No logging

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