TunnelBear review

TOP rank 8.3 Reviewed by Jane Green
December 25, 2019

Overall, TunnelBear VPN is a good app because, while it is nowhere near exceptional, it will nonetheless fulfill all your basic expectations of a VPN app. For one, its servers are extremely fast, but they do lose connections more often than would be expected. The fast servers make it the ideal candidate for torrenting and P2P sharing.

TunnelBear has excellent security and privacy credentials, but it lacks a kill switch, meaning that you will always be in danger of being exposed, should the app malfunction. For more information about the app, read our review below.

1 year: $4.17/month
Save 58%

Overall, TunnelBear VPN is a good app because, while it is nowhere near exceptional, it will nonetheless fulfill all your basic expectations of a VPN app. For one, its servers are extremely fast, but they do lose connections more often than would be expected. The fast servers make it the ideal candidate for torrenting and P2P sharing.

TunnelBear has excellent security and privacy credentials, but it lacks a kill switch, meaning that you will always be in danger of being exposed, should the app malfunction. For more information about the app, read our review below.

8.1
Speed
7.9
Security
8.3
Compatibility
8.0
Price
9.0
Support
Pros
Free version
Military-grade encryption
DNS and IP leak protection
Error free streaming on Netflix
Cons
Few payment options
The connection can get disrupted
Few country locations

Summary

Speed drop speedtest We check the speed with and without VPN, then calculate the average in percentage. The smaller the speed drop, the faster the VPN.
-13%
Logging
Strict no-log policy
IP, DNS Leaks
No
Jurisdiction The 5 Eyes (FVEY), 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes alliances impose laws that force VPN companies to hand over logs to the government upon request. Privacy Havens - These are countries where companies don't have to share their logs to the government and VPN users are completely protected.
Canada (5 eyes)
Servers
23
Countries
23
Netflix Unblock
Not stable
Torrenting speed drop
-82%Bad
Simultaneous connections
5
Works in China
Yes, ghostbear mode
Support
24/7 Live Chat, Email
Kill switch
Yes
Encryption AES-256 is the most secure type of encryption today. Other standards like DES-CBC, AES-128 provide lower levels of security.
AES-256
Protocols OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec are the most popular protocols which provide optimal balance between speed and security.
IPSec, OpenVPN
Platforms
Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows
Applications
Chrome, Firefox, Opera

Speed tests

Ordinary connection
Download: 5.34 Mbps
Ping: 14 Ms
Upload: 0.52 Mbps

Speed matters because no matter what you do, you don’t want an internet connection speed that cannot do even the most mundane of tasks. We tested a bunch of servers from several countries to see how well they would perform against an internet connection of 5 Mbps. Here are the results of those tests.Now, a 13.4% drop in speed might seem a little much, but it isn’t in any way. Most of the so called “fast servers” lead to even massive drops of up to 40%.

Checking VPN servers

Now, an average 13% drop in speed might seem a little much, but it isn’t in any way. Most of the so called “fast servers” lead to even massive drops of up to 40%. TunnelBear VPN is thus superfast!

France
Download: 4.90 Mbps
Ping: 438 Ms
Upload: 0.43 Mbps
Japan
Download: 5.14 Mbps
Ping: 384 Ms
Upload: 0.43 Mbps
Australia
Download: 3.90 Mbps
Ping: 441 Ms
Upload: 0.32 Mbps
USA
Download: 4.62 Mbps
Ping: 237 Ms
Upload: 0.42 Mbps

Average speed drop: -13%Excellent

Servers

23 servers
23 countries

TunnelBear does not list the number of servers in their hands, but they do note that they are located in 23 country locations. Most of the nations are members of the EU with Mexico and Brazil as the only Latin American nations. There is also India and Singapore to add to Japan as the only three Asian nations in the list.

Security features

TunnelBear has excellent security and privacy credentials that are some of the best in the industry. Let us look at some of them here.

OpenVPN

In order to create VPN connections, TunnelBear uses the popular OpenVPN protocol. OpenVPN is open source and is maintained by an active community of programmers, commercial users and privacy enthusiasts. For this reason, it is one of the most secure and fastest ways to set up a VPN connection.

Military-Grade Encryption

TunnelBear uses the AES-256 bit military-grade encryption to secure communication between its servers. It is the world’s most secure way to transmit confidential info.

Check all TunnelBear features

VigilantBear

VigilantBear is a security feature that works the same way as a kill switch. It blocks all traffic when there is no VPN connection or when choosing between various server choices. That way, you can never be discovered even if the app malfunctions. On TunnelBear, you have to turn the feature on.

TunnelBear Privacy Credentials

The number one selling point for any VPN app is the privacy that it promises and TunnelBear VPN is no different.

GhostBear

GhostBear is a security feature that helps mask VPN traffic by making it look like regular internet traffic. It is ideal for working in countries such as China and Iran where internet restrictions are enforced.

IP and DNS Leaks

The surest way to test whether an app is secure and private enough is to perform an IP and DNS leak protection test. If your IP address gets revealed, that means that your app is leaking private information.

The IP address showing here is the one that we were assigned by the VPN app and not by our ISP. That means that my private details are not leaking.

Although we expected to see a DNS as part of this test, the fact that it doesn’t show also indicates that there is no leakage of any kind.

IP leak results:
No leaks
DNS leak results:
No leaks

Logs policy

TunnelBear has a strict no logs policy. Here is a quote from their site:

“No! TunnelBear does not keep logs. This means we do not collect any information regarding what you ‘bear’owse while connected to our secure and private VPN.”

The company does, however, require that you give the name in your credit card which is a bit intrusive we think. This has to do with their payment process which prefers taking credit cards.

Check TunnelBear privacy policy

Unblocking Netflix

When it comes to streaming, there is a lot to be said about TunnelBear VPN. While the app will allow you to stream content on Netflix, it will keep turning off and on in a very unusual and annoying manner.

You also have to make sure that you turn on Netflix after establishing the VPN connection not while it is ongoing. It is a simple trick, but it will go a long way in making sure that your streaming happens uninterrupted.

Here is what we mean. In this screenshot, you can see that there is no connection. But it soon establishes and then goes away just as fast. Here is the message that we were constantly getting:

It was very frustrating to say the least.

Netflix
Netflix unblock status:
Unknown

Torrenting

Next up in our list of tests is torrenting. VPN apps like TunnelBear help maintain the vast P2P networks that enable file sharing sites, such as The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents to thrive. Without a VPN, anyone who dares use such sites risks fines or worse jail time for downloading illegal content.

We used TunnelBearVPN with the help of the popular torrent client uTorrent to see how the combination would fare. Would there be any speed bumps? Let’s look at the results.

Torrenting without VPN:
626 kb/sec
Torrenting with VPN:
112 kb/sec
Speed deduction: -82%
Bad

The drop in download speeds is 82%. In case you are wondering, there is no special mode that has been dedicated to P2P sharing.

Tor Check

Is TunnelBear VPN compatible with the Tor network? We did a test to find out. As you can see, TunnelBear works perfectly with the Tor network.

The reason you would want this to be the case is that the Tor network is already privacy focused and adding a VPN connection over it just makes surfing even more secure.

Tor
Compatibility status:
Success

Platforms

Android
iOS
Linux
macOS
Windows
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Simultaneous connections:
5 devices

TunnelBear VPN is available on the following platforms: Mac, Android, iOS Linux and browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera. With a single subscription, you can connect up to 5 devices.

The interface is one of the best that we have encountered thus far. It will guide through every process and the animation mimicking a bear burrowing to establish a connection is a fun one to watch. On an Android phone, the app looks as follows:

 

   

Customer Support

TunnelBear VPN has a very unresponsive customer care team. They are available on chat and on mail, but they will take eons before responding to you. Before we even began writing this review, we sent out a complaint about the app turning itself on and off, but we didn’t get a response by the time we were done. It is not what we were expecting.

Still waiting! Later on, we did find the following in the mail, although there was nothing to indicate that it was supposed to be there. We used the live chat after all.

Support channels:
Email
Live chat
Help center
Phone line

Pricing

TunnelBear VPN has two pricing tiers: a $9.99 a month charge and a $4.17 a month charge. Unlike other VPN apps out there, TunnelBear VPN has no explicit refund policy.

They don’t state it boldly that they offer any refunds. They rather pointed out that they consider refunds on a case to case basis.

1 month
$ 9.99
per month
 
$9.99 billed every month
1 year
$ 4.17
per month
Save 58%
$59.88 billed every year

For this review, we purchased the app for $9.99, although we started by testing the free version that allows up to $500 Mb of free browsing. There is not much difference between the free version and the paid one. You get the same number of servers as well as most of the security features.

The payment process is not what you’d expect for a company that has recently been bought by McAfee. There is no PayPal to begin with, or Stripe. It is just plain old credit card.