TunnelBear is a beginner-friendly VPN that offers a limited free version. It uses industry-standard security features and has an independently audited no-logs policy. But is that enough to compete with some of the best VPNs available today?
I thoroughly tested TunnelBear to find out how fast it is and how good it is for unblocking content. I tried all its apps and security features and checked if it works for gaming and torrenting.
After extensive tests, I can confirm that TunnelBear is a good VPN with great potential. It’s straightforward to use, works with most streaming services, and delivers impressive speeds over short distances. It also has a free plan that includes 2GB of data. However, it doesn't have live chat support or a money-back guarantee.
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TunnelBear VPN Features — 2023 Update
Does VPN keep logs?
Number of servers
Based in country
24/7 live chat
Streaming — Works With Most Streaming Services9.6
TunnelBear’s premium version unblocks most of the streaming services I tested. I could also easily stream in HD, thanks to its fast speeds. The VPN didn’t work with many streaming platforms in the past, but it has improved dramatically. While it doesn’t unblock as many libraries as ExpressVPN, or provide streaming-optimized servers like CyberGhost and PIA, it’s still a solid choice for streaming.
With only 2GB of data, you won't be able to watch a full movie
While the free plan doesn’t work with Amazon Prime Video, I accessed Netflix with a free account. Free VPNs don’t usually work with streaming services, so this didn’t surprise me. Additionally, watching Prime Video in the best video quality uses over 6GB per hour, so you’d run out of data in only 20 minutes.
Unblocked: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, RTL+, ESPN, BBC iPlayer, Showtime, Discovery Plus, and Peacock TV
I unblocked full Netflix libraries with TunnelBear’s premium version. I could unblock Netflix US and Netflix France. Unfortunately, the VPN doesn’t work with Netflix on all its servers. I was blocked from accessing libraries from Japan, Australia, Germany, and the UK.
Many VPNs can only unblock Netflix Originals; TunnelBear bypasses these limitations
I was also happy to see that premium servers can unblock Amazon Prime Video. It’s one of the toughest services to access, so it’s clear TunnelBear has really improved its unblocking abilities.
I watched Pulp Fiction in the highest quality while connected to Los Angeles
The great streaming quality I got on every platform impressed me too. With each service I watched, videos loaded nearly instantly in the best quality. I never had to deal with buffering. This was true with Disney+ too. While I was blocked on the Washington D.C. server in my first test, I could access it with plenty of other servers.
I could also watch Disney+ with servers from Norway, the UK, and the US
Most other streaming services I tested work with TunnelBear. I watched Go Hard or Go Home on BBC iPlayer while connected to TunnelBear’s UK server. I also accessed All 4, ITV Hub, and Hulu.
Blocked By: SkyTV and Sky Sports
The only platforms I couldn’t access were Sky TV and Sky Sports. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to watch Penny Dreadful on Sky TV or cheer for your favorite Premier League team on Sky Sports. If you’re looking to access platforms in the country, get one of the best VPNs we tested for the UK. Otherwise, TunnelBear is a solid choice for streaming.
Speed — Excellent Speeds on Nearby Servers8.2
TunnelBear has great speeds on local servers, but it’s not as fast on distant ones. It’s not unusual for your speeds to drop when using a VPN since your connection is being routed through VPN servers and encrypted.
When analyzing the speed tests, I pay attention to the following:
- Ping/latency. This measures how fast your data travels. It’s very important during gaming because a high ping results in lag.
- Download speed. This measures the time you need to download files and information from the internet. It’s important for things like streaming or loading websites.
- Upload speed. This measures how long it takes to send files from your device to another location – including messages, images, and video files.
We test all VPNs from the same UK location and connection, with the fastest protocol (WireGuard in this case). To make sure the results are fair, we run around 10 tests per server.
It reduced my speeds by 5% on nearby servers, and 50% on distant ones
To get the fastest connection, you can use the Fastest Tunnel feature. It connects you to the best server for your location. What surprised me was that the free and paid versions have similar speeds. Now that the free plan has increased from 500MB to 2GB of data, you can use TunnelBear’s free version to stream short videos without buffering.
My worst result was a speed drop of 53% on a server in Japan
In the past, this VPN’s poor speeds were one of its main drawbacks. However, TunnelBear has made some significant improvements in this area. It’s one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested on nearby servers. Its long-distance speeds aren’t bad on most servers, either. I could easily see it becoming one of the fastest VPNs.
Gaming — Good for Gaming on Local Servers8.0
With ping rates under 25 ms on all servers in Europe, TunnelBear is excellent for gaming. I played CS:GO on these nearby servers without even noticing I was connected to a VPN. Using the “Fastest” option from the server menu gave me the best speeds.
My ping rate went from 7ms to 8ms on the nearest server, which is impressive
Unfortunately, the ping rates on distant servers aren’t as good. My ping was over 230 on servers in Australia and Japan, which makes playing any competitive game impossible. However, that’s pretty common. I haven’t found any VPNs that give you great ping results at those distances, so TunnelBear is super impressive in this area. There’s also no option to install TunnelBear on a router or gaming console, so you can only use it for gaming on your PC.
Server Network — 5,000 Servers in 47 Countries9.8
TunnelBear offers a decent network. The servers are spread all over the world, but most are in Europe and North America (Canada, the US, and Mexico). For example, there are only servers in 3 countries in Africa. You also get access to several city-level locations in the US and Canada, but only with the premium plan. The free version lets you access all the countries available with the paid plan, which I really appreciated, as it’s not very common.
This means you can’t pick a server closest to you to get the best speeds
All its servers are physically located in their respective countries, so there aren’t any virtual servers. TunnelBear also owns all of its servers, which is great for privacy because there’s no third-party involvement.
Security — Solid Security, but Few Additional Features9.8
Even though it doesn’t have as many features as the top VPNs, TunnelBear is completely safe to use. It passed all of my leak tests, making it a good choice for anyone new to VPNs that wants a hassle-free service.
These tests never detected any IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks on servers around the world
I also like that it offers a free ad-blocker as a Chrome browser extension. However, this isn’t technically a part of the VPN (you download it separately).
Encryption and Protocols
Like most premium VPNs, TunnelBear uses the AES-256 encryption level. It’s the same technology governments use to encrypt their files, making the VPN very secure. You’re protected with military-grade encryption on both its free and paid versions.
TunnelBear also uses the safest available security protocols. VPN protocols can be described as a set of rules used to safely connect you to a VPN server. TunnelBear automatically picks a protocol for you, but you can also choose. These are your options:
- OpenVPN. The industry-leading open-source protocol that’s currently regarded as the safest VPN tunnel. It’s the only protocol that works with GhostBear, TunnelBear’s obfuscation feature that helps you bypass VPN blocks and tough firewalls.
- IKEv2. This is one of the most popular security protocols, and it comes with an auto-connect feature. It’s very useful on mobile devices, as it can automatically resume your VPN connection when you switch between networks.
- WireGuard. This is a newer protocol that provides the best balance between speed and security.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t offer the same protocols across all platforms:
However, I appreciate that TunnelBear offers OpenVPN for all devices, since it’s the safest protocol and my top-choice for security. The VPN also runs all its servers through its own Private DNS for added security.
VigilantBear Kill Switch
TunnelBear’s VigilantBear kill switch stops your internet traffic if the VPN suddenly disconnects. For example, when you switch servers or your device goes into sleep mode, you might get disconnected. So, to prevent data leaks, I recommend turning on VigilantBear in the app’s connection settings.
The kill switch is available on Windows, Mac, and Android, but not on iOS. While it’s common for VPNs to have fewer features on iOS, there are a few providers that offer kill switches for that OS. It’s one of the most important security features, so I recommend checking out this list of the best VPNs for iOS if an iPhone is your main device.
The TCP Override mode is useful if your connection is unstable after connecting to the VPN. The feature is only available for Windows and macOS, and it works by forcing TunnelBear to use the TCP protocol instead of UDP (versions of OpenVPN). The TCP protocol is a little slower but more reliable — it checks every piece of data for consistency before passing it through. The UDP protocol is faster, but it doesn’t perform these checks.
GhostBear makes it easier to bypass VPN firewalls. By enabling GhostBear, you can make your encrypted data look more like regular traffic, so you’re less likely to be blocked. The feature can only be enabled if you’re using the OpenVPN protocol, and it’s not available on iOS.
Encrypted Client Hello (ECH)
The Encrypted Client Hello helps you reach the TunnelBear site on restricted networks. This is an updated version of its Encrypted Server Name Indicator (ESNI) feature (that it still uses as well). Basically, some countries may use DNS-level blocking to prevent you from accessing TunnelBear’s website. ECH uses encryption to help you avoid these blocks. It’s currently only supported on Android devices, but a version for Windows is being worked on.
This feature is available for mobile devices only, and it lets you select the apps you want to exclude from your TunnelBear connection. It has additional options for iOS — you can also select websites and subdomains you want to access with your real IP address. This can be useful for streaming your local Netflix library, while the rest of your phone traffic stays protected.
Privacy — Doesn’t Store or Share Usage Data9.6
I like that TunnelBear lets you know why it needs this data to run the VPN
You can request access to your personal data, and you can ask TunnelBear to delete it. The VPN also publishes a transparency report, which lets you know it’s never given out anyone’s information, even when it’s been requested
Does TunnelBear Keep Logs? No
The VPN doesn’t log your browsing history, IP address, or connection timestamps. However, almost all VPNs log some technical data, and TunnelBear does too. For example, it logs your email address and payment details since that’s required for creating your account and activating your subscription. I hope it lets you pay with cryptocurrency in the future, so you can pay anonymously.
It also stores your OS version, the TunnelBear app version you use, if you’ve been active this month (1 or 0), and how much data you’ve used in a month. Operational events like creating an account, making a payment, or upgrading are also logged. This makes it possible to discover that you’re a TunnelBear user, but no one can see what you’re doing while connected to its servers.
Was TunnelBear Audited? Yes
Yes, TunnelBear has has been audited 6 times. All its audits were conducted by Cure53, a reputable German cybersecurity firm. These VPN publishes these yearly reports on its website and uses them to improve its security and privacy practices.
While there were no serious vulnerabilities revealed in previous reports, the latest audit in 2022 was more thorough. This enabled Cure54 to identify some issues that hadn’t been detected before. Thankfully, TunnelBear resolved every vulnerability found in its latest audit.
Based in Canada
With its headquarters in Toronto, Canada, TunnelBear is subject to the 5 Eyes Agreement. That means that the company is not only required to hand over your data to the authorities if requested, but also that this data will then be accessible to all the 5 Eyes countries. This includes Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Does TunnelBear Work in China? Uncertain
The availability of TunnelBear in China remains uncertain. When inquiring with a customer support agent, their response was somewhat ambiguous. While TunnelBear's GhostBear feature is specifically designed to bypass geoblocks, it is regrettable that I cannot confidently confirm its effectiveness in China.
I also asked about Iran, Russia, and Turkey, but didn’t get a concrete response
China constantly blocks new VPNs, and VPNs are always working on adopting new technologies to avoid those blocks. However, the Chinese government rarely goes after individuals for using VPNs. We don’t condone any illegal activities, so we recommend reading up on the laws of whatever region of the world you’re currently in. If you decide to use a VPN in the country, check out this list of providers that currently work in China.
Torrenting — Safe and Fast on All Servers8.0
You can torrent on all TunnelBear servers. To get the best download speeds, I suggest connecting to nearby servers with the Fastest server feature. The VPN has a strict and audited no-logs policy and high-grade security features, so there’s no need to worry about your safety while torrenting.
I had no issues downloading Night of the Living Dead while connected to my fastest server. I can normally finish this 1.62 GB file in 20 minutes, and it only took 25 while connected to TunnelBear, which is a great result.
Customer service advises that to achieve the best P2P speeds, one should utilize servers situated in Canada, the US, the UK, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, or Sweden. Although the act of torrenting is legal, downloading copyrighted material is not. To remain within the boundaries of the law, I recommend limiting your downloads to files that are in the public domain.
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