There are few people today who would disagree than VPN – Virtual Private Network – is a great way to protect your personal data and security online. But if you don’t consider yourself to be “technical”, you might be a bit concerned when it comes to figuring out how to use VPN.
If that sounds like you, then TunnelBear is a good VPN service option. Affordable and secure, it is designed in such a way that anyone can use it. However, TunnelBear doesn’t offer some of the more sophisticated functionality that superusers will want, and it does not unlock geographically locked streaming services (no, you can’t watch US Netflix from outside the country).
But if you are looking for a basic and usable service to protect your data, TunnelBear is still a great choice. We give it three stars.
Let’s take a look at the features that will matter most to potential TunnelBear users.
Quick Facts about TunnelBear
- Easy to use
- Good speeds
- Extremely secure
- Does not support unlocking geographically restricted streaming content (e.g. Netflix, BBC iPlayer)
- Does not support routers, smart TVs, or game consuls
- Limited additional features
TunnelBear is one of the few VPN services that you can genuinely use for free – you don’t even need to provide your credit card details. But the free service is capped at 500 MB per month.
While this might be enough for a highly secretive recluse who only emerges on the internet for a few minutes a month for those things that can only be done online these days. For most of us, that won’t even touch the sides going down.
Most people will need to go for the paid-for service, which is pretty much smack-bang in the middle of the market. If you want to keep your options open from month to month, a subscription with unlimited data will set you back $9.99. If you are willing to sign up for a year, it drops to $4.99 per month.
Additionally, TunnelBear offers much by way of further discounts if your sign up for three years, like many other providers.
Also, unlike other VPN services, there is no money-back guarantee if you suffer from buyer’s remorse, or find that TunnelBear doesn’t unlock certain services for you. Also check recent TunnelBear coupons we share on our coupon section.
TunnelBear is designed to be highly usable, and doesn’t require deep tech knowledge to make the most of. Instructions are intuitive, and there is no jargon or tech-speak to lead users astray.
You can protect up to five devices with a single account, which is about the industry average, and again is enough for most people, though digital mavens may want more.
They have good applications for Android, macOS, and Windows, so it works well on pretty much any computer or smartphone. However, if you want applications that will allow you to protect your router, smart TV, gaming devices, or other tech, you are out of luck with TunnelBear, and should look for other services.
Servers and Locations
Generally speaking, it is good when your VPN provider has lots of servers, distributed all over the world, though with big clusters in popular countries such as the United States.
This is because the more people using a server, the slower speeds will be for each user, so the more servers you have, the more capacity and greater speeds. Having a variety of locations gives users options in terms of selecting where they will appear when accessing the web. Popular locations, such as the United States, will need more server space to accommodate greater demand.
TunnelBear is a bit behind the curve here, with only 1,800 servers in 23 locations. Most other services offer upwards of 3,000 servers, in between 60 and 100 countries. This basically means that TunnelBear can’t help you if you want to appear like you are in Africa, the Middle East, or South America.
The number of servers is not such a big an issue, as TunnelBear has fewer customers than a lot of its competitors, so it just doesn’t need the same capacity.
Speed and Performance
No matter what VPN you run, it will slow down your online activity. It is an inevitable fact when you run data through distant servers.
TunnelBear reduces online speeds by around 60-75 percent of total. This is average for most VPN services, though there are high performing VPNs out there that will reduce your speed by much less.
As a result, you can expect you standard US broadband connection of around 200 MB per second to reduce to around 65-75 MB per second. While this is a big drop, it is more than enough to handle most online activity seamlessly, including streaming.
But if you are looking to use your VPN to unlock geographically restricted streaming services, you are out of luck. When tested with both BBC iPlayer in the UK and Netflix in the US, TunnelBear was unsuccessful. The VPN was detected and blocked.
If this is your priority, you will need to investigate an alternative service.
TunnelBear has one of the best privacy policies on the market, both in terms of what it contains and how it is written: it is designed for normal humans to understand.
TunnelBear minimizes the personal data collected to just want is necessary (even names aren’t collected), and does not share any data with third parties. Payments are processed by third parties, but that is common. Their only source of income is subscriptions, and they do not data mining of ad targeting for additional income.
It has a no-logs policy, and does not collect data on user activity, IP addresses, time stamps, or DNS enquiries. For free subscribers it does record overall bandwidth in order to enforce its data caps.
TunnelBear, which is owned by McAfee, is based in Toronto, Canada, and incorporated in Delaware. While the US and Canada do not have mandatory data retention laws, they are subject to requests for data. This contrasts with other countries where data privacy laws prevent these kinds of requests.
TunnelBear asserts that they have a legal team to deal with these requests, and that since they do not collect data, they don’t really have anything to share.
TunnelBEar uses OpenVPN protocols for Android, macOS, and Windows, which is fast, secure and open source, and IKEv2 for its iPhone application. This ticks a lot of boxes.
Notably, TunnelBear has completed three independent code audits and publicly released the returns, providing both transparency, and reassurance about the code used to protect users.
TunnelBear does have a few nice features that make it as easy to use as possible. Most important is Vigilant Mode, which prevents any data from slipping through if TunnelBear disconnects for some reason and needs time to reconnect.
It also has something called Trusted Networks, which is a list of trusted Wi-Fi networks that it can allow you to connect to.
It offers a number of other services as separate applications. This includes Blocker, an ad blocker that works at the browser level rather than the device level. This can be preferred, as some websites will block you if they know that you are using an ad blocker. A separate plug in is easier to disable as needed.
They also have password manager software called RememBear, which is available as a separate application.
However, it doesn’t have a lot of the sophisticated features that you see with more “hard-core” VPN services, such as split tunnelling, but novice users may prefer this if they find the technology confusing.
Cost5/5 Amazing1 month plan: $9.99 1 year plan: $4.99/mo. ( off) 3 year plan: $3.33 ( off)
Usability5/5 AmazingTunnelBear is designed to be highly usable, and doesn’t require deep tech knowledge to make the most of. Instructions are intuitive, and there is no jargon or tech-speak to lead users astray.
Servers and Locations5/5 AmazingVPN provider has lots of servers, distributed all over the world, though with big clusters in popular countries such as the United States.
Speed and Performance3/5 NeutralTunnelBear reduces online speeds by around 50-65 percent of total. This is average for most VPN services, though there are high performing VPNs out there that will reduce your speed by much less.
Privacy5/5 AmazingTunnelBear has one of the best privacy policies on the market, both in terms of what it contains and how it is written: it is designed for normal humans to understand.
Features4/5 GoodTunnelBear does have a few nice features that make it as easy to use as possible. However, if you want to unlock geographically restricted streaming content, you won’t be able to do this with TunnelBear.