Looking for a simple, hassle-free VPN? TunnelBear is ranked as one of the most user-friendly VPNs. And even if TunnelBear isn’t the most advanced option in the market, novice users will appreciate its whimsical user interface.
Safety-minded internet users applaud McAfee’s team for its noteworthy efforts to rebrand the VPN. Every touchpoint with the company now looks seamless, welcoming, and well thought off.
TunneBear claims to defend your web traffic. So, I spent more than 25 hours testing TunnelBear to see if it fulfills exactly what it says on the tin. During the tests, I evaluated the strength of its security features, the ability to unblock major streaming platforms, connection speeds, server network, ease of use, and more.
With a premium and free version, TunnelBear is committed to delivering grizzly-grade security to keep your digital life private. The VPN prides itself on simple apps that are easy to navigate. It’s clear that a strict no-logs policy and annual third-party security audit instill more confidence in the users.
There’s a need to improve some major areas that are a cornerstone to a smooth browsing experience. Although it unblocked Netflix US, its overall power to fight censorship and restrictive networks is a letdown. Tiny server count, slow speeds, imperfect support systems are some of the pitfalls to watch for, too.
I wouldn’t recommend TunnelBear for intensive online activities, but it’s a good choice for basic use. The VPN is cheaply priced, though the provider isn’t clear about the refund policy.
In A Hurry? Here's What You Need to Know
Most user-friendly apps – With simple-to-use apps for all major operating apps, TunnelBear clients are easy to navigate. It’s tap on/off to connect and disconnect – that’s all.
Ultimate security features – It keeps you secure and anonymous on the web with AES 256-bits encryption, several VPN protocols, a no-logging policy, VigilantBear, and GhostBear features.
Geo-restricted streaming services – TunnelBear unblocked streaming sites including US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, but couldn’t get around Amazon Video, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.
Reasonable speeds on the local servers – The VPN service offers good speeds but only on the nearby (local) servers. International servers too often deliver slow speeds for streaming.
Free and premium version: Free users get 500 MB of data each month, which isn’t worth your attention. But a premium version is the best with unlimited speed and data.
Works with popular platforms: Has native apps for Windows, Android, iPhone & iPad, Mac and browser extensions Firefox, Chrome, and Opera.
Streaming: Unblocked Netflix US, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Kodi, and Hulu
TunnelBear isn’t the best VPN for streaming on-demand content. In fact, this is one area TunnelBear can’t compete with other high-end VPNs, so you’ll need to look elsewhere – CyberGhost is a sure bet.
Officially, TunnelBear states that while they believe in online freedom, they respect the copyright laws, and therefore don’t support bypassing region blocks for streaming. That being said, I did have some success in accessing some streaming sites.
I did have some success unblocking some streaming services like Netflix US, but the whole process was marred by speed slowdowns.
There were issues when I tried to stream videos on BBC iPlayer and Disney+. This doesn’t come as a surprise since many streaming platforms have become quite brilliant at blocking and detecting subscribers who use VPNs and proxy servers.
Unblocked: US Netflix Only
Netflix has always had a VPN ban that only some premium VPs could bypass. TunnelBear seems to have been hit hard by harsh Netflix’ VPN blocking methods. During my testing, I did unblock a broad catalog of video content on US Netflix only whenGhostBear is enabled.
2 out of 3 US servers accessed my favorite movie, “TOWER HEIST,” on my first try. The slow connection speeds affected my streaming proceeding in such a way that I couldn’t consistently watch HD videos. The videos didn’t cut off, though.
However, it’s not all plain sailing – not every server you select will work perfectly. 1 US server totally blocked me from accessing any video. That noted I had to switch between servers looking for the first one.
TunnelBear only worked to unblock Netflix US. When I tested Netflix libraries in other target regions including Canada, Germany, and the UK, everything was a fail for me.
Unblocked: Amazon Prime Video
I ran two series of tests to determine how well TunnelBear unblocks Amazon prime. First, I connected to the US, UK, and Canada TunnelBear servers with TunnelBear without GhostBear.
The servers got around Amazon Prime, but there were disconnects. I experienced hard times watching shows due to the long loading times, especially when connected to long-distance servers (UK servers).
On my second attempt, I activated GhostBear. As a big fan of Amazon Prime Video, I was impressed to see TunnelBear working just fine. The video loading time was way better than in my first test.
Unblocked: HBO Max, Hulu, and Kodi
HBO Max has some impressive picture quality. I unblocked the platform with all 3 servers in Canada, the UK, and France. Plus, I watched videos in HD quality with 2 servers from the US. The only notable difference was loading time. US servers took me 2 seconds to get started, while other international servers took 2 more seconds to start the videos.
Other unblocked platforms included Hulu and Kodi. The Money Heist movie began streaming two seconds after I pressed the play button. All this time, I used different servers to access quality videos with zero interruptions.
Blocked by: BBC iPlayer
Everyone who has attempted to bypass BBC iPlayer knows how tough the geo-restrictions are. If your VPN doesn’t have first-class infrastructure and resources to keep up with BBC iPlayer’s geo-blocking upgrades, then don’t even try it out.
The bad news is that TunnelBear didn’t unblock BBC iPlayer when tested from 4 different server locations in the United Kingdom. It didn’t give me video access, no matter how many servers I tried. Even when I activated the GhostBear, the results remained the same.
Blocked by: Disney+
Disney+ blocked any access to its content using TunnelBear VPN servers. I tested over 4 servers without success. Even when I enabled the GhostBear to try my luck, everything was terrible. There’s no chance to view the library in the first place.
Speed & Performance
Good speeds are essential for buffer-free streaming, lag-free gaming, and quick torrent downloads. Frankly speaking, VPNs aren’t equal. TunnelBear boasts watertight security, easy-to-use apps, and an intuitive interface, but it’s not the fastest VPN for outright speed.
Having the speediest VPN is obviously a top priority. Based on my recent speed tests, TunnelBear offers fast speeds on local servers but slows speeds on long-distance servers. This alone shouldn’t discourage you, though. If you do most of your streaming on Us Netflix, TunnelBear will impress.
TunnelBear showed mixed speed test results throughout my testing. First, I connected to my local US server, which gave me a download speed of only 38.07 Mbps. This was quite a severe speed drop given my baseline speed (43.89 Mbps), but I did streaming in HD videos.
The UK speeds reached 4.42 Mbps. When I tried to access videos on BBC iPlayer, everything went as I expected. I watched different movies though with lots of buffering and interruptions.
Finally, I tested another international server in Japan. With a speed of up to 3.22 Mbps, I couldn’t play games at all. TunnelBear won’t shine in every metric, speed included.
TunnelBear won’t offer blazing speeds for a better streaming experience, I would pick a VPN with streaming
Server Network: Small, But Well-Distributed
Beyond private browsing, TunnelBear offers a well-distributed server network. The number of servers looks smaller than a lot of VPNs, but you can’t disregard 1,800+ servers throughout 45 countries.
TunnelBear’s primary focus is to spread out its server locations even in areas out of reach. Such a move gives users an edge to either connect to the nearby servers or servers that are relatively close, assuring you better speeds.
We may argue that the overall server count isn’t a good measurement of quality. However, a higher number of servers give you plenty of options. A wider coverage also prevents server congestion.
I noticed that TunnelBear doesn’t update the number of servers it has worldwide. When I contacted its live chat support, an agent informed me that the provider removes and adds servers depending on demand. That addition and fluctuation would make the server count totally inaccurate on the website.
As for me, the servers were enough to get me started. I was able to connect to the fastest servers in the US, UK, Asia, Australia, and South Africa. Inexperienced VPN users won’t get trouble when establishing the connection. Just select the server location and connect.
Gloves off to this VPN service, the provider does an excellent job of simplifying everything. There’s the closest tunnel that finds you the fastest servers. I automatically selected the country with the fastest connection from the “Fastest” server list to stream videos on Netflix US.
One more thing; TunnelBear owns the entire server infrastructure. That’s why physical servers are more than virtual.
Security: Highly Customizable Security Features
There’s plenty to like about TunnelBear when we mention online security. It comes packed with an array of security features to give your digital life an extra layer of protection. With TunnelBear, you’ll keep all your prying eyes at bay!
Whether you’re connected to insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots, there are encryption standards to ensure you stay anonymous and untraceable online. The solid VPN protocols give a one-click solution for your privacy needs.
Nearly every VPN provider claims to protect your digital information in case of an expected connection drop, but only a few are committed to doing so. TunnelBear defends you with the VigilantBear feature.
Not known as a top-tier VPN, TunnealBear has vastly improved when it comes to online security. The VPN service offers unbreakable encryption using a combination of EAS 256-bits and SHA-256 authentication to safeguard your user data.
Even the international governments, banks, and big tech companies have greenlighted the use of this combination to encode their data.
Simply put, you can surf the internet without being monitored by your ISPs on public networks. Your information is only accessible to you and you only. The feature is available for anyone – paid or free users.
VigilantBear (Kill Switch)
VigilantBear is TunnelBear’s kill switch feature. The feature builds a strong line of defense to prevent your unencrypted web traffic from leaking to your ISP should your VPN connection go down.
To make hacking practically impossible, VigilantBear automatically disconnects your internet device until the VPN connection is enabled. Hackers trying to mount DDoS attacks with the hope of stealing your personal data by interrupting your online traffic won’t make it.
You’ll get the feature on Windows, Android, Mac, but not iOS. Just activate it from the Preference menu to quietly conceal your data.
Multiple VPN protocols
TunnelBear provides OpenVPN (TCP/UDP) and IKEv2 security protocols. The two are the most preferred protocols, and you’ll get them on every VPN out there. The windows, MacOS, and Android clients all implement OpenVPN. You can also opt for the IKEv2 protocol.
IKEv2 is available for Windows and iOS clients. At the time of this review, I found that TunnelBear is yet to deploy the new generation, WireGuard protocol.
A TunnelBear agent confirmed that the company is working on WireGuard and will release it at the right time.
I suggest using OpenVPN because it’s an open-source VPN protocol. Developers have continuously improved it for a while now to ensure safe online browsing. Apart from that, you can use it with TunnelBear’s obfuscation (GhostBear) to bypass the Firewall.
IKEv2 is ideal when you want to switch between Wi-Fi and mobile networks. iOS users will love it.
The VPN Company boasts its own obfuscation technology called GhostBear. The stealth mode basically conceals your OpenVPN traffic, creating a gateway to bypass any firewall – Chinese Firewall included.
By using GhostBear, the ISP finds it harder to detect your VPN usage as your online traffic will look more like regular HTTPS traffic. When enabled, I noticed a slight speed reduction. This is normal since GhostBear needs to go extra strengths to mask your VPN usage.
Any obfuscation process takes a toll on your connection speeds and server response time. The company itself doesn’t recommend using GhostBear unless you’re in a certain scenario that requires you to disguise VPN usage.
TunnelBear currently offers the feature on Windows, Android, and Mac apps. Unluckily, iOS users can only take advantage of GhostBear if only you choose the IKEv2 protocol.
It’s a split tunneling feature for TunnelBear VPN. SplitBear is paramount as it gives you total control over traffic. With it, you can divide your internet traffic by routing some of it through an encrypted VPN and sending the rest to your regular ISP directly.
Practically, I watched a movie outside my Netflix region through a secure VPN tunnel while backing up my files through my regular internet connection. I could stream Netflix safely without slowing down my other online activities.
Keep in mind that SplitBear is only available for Android users. On Windows, iOS, and MacOS, all your applications will be routed through TunnealBear’s VPN servers.
IP & DNS leak protection
TunnelBear successfully passed all my leak tests. To find out if the VPN service leaked my IP address, I ran a series of tests using ipleak.net with different servers. No IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks were detected.
Both IPv6 and DNS requests can expose your actual location through the IP address. One main reason why TunnelBear passed my tests is because it has private DNS servers. These servers eliminate the middlemen where your IP address may be visible to authorities.
Privacy: Verified No-Logs Policy
Many VPN services fail to provide customers with solid privacy tools, making them downright concerning. You’ll find that the term ‘no-logs VPN’ is just a pinky promise.
Worth noting, even top VPNs with a zero-logs policy still monitor your online identity – IP addresses, the device you use, and connection stamps.
TunnelBear’s Zero Logging Policy
DNS queries while connected
IP addresses of users visiting the website
HOWEVER, the VPN provider does collect operational data, account user data, and payment data. All are stored for various purposes – perhaps for account confirmation, product improvement, and customer support.
Even after the US cybersecurity company purchased TunnelBear (McAfee), its headquarters still remained in Canada. This isn’t a perfect location for VPNs since it’s part of the Five Eyes Alliance. If the authorities request the company to hand over users’ data, TunnelBear will be required to abide by.
But you can breathe knowing that Tunnelbear only keeps basic information about its users. That’s to say; there’s not much to disclose.
You have another reason to smile yet. TunnelBear undergoes a security audit every year. The company recently made it public that it has undergone a third-party audit. In a report submitted by Cure53, the cybersecurity experts looked for all the sources of codes, servers, and apps that malicious actors could exploit.
Device Compatibility: Is TunnelBear Compatible With My Device?
TunnelBear supports a variety of clients and apps. From its official site, you’ll get apps for Windows, Android, MacOS, and iOS. There are browser extensions available for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera too.
Unfortunately, the VPN doesn’t offer a native app for Linux. If you’ve Ubuntu, though, it’s possible to configure TunnelBear on Linux manually. The VPN service currently doesn’t support Apple TV, Windows mobile phones, Android TV, Kindle/eReaders, modern routers, and gaming consoles.
Desktop Apps (Windows & MacOS)
TunnelBear for Windows is my favorite app. The app is feature-rich, colorful, and easy to navigate without ever being cloying or overbearing. It took me 1 minute to get started. No complex menus or unnecessary complications.
I already like the winning design that TunnelBear comes with. As an experienced VPN user, you’ll be able to tweak around the edges if need be. The map highlighting the different server locations to connect to is fantastic. You’re only required to click on their respective tunnels. A single click is enough to get the job done.
Windows client lets you toggle between a variety of security features – from VigilantBear and GhostBear to a handful of VPN protocols.
Mac app shares the same features as Windows. At a glance, they look almost identical. I found that desktop versions have one big button to turn on/off the VPN.
Mobile Apps (Android & iOS)
Sleek mobile apps borrow a cute design directly from their desktop counterparts. I prefer the Android app because you can use it without making sacrifices. The app doesn’t come with complex menus but does allow you to configure it as per your liking.
With the iOS app, everything just works effortlessly. You’ll find it easy to pick the fastest server from server selection, which looks quite snappy.
Linux app is still underdeveloped. According to TunnelBear’s representatives, work is in progress, and we’re going to see it soon.
Is TunnelBear Good for Torrenting?
Is TunnelBear Good for Torrenting?
While many VPN services openly advertise P2P servers for torrenting, TunnelBear prefers to keep it silent. The fact that the provider doesn’t offer dedicated servers doesn’t mean torrenting activities are forbidden.
When I tested different servers, I was impressed with the results. TunnelBear selected the fastest server locations for me then, I proceeded with downloading the files. To some extent, TunnelBear is torrent-friendly.
The only setback is that I encountered some problems. Poor connection speed kept disconnecting the whole process, so it’s not 100% guaranteed. The speed at that time varied between 3 and 6 Mbps.
Is TunnelBear Good for Gaming?
Yes. Only local servers support online gaming. TunnelBear may not be the best VPN for gaming like CyberGhost or NordVPN, but it’s ideal for basic use. In my testing, long-distance servers were too slow to allow me to stream and play multiplayer games.
When choosing a VPN for gaming, it’s advisable to analyze three metrics:
Bandwidth – Premium TunnelBear offers unlimited data bandwidth. You can limitlessly transfer any amount of data.
Latency/Ping rate – Measured in milliseconds (ms), ping rate is the amount of time it takes for your device to respond to hosting server requests. My ping rate wasn’t pleasing.
Packed loss – data lost during file transfer.
On all local servers, the metrics were okay – I had no packet loss, bandwidth impressed, and the ping rate was high. The overall gaming experience with international servers wasn’t perfect as I was hoping.
Packet loss and high latency translates to the inability to load objects correctly. That means you’ll experience a lot of lags.
Despite the fact that local servers offer good speeds, TunnelBear isn’t worth the hype. Suppose you want to play a game with your friend in the UK, it will be almost impossible. I would recommend top brands such as NordVPN.
Simultaneous Device Connections – Secures Up To 5 Devices
TunnelBear knows what users want. It allows you to connect up to 5 devices simultaneously under one account. In all tests, I used different devices at once – my MacBook Pro, desktop computer, iPhone, among many others.
Give it a test with at most 5 devices. TunnelBear is, therefore, suitable for large families.
Without any doubt, TunnelBear is user-friendly. Getting started with this VPN service is as simple as you can imagine. To create an account, you’re required to hand over your name and email address.
Choose and pay your preferred plan to download the app depending on the device you’re using – can be Windows, Android, or iOS. You can as well download it as an extension.
The VPN is aimed at less tech-savvy people. TunnelBear’s interface reflects this. It’s clean, well-designed, and straightforward for everyone to use.
Use the drop-down menu to find the fastest server location. In addition, the map shows the closest tunnel where you need to click the location of your choice for easy connection.
Reliability & Customer Support
You won’t find live chat support. This was a blow for me while I was conducting my comprehensive tests. Instead, I used TunnelBear’s email support because I needed more in-depth help.
The email form is nicely structured so that users can ask their questions to the correct department. Another option is the help bot. The knowledgeable base serves you with an article depending on your question or keywords.
I tested it but was not impressed. Apart from response time, I didn’t get an accurate answer to my question as I would’ve wanted. The agents are polite, which is a plus.
Plans & Pricing
TunnelBear is one of the few price-friendly VPNs you can get on a budget. You’re welcome with three pricing plans; Free, Unlimited, and Teams. If you’re short in cash, the free plan is a viable option for you.
It’s worth mentioning that the free version offers limited server count, data caps, and slow speeds. The Unlimited plan is reserved for those seeking a standard subscription, while the Teams plan is reserved for business users.
One thing that made me anxious is that TunnelBear isn’t clear about its refund policy. The official policy is that there is no automatic money-back guarantee, but you are welcome to test the VPN with the free package. However, if you’re having technical issues, you can contact customer support and they’ll review your case to determine if t warrants a full refund.
Is TunnelBear really safe?
Yes. It’s a good VPN for beginners. If you care about your digital privacy, just like other top VPNs, TunnelBear is equal to the task. The VPN is equipped with a handful of security features, including VigilantBear, multi-grade encryption, and reliable VPN protocols.
It also sticks to the claim of being a zero-log VPN service
Is TunnelBear free?
Yes. There’s a free plan for people with tight budgets. Free users get a 500 MB monthly cap. It’s advisable to go with the unlimited plan to enjoy advanced features. The premium plan comes with no caps.
Does TunnelBear work with UK Netflix?
TunnelBear unblocks US Netflix only. I tested Netflix UK, Germany, Japan, Canada, and Australia without any success.
The Bottom Line
Overall, I found TunnelBear to be a user-friendly VPN. Although cheaply priced, the VPN service is ideal for people who just want to browse anonymously with a trace.
It has robust security tools, including military-grade encryption, VigilantBear, and multiple VPN protocols to keep you safe. The provider also implements a strict no-logs policy to keep off ISP, hackers, and governments from accessing your sensitive information.
If you’re a movie addict, TunnelBear unblocks Netflix US, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming sites. All native apps for Windows, Android, and Mac are easy to use. The interface is pretty appealing.
So, is TunnelBear worth getting? Yes, and probably not. It all goes down to your online needs.