TunnelBear Review

Top10.com StaffByTop10.com StaffAug. 15, 2019

In a Nutshell

TunnelBear is a Canada-based VPN provider that provides a VPN service based on the widely used OpenVPN protocol. While their speeds are not the fastest that we have seen, there’s still plenty to love about the tool which is noted for its slick design and entertaining bear graphics.

pros

  • Lite version for Chrome and Opera browsers
  • Up to 5 simultaneous connections
  • Business version available

cons

  • Can’t be installed on a router
  • Pricier than other providers

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TunnelBear VPN At A Glance

Best for
Numerous operating systems and browser options
Price (or price range)
Plans starting at $4.17/month
Location
700+ servers in 22 countries (US and UK included)
Netflix
No
Torrenting
Yes
Logging
No logging policy
Number of Devices
5
Operating Systems
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux is manual
Browser Extensions
Chrome and Opera

Privacy

TunnelBear has done a great job at providing plain language documentation to explain the data that it collects, and retains, about its customers. There’s a “privacy policy you can understand” posted online that explains its privacy and logging policies. The latter explains what account user data is retained. This includes the customer’s:

  • Email
  • Twitter ID (if customer signs up via the Twitter promotion)
  • Customer status 
  • Expiry of paid status

In other words, TunnelBear retains basic account information but does not keep any connection logs or records of what website users have accessed. That’s good enough to qualify as zero logs in our books. Unfortunately, the company is based in Canada. It should be noted that Canada is part of the UKUSA Community and is suspected to participate in the ECHELON SIGINT program.

When it comes to internet privacy, TunnelBear truly puts its money where its mouth is. Their privacy policy is incredibly transparent and straightforward, setting out exactly what they collect and why.

While some VPN providers claim to be log-free, they still collect connection data such as the time you connect and log off, which server you’ve connected to, and even your original IP address. TunnelBear doesn’t do this, allowing you the highest level of anonymity possible.

The VPN apps are designed to connect automatically when you start up your device and to stay connected even if you restart. However, if you’d rather not be connected to the VPN all the time, TunnelBear also has a whitelisting option. In other words, you can set TunnelBear to automatically connect or disconnect depending on whether a particular WiFi network is in your list of trusted networks or not.

Features

TunnelBear has several features which other VPN providers on the market simply do not have. In particular, it has an auto-tunnel feature, Vigilante mode and GhostBear technology.

Auto-Tunnel

While some VPNs are designed to connect automatically to the server that’s closest to your location, TunnelBear’s Auto-Tunnel feature does things a bit differently.

Auto-tunnel’s selection isn’t based on physical location, but on ping time. In other words, it tests how long it takes for a server to communicate with your device and automatically connects you to the one that takes the shortest time to do so. This ensures your VPN always performs optimally, without slowing down your internet connection.

GhostBear Technology

GhostBear is TunnelBear’s built-in anti-censorship feature.

It adds an extra layer of security to your already encrypted connection by scrambling it completely. This makes it much harder for internet service providers (ISPs) and others to detect that you’re using a VPN. And, if they can’t detect you, they can’t force you to disable your VPN in order to access certain websites.

Vigilant Mode

When a WiFi connection drops, a VPN briefly disconnects and reconnects. With other VPNs, this means your private data is unsecured until your VPN reconnects. And, while this is usually a matter of seconds, your data is still at risk from hackers and snoopers.

Not so when you use TunnelBear in Vigilant mode. The feature kicks in whenever TunnelBear disconnects, even if it’s just a matter of a few seconds. That way, you can rest assured you’re safe at all times, even while your VPN is re-connecting.

Security Technology

Aside from its commitment to privacy, Vigilant mode and GhostBear technology, TunnelBear is also very secure, using 256-bit encryption as standard and supporting only the latest security protocols—OpenVPN, IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2) and IPSec (Internet Protocol Security).

Unfortunately, flexibility is somewhat of a mixed bag.

On the positive side, TunnelBear has apps for all major operating platforms. It also allows up to 5 simultaneous connections.

On the other hand, it cannot be installed on a router or manually. This means it won’t work on Apple TV, smart TVs and gaming systems such as Xbox and PS4. It also doesn’t support torrenting at all.

The Speed Test

Paid TunnelBear packages all come with unlimited data, which means you can use as much bandwidth as you like without being throttled. All servers are monitored for potential issues and the apps are regularly updated to ensure everything works as it should.

However, with servers in only 22 countries, TunnelBear lags behind other VPN providers, some of which have upwards of 150 server locations. So, while switching servers is easy, you may find that you still run into speed issues in certain geographical locations or if you’re trying to connect to particular websites.

On the bright side, TunnelBear’s auto-tunnel feature ensures you’re always connected to the fastest server available. And while TunnelBear itself warns that the GhostBear feature may slow the connection down, we didn’t find the difference to be particularly noticeable.

Pricing and Deals

TunnelBear has three plans: monthly, yearly and a 2-year plan. Here’s their pricing:

  • Monthly Plan: $9.99/month
  • 1-Year Plan: $4.99/month
  • 2-Year Plan: $4.17/month (SAVE 58%)

Torrents

TunnelBear has gone on record saying that it allows torrenting activity to take place over its VPN. This is a change from past policies. TunnelBear has a relatively small network and does not operate any torrent-optimized servers. However, it’s a fine option for those that want to use a P2P-based program, or Tor, while also connected to the VPN.

Netflix

Unfortunately the longstanding position that TunnelBear gets blocked by Netflix has not changed since we last updated this review. VPNs with a larger network have a better chance of being able to work around Netflix’s VPN-blocking antics.

Client Setup

TunnelBear is one of the easiest VPNs to set up! TunnelBear is designed to be as easy to use as possible and users can easily get connected to a server in just 3 clicks!

Apps

TunnelBear is available on both Android and iOS from the Google Play Store and iTunes. The Android version is every bit as attractive as the desktop UI, sporting the same signature bear cartoons that have thrilled and amused users the world over. The Android app also features:

  • No logs. No connection records are stored on the handset.
  • One tap connect to easily get connected
Price
$4.17 per month
$2.50 per month
$3.75 per month
Number of Devices
5
7
3
Number of Servers
700+
3600+
100+
Best for
Family sharing
Usability
Netflix streaming
P2P or Bittorrent
Yes
Yes
Ye

Customer Support

TunnelBear’s FAQ section covers general questions, billing and account issues, as well as technical issues specific to its VPN apps. The language is straightforward and the answers to the questions are quite comprehensive, leaving little doubt as to what you can and cannot do with the service.

Talking to a live customer representative is a bit more involved, though. You’ll need to log in using your account email and password. Then, you’ll need to open a support ticket and await a response. Disappointingly, TunnelBear doesn’t currently have a live chat or phone option. However, you do get an automated response promising a reply to your query within 24 hours.

TunnelBear is very active both on Facebook and Twitter. It’s also quite responsive to customer queries. Most of the time, however, it replies to queries and complaints simply by telling you to open a support ticket, which can be frustrating.

Of course, business users get priority support and access to a personal account manager, which means support is much speedier. This is as it should be, seeing as business VPN is more expensive than the personal version.

Ease of Use

While many VPN providers make ease of use a cornerstone of their product, TunnelBear takes things a step further.

The apps do not require any tweaking. Simply login and connect. You’ll automatically be connected to the best server available.

More to the point, the iOS and Android apps allow you to access the VPN without even unlocking your phone. The 3D touch feature on iOS and the Android widget allow you to connect to a TunnelBear server directly from your homescreen, ensuring you’re protected even while you’re not using your phone.

Tunnelbear Tunnelbear Visit Site

Business VPN

TunnelBear has one of the best business offerings around. Every team member can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously, which is especially great for developers, web designers and others who may need to check their work or have access to collaboration tools on multiple devices at once.

You’ll also get priority support and a dedicated personal account manager, which will serve as the first point of contact for all your enquiries and issues.

FAQs

How many servers does TunnelBear have?

TunnelBear has 700+ servers in 22 locations worldwide.

Is there a Linux client?

No. But Linux users can configure by importing the right OpenVPN files.

Can I install TunnelBear on my router and protect every device in my home?

There is no router version.

Bottom Line

TunnelBear does come up short in some key areas. The number of server locations is rather low, especially for a VPN that has been in business for some 6 years.

With that being said, TunnelBear is a joy to use, really big on privacy, and has a refreshingly straightforward and transparent privacy policy. It also has a great business offering and innovative features you’d be hard-pressed to find in other VPNs.

Top10.com StaffByTop10.com StaffJun. 18, 2019
Our editorial staff is comprised of writers who are passionate about the world of online consumer services. We specialize in simplifying the process of choosing the right VPN for your needs.
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