[Test Report] [ 75 / 100 ]
TunnelBear takes a playful approach to ensuring your privacy. Quirky and fun aside, they are very serious when it touches security.
I thought I’d seen it all.
I’ve been reviewing VPNs for quite a while now, and here’s how I get things done.
In my travels through cyberspace, I’ve covered most VPN providers that are vying for the top spot in the market.
After going through so many VPNs I thought I’d formed my opinion about the technology.
What do I mean by that?
Well, consider this: VPNs are generally meant to be for the technically serious.
After all, they deal with serious stuff such as encryption, obfuscation, and spoofing.
Just one look at those terms and you’ll think you’ve landed in the middle of a cyber espionage story.
With most VPNs taking the same route to provide privacy, I’d naturally expected all providers to stick to the same style.
And that’s when I stumbled upon TunnelBear VPN.
Quirky, colorful, and actually fun, TunnelBear takes a playful approach to ensuring your privacy.
The VPN interface is professional yet funky, has nicely placed animations, and above all is bear themed (who doesn’t like bears?).
At least that was my first impression of the service.
But I’m not really one to go by appearances alone. So, I decided to test the VPN out in-depth.
And after significant evaluation, I have the results for you all to see with a score of 75 / 100!.
As with I’ve done with all the previous testing, I evaluated the service across some of the following parameters:
- Does it work with Netflix?
- Is the service secure?
- Can you use it for Torrenting?
Before we delve into the details, let me give you a quick snapshot of what I found: TunnelBear is no doubt a highly affordable service that offers commendable security and privacy.
However, it does leave something to be desired when it comes to the streaming front.
Overall, it’s a good VPN to get the job done till you move on to something better.
With that in mind, let’s take a deep dive down the tunnel and see what it’s all about.
The Origins Of TunnelBear
TunnelBear was established in Canada in the year 2011, which means it has almost a decade of experience under its belt.
The original TunnelBear team comprised Ryan Dochuk and Daniel Kaldor, who set up the Toronto venture.
Later on, the business was acquired by McAfee Corporation, which is one of the leading cybersecurity companies in the world today.
That alone is reason enough to trust this service provider.
But then I dug in deeper, and what I found wasn’t really that impressive.
As I’ve already mentioned, TunnelBear has been operating for the better part of a decade.
But even then, it has a network of only a thousand servers spread across twenty locations, 1800 servers across 23 countries to be exact.
Compared to some of the major global VPN providers today, that’s a measly number.
The good news is that as the network is a relatively small one, it’s well maintained by the team (not owning them though).
In all my time of using the service, I didn’t experience any technical issues or downtime. This proves, though their global footprint might be small at the moment, TunnelBear certainly has the potential to be one of the best services in the market.
Once I’d satisfied myself regarding the origins of the service, I next stepped out to test it against the notorious wall of Netflix.
Can TunnelBear Tunnel Into Netflix?
I’ve always maintained that one of the major USPs of any VPN provider is their ability to get past streaming service geoblocks.
Particularly, Netflix US is a big challenge for providers as it contains the best content and naturally, the toughest security measures.
With that in mind, I tested out TunnelBear with Netflix’s US library first.
Sadly, TunnelBear failed to unlock the service.
Disappointed, I tried out the UK libraries, and here also I was met with the same results.
The bear can’t seem to unblock the Netflix VPN ban here.
Next, I moved onto BBC iPlayer, then Hulu, and even Amazon Prime, but the results were the same: TunnelBear couldn’t get past all those streaming services.
The only one I could get past was HBO Go, and here the performance was really great.
But all things considered, I can’t really recommend TunnelBear if you’re looking for a VPN that can unblock Netflix and other streaming sites.
Is TunnelBear Speedy Enough?
Next, I decided to test TunnelBear for speed.
A polar bear can run up to 40 km/h. Usain Bolt fastest speed is at 43 km/h.
For my tests, in this case, I was using a 31Mbps fiber broadband line.
I first decided to connect to the nearest server as I always do, and here I was met with fairly good speeds of 28Mbps.
Next, I headed over to the US, where I clocked an average of 21Mbps, which is a stable enough speed for most streaming and video calling tasks.
For the rest of Europe, I clocked speeds between 12-20Mbps, which is something of a common speed level when it comes to that continent.
India, however, was slower still with 12Mbps.
Japan gave me speeds of about 21Mbps, and in New Zealand, this translates to about 21Mbps.
Australia dropped further to about 18Mbps.
And I ended my tests with the simple conclusion that it’s not the farther you go with TunnelBear, the slower your connection will be.
It’s bouncy from place to place without consistency.
Does TunnelBear Support Torrenting?
Secure and safe torrenting is one of the things I’ve come to expect from VPN services.
Naturally, with TunnelBear, I decided to check out if the service supports torrenting.
What I found was that till recently, TunnelBear did not support P2P sharing.
But after customer demand, the service now fully supports torrenting.
I tried a few downloads and all of them went flawlessly.
This was a relief, as I was really skeptical about the capabilities of this VPN after it failed to unlock the major streaming libraries.
Once I had ascertained that TunnelBear does indeed work with torrents and provides reasonable speeds, now I set forth to test the service for security.
After all, one of the major reasons for using a VPN is to ensure your online safety, and this is a factor that I take very seriously.
But I needn’t have worried, for I soon discovered that despite its less than ideal performance in terms of streaming, TunnelBear does pay special attention to the security factor.
The service offers a choice of VPN protocols such as OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2, which are the standard protocols used by most leading VPNs.
What’s more, the service also incorporates AES-256 encryption, which virtually guarantees online safety.
But that’s not all that TunnelBear had to offer, as I soon discovered.
It also comes with an anonymous IP option, that further helps to protect your online identity.
Find out what is your IP with my tool here.
Plus, it even has a kill switch (they called it VigilantBear) that ensures your connection data doesn’t get leaked.
The option that I really like, however, is the one called GhostBear, an obfuscation tool that helps to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN.
This can be highly useful if you don’t want to let online monitoring agencies know that you’re using a VPN.
And the icing on the cake came in the form of an adblocker extension for browsers, that’s free to download for all users.
This tool is a nifty add-on that can protect you from those irritating ads and pop-ups that are so common on the internet nowadays.
Overall, I was satisfied with TunnelBear’s performance when it came to security.
At the same time, I’m experienced enough to know that security doesn’t always equal privacy; so that’s what I proceeded to check out next.
As my regular readers know, I’m a stickler for privacy, especially when it comes to VPNs.
After all, what’s the point of using a VPN if your provider logs all your activity and hands it over to monitoring authorities the moment, they ask for it?
That’s why I was really pleased to find that TunnelBear doesn’t log any user information at all.
This means all your online activity will remain absolutely private.
And even though the service is based in Canada, which is a part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance spy network, you can be sure that your details won’t change hands.
For if TunnelBear doesn’t log anything, what can it hand over?
Or find out your grade with my privacy quiz (it’s a quick one).
Can It Tunnel Through The Great Firewall?
When I asked myself the above question, I seriously had my doubts.
After all, China is one of the most heavily censored countries in the entire world. I didn’t really expect TunnelBear to be able to get past its blocks.
But the service still had a few tricks up its sleeve and proved me wrong.
TunnelBear actually proved rather efficient at bypassing the Chinese firewall.
The secret lies in GhostBear, its obfuscating feature that helps the VPN hide all activities.
Using GhostBear, I passed the dragon’s firewall easily and accessed the free internet with the help from an insider.
The GhostBear can muddle itself and pretend as the ‘Panda Bear’.
Does TunnelBear Pass The Leak Test?
As per its claims, TunnelBear is completely leakproof.
But is it really?
I ran some tests to find out the truth.
After thoroughly testing the service for IP as well as DNS leaks, I can safely say that TunnelBear lives up to its claims.
It passed all my tests with flying colors and also tested safe against IPv6 and WebRTC attacks.
Though IPv6 is not very common in the industry, it’s still good to have. Find out how the differs with IPv4 vs IPv6.
I attribute this safety to the OpenVPN standard and AES-256 protocol that TunnelBear uses.
These are industry-grade safety measures, and they naturally translate to better protection standards.
When it comes to pricing, TunnelBear turns out to be a case of mixed realities. It’s one of the few VPNs that offer a free version of the service. TunnelBear’s free account offers users 500MB data every month.
What’s more, there’s also a 7-days free trial that you can utilize to try out the service.
If you want a longer testing period, opt for the 1-month subscription that’ll cost you $9.99, which I did so.
A better option is the one-year plan, which costs only $4.99 per month.
The best deal is the 3-year plan, which costs $3.33 per month, and they are throwing in their Password Manager as well for their highest personal VPN paid plan for free.
Another aspect of TunnelBear’s payment method that I really like is that it accepts most major credit cards, and also Bitcoin payments.
This means even your payment method remains anonymous.
The only fly in the ointment about the payment is that TunnelBear doesn’t have a refund policy.
This means if you don’t like the service, you’re stuck with it for the duration of your plan anyway.
Still, with all the perks, they can’t match with Surfshark’s ultra-competitive price of less than $2/mo.
So, I suggest you try out the free plan before making a decision.
Does TunnelBear Offer Ample Customer Support?
The help page has a few articles that might help in resolving minor issues, but for anything beyond that, you’ll have to contact the TunnelBear support team.
While the team is in general helpful and eager to serve customers, I was a bit disappointed to find that they don’t have a live chat service.
In today’s age, you can’t really expect customers to wait for hours for a reply via online contact forms.
So, do not expect prompt solving solutions here.
But that’s what TunnelBear uses.
For simple queries, you can expect an answer within the hour, although I know several subscribers who have complained of having to wait for almost twenty-four hours before getting a reply.
Well, in my case. It took 39 minutes to receive my support. Which is pretty fast compared to what I’ve heard.
Overall, I’d say TunnelBear’s customer service is fair, though it leaves a lot to be desired.
Now to answer the most important question of all: should you go for TunnelBear?
The answer, of course, depends on your level of experience using VPNs.
If you’re a newbie who wants to explore the world of VPN technology and doesn’t need high performance, TunnelBear might be a good option with their free plan.
Or simply check out my 20+ free VPNs here.
On the other hand, in case you’re an advanced user who needs to stream Netflix and likes to have uniform speed throughout the world, you’d be better off with a VPN that has a larger global footprint like the ExpressVPN.
As always, at the end of the day, the choice depends on your requirements.
All things considered; I think TunnelBear is a pretty good option for those looking to take their first steps into the world of VPNs.
Their free plan is literally a baby bear step if I may add.