We understand the importance of a reliable, secure, user-friendly VPN service. That's why we're looking closer at TunnelBear VPN. Its service has garnered attention for its unique features and commitment to user privacy. Plus, it's free, making it look even more desirable.
In this detailed TunnelBear VPN review, we'll explore everything from its security protocols and server distribution to performance and pricing. We aim to provide you with a complete understanding of TunnelBear VPN and help you decide if it fits your online privacy needs.
Note: This expert review covers the free version of TunnelBear VPN. It is a freemium brand that offers an upgrade path toward paid subscriptions.
- Relatively fast performance
- Global server network
- Strong encryption standards
- Unlimited connections
- GhostBear Mode helps disguise VPN traffic
- Offers free and premium versions
- Free version allows access to all server locations
- Based in 5-Eyes country
- Unknown server count
- Free plan limited to 2GB/mo
- Somewhat buggy app
- Inconsistent speeds
Introduction to PrivadoVPN
TunnelBear VPN Privacy and Anonymity
Privacy and anonymity are areas of most significant concern for us regarding TunnelBear VPN. We've never been fans of McAfee and consider it little more than a legalized spam factory. Worse is that this VPN is Canadian-based, a country that is a core member of the 5-Eyes surveillance alliance.
Regardless, let's look at what's on the table regarding TunnelBear's offering in privacy and anonymity.
Strict No-Logging Policy
A key aspect of maintaining user privacy is the commitment to a strict no-logging policy. TunnelBear VPN stands firm in this regard. The service does not log any activity of its users, meaning it doesn't track or store information about the websites you visit or the data you transfer.
This policy ensures that even if a third party requested your data, TunnelBear would have nothing to hand over. However, the stance is also rather questionable, given that the company needs to comply with local Canadian regulations on data retention.
Vigilant Mode Offers Added Security
TunnelBear VPN further protects your privacy with its Vigilant Mode feature. This feature acts as a safety net if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly. It blocks all unsecured traffic until the connection is safely re-established, preventing any data leakage that could compromise your privacy.
If you've figured it out by now, yes, you are correct. Vigilant mode is simply a kill switch that TunnelBear has renamed into something fitting its bearish behavior.
GhostBear Camouflages Your VPN Traffic
Maintaining anonymity can be challenging in regions where VPN usage is restricted or monitored. TunnelBear's GhostBear feature comes into play here. It disguises your VPN traffic, making it appear like regular internet traffic. This feature can help users maintain anonymity even in countries with strict VPN regulations.
And yes, GhostBear is also what TunnelBear calls something relatively common; server obfuscation. It's a useful feature meant to persuade websites that you aren't using a VPN.
Notably, though, GhostBear doesn't work if you use WireGuard on TunnelBear. A fact that is distressing and confusing at the same time to us. If other providers can, why can't GhostBear, especially since they want a fancy name for the feature?
Transparency in Privacy Practices
This transparency allows users to understand exactly how their data is handled, reinforcing trust in its commitment to privacy. Honestly, the fact that the service is independently audited does reassure us somewhat. And the fact that they use the same auditors as NordVPN, Germany-based Cure53.
Warning: TunnelBear is Based in Canada, a Five Eyes Country
The biggest concern about TunnelBear is its legal residence. The company is based in Canada, a member of the Five Eyes alliance. This alliance is an intelligence-sharing agreement between five countries: the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Being based in a Five Eyes country means that, theoretically, TunnelBear could be compelled by law to share user data with the government. However, it's important to remember that if TunnelBear's no-logging policy is true, it doesn't have any user activity data to hand over.
TunnelBear VPN Security
Security is a paramount concern. Users entrust VPNs with their most sensitive data, and the service must be up to the task of protecting it. TunnelBear VPN has made a name for itself, offering a suite of security features to keep your data safe.
AES-256: The Gold Standard of Encryption
TunnelBear VPN uses AES-256 encryption, the same standard used by governments and security experts around the globe. This level of encryption is considered virtually uncrackable, ensuring that your data remains secure as it travels from your device to the VPN server.
TunnelBear VPN offers an always-on feature, ensuring that your VPN connection is active from the moment you start your device. This means you're protected from the get-go without remembering to connect to the VPN each time manually.
Independent Security Audits
In a move that sets it apart from many competitors, TunnelBear VPN commits to annual independent security audits. These audits, conducted by third-party experts, scrutinize its systems and practices.
The results are published publicly, providing transparency and reassurance about the service's security measures.
TunnelBear VPN Speed Performance
|Country Server||Speed Test Results|
|US (California)||434 Mbps / 22 Mbps (Down / Up)|
|EU (Germany)||352 Mbps / 15 Mbps (Down / Up)|
|Asia (Singapore)||487 Mbps / 197 Mbps (Down / Up)|
|Australia||449 Mbps / 71 Mbps (Down / Up)|
Our tests found that TunnelBear VPN had a moderate impact on download and upload speeds. While the speeds were slightly slower when connected to the VPN, they were still more than adequate for any online activities.
For a free VPN that includes access to the WireGuard protocol, TunnelBear does alright in its speed performance. However, we can see that they've decided to limit upstream speeds since it's terrible across almost all of their servers.
With an intense download speed, there's no reason why uploads should be so slow – except by deliberate manipulation to reduce costs. Most of us indeed focus on download speeds, but did they have to reduce costs to such an extent? It's a little mind-boggling.
TunnelBear VPN Customer Support
Customer support is essential to any service, and VPNs are no exception. When you encounter issues or have questions, it's essential to have a reliable support team to turn to. In this section, we'll evaluate the customer support offered by TunnelBear VPN.
TunnelBear VPN primarily offers support through its online ticketing system. Users can submit a ticket detailing their issue or query, and the support team will respond via email. While this system can be effective, it may not provide the immediate assistance some users need, especially in the case of urgent issues.
TunnelBear VPN also provides a comprehensive knowledge base on its website. This resource includes many articles and guides covering common issues and questions. Topics range from getting started with the VPN to troubleshooting connection problems. The knowledge base is well-organized and easy to navigate, making it a valuable resource for self-help.
Besides the ticketing system and knowledge base, TunnelBear VPN maintains active social media accounts on platforms like Twitter. These can be helpful to channels for getting updates, tips, and sometimes support.
No Live Chat
One notable absence in TunnelBear VPN's support offering is live chat. Many VPN providers offer live chat support, which can provide instant assistance and is often preferred by users for convenience. The lack of live chat support is a drawback, as it means users may have to wait longer for responses to their queries.
P2P and Torrenting on TunnelBear VPN
Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing and torrenting are common uses for VPNs, allowing users to download and share files securely and privately. However, not all VPNs support these activities, or they may have policies that limit their use.
Unclear Stance on P2P and Torrenting
TunnelBear VPN does not explicitly state its position on P2P file sharing and torrenting in its terms of service or website. This lack of clarity can concern users who regularly engage in these activities and seek a VPN that supports them.
While some VPNs explicitly allow P2P and have servers optimized for torrenting, TunnelBear VPN does not provide such clear information. This ambiguity leaves users unsure whether they can use the service for P2P and torrent without violating the terms of service.
Limited Bandwidth is a Barrier to P2P
Even if TunnelBear VPN did support P2P and torrenting, its limited bandwidth allowance on the free plan would be a significant obstacle. The free version of TunnelBear VPN provides only 2GB of monthly data.
This data is insufficient for most P2P and torrenting activities, which often involve downloading large files. Even a single movie or game can easily exceed 2GB, making P2P and torrenting practically impossible with TunnelBear VPN's free version.
The only way to P2P on TunnelBear is by upgrading to the premium version, but we'll discuss that later.
Media Streaming on TunnelBear VPN
Media streaming is a popular online activity, with platforms like Netflix and Hulu offering vast content libraries. Many users turn to VPNs to access geographically restricted content on these platforms. In this section, we'll examine TunnelBear VPN's capabilities when it comes to media streaming.
TunnelBear Access to Netflix, Hulu, and More
One of the main reasons to use a VPN for media streaming is to bypass geographic restrictions. Services like Netflix and Hulu have different content libraries in other countries, and a VPN can help you access content that isn't usually available in your location.
TunnelBear VPN has servers in over 20 countries, allowing you to access a wide range of content. However, it's important to note that streaming services have become increasingly adept at detecting and blocking VPN traffic.
Again, TunnelBear Bandwidth Limitations Limit Netflix Streaming
While TunnelBear VPN might be able to help you access geographically restricted content, its limited bandwidth allowance presents a significant challenge for media streaming. Don't expect much on Netflix or Hulu with the paltry 2GB bandwidth on the free plan.
To put this in perspective, streaming a single hour of standard definition video on Netflix uses approximately 1GB of data, while high definition video uses around 3GB per hour. You would quickly exhaust your monthly allowance with just a few hours of streaming.
Plans and Pricing
The free TunnelBear plan we review is an excellent option for those who want to test out the service or only need a VPN for occasional use. It includes all of TunnelBear's security features and even lets you access the entire server network. As far as we know, most free services limit the servers you can connect with.
The downside is an extremely tight 2GB/mo bandwidth limitation. If we're being honest about this, the 2GB is nowhere near realistically usable. Even moderate activities like browsing or online word processing will blow your bandwidth away faster than you can sneeze.
It all points toward TunneBear abusing the “Free VPN” label and attempting to force users onto its premium “Unlimited Plan.”
TunnelBear's Unlimited Plan
For those who need more data, TunnelBear offers an Unlimited plan. As the name suggests, this plan provides unlimited data, making it a better choice for regular VPN users. As of the time of writing, the Unlimited plan is priced at $9.99 per month if you pay monthly or $3.33 per month if you pay for a year upfront. We think this is where the real unfairness comes in.
TunnelBear fails to stack up well against a range of premium VPNs for that price. Many top-tier VPNs offer more features and less bear-s**t in using technical jargon. We'd much prefer to use our money, sign up for NordVPN at $3.99/mo, and use its 30-day money-back guarantee as a free trial.
TunnelBear also offers a Teams plan designed for businesses and organizations. The Teams plan includes all the Unlimited plan features but with additional benefits like centralized team billing and management, priority customer service, and a dedicated account manager.
Final Thoughts: Is This “Free” VPN Worth a Go?
After a comprehensive review of TunnelBear VPN, it's clear that the service has a lot to offer. With robust security features, a user-friendly interface, and a commitment to transparency, TunnelBear VPN stands out as a reliable option in the crowded VPN market.
However, the stiff limitations on the free plan force us to conclude that it's simply a gimmick to draw the unwary onto the premium service. Unless you're a very occasional user, the TunnelBear free plan sucks.
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