TunnelBear VPN Review
TunnelBear VPN - Full Review
Whether you’re worried about your online security, you want to access torrenting software blocked by your ISP or you would like to be able to bypass the geo-restrictions put in place by some streaming apps, there are any number of reasons why you might invest in a VPN – but which one should you choose?
There are plenty of VPNs around that offer a wide array of advanced features for the experienced user, but Tunnelbear is designed for the other end of the market: the casual internet user who just wants to protect their privacy a little better. With that in mind, we tested it out to see what it had to offer.
A VPN keeps your online activity private by encrypting your data and re-routing your connection via a server in another location. While this process does a fine job of keeping you safe from the attentions of hackers or snooping ISPs, it also tends to lead to a notable drop in internet speed – and some VPNs deal with this issue better than others.
Tunnelbear performs adequately in this regard. Our baseline speed with the VPN switched off was around 600mbps, and this dropped to around 250mbps once the VPN was connected – a sizeable drop, but if you’ve got a decent baseline then even data-intensive activity such as P2P file sharing and streaming high quality video should be possible with minimal issues.
The key to achieving a good internet speed while connected to a VPN is finding a server that is near to your real location – so the larger the server base, the more likely you are to find reliably quick connections.
Tunnelbear offers servers in just 26 locations around the world, with none whatsoever in the Middle East or Africa, so finding a speedy connection could be difficult if you live outside of North America or Europe. With rival services offering thousands of servers in up to 100 countries, Tunnelbear’s server base is one of the smallest on the market.
As we mentioned earlier, Tunnelbear’s USP is its simplicity. Whether you interpret that as disappointingly basic or reassuringly straightforward may depend on your expertise – but for the novice user, this product’s intuitive design makes it easy to increase your security in a matter of minutes.
Although the service doesn’t include many additional features that come as standard on more advanced VPNs, Tunnelbear’s ‘Vigilant Mode’ kill switch ensures your data won’t be leaked in the event of your VPN disconnecting, by automatically cutting off your internet.
Many major streaming services now install ‘geo-blocking’ software on their apps, restricting access to their content libraries based on your location. Different content is made available to different countries, which can be frustrating if you’re travelling abroad and want to catch up on your favourite shows or if you enjoy watching foreign television – and some VPNs allow you to bypass the restrictions by routing your connection through a server in the location of the content you wish to view.
Unfortunately, during testing with Tunnelbear we were unable to connect to any of the streaming services we tried, as each of them recognised we were connecting via a VPN and instantly blocked us. If streaming from well-known apps like Netflix or iPlayer is a requirement when choosing a VPN, this one is best avoided.
The issue of torrenting remains a contentious one, with many organisations trying to ban it outright due to the proliferation of copyrighted files on P2P servers. Fearful of being sued, some ISPs now block access to torrenting sites and programs – but a VPN can offer a way around this by encrypting your data so that your ISP cannot see what you are doing.
For a long time, Tunnelbear did not allow access to file sharing software on its servers, but they have recently had a change of heart. You can now access torrenting software on all of its servers, although the service’s middling speeds could mean a long wait for large files to finish transferring.
Dedicated gamers will know the importance of a fast, stable connection when playing online – unreliable or slow connections can lead to the dreaded lag, which can ruin your gaming experience.
Although this service is capable of reaching speeds that allow for reliable gaming, it does increase your ping significantly, which could cause problems – but when we tested Tunnelbear we were able to play a number of games without any major issues.
Tunnelbear offers both free and paid plans, as well as a ‘Teams’ subscription for businesses that features centralised team billing and your own account manager.
The free plan is limited to 500mb per month, so it’s only useful for occasional users – but it does offer excellent security, making it one of the better free VPNs around.
The unlimited plan is available for as little as $3.33 per month if you subscribe to the three-year plan (a yearly plan costs $4.99 per month, while the monthly rolling plan is $9.99) and allows you to connect up to five devices simultaneously – if you’re able to pay the $120 price up front, $3.33 per month is excellent value for what Tunnelbear provides.
Tunnelbear does not currently offer a free trial. However, you can test the service using the free plan before moving to the paid plan once you are satisfied that it can provide what you need.
Tunnelbear has a free plan that is limited to 500mb per month, and a paid plan with no data limit.
Is Tunnelbear any good?
Although it is a little light on advanced features and has a small server base, Tunnelbear’s decent speeds and robust security make it a good choice for inexperienced users.
Is TunnelBear legal?
Tunnelbear is completely legal, although you should not use the service for illegal purposes.
Can I access Netflix using Tunnelbear?
We were unable to access Netflix while connected to Tunnelbear, as the app recognised that we were connecting via a VPN and blocked the connection.
Your opinion of Tunnelbear is perhaps more dependent on your usage than any other VPN we have reviewed. It provides strong security and reasonable internet speeds at a low price, making it a good choice for novices – but the inability to bypass geo-restrictions and a small server base mean there are more impressive options available for advanced users.