TunnelBear VPN Review
TunnelBear is a unique virtual private network (VPN) service provider that perhaps stands out for their quirky customer experience, user-friendly interface, and an all-round sense of humor. The company employs a minimal connection log policy but makes up for it with its complete transparency operational policy. In addition, the service is very competitively priced and offers would-be subscribers ample time to discover the service before committing to it.
However, the Canadian-based company is not for everyone. While TunnelBear offers excellent privacy and encryption, their speeds might not be sufficient for all users.
Pricing and Plans
As previously noted, TunnelBear is notorious for its quirky image and a great sense of humor, which managed to even infiltrate their VPN package solutions. Users can choose between three different options: Little, Giant, and Grizzly.
The Little option is perfect for the most casual users, or those simply looking to get a feel for the service before subscribing to a more comprehensive package. The Little options will allow users to use up to the 500mb worth of data, free of charge, every month. This option gives subscribers access to most of the company’s servers, with the exception of Australia.
For those users looking for something a bit more comprehensive, there is the Giant plan. This allows subscribers unlimited access to all its services, for $9.99 per month. The subscription is paid monthly.
However, the Grizzly option is bound to appeal to several users due to the value for money that it offers. With Grizzly, users also receive unlimited access to all TunnelBear services, but for $4.99 a month. This is paid annually, which equates to a total of $59.88.
Subscribers can connect five different devices using the same TunnelBear account.
TunnelBear accepts all major credit and debit cards. While PayPal is no longer available, subscribers can choose to pay in bitcoin.
Free trial and money back guarantee
Unlike most other VPNs, TunnelBear does not offer users a free trial or money back guarantee. However, this seems reasonable, considering that their Little package option is free, and gives users ample opportunity to explore their services before committing to a more comprehensive package.
However, considering this policy, potential subscribers are advised to test the service using the Little package first, before upgrading to a paid package.
TunnelBear offers subscribers access to servers located in 20 different countries worldwide, including Brazil, US, Japan, UK, Singapore, Canada, and Australia.
The service’s global network of servers is easy to access and manage using any device, including personal computers, tablets, smartphones, or routers.
Like the rest of the service, the sign-up process has been designed to be simple and straightforward. For the Little package, users simply need to enter an email and password before being directed to a download of the service. On the downloads page, you can choose which operating system platform you are working on and download the appropriate software.
However, Giant or Grizzly subscribers will be required to conduct a payment first via either a support debit card, credit card, or bitcoin.
After downloading the appropriate software, the setup wizard quickly and easily concludes the setup process. After installing, you will have to re-enter your login credentials to log into your account.
Once you’ve logged into your VPN client, TunnelBear gives you a quick walk-through as to how to navigate the program. The walk-through is concluded by the program asking you to check your email for an email for the VPN service which confirms your account. After you’ve verified the email, you can officially start using the service.
Notably, Little subscribers can use the complete VPN service without any restrictions to speed.
The TunnelBear Windows Client VPN
Once again, the company’s quirky image affects every aspect of the user experience, including its client. The user interface is easy to use, elegantly designed, and just plain fun to look at and use. The interface offers plenty of fun hidden features, which includes, of course, plenty of bears.
Once you open up the client, it’s connected to a random server closest to your current location. However, you can easily change to your preferred server by simply selecting one from the list. In the client’s settings, you can manage an array options like allowing the service to send you notifications, your preferred service, and choosing whether TunnelBear should be automatically activated when you start up your computer.
Under the security settings, you can manage to set such as the kill switch (VigilantBear), or stealth mode (GhostBear). Subscribers are recommended to keep the kill switch activated at all times but to exercise caution when using stealth mode, as it can slow down your speed.
In addition, you can manage which network you connect to under the Trusted Networks settings, which is likely to come in handy when you connect to public WiFi spots. Lastly, you can easily manage your account settings and get support via the Account Settings tab.
In a series of independently conducted speed tests, the overall consensus was that while the speeds were not as fast as some popular VPN services, they certainly improved in the last year, and is still sufficient for streaming.
The slowest server seemed to be the US server, which performed at average speeds but was still conducive to streaming content. Surprisingly, using stealth mode did not cause any noteworthy speed slowdowns.
TunnelBear users can choose between one of two different encryption protocols. While Mac OS and Windows users use OpenVPN, iOS users can choose between either the Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2) or Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/Internet Protocol Security (IPsec).
The service uses the industry standard 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) which uses the SHA256 authentication process on all platforms except, iOS 8.
Security and privacy
Since the company is Canada-based, they are required to keep the last month’s connection logs in order to be compliant with Canadian laws. However, the company emphasizes that they will only provide information when issued with a court-ordered warrant or subpoena, and the information provided will then be minimal and will not be time-stamped.
Considering Canada’s policies on P2P usage, users who require a VPN to that end are recommended to seek other VPN options.
TunnelBear is the ideal option for novice VPNs. The overall user experience is incredibly easy and tons of fun. While the company’s location makes it subject to somewhat intrusive legislation, the company’s transparent policies are likely to make up for it. Overall TunnelBear is a great VPN package that comes at a great price.