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BSN’s Tunnelbear VPN Review: The… fluffy one?

Dominik

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Tunnelbear VPN review main

Amid the sea of virtual private network solutions that you can subscribe to in this day and age, TunnelBear is absolutely the most adorable of the bunch. Which… is something I’m willing to concede is of absolutely no consequence to its value as a VPN service. But there’s plenty of that here, as well – so long as you’re not a power user. Without further ado, let’s go down this rabbit hole – bear den, whatever – of Internet anonymity:


TunnelBear VPN Review
4 BSN Score
Pros
Reliable performance. Accepts cryptocurrency payments. Arguably the most honest trial version among all VPNs. Beautifully designed UI perfect for inexperienced and casual users. It’s largely independent from its meme of an owner.
Cons
It has a meme of an owner. Small server network limits its potential. Advanced users are likely to find the app too barebones.
Summary
The market is so large that it has something for everyone, and TunnelBear, being a marvelously intuitive and straightforward VPN app for up to five devices, is a highly competitive option in a pretty sizable niche. Combined with its adorably entertaining design, it’s the perfect VPN for first-time users of all ages.
Performance4.5
Privacy & Security2.5
Ease of Use5
Pricing4.5

TunnelBear VPN Performance

As is the case with every VPN service under the sun, the kind of performance you can expect from TunnelBear will correlate to how close any one of its server clusters are from your actual, physical location. What doesn’t work in its favor is the relatively small number of servers it has available. With an ecosystem spanning fewer than two dozen countries, TunnelBear definitely falls on the lean end of today’s spectrum of acceptable VPN apps as far as pure coverage is concerned.

The actual servers do a good job of dynamically managing user demand and congestion is neither an issue nor something anyone should accept as inevitable regardless of their choice of a VPN. Torrenting performance is fully unthrottled, using up to five devices on a single subscription plan doesn’t slow you down, either (if your router can take it, of course), and access to on-demand video streaming sites like Netflix, HBO GO, and Disney+ is never in question.

As a side note, it’s worth mentioning I’ve had some small, but persistent issues using TunnelBear on iOS, both in terms of connection stability and actual speeds. This doesn’t appear to be a widespread problem, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re primarily looking for an iOS VPN. For added context, these issues were all observed on the iPhone 11 and not some ancient piece of Apple history. On the bright side, the Android app worked without a hitch on my Galaxy Note 10+.

Tunnelbear VPN Review Installation

It bears repeating that cuteness is aplenty with this multi-platform VPN app.

TunnelBear VPN Privacy & Security

At points, TunnelBear sounds almost too good to be true. And depending on who you ask, that’s been true since 2018, which is when the popular Canadian VPN got acquired by a somewhat less popular American VPN. That buyer has quite a bit of name recognition in the IT industry, and none of it is good. Drum roll over: we’re talking abou McAfee, or TPG and Intel, if you want to get technical.

I won’t waste your time claiming McAfee isn’t a meme of a company. And I fully acknowledge my UX bias here; a more poorly presented but otherwise identical VPN would likely not have prompted me to advocate giving it a chance in spite of somewhat unreliable ownership (still more predictable than John McAfee, though). But isn’t that a sign of a good product, anyway? Because TunnelBear is still a joy to use, easy to get used to, and has exactly zero mentions of abuse on its record.

And besides, if you’re paranoid and/or cautious enough to steer clear of a VPN provider just because of its inept ownership, then congratulations – you’re a power user and TunnelBear isn’t aimed at you anyway, as evidenced by its rudimentary feature set.

What isn’t rudimentary, however, is TunnelBear’s privacy policy. Which is pretty much bulletproof in every meaningful way – the company keeps no activity logs, does not monitor subscriber activity (including that from free/trial accounts), and generally knows nothing about you besides whether you logged into its system over the last 30 days and what OSs your protected devices are running. Which is hard to get around, unless you want a provider that either sends random ports of its client or *every* port of its client to your single-boot device.

Tunnelbear VPN review Canary

TunnelBear may be a lot of things, but a tinkerer’s playground isn’t one of them.

TunnelBear VPN Warrant Canary

While it doesn’t maintain a warrant canary, TunnelBear regularly submits to independent security audits at the beginning of every calendar year. As a transparency policy, this practice is quite a way above the industry average. Because there’s only so much a warrant canary can tell you. In fact, there’s exactly one binary piece of information a warrant canary reveals. A third-party security audit, however? That kind of thing has plenty to say.

TunnelBear VPN Ease of Use

TunnelBear’s interface is absolutely painless to navigate, particularly when it comes to its browser extensions. Imagine Hola without all the gaping privacy holes and you’ll get pretty close to what TunnelBear can offer in the UX quality department. Then there are the app’s absolutely adorable mascots and humorous presentational qualities which never get in the way of actually informing your usage, which makes this program an amazing entry point into the world of VPNs, as well as a great long-term option for casual, non-demanding users.

Tunnelbear VPN review

Not so simple that a literal bear could use it, but not too far from that grizzly standard, either.

TunnelBear VPN Pricing

The first thing worth pointing out regarding TunnelBear’s pricing is how refreshingly blunt its free service tier is. It’s the exact opposite of the vast majority of its rivals that restrict trial users to only some of their features and/or the worst of their servers. All the while soliciting their credit card information and mother’s maiden name in hopes that the suckers will forget about giving any of those and fail to realize they’re getting leeched off for at least a couple of subscription cycles.

Meanwhile, TunnelBear just lets you take its entire platform for a spin and doesn’t try to maul you at any point of the experience. Sure, you’re still looking at a relatively short experience seeing how a free account comes with only 500MB of bandwidth, but not only is that usually enough to figure out whether a given provider’s servers match your needs or don’t, but it’s also a cap that renews every month. After which you can go unlimited for as low as $3.33 per month. OK, let’s go with $4.99 per month for a year-long plan billed once ($60) since we doubt many will bite the bullet and go with the three-year one ($120) required to get that aforementioned rate.

At the same time, while the subscriptionless tier definitely isn’t the cheapest at $9.99 billed every month, at least it exists, which isn’t always the case with such bulk-order-focused VPN providers. Another massive plus in this department is TunnelBear’s full-fledged support for cryptocurrency payments and the total anonymity they enable.

Tunnelbear VPN price

TunnelBear VPN Review Summary

TunnelBear is arguably the most unique VPN in the business, and while a significant portion of that claim rests on its presentational qualities that are of little consequence to such an app’s technical performance, it absolutely delivers in the latter department, as well. Irrespective of any irresistibly cute cartoon bears that you may encounter during usage.

It’s also available at extremely affordable rates which offset its relative lack of advanced functionalities. Of course, the elementary feature set still makes it a poor choice for the most demanding users but it’s not like that particularly paranoid demographic would have ever considered a McAfee-owned VPN, anyway. But given the sheer size of today’s VPN industry, such a stance isn’t only acceptable but expected. In other words, the market is so large that it has something for everyone, and TunnelBear, being a marvelously intuitive and straightforward VPN app for up to five devices, is a highly competitive option in a pretty sizable niche. Combined with its adorably entertaining design, it’s the perfect VPN for first-time users of all ages.

 


Editor’s Note

BSN’s Tunnelbear VPN Review was written by Dominik Bosnjak, a long-time VPN-user-turned-advocate who spends more time scrutinizing VPN Providers on a daily basis than he’d like to admit. When he isn’t writing VPN Guides and covering general Tech News, he’s probably spending time with his dog, video games, or both. Fun fact: the Shih Tzu in question is the only remaining creature in Dominik’s life who hasn’t told him they’re sick of him talking about Best VPN practices and government-sponsored erosion of digital privacy which made using the Internet less convenient over the years. He occasionally dabbles in video editing, Wall Street memes, and demonstrating a remarkable lack of guitar-playing ability.

If you want more tidbit-sized rants about any of those things, you can find him on Twitter @dddominikk.

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