The Canadian-based, McAfee-owned company makes using a VPN a relatively simple process for newcomers. On TunnelBear’s site there is no jargon, technical terms or even any mention of protocols. Instead the site focuses on the fundamentals such as clearly explaining why a VPN can help you browse the web more privately and securely.
This approach likely won’t work with more experienced users that need to know the technical details of a VPN service before signing up but for those shopping for a VPN for the first time, TunnelBear explains the technology concisely and does so in a friendly and even humorous way (take the fact that they use types of bears to explain their plans for instance).
The service has a relatively small network with locations in 20 countries only covering North America, Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
Setup is a breeze on all of the major platforms thanks to custom clients for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS as well as a browser extension. However, if you plan to use the service with routers, game consoles, Chromebooks, Linux or anything else you’re out of luck.
If you’re happy with TunnelBear’s apps and support for up to five simultaneous connections, the service makes using a VPN a fairly straightforward and easy process.
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Plans and pricing
While TunnelBear’s free plan restricts you to just 500MB of traffic a month, our special offer provides you with a far more generous 5GB. This gives you many more browsing options as you won’t have to constantly worry about exceeding your monthly data cap.
TunnelBear’s commercial service is available in two simple plans. The Giant plan gives you unlimited data for $9.99 (£7.68) a month. However, if you’re willing to pay for a year up-front, the Grizzly plan drops the monthly price down to just $5 (£3.85).
Privacy and logging
The logging policy is also explained clearly and states that the company does not collect "IP addresses visiting our website", "IP addresses upon service connection", "DNS Queries while connected", and "Any information about the applications, services or websites our users use while connected to our Service."
TunnelBear has even gone a step beyond its competition by hiring independent specialists to run a public security audit on its servers, system and code with the results available for all customers to read.
To test out TunnelBear’s performance, we first logged on to each server, recorded the connection time, ran a ping test to look for latency issues and used a geolocation check to make sure that each server is in its advertised country.
We were able to connect to each server easily without any problems and our connection times were consistently fast. The ping times varied but not by enough to show any significant issue.
TunnelBear’s UK servers (closest to our location) gave us the best speeds topping out at 68.5Mbps. Other countries in Europe saw speeds between 55 and 65Mbps but when we connected to servers farther away in the US our speeds ranged from 33-55Mbps which is still quite acceptable.
TunnelBear has apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android as well as browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and even Opera.
However, if you’re looking for anything more advanced such as Linux, router or game console support, you will be disappointed.
Overall though, TunnelBear’s apps performed well and the setup process was easy and straightforward. Experienced users may want more features but most people will be satisfied with the company’s offerings.
TunnelBear’s support starts with its web-based help site. This is presented in a clear and simple way with large icons pointing you to key areas such as getting started, troubleshooting, billing, etc. There are also some basic articles that cover the most common questions one might have for a VPN service.
TunnelBear’s knowledgebase may not be as large as its competitors but the articles are presented well and give you a decent range of information.
If you can’t find the help you need online, a contact page allows you to send a message to the support team. However, you’re limited to entering just 500 characters in the message box so hopefully your issues are not too complicated.
Response time was acceptable and TunnelBear’s staff typically respond to support queries within 48 hours.
TunnelBear may not be the largest, fastest or most powerful VPN but the company’s ease of use and strong focus on opening its systems to outside scrutiny deserve a lot of credit. The free plan is also a great plus for users wishing to try out this VPN’s service before they commit to a monthly or yearly plan.