TunnelBear VPN review: VPN made easy

TunnelBear VPN is as easy to use as they come yet it packs in features and a powerful performance punch

TunnelBear VPN
(Image credit: TunnelBear)
T3 Verdict

TunnelBear VPN is the ultimate beginner VPN as it makes everything simple to use, does its job well and keeps pricing low – although the lack of more advanced features is not going to keep everyone happy.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Easy to use

  • +

    Independent security audits

  • +

    Decent speeds

  • +

    Unblocks Netflix and BBC iPlayer

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No WireGuard

  • -

    Can't unblock Disney+

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TunnelBear VPN has made it onto our list of the best VPN services despite being less feature rich than many. What it does have going for it is a stand-out ease of use that makes this perfect for beginners or anyone that wants an easy VPN life.

One minute TunnelBear VPN review

TunnelBear VPN is a Canadian based setup which is now owned by security giant McAfee. Unlike a lot of the other VPN services out there it doesn't focus on the technical details, but rather creates a setup that works and communicates that in clear language that everyone can understand. Refreshing in the world of VPNs.

The network isn't so simple though, with a respectable 41 countries covered at time of publishing. That means lots of options from everywhere you'd expect as well as new additions like South Korea, Cyprus, Portugal, Peru, Chile and more. All of which are P2P supported, making it a great option for torrent fans.

Setup is super simple and can be added to lots of platforms including Mac, Windows, iOS and Android devices with dedicated apps. You can have this up and running on five devices at once using that single account which is well priced, especially if you go for the longer term plans.

The stats:

  • Servers: 3,000+
  • Locations: 41+ countries
  • Devices: 5 simultaneous connections
  • Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, with extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
  • Protocols: OpenVPN
  • Top features: Ease of use, unblocks Netflix, decent speeds

TunnelBear VPN review: How much does TunnelBear VPN cost? Is there a free trial?

TunnelBear VPN pricing is relatively straightforward with three tiers to pick from each offering better rates the longer you commit. The shortest is a month to month payment and the longest is a three year payment, up front – with an annual plan in between. There is also a free option but more on that below.

Compared to the competition, at the more affordable end you've got Surfshark at $2.49 a month for its two-year plan. Then there's CyberGhost for $2.25 a month when you commit to three years. So this isn't the cheapest, for longer term commitment, but it is still competitive.

There is also a free option which allows you access but you are limited to just 500MB of data per month. You will also find that you have limited access to servers which can affect speeds, so this is more for testing it out or very limited use.

If you do sign up it's worth taking into account that there is no money-back guarantee, unlike a lot of the other services out there. But since you have the free tier this can act as a try-before-you buy option – only without the performance you'll get when you pay for the full service. 

This is a good option as one of the cheapest VPN choices. Though if you want to get more for less check out the other best free VPN choices instead.

Does TunnelBear VPN work on Netflix? What other streaming services can it unblock?

For getting around geo restrictions to get access to video streaming services, TunnelBear VPN works well in areas where some others fail, but fails in areas they work. By that we mean this will unblock BBC iPlayer as well as Amazon Prime Video, but can't seem to get passed the walls of Netflix or Disney Plus. 

It's not ideal but two out of the big four is better than some offer. If they're the ones you use then this is a great option but for Netflix and Disney Plus fans you may want to keep looking.

TunnelBear VPN

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

BBC iPlayer can be a tough service to get access to outside of the UK, with many VPNs failing to unblock – and lots failing to working inside the UK too. TunnelBear managed this across three separate tests, unblocking right away each time. 

For Disney Plus, we tried lots of locations yet all remained locked without access to the streaming service. With Netflix we were only able to access Netflix Originals, accessible no matter where you're based around the world. Not ideal if you're looking to watch something only on US Netflix.

If streaming is your main use for the VPN then it might be worth checking out some other very capable options from our best streaming VPN guide.

TunnelBear VPN review: What features can you expect and how do they boost security?

TunnelBear VPN is Canadian based and it is McAfee owned, which are both good things for security. But the real sell in terms of privacy and anonymity is down to the independent audits carried out on the VPN. These are separate companies that effectively try to find your data in order to test how secure and private the VPN is. The results show that this is a very reliable service if you are looking for online anonymity. 

TunnelBear VPN

(Image credit: TunnelBear)

Crucially, TunnelBear VPN is crystal clear about how it works with every detail of its data and uses clearly laid out – more so than any other service, in fact. There is a bullet-proof no-logging policy that means the company collects absolutely no data so it can't link any actions to those carried out by specific IP addresses. The audit by Cure53, to summarize a broad report, found that this is accurate and your identity is totally safe. 

For those that use torrents and want security while doing so, TunnelBear VPN is a great choice. Not only are all its servers P2P friendly but they also offer fast speeds that are ideal for downloading large files. Like many VPN services, there is little mention of this torrent support on the company's website but the support is still there nonetheless. TunnelBear VPN does offer a recommended list of torrent tunnels to use but even when we tested others off that list they also worked just fine.

TunnelBear VPN review of speed and overall performance

To test the speed and performance of TunnelBear VPN we used both US and UK locations on a 1Gbps connection. Testing was done by measuring the download speeds using Ookla's SpeedTest and Netflix's Fast.com. Each one is done across morning and evening times.

Based in US

OpenVPN: 250-260Mbps

The OpenVPN speeds from TunnelBear VPN when using US servers were decent at a top end of 260Mbps. This means it outperforms a lot of the competition including CyberGhost and IPVanish but wasn't quite as fast as ExpressVPN and HMA.

But keep in mind this only offers OpenVPN while other services have more protocols which can get even higher speeds. ExpressVPN with WireGuard hits over 600Mbps, for example.

Based in the UK

OpenVPN: 290-370Mbps

For UK testing the speeds managed to get even higher, hitting a top end of 370Mbps which is really high for an OpenVPN protocol setup. This beats Private Internet Access but also manages to defeat the mighty NordVPN which is well known for its high-speeds. Again, this is just on OpenVPN and when other protocols are taken into account TunnelBear slips behind.

Client set-up and available support from TunnelBear VPN

Starting setup is – as it is the case for most digital platforms these days – done by giving over your email to create an account. Then you either go for the free option or pick a tier to pay for before downloading the client on the platform or platforms you want. It's worth noting that for anyone that wants to set this up on a router or games console, you're going to be left wanting. 

The apps, across Widows, Mac, iOS and Android, all offer maps based server interaction from the outset which helps simplify the process visually. The browser extensions also work well but in a more simplified layout, as you might expect. 

It's worth noting that the extensions work as proxies only, meaning they only give you protection within the browser itself. That said, this can be useful if you want to use the benefits of a split tunneling style system without the hassle of setting it up. A useful keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Shift+U lets you toggle the VPN on and off as you need, which can be really handy if you're jumping in and out of cover.

TunnelBear VPN review: Our final verdict

TunnelBear VPN is a great option for anyone new to the world of VPNs or anybody that just wants a simple service that's easy to use. This extends to those using the platform for torrents or for streaming from BBC iPlayer or Amazon Prime Video. 

For anyone that wants more complexity, greater protocol options or to access Netflix and Disney Plus, this isn't the best service for you.

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Luke Edwards

Luke is a former freelance writer for T3 with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others Luke wrote about health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. In his free time, Luke used to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.