What to pick, well-established NordVPN or affordable grizzly-themed TunnelBear? Each service has its pros, cons, and unique features. We put the two providers through some rigorous testing to name the winner. Here are the results or our TunnelBear vs NordVPN comparison.
Server Network and Locations
TunnelBear doesn’t disclose how many servers it has. They only thing its users know for sure is that it covers 23 countries. Even if it offers a few servers within each country, we doubt its network exceeds a hundred servers.
NordVPN, on the other hand, has 5400+ servers in 59 countries around the world. To date, this is the biggest VPN network in the world.
Not only is NordVPN a provider with an immense server count but also it boasts specialized servers. Although any standard server uncompromisingly protects your online activities, you can benefit from even securer solutions. For instance, you may apply an additional layer of encryption when using Double VPN or Tor over VPN servers. Also, the service supplies obfuscated servers for users in China and P2P-optimized servers for torrenting.
When it comes to TunnelBear, all its servers are the same and feature no specialization.
TunnelBear’s speeds are consistent. They are consistently slow. Because it doesn’t have a sufficient number of servers, their bandwidth is divided among too many users. The result is a rather slow connection for everyone.
The situation is slightly different with NordVPN. At times, when you connect to remote servers, slower speed is noticeable yet you can still use the service for all major online activities. However, if you connect to the servers within the same country or, at least, the same continent, the speeds will barely differ from those supplied by your ISP.
TunnelBear makes use of industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption teamed up with either OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocols for Windows and iOS devices. macOS and Android devices use only OpenVPN. Tunnelbear used to leak DNS but currently this issue is addressed. They now use their own DNS servers to protect from DNS leaks. We tested a few Tunnelbear servers and can confirm that no DNS or IP leaks were detected. If you ever experience disconnection from VPN servers, your data won’t be exposed thanks to VigilantBear feature acting as a Kill Switch.
Similarly to TunnelBear, NordVPN implements AES 256-bit encryption together with OpenVPN (for Windows OS and Android devices) or IKEv2/IPsec tunneling protocol (used on macOS and iOS apps). Apart from industry-standard solutions, the service provides a few advanced features to step up your security even further including Double VPN and Tor over VPN servers. Users from China (as well as other countries known for Internet censorship) will appreciate Obfuscation that hides VPN traffic and makes it look like a regular connection instead. Regardless of an option you choose, your identity is always kept intact thanks to the built-in anti-leakage protection as well as a Kill Switch. All the apps are complemented with the CyberSec feature that makes sure you never see annoying ads or malicious websites.
NordVPN also collects the above-mentioned details regarding users but nobody prevents you from using a fake name, burner email, and anonymous payment methods to keep your identity intact. In terms of logging, it retains absolutely nothing. This makes NordVPN one of the safest providers out there.
TunnelBear proudly calls itself a Canadian grizzly. Indeed, the service is registered in Canada. On the one hand, the country doesn’t have compulsory data retention laws. On the other hand, it is a founding member of the infamous The Five Eyes intelligence treaty. It means that if the authorities desire to obtain information about TunnelBear’s clients through court orders, the service will have to obey.
It is much more beneficial for VPN services to operate from off-shore countries, just like NordVPN is doing. While being registered in Panama, it takes advantage of strong privacy legislation. Besides, the country doesn’t collaborate with any spy organizations.
VPN Software and Ease of Use
While most of the VPN companies are focused on streamlining their apps, TunnelBear shows off its individuality. If you adore cute bears, you’ll surely fall in love with its apps. Not only beautiful, but TunnelBear clients are super convenient. You can pick available server locations from the map or the list. The settings are in a separate window and are broken into a few categories (General, Security, Trusted Networks, and Account). There aren’t too many settings to fiddle with, which will probably please novice users. The mobile apps have even fewer settings since some of the features were removed. The only thing we wished the designers would think through is naming. Not many people will immediately figure out that GhostBear, VigilantBear, and SplitBear mean obfuscation, Kill Switch, and Split tunneling respectively.
As for NordVPN, it does everything right. Its features are called the way they should be. It does have a couple of proprietary functions (such as CyberSec which acts as an ad- and website-blocker and SmartPlay that facilitates the selection of streaming servers) but it is pretty clear what they do. You can quickly select a suitable server from the list or a map, or simply trust the AI-based algorithm to pick a server for you. Despite the fact that Nord is dripping with features, they are neatly packed into a few categories. Unlike TunnelBear, Nord’s mobile apps offer about the same number of functions as desktop clients.
The bitter truth about TunnelBear is that it doesn’t make torrenting possible. Normally, free services do block P2P traffic but once you upgrade, it becomes available. This is not the case with TunnelBear. Even if you have a premium subscription, you won’t be able to download torrent files.
NordVPN has a totally different approach. You can use literally any server for your file sharing needs. It even supplies P2P optimized servers for the best experience.
If our goal is to use a VPN to unblock American (or Japanese, or whatever) Netflix in your country, TunnelBear is not of much help. The service simply doesn’t have enough servers to be one step ahead in the cat-mouse game with the streaming giant. The servers it has now are permanently blocked and, therefore, useless. The same goes for other popular streaming platforms. The only exception is websites that don’t explicitly prohibit VPN usage; you can access those with TunnelBear.
NordVPN is a totally different thing. Because it constantly expands its network, Netflix can’t timely ban every single server. This means some of them still work. We tried NordVPN with American Netflix and we succeeded. We also tested it with BBC iPlayer and everything went without a hitch.
TunnelBear assembled an enormous knowledge base on their website so if you come across any issues you might want to read it first. As for real-person assistance, you can use either email or ticket support.
Its competitor also has an imposing catalog of FAQs, guides, informative posts, and YouTube videos. Human support is available as well through email, tickets, and live chat. Everything works 24/7.
Pricing Plans and Payment Methods
If you have no money to splurge on a VPN, you can simply go with a Free TunnelBear plan that preserves most of the features but limits your usage to 500Mb. If this is not enough, the Unlimited subscription includes two options:
- One month – $9.99 per month;
- 1 year – $5.00 per month (billed as $60.00).
Plus, there is also the Teams plan for 2 users priced at $5.75 per month.
TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoin as a payment method. The service doesn’t have a refund policy but if you are dissatisfied, you may contact the support and they will review your case.
NordVPN is a premium service that doesn’t have a trial period or free plan. On the other hand, it has the 30-day money-back guarantee that complements its every plan:
- One month – $11.95 per month;
- 1 year – $6.99 per month (billed as $83.88);
- 2 years – $4.99 per month (billed as $119.76);
- 3 years – $3.49 per month (billed as $125.64).
You can pay for NordVPN with a credit card, Bitcoin and some other coins, international payment systems (excluding PayPal), as well as gift cards.
TunnelBear is not half bad as a VPN provider. Yet, it fails to compete on equal terms against such a powerful opponent as NordVPN. Therefore, the Panama-based provider triumphs in this TunnelBear vs NordVPN comparison.