TunnelBear for Chrome is one of the best VPNs in both free and premium categories. With 20+ million users on board, its number of users is nearing a seven-digit number. Therefore it’s high time we took an in-depth look at this browser extension and its capabilities.
Why use a VPN for Chrome
The first thing we want to get out of the way is that neither TunnelBear nor any other browser extension is a full-fledged VPN. That’s because it cannot protect all your network traffic outside the browser, which includes torrenting, gaming, and so on. It would be more precise to call it a proxy service, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll continue addressing TunnelBear for Chrome as a VPN.
When it comes to reasons for using a VPN with Chrome, the first thing is privacy and security. The Chrome browser is not among the top browsers in this department, which means you may want some help hiding your identity or visiting geo-restricted websites, especially in a country like China or Iran.
Our DNS and IP leak tests proved to be in favor of TunnelBear – we were unable to find any. But that is in part because Chrome has WebRTC disabled by default. If you turn it on manually, your real IP address may show through the WebRTC functionality.
You can use the TunnelBear Chrome extension for:
- Security: encryption of all your data while browsing
- Privacy: spoof your IP address
- Securing your public wifi connection
- Reducing the tracking ability of websites and advertisers
- Bypassing censorship
How to install TunnelBear on Chrome
You can download the extension straight from the Chrome Store or via the TunnelBear website. Clicking on Add to Chrome will bring the permissions popup.
This doesn’t include displaying notifications and communicating with native applications as in case of Hotspot Shield for Chrome, but you should still decide if you’re OK with this before pressing Add extension.
How to use TunnelBear for Chrome
After you install the browser extension, your next step is to create an account. You can choose between the free and premium version. The difference between them is the 500 MB/month bandwidth limit, which can be increased to up to 1.5 GB/month if you tweet about this service and get Mr. Bear’s approval. But if you need a VPN on a daily basis, you will probably be forced into upgrading to premium, which starts at $4.99/month.
Whichever the version, using TunnelBear for Chrome is extremely simple.
The main window lets you turn the VPN on or off, select one of the 20+ countries, go to Settings, minimize this window even more, and click or close the ad, which then changes to a world map pointing out your actual location.
When the VPN is on, you will see a bear climb out of the tunnel, and a straight line drawn from your location to your destination. Contrary to real life, as long as you can see a bear, you’re safe.
When it comes to Settings, there’s not much to talk about because there aren’t any. If we count out all the links to TunnelBear’s website, we’re left with the dilemma of setting some Keyboard Shortcuts or Logging Out.
TunnelBear for Chrome vs TunnelBear for desktop
While both TunnelBear versions give you the full list of servers, the major difference is in the number of Settings you can tweak.
The two core features we found missing from the free version is GhostBear and VigilantBear. The first one is another name for a kill switch, and the second is a different way of saying “Obfuscation” or “Stealth” protocol.
There’s also no way to add or remove trusted websites or networks which you don’t want to go through the TunnelBear tunnel.
What is more, there’s no Auto option for selecting the fastest server, which might be in another country the next time you need to use a proxy.
In the end, these differences between the versions don’t turn into a significant disadvantage for Chrome because the desktop Bear doesn’t have that many extra features or settings in the first place.
TunnelBear for Chrome is clearly one of the best free Chrome VPNs and also the best Chrome VPN extensions overall. It’s simple and easy to use, has no leaks, and is suitable for accessing geo-restricted content or hiding your IP address. What it lacks is the ability to unblock Netflix, which is possible with its competitor Opera VPN. Also, you shouldn’t expect any help with torrenting because like any browser proxy, TunnelBear doesn’t cover the rest of your internet connection.