TunnelBear has long been known for its free version and easy-to-use client interface. But how does this VPN fare when it comes to streaming? Our tests made earlier in 2018 have shown that TunnelBear is capable of unblocking the most sought-after US Netflix library. But we know that the situation with geo-blocking can change rapidly. That’s why we’ve decided to redo our tests and give you the latest info on using TunnelBear for Netflix.
We must warn in advance that the free version of TunnelBear doesn’t allow access to Australian servers. More importantly, it has a hard data transfer restriction.
How we did our TunnelBear VPN Netflix test
To test TunnelBear properly, we used a paid version so we could see the actual capability of unblocking Australian Netflix. We ran the tests from Europe, with a base download speed of 270 Mbps when tested on Netflix’s Fast.com. Using a nearby server, the speed was 70 Mbps, which is a significant slow-down (especially when the distance is measured in hundreds, not thousands of miles.
We’ve tested servers in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan. Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t allow you to select a particular location within a country. With countries like the US, connecting to a server on the East Coast or the West Coast can be a huge difference in terms of performance. And because servers have different IP addresses, you should try at least a few to see if Netflix really blocks all of them.
Using TunnelBear for Netflix
“Netflix” is a button on TV remote controls nowadays and almost one-third of VPN users stream it. As such, it has truly become a service that hardware and software companies either support or risk losing customers.
The reason why you may want to use TunnelBear or any other VPN with Netflix is geo-blocking. Due to these measures, you can only gain access to the Netflix library of your IP address country. If you’re on a business trip to Canada, you can no longer watch your favorite Netflix US show until you get back. By that time, your Canadian partners will probably have spoiled it for you already.
That’s where a VPN like TunnelBear comes to help. With its ability to hide your true IP address and assign you one from your desired location, you can watch Netflix as if you were based in that country. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work all the time as Netflix takes geo-blocking seriously and is constantly trying to detect and shut down any possibilities for a VPN to open the floodgate. That’s why we’ve tested TunnelBear servers from different countries to give you the overall picture of its usefulness for unblocking Netflix.
TunnelBear and the US Netflix library
We started from the most important library, access to which usually signifies whether a VPN is good for Netflix or not. Initially, we connected to a VPN server that turned out to be in Clifton, New Jersey. Unfortunately, using this server we were unable to run the fast.com speed test or open Netflix.com, even though both worked perfectly without a VPN. Another server from New Jersey failed us as well.
Our next try turned out to be New York. Unfortunately, we ended up with the same results. We gave it one last try, hoping to catch a West Coast server. With such luck, we should’ve ended up in Las Vegas, but were happy to find ourselves in San Francisco too. This is where Lady Luck turned away from us – neither the speed test nor the Netflix website worked.
Turning on the GhostBear feature which helps your encrypted traffic look more like HTTPS traffic didn’t do any good, neither did adding another privacy layer using a browser extension. While it allowed us to check the speed at Fast.com (and see that it’s less than 2 Mbps), actual streaming was unavailable. When trying to load Netflix.com, we got an unusual error:
dial tcp: lookup netflix.com on 220.127.116.11:53: write udp 18.104.22.168:57014->22.214.171.124:53: write: operation not permitted
It gave us an idea to change our protocol from UDP to TCP. So we went to Settings > General and turned on TCP Override. Our efforts turned out to be fruitless, leaving us with the conclusion that TunnelBear VPN no longer unblocks the Netflix US library.
TunnelBear for Netflix in Canada
We were hoping to find more luck moving North — Canada has the third largest brown bear population, which should certainly include some specimens of the tunnel bear sub-species. Montreal, Quebec, turned out to be wooded enough to reach Fast.com unnoticed. The result, 20 Mbps, left us a bit disappointed, considering that our initial speed was more than ten times faster. Even when counting from the nearby VPN connection of 70 Mbps, one would expect at least half that number after crossing the Atlantic. Now we can say that while in theory, such speed is enough for HD streaming in Netflix (Ultra HD requires at least 25 Mbps), we would still consider the speed in Canada pretty bad.
When we tried streaming, we bumped into the “Whoops, something went wrong…” screen that crushed our hopes.
TunnelBear and the Australia Netflix version
After two failures we were keen to see if free version users were losing anything by not paying for this VPN. We were eager to see our Sydney speed test results. Sadly, they were abysmal, reaching only 630 Kbps. We were almost glad to see the “Whoops” screen as it meant we wouldn’t be watching a stuttering slideshow of SD images. That’s not what Netflix is about.
TunnelBear and the UK Netflix library
The speed test gave us less than 5 Mbps, which is an awful result considering our test location is also in Europe. It means you would be left with standard definition for streaming Netflix if TunnelBear gave access to it in the UK. Which it doesn’t.
The Netherlands and Germany don’t welcome TunnelBear
The Netherlands and the speed test gave us hope that we might be able to stream HD content, which requires at least 5 Mbps. TunnelBear gave us neither HD nor streaming in general.
The situation didn’t change much after moving to Germany. Yes, the speed jumped to 25 Mbps which is enough for Ultra HD, but it should really be way better, especially having in mind that TunnelBear managed to pull off 20 Mbps in Canada. As for unblocking the German library of Netflix, the task is best left to other VPNs.
Netflix Japan and TunnelBear
Finally, we move to the Far East to see if TunnelBear is capable of scoring at least one point in this fight against Netflix’s geo-censorship. After connecting to a server in Tokyo we got humiliated by Fast.com, which displayed a three digit number resembling our VPN-less speed. Only this time it was Kbps. We then went to Netflix.com, only to run into the same black “Whoops” screen again.
Using TunnelBear with other streaming services
When Netflix is totally unavailable, users will probably look for alternative ways to stream their desired content.
BBC iPlayer is one of the better-known content platforms that allows streaming straight from their website. Unfortunately, it didn’t work well long before Netflix began blocking TunnelBear, so we’re pessimistic about this VPN service putting any effort into unblocking BBC iPlayer anytime soon.
Hulu is a well-known streaming platform (which also goes by HappyOn.jp if you’re in Japan). Yet it seems that TunnelBear VPN is unable to unblock this service either.
Amazon Prime is another popular streaming platform that currently is available only in the US, especially among those that use Fire TV Stick. Sadly, TunnelBear users have been reporting issues with unblocking Amazon Prime since the beginning of 2018. With the year ending, we must admit that the situation is unlikely to change.
TunnelBear won’t help you stream Netflix and this reality seems unlikely to change in the near future. Neither will TunnelBear help with BBC iPlayer, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. This leaves us to make a general conclusion that TunnelBear is not recommended for streaming and those who like watching shows on Netflix or any other platform should look elsewhere.