Choosing between VPNs is tough. We’re trying to make that easier for you by running side-by-side comparisons of some of the most popular VPNs. Today we’re looking at heavyweight NordVPN and the old-school TunnelBear, which was recently purchased by McAfee.
Comparing NordVPN vs TunnelBear is a bit unfair. The first is a behemoth that has thousands of servers, great speeds, and top-notch security. The second has a free version, some nice features, and a mascot, but is otherwise nondescript.
Security & Privacy
Security and privacy are the two most important things for any VPN service. They can turn into a selling point or ensure your VPN will never make an honest top 10 list. NordVPN sticks to their promise of a no log policy. They have strong data encryption (AES-256 coupled with a 2048-bit handshake). The wide range of security protocols allows users to set their preferred method of tunneling. They offer SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN, IKEv2, and PPTP. There are no leaks (DNS, IPv6, or WebRTC) to speak of, and your connection is secured with two different types of kill switch (guarding you against unnoticed disconnects).
All these security features are enhanced with Double VPN, VPN over Tor, and Onion over VPN tools for optimal subscriber safety and anonymity. NordVPN operates from Panama, a country that doesn’t have data retention laws and doesn’t have ties to the 5-Eyes or even the 14-Eyes surveillance framework. The speeds are inversely proportional to security because the more you want speed, the less you will encrypt your traffic. NordVPN may not be the fastest of VPNs, but at least they strike a balance between speed, security, pricing, and customer service.
In the meantime, TunnelBear also takes advantage of strong encryption and authentication. It has a huge crowd and it’s very popular. This VPN also uses AES-256 encryption and offers some of the same tunneling protocols – IKEv2, OpenVPN, and IPSec. By default, OpenVPN is set to UDP for Mac OS and Windows, while the client for iOS runs on IKEv2/IPSec. Users will appreciated two bear-themed features on offer – VigilantBear, which serves as a kill switch, and GhostBear, which is a stealth protocol to bypass advanced methods used to block VPN traffic (particularly in China). The speeds are decent – maybe not the fastest – but those with a high baseline speed will still get a good streaming experience. TunnelBear is now a subsidiary of the California-based McAfee, which doesn’t sound so good to those extremely concerned about their privacy. So, expect privacy issues common in 5-Eyes countries.
TunnelBear says it has a fierce no-logs policy, but it does collect some basic data.
In short, if we compare NordVPN vs TunnelBear in terms of security/privacy, we will come to the conclusion that favors Nord – not because TunnelBear is bad, but rather because Nord is just too good.
Download & Installation
It won’t take ages to download and install NordVPN. You select a payment plan, create an account, and make the payment. After that, you can download the client for your platform. NordVPN is easily installed by locating the installer with the filename “NordVPNSetup.exe.” Upon clicking the installer, the installation will be completed. That’s it. In the case of TunnelBear, it’s also very easy to download and install – just create an account and click download.
‘A user-friendly interface’ is all you can say about NordVPN’s app design. When you log in, you can use the Quick Connect icon. The Search feature or the Magnifying Glass icon can also help you find your preferred server. There are three menus on the window. The Specialty servers Settings allow you to choose from different server types, like Double VPN, Anti DDoS, Onion over VPN, or even P2P servers.
TunnelBear offers a very intuitive, but fun-to-use user interface. Accessing the Settings menu, you can find the Gear icon that is located below the Globe icon on the left side. There you will see submenus like General tab, Security tab, Account tab, and Trusted Networks. You just have to play around with them to set the features you want.
When it comes to ease of use, we consider both tools quite good.
Access to torrents and P2P servers
NordVPN allows users to indulge in P2P file sharing or torrenting, but not on servers located in countries where torrenting is considered illegal. You can’t torrent through a UK, US, or Canadian server. You can, however, use servers in other countries that don’t take torrenting seriously. On the other side, TunnelBear doesn’t allow torrents. You also can’t do any other kind of P2P file-sharing.
The winner seems clear – NordVPN.
A remarkable thing about NordVPN is its 24/7 live chat support. You can access NordVPN’s chat by typing “chat” in the search box that asks you “What is it you would like to know?” A window will appear displaying a Chat icon. Clicking that icon takes you to live chat support. On the flip side, TunnelBear doesn’t have live chat support, but it has a well-built social media presence.
Still – a point to NordVPN.
Netflix & Other Entertainment platforms
Technically, Netflix doesn’t allow its subscribers to stream content while connected to a VPN. However, you can maneuver their geo-blocking technology by using a reliable VPN. You will enjoy unrestricted and unlimited content streaming, and that’s exactly what NordVPN offers. In addition to unblocking Netflix, NordVPN also lets you access other entertainment platforms, like Amazon Prime, HBO, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and many others. NordVPN works great with Kodi as well.
TunnelBear’s free version isn’t adequate for Netflix because you only get 500 MB to use per month. The paid version is the real thing, however. You can unlock Netflix, but you can’t stream from BBC iPlayer.
In the end, again, NordVPN is both quicker and more reliable.
Apps & Extensions
NordVPN has custom clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Android TV, and Linux. It also has browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome and will work on many more device types through third-party software. The NordVPN Mac client is identical to the Windows client. TunnelBear has apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. It has Opera and Chrome browser extensions as well.
NordVPN has fewer compatibility issues overall.
Geo-coverage and use in China
The Great Firewall of China uses Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) and many other tools to block VPNs, but NordVPN knows how to penetrate it. They have obfuscated servers that will confuse the Firewall, ensuring users an uninterrupted experience in China. Another benefit of Nord is their massive server list, which contains over 5,000 servers in 62 countries. This ever-increasing number makes it more difficult for governments to block the service.
TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature should allow you to use the service in China. With that said, they have exponentially fewer servers at just over 60 in 20 countries. The additional speed decrease due to the obfuscation may make your experience frustrating.
Although TunnelBear is not a bad shout for use in restricted countries, NordVPN is simply better.
- 1 month – $11.95
- 3 months – $54.00 ($9.00/month)
- 1 year – $83.88 ($6.99/month)
- 2 years – $95.75 ($3.99/month)
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Free version – limited to 500 MB/month
- 1 month – $9.99
- 1 year – $59.99 ($5/month)
- No money-back guarantee
NordVPN vs TunnelBear: the bottom line
NordVPN is a superior tool for your privacy and security. Strong encryption, customer support, and averagely priced packages get you a lot of value for money. TunnelBear is fairly safe if all you’re doing is some basic browsing, accessing geo-blocked or censored content, and other such things. However, TunnelBear simply can’t compare with the flawless product offered by Nord.
Read our full reviews: