Last update: 07.17.2019

When comparing TunnelBear vs Private Internet Access (PIA), you should note that they are both run-of-the-mill VPN services, but they do have their unique attributes. Both are very popular.

Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

TunnelBear vs PIA: an overview

TunnelBear
VPNpro rating: 7.2 / 10

TunnelBear has millions of users due to its free version and great branding. Otherwise, its selling proposition revolves around the technology they use to provide security and anonymity, as well as the fact that they are running their own servers.

The ownership of TunnelBear recently changed hands, and today it is owned by McAfee, which is renowned in the area of cybersecurity. The other thing this means, however, is that the VPN is under the jurisdiction of the Five-Eyes intelligence alliance.

TunnelBear claims to have zero-log practice, but there is potentially more to this than meets the eye. Being owned by the Santa Clara, California based company leaves a lot of questions unanswered as to whether TunnelBear will keep its promise of ensuring complete data protection.

TunnelBear may state that they have fast speeds, but these service providers never say that their server speeds are slow. All in all, it’s a decently fast network despite operating in only 20 countries or so.

 

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a controversial VPN with its own ups and downs. It comes with changeable data encryption levels, various handshakes, and authenticators. For most users, these are more than sufficient. Because PIA has its own DNS servers, it makes leaks less likely to occur.

If jurisdiction is a concern to you, then PIA isn’t your choice. It is a US-based company, meaning your online privacy isn’t wholly protected.

Generally speaking, Private Internet Access isn’t the most reliable for bypassing geo-blocked content. Their shorter subscriptions are very cheap, with the 1-month plan costing $6.95.

Its number of servers is very high, but they are not spread out over many locations. The connection speeds are average, but some locations tend to have bad connections.

PIA doesn’t have support over live chat and you can only reach them via email.

Security features Security features

TunnelBear

Here’s what’s included in TunnelBear’s security package:

  • Strong encryption (AES-256)
  • Solid tunneling protocols (IKEv2 and OpenVPN)
  • Kill switch

Private Internet Access

This is PIA’s security feature set, which is relatively similar to TunnelBear’s:

  • Changeable encryption standards (AES-128 and AES-256)
  • OpenVPN tunneling protocol
  • Kill switch

Using AES-128 encryption means more speed but less security. PIA doesn’t have IKEv2, which works better on mobile devices than OpenVPN. A network kill switch is a great addition for both VPNs. PIA doesn’t have DNS leaks, but it has had issues with WebRTC leaks.

Verdict: it’s 1-1 in the TunnelBear vs Private Internet Access fight.

Privacy Privacy

TunnelBear

TunnelBear, while now owned by an American company, is based in Canada. Unfortunately, this isn’t any better since Canada is also a member of the 5-Eyes intelligence alliance. This means that Canada shares intelligence data with countries like the UK and the US.

Private Internet Access

PIA is based in the United States, which is known to be notorious in infringing online privacy. The VPN may have a zero-logs policy, but there may be data security situations they cannot have control over considering the aggressive nature of US intelligence agencies.

Verdict: seems like no one wins this TunnelBear vs Private Internet Access round.

Speed and performance  Speed and performance

Determining the speed of a VPN isn’t easy as many factors come into play, ranging from the hardware that is being used to the distance from the server that is being connected to.

TunnelBear

TunnelBear is quite fast, but depending on server locations, the speeds may vary. For instance, users in the United States, Europe, and Canada can enjoy fast speeds. With an internet speed benchmark of 100Mbs, even in areas that experience drops of up to 50 percent, users may still stream content online.

However, if you use a server that’s thousands of miles away from your location, the slow connection can really be a headache.

Private Internet Access

PIA has many servers, but they are located only within certain regions. They are mostly in Europe and North America, so users in those areas may have fast speeds. Users in other locations like Asia, South America, and Africa may have low speeds. Simply said, PIA connectivity speeds are just average.

Verdict: PIA wins ever-so-slightly.

Ease of use  Ease of use

TunnelBear

TunnelBear is easy to use and actually quite fun for the users. It has a cartoonish theme that makes it entertaining. In the UI, there are tabs like “General”, “Security”, “Account”, and “Trusted Networks.” You can launch and connect TunnelBear by tapping the General tab. The Security tab allows you to turn GhostBear and VigilantBear features on and off. VigilantBear is the kill switch for the TunnelBear network. The Trusted Network tab allows you to add networks you trust so that you can connect to them easily in the future.

Private Internet Access

PIA Windows client has an elegant and simple UI. In the Settings menu, you can manage the list of countries and regions to auto-connect to. You also enable and disable desktop notifications and auto-connections. In the Advanced Settings menu, you can select the protocol to use with OpenVPN, for example, UDP or TCP. A user can use the PIA Mac client to enable and disable anti-tracker, ad-blocker, and anti-malware features.

Verdict: while neither client is bad, we slightly favor TunnelBear for the fun design of its app.

Torrenting and P2P Torrenting and P2P

TunnelBear

TunnelBear blocks all P2P traffic, which makes it unusable for torrenting.

Private Internet Access

PIA allows torrenting, but you should be careful if you use port forwarding – it can make you vulnerable.

Verdict: PIA takes a point for torrenting.

Access to entertainment platforms  Access to entertainment platforms

TunnelBear

TunnelBear can be used to watch Netflix, but it cannot stream shows on BBC iPlayer. Keep in mind that the free version only gives you 500MB data per month which won’t get you anywhere with streaming content.

Private Internet Access

PIAs can’t seem to bypass geo-blocked sites like Netflix, and it also doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer.

Verdict: needless to say, the TunnelBear wins the fight in the streaming department.

Use in China  Use in China

TunnelBear

TunnelBear has servers in Hong Kong, and you can use it to bypass the Great Firewall. The VPN uses a tool they call GhostBear that makes your VPN traffic appear as regular internet traffic, preventing the firewall from detecting you.

Private Internet Access

PIA has issues with the Great Firewall, it tells its users to switch to L2TP/IPSec protocol instead of using OpenVPN, but this isn’t as secure. You also have to set it up manually.

Verdict: TunnelBear wins in China.

Apps and extensions  Apps and extensions

TunnelBear

TunnelBear has custom clients for:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • iOS
  • Android

It also supports browsers like Opera and Chrome.

Private Internet Access

PIA offers apps for:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Linux

It supports browser extensions like Firefox and Chrome. The mobile client for Private Internet Access bears the same features as those of desktop. There is also a kill switch.

Verdict: PIA takes the point for multiplatform support.

Pricing  Pricing

TunnelBear

  • Free version – limited to 500mb/month
  • 1 month – $9.99
  • 1 year – $59.99 ($5/month)
  • No money-back guarantee

Private Internet Access

  • 1 month – $6.95
  • 1 year – $71.88 ($5.99/month)
  • 2 years – $83.87 ($3.33/month)
  • 7-day money-back guarantee
Verdict: while TunnelBear offers a more affordable 1-year plan, PIA’s cheaper 2-year plan and its money-back guarantee wins it the pricing battle.

Private Internet Access vs TunnelBear: which is better?

TunnelBear vs PIA battle has come to an end. Both of them are good VPNs because at least they offer the privacy and encryption you need. However, they are both registered in Five Eyes countries. With PIA, you cannot get around geo-blocks, so you will not be able to access Netflix or BBC iPlayer. However, TunnelBear doesn’t allow torrenting.

All in all, these tools are pretty close to each other, so the choice is all about preference.

TunnelBear Review

PIA Review