TunnelBear vs. NordVPN
- Torrenting available through uTorrent
- Based in Panama, which has no mandatory data retention law
- One of the most popular VPNs with over eight million users
- Kill switch protects web activity if VPN cuts out
- AES-256 encryption hides web traffic and IP addresses
- Dynamic IP addresses
We’re not competitive people, but stacking up VPNs to see which one is superior is always fun for us, and in this review, we’re comparing TunnelBear to NordVPN. In terms of brand recognition, NordVPN certainly comes out on top, but we like to go into our testing periods with a clean slate, not assuming superiority based on popularity and seniority alone. With as little bias as possible, here’s which VPN is better, and for who specifically.
What TunnelBear and NordVPN Have In Common
Whichever VPN you end up going with, you can expect the following features.
- Kill switch: Both VPNs shut down our web browsers if they failed, which kept our browsing secret even to our ISP, or Internet Service Provider.
- Torrenting: When Netflix was insufficient for our entertainment needs, we simply torrented our favorite non-copyrighted shows and movies with either VPN protecting our activity.
- AES-256: Both VPNs hid our web activity using AES-256, the encryption method that both the military and the U.S government favor (hint: it’s extremely secure).
- Support for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux: These are the main devices that we expect VPNs to have apps for, and TunnelBear and NordVPN hit the mark.
- Browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox: Both VPNs have browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, the most used browser and the third most used browser as of August 2020.1
If you want to go deep into either VPN on an individual basis, read our reviews, our TunnelBear review and our NordVPN review. But, if you want more of a general overview of both VPNs compared, keep reading this page.
What TunnelBear and NordVPN Have That’s Different
The meat of the comparison starts now.
- Privacy jurisdiction: When it comes to surveillance, we prefer VPNs based in countries that are non-members to Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and 14 Eyes, an alliance that legalizes governments getting customer data from companies. While NordVPN is based in Panama, a non-member country, TunnelBear is based in Canada, a member. That means that, under certain circumstances, they could be forced to hand the feds our data, which is obviously not ideal for a service meant to encrypt our data. In this round, NordVPN is clearly preferable to TunnelBear, particularly for those concerned about privacy.
- Data logged: When it came to their privacy policies, NordVPN logged more customer data than TunnelBear, including device identifiers and models, the timestamps of our last sessions, and anonymous information about in-app events. However, neither company kept our web traffic or the IP addresses of the devices we connected on, and since NordVPN will never be compelled to give the government user data, we were okay with them keeping a bit more information than absolutely necessary. And since TunnelBear could be forced to give the government our information, we were pleased that there wasn’t much to give them.
|Anonymous telemetry data about in-app events||✓* but can opt-out||X|
|App version used||X||✓|
|Application diagnostics like crash error reports||✓* but can opt-out||X|
|The country where the user registered||✓||X|
|Device model||✓* non-identifying||X|
|IP address during payment||✓||✓|
|IP address while connected to VPN||X||X|
|Operating system version||✓* non-identifying||✓|
|Server load information||✓||X|
|Sum of data transferred||X||✓|
|The timestamp of the last session status||✓* deleted within 15 minutes of the session termination||X|
|Whether the user has used the service in the last 30 days||✓||✓|
- Split tunneling: TunnelBear’s Android app was the only place that we could choose which of our traffic we wanted to route through the VPN versus directly to the public network. With all of their other apps and with all of NordVPN’s apps, it was all or nothing, which slowed us down a bit more than necessary.
- Netflix: On the other hand, NordVPN let us watch Netflix while connected to their server, unlike TunnelBear, which was blocked. Score one for NordVPN!
- Multi-hop: Another way NordVPN beat TunnelBear is through multi-hop. Instead of encrypting our data through only one server, it encrypted our data through multiple, which made it that much harder to trace us online.
- IP addresses: Each time we connected to TunnelBear, we got a fresh new IP address, while we got the same one every time with NordVPN, although it was shared with other users. For people that want their own, dedicated IP address, NordVPN sells it for an additional $70 a year, which you can read more about on our page on NordVPN’s costs.
Tip: If you want to use websites like eBay, Gmail or PayPal with NordVPN, it makes sense to buy a dedicated IP address to avoid blockers. If not, you may be placed on lists like Gmail’s blacklist, which will have your emails bounce back to you before they reach the recipient.2
- Speeds: Internet speed is a tricky subject. If you’re an Internet-user of any kind, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that most people don’t get Internet speeds as high as originally advertised.3 So, we urge you to take our speed test results lightly, as speed is affected by a ton of different factors, but in our tests, TunnelBear was lightyears faster than NordVPN, whether we tested it on our Mac or Windows computer. With TunnelBear, we barely saw speeds slow down, making it one of the faster VPNs we’ve tested.
|Total Mac speed difference||54%||5.25%|
|Total Windows speed difference||3175%||3.16%|
- Number of servers: Okay, so TunnelBear won’t actually tell us the number of servers they had for privacy reasons, but it’s safe to assume that NordVPN has more, with over 5,200 total servers in 62 countries. That’s 40 more countries than TunnelBear, meaning that more people around the world will have easier access to NordVPN.
- Pricing: Right off the bat, we should mention that TunnelBear does offer a free VPN, which is why we placed it on the list of 2021’s best free VPNs. That being said, when we tried out the free version, our daily data usage was capped at 500 MB, which wasn’t enough for our browsing needs, personally. Still, on a monthly basis, TunnelBear is about three times as cheap as NordVPN, $3.33 compared to $11.95 monthly. Even if we signed up for two years with NordVPN, TunnelBear would still be cheaper by $0.38, which adds up to $9.12. Plus, since we’re scared of commitment, this is much better for us, anyway.
|Number of Months||NordVPN Monthly Price||TunnelBear Monthly Price|
|1||$11.95||$0.00 for 500 MB per day, $3.33 for unlimited data|
FYI: Are you wondering how much activity 500 MB will actually cover? On mobile, that’s equivalent to about 1,425 emails, over 250 web pages, a half-hour of streaming HD video or 500 minutes of streaming music.4 Since 500 MB is the daily data limit for TunnelBear’s free option, it may be enough for some people, depending on what you want to do while connected to the VPN.
- Simultaneous connections per subscription: NordVPN snubbed TunnelBear when it came to the number of devices we could connect at a time, but only by one, six compared to five. That being said, connecting six devices was a little challenging with NordVPN, as we had to use two different servers for three devices each, plus different protocols for each device. To be honest, it was a bit of a hassle, even for VPN experts like us.
- Devices per subscription: Some VPNs allow for unlimited connections, but sadly, this wasn’t the case for NordVPN or TunnelBear. Instead, both VPNs capped the total number of devices we could connect to their services, NordVPN at six and TunnelBear at five.
- Support for Proxy, routers, and NAS: NordVPN was the only VPN of the two that worked with routers, proxy servers and NAS, or network-attached storage.
- Browser extension for Opera: On the other hand, TunnelBear has a browser extension for Opera, ideal for the 300 million people that use Opera as their web browser.5
The Final Verdict
There’s no doubt in our minds that whether you go with NordVPN or TunnelBear, you’ll have solid protection online, but this is a comparison, so we have to pick a winner. Overall, we’ll go with NordVPN for a few key reasons: one, they’re based in a non-member country to Five Eyes, unlike TunnelBear; two, they have more servers in more locations, making them available to a great number of people; three, we could watch Netflix, which was huge for us couch potatoes and four, our traffic was encrypted multiple times.
Although TunnelBear is cheaper with a stricter logging policy and split tunneling available on the Android app, we disliked that it’s based in a Five Eyes member country, lacks Netflix access and doesn’t have multi-hop. However, for those more concerned with budget over privacy, TunnelBear may be a better option. To learn more about their pricing, read our TunnelBear pricing page and dive into your options.
Still unsure? We’ll break it down as simply as we can.
Choose NordVPN if you want…
- Non-member to Five Eyes: Our data could never be shared with the government, legally.
- More servers in more locations: NordVPN has an extensive network that spans 62 countries around the world.
- Netflix access: NordVPN is one of the best VPNs for Netflix, unlike TunnelBear which is blocked.
- Static IP addresses, shared or dedicated: While we prefer dynamic IP addresses, if you prefer static, NordVPN is for you.
- Netflix access: We could connect one more device at the same time to NordVPN versus TunnelBear.
- Support for proxy servers, routers and NAS: Only NordVPN had these more unusual compatibilities.
Choose TunnelBear if you want…
- More strict logging policy: Although TunnelBear could be forced to share customer information with the government, they barely kept any, which made us feel safe.
- Split tunneling for Android: For lower bandwidth and faster speeds, we routed some of our traffic to the public network on our Android phones.
- Lower prices: No matter which way you slice it, TunnelBear costs a fraction of NordVPN.
- Free option: Sure, there’s a 500 MB daily data limit, but that might be enough for people that need a VPN minimally.
- Dynamic IP addresses: Getting a new IP address every time we connected to TunnelBear meant we were nearly impossible to trace online.
- Faster speeds: Again, take this with a grain of salt, but TunnelBear had much less of an effect on our browsing speeds than NordVPN.
- Browser extension for Opera: Opera-users, TunnelBear makes more sense for you.
That’s it from us. Hopefully, that helped you make your ultimate decision. Remember to be secure!
StatCounter. (2020). Browser Market Share Worldwide.
RackAid. (2019). How to Remove Your IP from Gmail’s Blacklist.
AP News. (2019). Report challenges internet providers’ advertised speeds.
Ting. (2020). How many megabytes are in a gig? Understanding mobile data.
Opera. (2020). Opera browsers in 2020, what’s next?