If you’re looking for the best VPNs, then NordVPN is one of the biggest names in the industry, but how does it hold up against its competitor, TunnelBear? Both services offer specific perks, and both have good reputations.
However, NordVPN has one of the largest networks of servers across the globe, but what about TunnelBear? It’s relatively unknown but may be the best option for your particular needs.
NordVPN vs TunnelBear: quick comparison
|3rd party audit||Yes, by PwC||Yes, by Cure53|
|Advanced features||Kill Switch|
Onion over VPN
|Servers network||5400 servers in|
|1800 servers in|
|Streaming and P2P||Yes,|
in the mobile app
in the mobile app
|invpn.com rating||4.8 / 5.0||3.8 / 5.0|
|Full review||NordVPN Review||TunnelBear Review|
|Get NordVPN||Get TunnelBear|
To help you decide between NordVPN and TunnelBear, and determine which will work better for you, let’s dive in and see how they compare.
TunnelBear was founded in Toronto and is still based in Canada. Thankfully, privacy laws have loosened there a bit, making them a better choice now than previously.
They only keep logs for one month, so if third-parties demand access to your information, it will just be your registration information along with the number of connections and MBs you used over the last month. That gives an admirable level of privacy.
However, when it comes down to TunnelBear vs NordVPN, NordVPN takes this category. Since they’re registered in Panama, they have no legal requirements to save your data or share it with third parties, so they don’t save anything other than payment information.
One feature to look for in a VPN is a third-party audit. You want to be sure that you can trust the level of privacy they say they provide.
Thankfully, TunnelBear conducts an annual third-party audit to examine everything: their server infrastructure, codebase, website, and apps.
So far, they’ve been incredibly successful.
However, NordVPN has also had a third-party take a look at what they do to ensure they don’t keep any logs.
In 2018, they hired an auditing and assurance firm to analyze their services, and the company came to the conclusion that NordVPN does not store logs or monitor online activity, just as they promise.
As of June 2020, NordVPN has ordered another more intensive audit of its service.
So, while another audit is in the works, it’s up to you to decide if you prefer the yearly third-party audit that TunnelBear provides.
No matter what device you’re on, if it accesses the internet, you’ll want to be able to connect to your VPN. A native app takes the trouble out of connecting manually.
Fortunately, TunnelBear has an app that works on multiple platforms, including the following devices:
- Chrome, Firefox, and Opera browsers
While you can get TunnelBear to work on Linux, it does only provide limited support, so take that into consideration.
NordVPN also has full app coverage, but over a broader spectrum:
- Android TV
- Chrome and Firefox browsers
When it boils down to NordVPN vs TunnelBear, TunnelBear allows you to have five simultaneous connections across your devices, but NordVPN allows you to have six.
Often, VPNs offer browser extensions to give extra privacy. However, these extensions only encrypt what is received and sent through an individual browser. If you’re using an app on your machine outside of the browser, that will still be vulnerable against third party data collection.
TunnelBear offers specific extensions for various browsers, including:
In this instance, TunnelBear offers more. NordVPN only provides extensions through Chrome and Firefox.
Advanced VPN Features
The deciding factor between two or more VPNs often comes to what extra features they offer. Many VPNs function in relatively the same way, but some give more attractive benefits than others.
TunnelBear has several advanced VPN features, including both VigilantBear and GhostBear.
VigilantBear is like a kill switch. If your connectivity is disrupted, VigilantBear stops all of your traffic until your VPN is able to reconnect. Keep in mind that this feature is only available on Windows, Mac, and Android.
GhostBear ghosts, or obfuscates, your presence, in a word. It conceals the fact that you’re using a VPN from your ISP, which can help with some location-based restrictions.
When using an Android device, TunnelBear offers what is called split tunneling, or SplitBear.
This feature allows you to choose which apps go through TunnelBear and become encrypted and which are left to connect directly to the internet.
- Always On
TunnelBear is also always on, not requiring users to turn it on each time they connect to the internet.
- Closest Tunnel
They also offer a feature called Closest Tunnel, which you can choose if you don’t want to connect to a specific country. Instead, it puts you at the nearest server, which can improve speed.
- Two Protocols
VPNs are made up of protocols and then layers of encryption. A protocol is the instructions a VPN is programmed to follow and give you added privacy and safety when online.
TunnelBear uses two protocols on Windows and iOS, but only one on macOS and Android.
Windows and iOS get either IKEv2 (or Internet Key Exchange) or OpenVPN. Whichever is the fastest to connect is the protocol you will use until you disconnect.
Android users and macOS only have access to OpenVPN.
NordVPN has its own wealth of advanced features, from no-logs policy to Onion Over VPN. Let’s take a closer look, so you can decide which package is more attractive for your own needs.
- Extra Privacy
As we mentioned, NordVPN offers a strict no-logs policy and masks your IP to prevent tracking. NordVPN uses what is called an AES 256-bit encryption algorithm to protect your information. It uses a 256-bit key to encrypt data, making it the most secure method on the market.
- Kill Switch
Plus, they also provide a Kill Switch. This means that your data will never be exposed, not even for a single second. If a third party interrupts your VPN connection, this feature will instantly disable internet access on mobile devices or block specific apps on a computer from accessing the internet.
- Double VPN or MultiHop
NordVPN is one of the few providers that gives two VPN servers instead of one. Your data is encrypted twice through a Double VPN or MultiHop.
Also called VPN server chaining, your data is encrypted on your own device, sent to the VPN server, is encrypted once again, and then goes to another VPN server where it is decrypted then sent onto your destination.
Think of it as your data hopping between you and two servers, and each hop adds just another layer of protection and privacy. Because the first server alters your IP address, the second server never learns your actual address, giving you complete privacy.
Like with TunnelBear, you can also choose split tunneling with NordVPN, and thus let some apps on your devices bypass the VPN entirely.
- Onion Over VPN
Furthermore, NordVPN provides what is called Onion Over VPN. NordVPN has partnered with The Onion Router. This means your traffic can be routed from a NordVPN server to the Onion network, bypassing the need for a Tor browser.
Think of this network as a relay system that passes encrypted traffic from one node to another. Each node only accesses information about the next relay, not the actual end destination.
- Three Protocols
While TunnelBear has only two, sometimes just one, protocol, NordVPN offers three.
First, they offer OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec, just as TunnelBear does. OpenVPN provides the most security and uses an AES-256-GCM and a 4096-bit DH key. It’s typically the default protocol with NordVPN.
However, IKEv2 uses Next Generation Encryption (NGE) to prevent your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from tracking you. On mobile devices like iOS and macOS, it’s the default.
Thirdly, NordVPN uses WireGuard, or NordLynx, which is the fastest and newest protocol available. However, despite its strengths, it’s still experimental and thus may be open to vulnerabilities. Thankfully, NordVPN has added protections to WireGuard with its NordLynx.
NordLynx is a double Network Address Translation (NAT) system. That means NordVPN creates two interfaces for each user, assigning a dynamic IP address to circumvent any privacy issues that might otherwise arise with identifying data being stored on a server.
They leave it up to each user which protocol they would like to use. If you need extra speed (thanks to fewer lines of coding), you can choose NordLynx. If you want safety and tested security, OpenVPN or IKEv2 will do.
There is little doubt that whichever VPN you choose will be able to support your activities.
While TunnelBear only has over 1,800 servers, its app allows users to connect instantly to one of 23 countries available, including the UK, USA, Japan, Finland, India, Brazil, and more. Just be aware that the extension they provide does not provide the same security that using the full VPN does.
And, thanks to their closest tunnel feature, you can easily find the fastest speeds by choosing the server nearest to you at any given time.
On the other hand, NordVPN has over 5,400 servers operating in 59 countries. That’s a huge amount to pick from and gives you more freedom of choice.
Similarly, NordVPN has six different categories for servers.
- Standard Server
First of all, the standard server is your basic VPN, encrypting your internet usage and replacing your IP address.
- Double VPN
They also offer a double VPN, which does just what it sounds like it might: it encrypts your data twice by sending it through two servers.
- Onion Over VPN
They have the Onion over VPN server, which we’ve mentioned.
- Dedicated IP Servers
NordVPN also has what they call Dedicated IP servers. This is perfect for users who want to purchase their own IP address. You can choose one available in:
- The USA (Buffalo, Los Angeles, and Dallas)
- Germany (Frankfurt)
- The UK (London)
- The Netherlands (Amsterdam)
- France (Paris)
Then there are the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) servers, which we’ll discuss in more detail later on. To put it simply, they allow for torrenting.
- Obfuscated Servers
Lastly, NordVPN has obfuscated servers. These go around any internet restrictions you may encounter, like firewalls. All in all, you have a good deal of choice when it comes to what NordVPN plan or server you want to invest in.
NordVPN is clearly superior in this category, but do remember that you’re losing out on an extra extension for the Opera browser.
Dedicated Streaming and Torrenting Servers
While this hasn’t always been the case, TunnelBear allows for both Peer-to-Peer (P2P) computing and use of Tor.
When it comes to a VPN, P2P can connect servers and clients, but torrenting and P2P typically go hand in hand. It often makes sharing encrypted files safer, easier, and even faster.
However, TunnelBear does not permit users to skirt around geo-blocked content on many of the big streaming services. Many of us look for this feature specifically when picking a VPN, so it may be a dealbreaker.
NordVPN, conversely, was not only optimized with P2P in mind, meaning torrenting is secure, but allows for users to unblock various streaming services thanks to their vast options when it comes to server locations. Whether you want to watch American Netflix, British Amazon Prime Video, Canadian HBO Go, or even BBC iPlayer, you can do so by switching your server location.
Do keep in mind that some streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video, don’t work with a VPN active. Luckily, with NordVPN, you can switch IP addresses to find one that works.
Free Trial and Price
Some VPNs offer a free trial or give you a tester service for free, so you can see if you like using that specific VPN.
TunnelBear falls into the latter category, also known as “freemium.” This means that while they do provide a free option, it’s incredibly limited, much like a sampler at Costco. The free option gives users only 500MB of secure browsing per month. However, that’s enough to test the waters and gauge speeds.
For some who only need a VPN for specific tasks, that may be enough to squeak by on. Most of us, though, will likely need to spring for their “Unlimited” package.
Plans start for as little as $3.33 a month, but you can scale upwards to their business package (called “Teams”), which allows for two or more users per account. Each user will then get five devices that they can use simultaneously. These plans start at $5.75 a month.
If you find you’re unsatisfied with TunnelBear’s services, you’re out of luck. They don’t offer a money-back guarantee. They may consider providing refunds on a case by case basis, but getting one’s money back seems unlikely.
Now, NordVPN does not have a free trial, nor does it have a taste-tester where you can sample their services for a certain number of megabytes.
As with some other VPNs, NordVPN becomes less expensive with a longer contract. For example, monthly plans cost $11.95 per month, with no discount. However, a one-year plan costs only $4.92 per month, saving users 58% of their total price. So, instead of paying $143.40, you’ll only pay $59.00.
They also have a two-year plan that costs just $3.71 a month, saving you 68% off your total bill. Rather than paying a whopping $286.80, you’ll pay the reduced fee of only $89.
That being said, unlike TunnelBear, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. This way, if you buy two years worth of access, but discover it just isn’t a good fit, you can get all of your money back, so long as you cancel within the first month.
While it’s nice that TunnelBear offers a free test of their product, whether or not that outweighs a money-back guarantee is up to you.
NordVPN vs TunnelBear: Summary
Both TunnelBear and NordVPN have some clear benefits, but overall, NordVPN seems the stronger candidate.
NordVPN allows someone in the United Kingdom to watch American Netflix, for example, while those using TunnelBear are stuck with geo-blocked streaming. It also offers a greater country selection, with more servers available.
TunnelBear also has a commitment to transparency by showing each of its third-party audits in their entirety. Of course, you’ll have to weigh this against NordVPN’s tough privacy policies to see which makes more sense for you as an individual.