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TunnelBear VPN review Australia
TunnelBear has a solid cheap version if you want to try before you buy, but it misses the mark if you dig into other key areas.
When I first reviewed TunnelBear in 2020, I liked the free version and easy-to-use interface but felt it was a virtual private network (VPN) that fell short in key areas. Fast-forward to more recent times and, unfortunately, this isn’t a redemption story like what happened when I revisited Private Internet Access VPN.
Read on for the full breakdown of what TunnelBear gets right as a VPN and the key areas it’s lacking.
TunnelBear VPN pricing and plans
TunnelBear VPN plan pricing effective as of publishing. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
TunnelBear is good if you’re a first-timer looking to wrap your head around the perks of a VPN without spending a cent. As soon as you step beyond the free version, though, TunnelBear starts to fall apart. That easy-to-use interface and fast download speeds are offset by a lack of global locations, mixed streaming results, and pricing that feels out of touch with the minimal features on offer.
TunnelBear VPN prices and plans compared
With averaged-out pricing, TunnelBear comfortably makes it into the top 10 of the 17 VPNs I’ve reviewed. Still, the best comparative pricing is the US$9.99 monthly subscription, which sits behind Mullvad VPN, PrivadoVPN and Windscribe VPN.
Annual pricing drops outside of the top five, though; start comparisons with PureVPN, Private Internet Access and Atlas VPN if you want competitive annual pricing. TunnelBear also offers a three-year subscription for US$120, but the overall multi-year value barely scrapes into the top 10. Check out VPN Unlimited, Atlas VPN or Private Internet Access for the best multi-year value.
The one pricing ace that TunnelBear has up its sleeve is a viable free version. Sure, it’s restricted to 2GB a month, but it has 49 locations to choose from, which is something most free VPNs don’t offer. If you are curious to try TunnelBear, the free version is the best way to go because, unlike its peers, there is no money-back guarantee.
Compare TunnelBear VPN prices to other VPN prices
|From US$12.99/mo||View plans||60/83||Best VPN|
|From AU$19.79/mo||View plans||84/146||Stacks of servers|
|From US$12.95/mo||View plans||113/151||Very user-friendly|
|From AU$19.99/mo||View plans||82/112||Fast speeds|
|From US$12.95/mo||View plans||99/142||Unlimited connections|
|From US$11.99/mth||View plans||55/82||Unlimited connections|
|From AU$59.99/yr||View plans||29/29||Bundles well with antivirus|
|From €5/mo||View plans||42/70||Low fixed monthly pricing|
|From AU$18.79/mo||View plans||91/116||Balance of servers, locations|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||57/69||Lifetime subscription|
|From US$10.99/mo||View plans||44/59||Cheap monthly pricing|
|From US$12.45/mo||View plans||77/95||Straightforward server switching|
|From US$8.99/mo||View plans||67/90||Swiss-based anonymity|
|From AU$17.94/mo||View plans||38/46||Unlimited connections|
|From US$9.00/mo||View plans||69/112||Lifetime subscription|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||47/61||Solid free version|
TunnelBear VPN connectivity and user experience
Aesthetically, TunnelBear is a great VPN. From the all-in bear motif that persists from installation through to everyday use, to the user-friendly layout, TunnelBear makes a strong case for being a good VPN for first-time users.
There’s a giant world map for finding server locations or a typical list of global options. Admittedly, the location options are quite limited. TunnelBear had 61 locations to choose from at the time of updating this review, which is less than half of what’s on offer from the likes of ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access and Surfshark VPN.
In terms of Australia, there aren’t any city options, so you’re stuck with whatever TunnelBear automatically selects. That’s great if you’re in Sydney but expect diminishing speeds elsewhere in Australia (particularly for latency). TunnelBear is also strangely mother bear on how many servers it has in its global network, and there’s no way to manually switch servers outside of selecting a country or city.
Connection times with TunnelBear’s default VPN protocol ain’t flash either, which typically take around seven seconds but can be upwards of 13 seconds. Expect to wait a few seconds when disconnecting from a TunnelBear VPN server, too.
There aren’t any specialist servers to choose from, either, which would be less of an issue if TunnelBear didn’t seemingly outright block torrenting software. It doesn’t help that TunnelBear isn’t great with streaming, but we’ve got a section dedicated to that below.
Overall, TunnelBear may be user-friendly, but that ease of use seemingly comes at the expense of the kind of features that TunnelBear’s better-scoring peers have to offer. There’s no inbuilt ad-blocker, anti-malware or antivirus, and there aren’t even common features like split tunnelling or Smart DNS. The only interesting non-standard feature TunnelBear does offer is ‘GhostBear’, which makes encrypted data look like regular internet traffic (potentially handy for government and business users).
TunnelBear VPN supported devices
On the pros front, TunnelBear is one of a handful of VPNs I’ve reviewed that offers unlimited simultaneous connections, meaning you can use it on a limitless number of supported devices. That’s great in theory, but the number of supported platforms is incredibly limited.
TunnelBear is available on expected platforms, including Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS, plus Chrome and Firefox browsers. After that, it’s slim pickings. There’s limited support for Linux users, but no support for Android TV nor any configuration guides for routers.
There are better alternatives available if you like the sound of unlimited devices. Start comparisons with Private Internet Access, Surfshark, Windscribe and Atlas VPN.
TunnelBear VPN speeds
Unless your internet provider is throttling your speeds, connecting to a VPN service will impact your latency and download/upload speeds. To highlight this, the table below shows the midday speeds for TunnelBear with an Aussie Broadband100/40Mbps FTTC connection.
TunnelBear VPN server latency and speeds from Australia
|AU VPN (auto, fastest)||73.12Mbps (~5% slower)||36.53Mbps (~4% slower)||7ms (2ms slower)|
|US VPN (auto, fastest)||71.31Mbps (~7% slower)||31.43Mbps (~18% slower)||143ms (138ms slower)|
|UK VPN (auto, fastest)||56.61Mbps (~26% slower)||27.89Mbps (~27% slower)||268ms (263ms slower)|
Finally, some impressive results. In my tests, TunnelBear showcased fantastic speeds for automatically selected Australian and US servers. Even the 26% hit to UK download speeds is comparatively strong. In fact, TunnelBear ranks second overall for download, upload and latency speeds.
There are better alternatives for Australian latency—try Proton VPN, PureVPN and Private Internet Access—but only Mullvad, VPN Unlimited and Windscribe had slightly faster latency to the US in my tests. UK latency is closer to the middle of the pack, even if the upload speeds across the board have improved since my initial review.
TunnelBear VPN streaming
For those who don’t mind running the risk of having their streaming services blocked or banned, a VPN can be used to stream content from geoblocked libraries overseas. A VPN that’s great for streaming should work across popular US, UK and Australian streaming services, loading content libraries in a timely way while buffering content quickly and without errors.
In terms of the table below, buffering speeds are rated accordingly:
- Fast (1–5 seconds)
- Moderate (5–15 seconds)
- Slow (15–25 seconds)
- Extremely slow (slower than 25 seconds)
TunnelBear VPN performance with popular streaming services
TunnelBear VPN compatibile?
|Stan (including Stan Sport)||Yes||Fast|
TunnelBear isn’t a great VPN for streaming. It does have a few speedy wins but the results are otherwise all over the place. I was able to get fast buffering out of the US Netflix library without any issues but securing the same results for Hulu involved server jumping.
No matter how many locations I switched, though, I couldn’t get HBO Max to work and Peacock had either moderate or extremely slow streaming. BBC iPlayer and Kayo Sports didn’t work, and with no way to switch servers—or, in Australia, no way to switch locations—it makes TunnelBear an easy mark for blocking by streaming service providers.
The table below gives you an idea of how TunnelBear VPN might work with your NBN connection. It uses the max potential download speeds for any given connection to give you an idea of how the best-case 5% download speed changes for US servers might impact your overall download speed when using TunnelBear.
The two columns on the right offer the number of simultaneous streams per connection. While Netflix has a maximum of four simultaneous streams per 4K account, Hulu has an option for unlimited streams. We know these stream numbers get ridiculous for beyond-NBN 100 plans, but they’re a good indication of speed degradation.
TunnelBear VPN speeds for popular 4K International streaming services
NBN speed tier
Max NBN download
TunnelBear VPN US download
Netflix US 4K
|NBN 12||12Mbps||11.4Mbps||Too slow||Too slow|
|NBN 25||25Mbps||23.75Mbps||Too slow||1 stream|
|NBN 50||50Mbps||47.5Mbps||1 stream||2 streams|
|NBN 100||100Mbps||95Mbps||3 streams||5 streams|
|NBN 250||250Mbps||237.5Mbps||4+ streams||14 streams|
|NBN 500||500Mbps||475Mbps||4+ streams||29 streams|
|NBN 1000||700Mbps||665Mbps||4+ streams||41 streams|
Should I buy TunnelBear VPN?
There’s no real reason to buy TunnelBear when there are better-performing VPNs available at better prices in pretty much every key area. If you are curious to try TunnelBear, start with the free version. Otherwise, check out our winners and contenders of the best VPN categories for better-value alternatives.