NordVPN and TunnelBear are both well-known VPN services that have been operating for many years. But that’s where the similarity ends. In this NordVPN vs TunnelBear comparison, we found major differences in the areas of performance, VPN apps, features, streaming, and more.
Here are the areas we examined:
- Company background check and jurisdiction
- Speed tests
- Streaming and torrenting
- Security and encryption
- Prices and refunds
Now let’s jump into the detailed test results and analysis to help you decide whether NordVPN or TunnelBear VPN is the best option for you.
Company background and jurisdiction
It’s important to look into the background of your VPN so you can decide if you want to trust it to handle your internet traffic.
NordVPN background check
|Logs||No logs (audited)|
|Support||24/7 live chat|
NordVPN falls under the umbrella of Nord Security, a company based and operating under the jurisdiction of Panama. Aside from NordVPN, this team is also behind NordPass and NordLocker, a secure cloud storage and encryption tool.
The jurisdiction of this company is a big plus. Panama isn’t involved in any of the big international spying and data collection alliances. And the country has no mandatory data retention, which we see with UK VPN services. This lets NordVPN operate as a true no-logs VPN service without government interference.
TunnelBear background check
TunnelBear is owned by the US cybersecurity firm McAfee. That’s not good news, since the USA is not a good privacy jurisdiction. The United States is famous for various surveillance activities that target both foreigners and civilians. It is also the leader of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. Among other things, the countries in this alliance reportedly spy on each other’s citizens and share the intel they gather, sidestepping national privacy laws.
Despite being owned by a US company, TunnelBear is actually based in Canada. Unfortunately, this is at best only a tiny improvement since Canada is also a member of the Five Eyes.
Company background and jurisdiction winner: NordVPN
TunnelBear features user-friendly apps for Windows, Mac OS, Android, and iOS devices. TunnelBear also offers browser extensions. We tested out TunnelBear’s VPN for Chrome extension, and it worked well. Below is the TunnelBear Windows VPN app we tested.
While we liked the simplicity of the TunnelBear apps, our testing turned up random connection problems in the Windows app. The app would simply not be able to create a secure tunnel to the selected VPN server location. Here is the error we kept receiving:
While TunnelBear sometimes had trouble connecting, once it was connected, we couldn’t find any leaks. Their VigilantBear feature is a VPN kill switch to block all traffic if you get disconnected or are in the process of reconnecting. Their GhostBear feature disguises your VPN traffic to make it harder for your ISP or control-freak government to block your connection. Unfortunately, even with GhostBear, TunnelBear is still not a VPN that works in China.
I have also seen reports that TunnelBear does not work in the UAE with the current blocking situation. However, this is impossible for me to verify at the moment. Nonetheless, if you want a good VPN for UAE, NordVPN would probably be a better option with the Obfuscated servers.
Overall, TunnelBear is limited on features in comparison to some other services, such as NordVPN and Surfshark.
NordVPN offers all the standard VPN features you might expect, along with a number of advanced privacy and security features. Here is the Windows VPN app we tested:
Here is an overview of the features you get with NordVPN:
- Double VPN servers (also known as multi-hop servers) that pass your traffic through two VPN servers in a row, giving an extra layer of security to users that really need it. You can find more information about Double VPN speeds in our NordVPN vs ProtonVPN review.
- P2P servers are optimized to give you the best torrenting VPN experience. They do a great job of sharing large files at high speeds, while also keeping your identity safe and secure.
- Tor-over-VPN servers pass your traffic through the Tor network for an extra layer of anonymity.
- Obfuscated servers that make your VPN traffic look like non-VPN HTTPS traffic so you can get around internet censorship, such as in China or the UAE.
- Dedicated IP servers that assign you your own IP address for use by the VPN. Some activities require this kind of dedicated IP VPN, and NordVPN lets you create one without having to subscribe to a different service.
- Split tunneling allows you to route certain apps or websites outside the VPN tunnel.
- CyberSec is a feature to block ads trackers and malware. With CyberSec enabled, NordVPN is one of the best VPNs with ad blocking.
NordVPN has 5,400+ servers spread across 60 countries in their network. This is one of the largest VPN server networks in existence and is much larger than TunnelBear’s network.
Features winner: NordVPN
TunnelBear vs NordVPN speed tests
We tested each VPN by running them on our 500 Mbps test connection from our US lab.
Before we start, you should know that we ran the NordVPN tests using WireGuard which is usually the fastest protocol.
TunnelBear does not support WireGuard, but instead relies on the (older) OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols.
Servers in the US
Here are the results for TunnelBear connected to their United States server: 52 Mbps.
Getting about 52 Mbps on a 500 Mbps connection is very slow.
Here are the results for NordVPN connected to a United States server in Seattle: 445 Mbps.
NordVPN turned in results more than 8 times faster than TunnelBear.
Servers in the UK
Here are the results for TunnelBear connected to their UK server: 5 Mbps.
Here are the results for NordVPN connected to their UK server: 295 Mbps.
For the UK server location, NordVPN was 59 times faster than TunnelBear.
For the two locations of the US and UK, NordVPN was significantly faster than TunnelBear. It is clear that NordVPN with the WireGuard protocol will outperform TunnelBear with the OpenVPN protocol, as we saw in the WireGuard vs OpenVPN speed tests.
Speed test winner: NordVPN
Streaming and torrenting: Does TunnelBear or NordVPN work better?
Two of the most popular uses for VPNs are streaming and torrenting. Let’s see if either of these services are good for these uses.
NordVPN has earned the title of the best VPN for streaming and also the best all-around VPN for Netflix. It is very fast, has a huge network of servers around the world, and can unblock most streaming services, including US Netflix (and many regional libraries too), Hulu, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, and more. And while other VPNs get blocked by these services, NordVPN continues to deliver. Below we are streaming US Netflix with NordVPN.
NordVPN is even one of the best VPNs for Firestick with a dedicated app in the Amazon Store.
TunnelBear doesn’t do as well with Netflix or streaming in general based on our tests.
Besides being slow and having random connection errors, TunnelBear also does not work with Netflix when using the US server. Instead of a seamless streaming experience like we got with NordVPN, Netflix blocked TunnelBear and served up this error message:
And also recall that TunnelBear only gives us one server to use in the US. This makes it difficult if you want to change Netflix regions to access more content. And if the single US server is blocked by Netflix, there are no other options to try. This same rule applies to all of the other countries, which seriously restricts TunnelBear’s ability to unblock websites and streaming content.
Streaming winner: NordVPN
We recommend using a reliable VPN for torrenting that gives you fast speeds and secure apps.
NordVPN tops our list as the best VPN for torrenting. It is fast, secure, and based in a safe privacy jurisdiction. They even offer numerous P2P servers that are optimized for torrenting. And all of the NordVPN apps include a kill switch to ensure no leaked data escapes the VPN tunnel.
TunnelBear can do P2P torrenting — but it comes with some drawbacks. First, is that this is a slow VPN (in our tests). Second, being located in a Five Eyes country makes for precarious privacy. Third, with a small server network, it will be difficult finding a nearby server that gives you enough bandwidth for fast seeds.
Torrenting winner: NordVPN
NordVPN easily won both of these sub-categories. You know who gets the nod here.
Streaming and Torrenting winner: NordVPN
Security and encryption: Is TunnelBear or NordVPN more secure?
So far, TunnelBear is getting thumped by NordVPN. Let’s see if they can keep up on the security and encryption fronts.
Security audits provide outside confirmation that a VPN delivers on its security promises. It also provides more trust and assurance to the VPN’s users who trust the service with encrypting traffic.
NordVPN has undergone the following third-party audits:
- Two separate no-logs audits conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers AG Switzerland.
- A full security audit to include applications, server infrastructure, and penetration testing. This is part of a long-term partnership with VerSprite.
Few VPNs (except possibly ExpressVPN) have been as thoroughly audited as NordVPN. You can learn more in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN comparison.
TunnelBear underwent security audits by Cure53 in both 2017 and 2018. This puts them ahead of most VPN services, since few services have had even one audit. TunnelBear has also undergone a few other (newer) audits, according to their website.
From what I can find online, NordVPN has been audited more recently than TunnelBear, for both security and also privacy. It is one of the few verified no-logs VPN services.
Security audits winner: NordVPN
Since VPN servers are where much of the magic of a VPN happens, it is crucial to protect and secure them. Strong encryption and physical security of the server hardware are important considerations.
NordVPN took their server security to the next level by converting all their servers to run in RAM-disk mode. Their servers literally do not contain disk drives. This ensures that none of their VPN servers can store any data. And that means outsiders cannot get access to any user data by seizing a server. We see other VPNs doing this as well, such as with ExpressVPN and Surfshark.
TunnelBear doesn’t make mention of any special steps they take to provide server security. We do not see RAM-disk servers or co-located servers with TunnelBear at this time.
Server security winner: NordVPN
Encryption and protocols
NordVPN uses an AES-256-GCM cipher with a 4096-bit DH key when running the OpenVPN or IKEv2 VPN protocols. It uses the ChaCha20 cipher when running the NordLynx (WireGuard) VPN protocol. Our testing failed to find any bugs, leaks, or other problems.
TunnelBear uses AES-256 ciphers with 2048, 3072, or 4096-bit DH keys when running OpenVPN or IKEv2 VPN protocols. As noted earlier, they do not support any form of the WireGuard protocol. In our testing, their VigilantBear leak protection feature prevented any leaks or other problems.
TunnelBear also offers good encryption. And if they supported WireGuard, they could have competed against NordVPN in this category — but that’s not the case.
Encryption and protocols winner: NordVPN
Security and encryption overall winner: NordVPN
Privacy with TunnelBear and NordVPN
When thinking about privacy, it is good to know that both TunnelBear and NordVPN run secure networks and have no-logs policies. But this is where the similarities end.
NordVPN has strong privacy features such as CyberSec and many specialty servers that offer an extra layer of privacy and security. All of the privacy features are also noteworthy, but we covered those above.
Their no-logs policy was audited in both 2019 and 2020, and they are based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction (Panama). Other VPNs that have undergone no-logs verification include ExpressVPN and PIA.
- Your operating system version
- TunnelBear app version
- Whether you have been active on their network in a given month
- Your monthly bandwidth usage
Whether those particular log items are a major problem is not the issue. The issue we have is that they claim to keep no logs while clearly keeping logs.
Privacy winner: NordVPN
Prices and refunds comparison
NordVPN offers three pricing options as you can see below.
NordVPN offers a 30 day money-back guarantee with all plans.
Note: If you are interested in NordVPN, you should know that we track their latest deals on our dedicated NordVPN coupon page. And you might also be able to bundle other NordSec products together with the VPN, such as NordPass and NordLocker.
TunnelBear offers three plans: a very limited Free plan that is good for testing the service, the Unlimited plan priced from $3.33 per month (renewing at $59.88 per year), and the Teams plan, at $5.75 per month per user. While the free VPN plan is available without payment, it caps out at 500 MB.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear does not offer any refunds. This kind of negative policy is practically unheard of in the VPN space. We count that a huge strike against the service.
It also does not appear that TunnelBear offers any significant VPN coupons, which we see with many other services.
Nonetheless, with both NordVPN and TunnelBear VPN under $4 per month with the cheapest plan, both of these VPNs are affordable. They would even fall into the cheap VPN category to consider if you are on a budget.
Prices and refunds winner: NordVPN
Is NordVPN or TunnelBear the best value?
Figuring the value of a VPN has to include its utility as well as price. Here are five things to consider when trying to decide the value of NordVPN vs TunnelBear:
- Security: TunnelBear put up a good fight, but NordVPN won the Security and encryption category.
- Privacy: TunnelBears live in an iffy privacy jurisdiction and they log some user data despite their “no logs” policy.
- Speed: NordVPN blows TunnelBear away by a large margin with performance.
- Features: NordVPN offers more and better features across the board, including superior streaming and torrenting support.
- Price: TunnelBear is currently more expensive than NordVPN and they do not offer any refunds.
- Customer support: NordVPN offers 24/7 live chat support. TunnelBear offers limited email support, but nothing on the level of NordVPN.
NordVPN beats TunnelBear in these categories.
Value winner: NordVPN
Conclusion: NordVPN wins in 2022
You probably knew how this NordVPN vs TunnelBear battle was going to turn out, but let’s do a quick summary. Here are the winners in each of our 8 test categories:
- Company background and jurisdiction: NordVPN
- Features: NordVPN
- Speed tests: NordVPN
- Streaming and Torrenting: NordVPN
- Security and Encryption: NordVPN
- Privacy: NordVPN
- Price and Refund: NordVPN
- Value: NordVPN
NordVPN swept the field today and is the winner of our NordVPN vs TunnelBear VPN comparison.
If you do decide to go with NordVPN, make sure you take advantage of the discount below:
This TunnelBear vs NordVPN comparison report was last updated on February 11, 2022.