Both NordVPN and TunnelBear have several years of history. The former was founded in 2012 by “four childhood friends” that “came together to build technology that could liberate the internet”. The latter was founded in 2011 by Daniel Kaldor and Ryan Dochuk in Toronto, Canada, but was acquired by McAfee in 2018.
NordVPN is one of the most famous VPN services used by over 12 million internet users worldwide. Clients benefit from its fast connection with unlimited bandwidth, various features, and the convenient long-term price it provides. Its native app mainly supports Android, macOS, Windows, and iOS platforms.
TunnelBear is one of the most popular VPN services as well, and it wants to bring the benefits of privacy to everyone with simple apps. It is better known for its user-friendly interface, high-speed download performance, and lower short-term price. As well, its native app supports Android, macOS, Windows, and iOS.
But what is the best solution between NordVPN and Tunnelbear? You will discover it in this comparison.
How to Choose a VPN
With this side-by-side comparison, I am trying to figure out which is the best VPN provider.
To compare these two, the whole work will base on six key points.
USER-FRIENDLINESS. The one characteristic that makes the difference between a good VPN and an excellent one is the interface. It must be the most user-friendly possible.
CONNECTION SPEED. Another important element when talking about VPNs is the connection speed because no one wants his internet connection to slow down too much.
FEATURES. Features are fundamental parts of a VPN service; some of them are essential for customer online protection.
PRICING. The price of the VPN must be aligned with the basket of services and features it provides but also with market trends.
SECURITY AND PRIVACY. This is the fundamental element you must consider when choosing between VPNs because it reveals the quality of the service.
CUSTOMER SUPPORT. The quality of Customer Support services is an excellent indicator of how much the company values its customers.
NordVPN vs Tunnelbear: Which VPN Should You Use?
Ease of Use
User-friendliness is one of the key elements the makes the difference talking about VPNs. For user-friendliness, I mean that the interface must be intuitive, easy-to-use, and aesthetically pleasing for the users.
In this section, I am going to describe the two interfaces and give information about both of them.
NordVPN uses a clean and minimal interface that matches its color with the brand ones. The large map occupies most of the screen; in it, there are several blue bubble indicators. These represent the several countries you can click to select the corresponding location.
This map interface is very well implemented. You can click and drag through the map searching for the country’s server you need, or you can scroll in and out making it easy to select bubbles in high-density places like Europe.
This map is not the only way to search for locations. On the left side the user can find the countries list by name; clicking one of these names, another window appears. In this last one, you can find another drop-down menu where you can select one of the servers you find or simply select the “fastest” option.
There is a search bar you can use at the top-right of the map to make the search even easier.
On the lower part of the map there is a white banner in which is indicated if you are protected or not by VPN; on this banner is also possible to “quick connect” to the VPN.
The setting section is very well organized in sub-categories and each one has its features. Each feature can be activated throughout on/off switches.
TunnelBear interface is as well very intuitive and, so, easy to use.
Just like NordVPN, we find a map also in TunnelBear’s main interface. This, as well, occupies most of the whole window. But, instead of the blue bubbles that we have seen in the latter, this presents a more brand-friendly style with tunnels and bears spread across the map.
Servers on the map can be easily found by clicking and dragging through it. Although, this map has a slight deficit compared to the NordVPN one. The latter can be scrolled in and out, the former cannot. So, the searching-on-the-map process is a little bit slower because of the small movements the click and drag system allows.
You can recognize the server you are connected with unlimited bandwidth to by simply finding the bear in the tunnel (as shown in the picture below).
Alternatively, you have a drop-down menu on the top-left corner where you can find the list of all servers to use and locations.
Similarly, to NordVPN, you have a switch button and the Server you are connected to on the top-left of the screen.
Finally, NordVPN and TunnelBear do not present significant differences when talking about user-friendliness. Their interfaces are precisely calibrated for the average user and respect the standard of the sector.
Tie! Both VPN providers offer a very good-quality interface; it is very intuitive and easy to use.
Connection speed is a key element coming to VPNs. The securitizing system does not have to slow down too much the download/upload speed; if not it would be useless for the purpose it serves.
It is important to maintain as much consistency as possible when using standard servers.
All Speed Tests are performed on “Speedtest “which is also the application suggested by NordVPN on its official website.
NordVPN results to be strongly consistent in connecting to the internet; it takes about 10 seconds to connect to the internet. That is thanks to the over 5500 servers located over 59 countries worldwide.
Considering American and European servers, the connection speed does not drop down dramatically. Based on our test with a server in Los Angeles at random times during the day, the download speed floats between 54Mbps and 74Mbps with an average of about 67Mbps against 433Mbps without the VPN; it may seem a great gap but considering that speeds over 30Mbps are good enough even for streaming purposes, that’s not a big issue.
The upload speed floats between 33Mbps and 63Mbps with an average of about 52Mbps against 82Mps without the VPN. This result is very impressive considering the 85% drop in download speed.
In the TunnelBear case, the connection speed does not represent one of the strengths of this VPN. It could take also 30 seconds to connect and some pages took about one minute to establish a connection; in this latter case, the connection timed out trying to load the website or it loaded without some elements of the page.
It must be considered also that this VPN counts fewer servers located in 22 countries worldwide.
Its connection speed is not one of the most powerful. Our test with a server in the US determined the download speed floats between 51Mbps and 62Mbps with an average of about 57Mbps against 499Mbps without the VPN; as well, it may seem a great gap but considering that speeds over 30Mbps are good enough even for streaming purposes, that’s not a big issue.
The upload speed floats between 8Mbps and 16Mbps with an average of about 12Mbps against 82Mps without the VPN. As a result, even if upload speed is not the most important between the two, if you need to send large files this is not the VPN you should use.
NordVPN is the winner! TunnelBear download’s speed on average is slightly lower than the NordVPN. However, NordVPN upload’s speed is significantly higher than the TunnelBear.
Talking about VPNs, one of the most important key elements are the online protection features; in particular, I am going to consider the Kill Switch and the automatic connection start-up. These two are critical for the security and protection of the client.
The other features discussed concern access to use streaming apps and services (free as well), simultaneous connections, and torrent support.
In the settings section, we easily find both, “Kill Switch” and the “Auto Connect on Start-up” buttons; these services work very well and are provided to all the customers, independently from the chosen subscription plan. There is also a button for “app kill switch” which “kills” the selected application when VPN connection drops to prevent showing your IP address and many other useful features.
Moreover, there is a feature that allows the VPN to make your device invisible in the Local Area Network (LAN) and, so, grants more security in public spaces.
Finally, NordVPN provides a new feature called “CyberSec” that avoid ads and protect the device from malware, phishing, and other threats. Even if this feature works very well, it is always better to get antivirus software.
OpenVPN is the only protocol available, but the users have to possibility to choose between UDP and TCP, which can help to stabilize your connection. More specifically the protocols are TCP/UDP, IKEv2/IPsec, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, and SSTP.
This VPN provides reliable access to many streaming apps service platforms such as Netflix, HBO, Disney+, and many others, even free; this service is granted in the US as well as in other countries.
It grants up to 6 simultaneous connections from different devices, each one connected to different servers’ locations.
Peer-to-peer file sharing is one of the most popular online activities and NordVPN allows P2P file sharing on the server network in 46 countries out of 59.
The Double VPN feature allows the client to use a VPN that goes through another VPN so that it is even harder to trace back from destination to source. The name means exactly what is it, is creates a Double VPN connection for further privacy.
Another feature that the client can activate the DNS leak protection feature. This feature prevents leaks such as Transparent DNS Proxies, No Support for IPv6, or the Windows’ Teredo Technology.
TunnelBear provides “Kill Switch” and “Auto Connect on Start-up” service to each customer; even, in this case, both features are offered not considering the subscription plan chosen. The TunnelBear’s “Kill Switch” also reconnect automatically if the connection is lost.
In the “Auto Connect on Start-up” section, the client can choose a list of networks that will be considered trusted; for each network you add, the VPN will not activate. That is a good way to keep the speed at home and protection in public spaces.
As with NordVPN, OpenVPN is the only protocol available, but there is also a TCP override for keeping your connection more stable. More specifically the protocols are IKEv2 and IPSec/IKEv2. It lacks the PPTP, SSTP, and L2TP/IPSec encryption that NordVPN offers
Unfortunately, the VPN does not provide reliable access to Netflix or any other streaming service.
It grants up to 5 simultaneous connections from different devices, each one connected to different servers’ locations.
Talking about P2P online activities, TunnelBear allows these operations on their servers network but suggests limiting them to a server located in Canada, US, UK, Romania, Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden.
TunnelBear as well provides the Double VPN feature and protects against DNS leaks.
Finally, Onion over VPN technology is provided even by this VPN provider.
NordVPN is the winner! It offers more features to use compared to TunnelBear. Starting from one more simultaneous connection, it provides more encryption protocols, and finally, it grants access to most of the streaming platforms.
In this section, I am going to discuss many elements of the pricing policy.
Starting from the subscription plans available, compared in terms of convenience in both the short and in the long run.
Another element that must be considered is the payment methods they accept; this enlarges the purchase’s possibility.
Finally, I discuss the free trial option (if any) and the refund policy each VPN offers.
NordVPN subscription plan is more complete than the other. It provides:
- 1-month plan for 11.95$ per month paid monthly
- 1-year plan for 6.99$ per month (83.88$ paid annually with 41% discount)
- 2-year plan for 3.99$ per month (95.75$ paid annually with 66% discount)
- 3-year plan for 2.99$ per month (107.55$ paid annually with 75% discount)
In the long run, this provider is the one that grants the more discount and, so, it is the one that gives more importance to the value of money. It is also very convenient in the short run thanks to the very low price it offers. All annual plans provide the same features you can use with no limits.
The website gives the possibility to the customer to purchase any plan with barely every existing payment method you can use: credit cards (American Express included), Amazon Pay, UnionPay, cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin included), Alipay, WeChat Pay, and many others.
NordVPN does not offer any free trial period, but every subscription plan is refundable with the 30-day money-back guarantee. This service is applied even to the 3-year plan (the most discounted one).
TunnelBear provides two distinct plans for individuals and teams from 3 to 200 members but gives you the possibility to get in touch if your team needs subscriptions for more than 200 members.
Talking about individuals, it offers 3 plans:
- 1-month plan for 9.99$ per month paid monthly
- 1-year plan for 4.99$ per month (59.88$ paid annually)
- 3-years plan for 3.33% per month (120.00$ paid annually)
All plans offer the same features without considering the discount between them.
Thanks to its low 1-month price, it is one of the cheapest VPN; this makes it attractive for casual customers or people that approach this application for the first time.
Otherwise, it is not preferred by people who are looking for long-period subscriptions because of its higher price compared to other VPN providers, such as NordVPN itself.
Moreover, the subscription plan is better organized because of the team subscription plan option. This alternative offer one single subscription plan with paid annually with the only limit of the team’s members. They must be more than three, but this number has no limit; on the website, there is the possibility to contact the team members of TunnelBear to get custom subscription plans.
TunnelBear accepts fewer payments with respect to NordVPN; it is possible to pay with credit cards and Bitcoin (the latter only for annual subscriptions) but it also accepts payment with Honey.
It offers a 1-month free trial period limited to 500Mb of use. It is enough to see a 30-minutes video or surf for a while on the internet, but it is still something.
As well, TunnelBear guarantees a 30-days money-back period for all the subscription plans offered.
Tie! Even if NordVPN’s long-term plans are more convenient and complete, TunnelBear offers a free-trial period, is cheaper in the short-run, and provides a team subscription plan.
Security and Privacy
In this section, I am going to discuss some elements that are strictly necessary when talking about privacy and security. These two are the fundamental factors that avoid being tracked or monitored on the internet.
First, it is important to compare the location in which the VPN is based and check if the country respects online privacy.
Second thing, it is important that the provider does not save logs related to their users’ online activities
Third thing, the Encryption protocol is critical, so I also spend a few words on this concept.
Talking about the location in which the company works, NordVPN is based in Panama. This country respects the online user’s privacy as it has no mandatory data retention laws and does not participate in the Five Eyes (an anglophone intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) or Fourteen Eyes alliances.
NordVPN policy is short and clear. They collect and logs minimum data about their customers thanks to the possibility to pay with cryptocurrencies that keep the client anonymous. The only information collected is the VPN network server load.
The encryption is the AES-256, a standard provided by premium VPN protection companies. This one is the most used due to its minimal impact on connection speed and it is considered the most unbreakable.
NordVPN uses Perfect Forward Secrecy and, so, relying on dynamic encryption key against the static one when providing an extra layer of security.
NordVPN only installs OpenVPN protocol, but it is also possible to set up the IKEv2 protocol as well on iOS devices. Both are top-ranked protocols.
TunnelBear, otherwise, is based in Canada. Even this country respects the user’s online privacy but because it is a member of the Five Eyes or Fourteen Eyes alliances, its government can be a bit annoying.
TunnelBear policy is concise as well; they also collect operational data about which operating system you are using and how much data you are consuming. The client is however anonymous if it pays with Bitcoins.
The encryption is the AES-256, the same as NordVPN, so TunnelBear can be classified as one of the most protective VPN servers.
As well as NordVPN, TunnelBear has the property of the Perfect Forward Secrecy.
TunnelBear and NordVPN share also the OpenVPN protocol, but differently from the latter, this one does not provide the possibility to set up the IKEv2 protocol.
In this section, I discuss the channels provided by each VPN to its clients and the efficiency of this service.
NordVPN offers many means of customer support; first, the 24/7 live chat with customer support representatives that answer your question within a few seconds; Second, it provides a great email service; finally, there is a FAQ section on the site that cover all the commonly asked questions.
Moreover, the team provide a YouTube channel that addresses issues related to installation errors and more
TunnelBear uses two channels to manage customers’ questions; the VPN does not offer a 24/7 live chat, but this is not a big issue because it provides a very good email service. Then there is also a complete knowledge base that clients can visit.
NordVPN is the winner! Both provide the same services except from the 24/7 live chat that makes the difference in terms of time.
Stand Out Features
Here I explain the main Stand Out features that each VPN provides
NordVPN provides one more feature:
- Obfuscated Server: an additional feature that allows you to bypass most of the geo-blocking problems. Basically, the IP address of the Server is hidden so that the third party website cannot immediately spot the IP address of the server you are connecting through so that they won’t know you are using a VPN to connect to their site. With NordVPN you can even have a dedicated IP Address.
TunnelBear offers one more feature:
- GhostBear. In countries were VPN is not allowed, this feature makes the VPN traffic look like normal browsing traffic; this allows clients to use VPN in such countries where, otherwise, it would not be possible.
NordVPN and TunnelBear share many similarities that make the two VPN highly comparable. They share the same encryption standards and protocol and they offer both the critical “Kill Switch” and “Auto Connect on Start-up” features.
TunnelBear also grants a free trial period even if it has some limitations.
However, NordVPN is the best VPN between the two. It provides more servers located in more countries; It provides a better pricing policy in the long run; it provides a more reliable and faster connection speed; it provides a more complete feature’s framework; finally, it offers a better customer support service.
Because NordVPN is based in Panama, online customer privacy is more secure and because of the very few data that the VPN collects.