NordVPN vs Tunnelbear
Brian Choi, Author
Riley Marsden, Chief Editor
Virtual private networks – better known as VPNs – have seen their popularity rise in recent years, with more and more people looking to protect themselves from the attention of hackers and ISPs. But with such a wide array of products and each one offering its own unique set of features, which is the best one for your needs? We’ve compared two of the leading VPNs on the market, NordVPN and Tunnelbear, side by side to see which one comes out on top.
The privacy and security offered via a VPN comes from the way it accesses the internet via a server in another country – but while it does a great job of keeping your data safe, it does slow the connection down.
Each VPN combats this issue in different ways, and some have greater success than others. NordVPN has a good reputation in this area, maintaining a speed of 17.9mbps during testing – easily enough to stream video or play games without losing picture quality or experiencing buffering issues. However, it was outperformed comfortably in this area by Tunnelbear, which delivered speeds consistently over 50mbps – allowing you to transfer data at high speeds with no issues. Despite NordVPN’s superior reputation, Tunnelbear is the clear winner when it comes to internet speed.
If your reason for getting a VPN is improved security, then the number of servers a VPN offers may not be an important issue for you – provided it offers enough to maintain your internet speed, you shouldn’t have any problems with a smaller number of server locations.
However, for many people a VPN is not just for security, it’s a method of accessing streaming content that is not available in their country – and the more countries your VPN has servers in, the more content you will be able to access.
In this regard, NordVPN is the clear victor – with over 5,500 servers in 59 countries around the world, it is one of the market leaders when it comes to global server coverage. By comparison, the 22 countries Tunnelbear provides servers in is quite limiting if you wish to access region-specific content.
In such a competitive market, VPN providers are constantly coming up with innovative features to entice customers – and NordVPN and Tunnelbear are no different.
Both of these VPNs include a kill switch, an essential function that allows you to disconnect automatically from the internet if you lose your VPN connection to ensure your online activity remains private. The two services also offer high-level AES-256 encryption designed to protect your data, adding an extra layer of security – and they both have a no-logs policy, meaning none of your data is stored or shared.
NordVPN now allows you to connect up to six devices simultaneously, which is ideal if you are in a shared house or have a number of different devices you use to connect to the internet. Tunnelbear’s provision is just short of this, allowing for five devices to be connected at once – and in such a tight category, that is just enough to give the win to NordVPN.
Many of the world’s most popular streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu vary their content library depending on which country you’re in and restrict access to that specific region.
If you’re in the US but you’ve heard there’s a great new UK show coming to Netflix, you may find that you can’t access it – and that’s where your VPN can come in handy. By connecting to the internet via a server in a different country, you can access that country’s geo-blocked content.
This is one area where NordVPN really comes into its own – while Tunnelbear does not offer an unblocking feature for streaming apps, NordVPN was able to unblock content on most of the major streaming apps during testing, allowing access to both the US and UK Netflix libraries as well as a host of other services.
Another benefit of a VPN is that it allows you to use P2P torrenting software that many ISPs now block automatically – users of file-sharing software now often find that they cannot access content or even websites related to torrenting. VPNs use encryption to mask your internet usage, preventing your ISP from monitoring what you do and allowing you to use P2P software without any fuss.
Once again, NordVPN’s larger server base gives it the edge in this category, with a number of servers optimised for P2P usage to ensure fast, reliable connections. Unlike some smaller VPNs, Tunnelbear does allow torrenting on its servers, but advises that you limit this activity to servers in specific countries to avoid issues connecting.
With many ISPs now ‘throttling’ bandwidth during peak times leading to slower internet speeds, lag and buffering issues can make online gaming a frustrating or even pointless exercise.
The way in which a VPN masks your online activity makes it difficult for your ISP to limit your bandwidth, allowing you to maintain the high internet speeds required to make many modern games playable online. Also, as with streaming content, some games are geo-blocked meaning they are only available in certain countries; a VPN allows you to bypass these restrictions quickly and easily.
Although both NordVPN and Tunnelbear allowed for relatively efficient gaming, once again NordVPN’s larger server base is the difference-maker. With more servers in more countries, you can access a wider range of region-specific games, while the higher speeds offered ensure you can play games while downloading or streaming other content.
NordVPN’s free trial period lasts for one week, while they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. Tunnelbear provide a completely free option that has no end date – however you are limited to 500mb of data per month.
Is it legal to own a VPN?
It is legal to own and operate a VPN in many countries including the United States, Australia, UK and Canada. However, this is on the basis that you use it only for legal purposes.
I’m on a budget – which one is more affordable?
As mentioned above, Tunnelbear offers a limited free option that, if you’re an infrequent user, could be sufficient for your needs. Both NordVPN and Tunnelbear offer premium services with a wider range of functions; NordVPN’s prices start at $11.95 per month and drop to as little as $5.75 per month if you subscribe for a 12-month plan, while Tunnelbear is currently offering massive reductions, with a year-long plan costing just $39.99.
Is there any support if something goes wrong?
NordVPN’s 24-hour live support function ensures you should never be kept waiting for a response for long. Tunnelbear doesn’t offer live chat, however it does provide a detailed help section on the company website as well as support via email.
Although Tunnelbear surprised us by providing higher speeds than NordVPN could reach, overall NordVPN is the superior product thanks to its wider server base and ability to bypass geo-restrictions. Having said that, if you are an occasional internet user and your priority is security, Tunnelbear’s free package is a perfectly adequate cost-free option.