TunnelBear vs. NordVPN – who wins when you put these two popular Virtual Private Network (VPN) services in a head-to-head contest?
If cute logos and graphics were all it took to make a good VPN, then there would be no contest here. But it takes a lot more than that to help you protect your online privacy – and at first glance, things might seem pretty close.
Does one VPN rise above the other, though? Arguably, yes.
Once you get into the nitty-gritty, a clear winner does emerge. But that doesn’t account for one of the most important factors in choosing the right VPN… your needs and which provider answers them best. This is why we compare VPNs for you, to help you make an informed decision when buying a VPN.
And that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do!
The TL;DR Version
We know you probably want to get a quick answer so you can figure out how to watch Netflix with a VPN.
Just, at the very least, the TL;DR version. This way you’ll have a better idea of how TunnelBear compares to NordVPN on privacy and security.
|Multiple Connections||Up to 6||Up to 5|
|Speed||93 %||83 %|
|Logging||No logs||Minimal Logging|
|Support||24/7 live chat||Help Center|
|Refund||30-Day Moneyback Guarantee||0|
TunnelBear has been around since 2011, so it’s one of the older, better established providers on the market.
This is always a good thing, as the longer a provider has been part of the industry, the more time they’ve had to test and implement what works best for the user.
The bear theme makes sense when you realize TunnelBear is a Canadian company, though McAfee (an American company) acquired them in early 2018.
Unfortunately, this is also a mark against the VPN. Both Canada and the US are part of the 5 Eyes Alliance, a global government surveillance coalition that dates back to World War II.
Adding to our woes, TunnelBear isn’t a true no-logs VPN, though at least they aren’t pretending otherwise. Instead, they offer a minimal logs policy.
Most of what they do log is stock standard stuff any VPN needs to record to be able to offer their service. But some of it is a little… odd.
Like logging what operating system you’re using. Granted, TunnelBear uses it for “user support, troubleshooting, and product planning,” but we don’t get why they need to record it by default.
We’d prefer they give users the option to volunteer or withhold that information until it’s needed for troubleshooting.
Equally disappointing is the tiny server network.
TunnelBear only advertises having servers in 23 countries, but not how many servers there are. Our best guess is they have around 350+ in total, which is next to nothing.
Still, they have an impressive suite of security and privacy features. They also passed independent security audits, the most recent of which was published in January 2020.
NordVPN is based in Panama, a fact they advertise fairly prominently on their website. However, that claim has been disputed before by people pointing out their parent company, Tesonet, is based in Lithuania.
Lithuania is far from being one of the worst locations for a VPN.
It doesn’t belong to any known global surveillance coalitions, nor is it a suspected ally (like Israel). However, there are some worrisome data retention laws that prevent it from being an ideal jurisdiction.
Panama, by contrast, is commonly recognized as one of the best countries for VPN companies. So if NordVPN were lying about being based in Panama, it would certainly deal a hefty blow to their reputation as one of the best overall VPN services.
The good news is NordVPN is telling the truth.
Even though Tesonet is indeed based in Lithuania, NordVPN is registered in Panama. And that means the VPN is subject to Panama’s pro-privacy laws, which protect it against requests from foreign intelligence agencies.
On top of that, NordVPN is one of the few providers who voluntarily undergo independent security audits by third parties. So far, they’ve passed every test, with the audits being repeated on a yearly basis.
NordVPN also has an impressive suite of security and privacy features, which TunnelBear almost perfectly mirrors.
One of the areas NordVPN pulls ahead of their Canadian competitor is their server network, which is the second largest (confirmed) in the industry: 5,473 servers in 59 countries.
Only one other provider is known to have a larger server network, though another (Private Internet Access) is currently claiming to challenge that fact.
TunnelBear vs. NordVPN: Going Head-to-Head
At this point, you might already have figured out which VPN provider TheVPNShop.com ranks higher based on our (as objective as humanly possible) rating system.
More to the point, you might already have decided you know which of these two providers you prefer.
But it’s always better to get as many details as possible before making a final choice.
So to help you make sure you’re making an informed decision, take a few more moments to consider how TunnelBear and NordVPN fare against each other when compared head-to-head on these 3 major factors…
1. How Good Are They For Streaming?
There’s a good chance your main reason for wanting a VPN is so you can stream movies and shows that aren’t available in your country. Or, for that matter, to make sure you can stay up to date with new episodes while traveling abroad!
Getting around the kind of geo-location blocks streaming platforms use is of course one of the 10 things you can do with a VPN.
This is because a VPN changes your IP address to that of the server you’re connected to, so websites and other online platforms will think you’re in a different location. This is also why VPNs are so useful for beating government censorship.
Unfortunately, streaming platforms don’t want their customers to do this.
Or, to be more accurate, the companies that own the distribution rights to the media content and make money by selling exclusive access to different platforms in different countries aren’t happy with this.
As of 2016, streaming companies like Netflix have been using robust anti-VPN measures. This means it can be difficult to find a VPN that works reliably for streaming.
Unfortunately, TunnelBear really dropped the ball here.
Even using GhostBear (a feature designed to defeat VPN blocking) won’t work… plus it makes your connection a lot slower.
NordVPN, on the other hand, is one of the best VPNs for Netflix, as well as other streaming platforms like BBC iPlayer and Kodi. All you need to do is click the Smart Play feature to have their list of servers (in-app) filtered to show only those optimized for streaming.
So if streaming is important for you, NordVPN will be the better option by far.
2. How Fast Can You Go?
We mentioned using GhostBear will slow your internet speed down. A more accurate way to put it would be to say it makes your connection even slower than TunnelBear already does.
To be fair, using any VPN is going to slow your connection speed, no matter what anyone else tells you.
After all, your online traffic needs to travel to an extra server (the VPN’s) before reaching your destination, then again through the VPN server to get to you. So the idea isn’t to knock TunnelBear for making things slower – it’s to point out that all VPNs do.
The trick is to find a VPN that won’t make your internet so slow it’s frustrating or even impossible to do anything.
If you’d like to learn more about the different factors that affect VPN speed – both those the provider can control and the ones only you can – we have a post on What Is the Fastest VPN?
We also go into detail in explaining exactly how TheVPNShop.com tests VPN speeds so we can fairly compare different providers when we do our reviews!
Quick spoiler alert: NordVPN came in 4th place with an average speed reduction of just 7.3%. This is so little there’s a good chance you won’t really notice it.
TunnelBear, on the other hand, slowed our connection by 17.3%. That’s already more than twice as much as NordVPN – and it’s while using TunnelBear’s optimal settings (so no GhostBear).
This means, once again, NordVPN takes the win.
3. Money Matters
As people with a lot of experience in the online privacy industry, the most important factors for us are security and privacy, followed by VPN speed and functionality.
We’ve already covered all of those areas above.
But for most of us, affordability is a massive deciding factor. So much so that when we’re stuck between two otherwise practically identical providers, we’ll always default to the one with a better price range.
And that’s exactly why we’re including this money matters section:
- *For the first year only, thereafter $83.88
- **For the first 2-year period only, thereafter $119.76
- °You’ll also get 3 years of RememBear Password Manager for free (RememBear costs $36.00 for a 1-year subscription, $60.00 for 2 years)
No matter how you look at it, TunnelBear is the cheaper option.
However, you absolutely get what you pay for. The extra fees NordVPN charges go toward giving you a fast connection speed and the ability to stream just about any service’s content.
Still, if affordability is more important than streaming and you don’t mind sacrificing speed for privacy, TunnelBear definitely deserves this win.
TunnelBear vs. NordVPN: Is There a Winner?
For most users, we feel NordVPN is the better choice.
But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s the best choice for you. Only you know exactly what you want to use your VPN for and whether TunnelBear will answer those needs just as well as NordVPN does.
And if so, you’ll certainly benefit from the cheaper subscription fees – and all the cute bears!
The great news is, you don’t have to make a decision right away. NordVPN offers a limited 7-day free trial (or, if you prefer, a 30-day money-back guarantee) so you can test it out.
TunnelBear has a 500Mb/month freemium version (and a 30-day money-back guarantee) for the same reason.
So if you’re still not sure, give them both a try and make sure you end up with the right VPN for you!