Virtual private networks, or VPNs, provide a valuable layer of protection and privacy for your online activities. As security threats grow, more internet users are turning to VPNs to encrypt their connections, hide their IP addresses, and shield their sensitive data from prying eyes.
But the crowded VPN marketplace offers countless options, so how do you determine which provider best safeguards your browsing? In this comprehensive 2023 review, we compare two leading VPNs: TunnelBear vs. NordVPN.
After extensive testing and analysis, we break down how these VPNs stack up across crucial categories like speed, unblocking abilities, security features, ease of use, and pricing. Read on for a detailed TunnelBear vs NordVPN showdown.
An Overview of TunnelBear and NordVPN
Founded in 2011 in Toronto, TunnelBear delivers a straightforward VPN experience focused on ease of use. The playful bear mascot and charming UI makes TunnelBear accessible for VPN novices. Servers in 47 countries offer secure connectivity.
NordVPN, created in 2012 and now based in Panama, appeals more to power users with advanced features and expansive server coverage. With over 5,200 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN offers the flexibility to unblock content and choose uncongested servers. Security is a top priority.
Let‘s see how TunnelBear and NordVPN compare across the essential factors:
|Best for||Beginners looking for a simple, easy-to-use VPN||Unblocking streams & torrents|
|Number of servers||Unknown number of servers in 47 countries||5,200+ servers in 60 countries|
|Ease of use||Extremely easy setup and intuitive interface||Easy to set up and use all features|
|Speeds||Average download speeds, tends to be slower when far from server location||Excellent speeds, even on distant servers|
|Streaming unblocking||Unable to unblock most streaming sites||Successfully unblocks Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and more|
|Security||256-bit AES encryption, leak protection||256-bit AES encryption, leak protection, obfuscated servers, kill switch|
|Pricing||From $3.33/month for 3-year plan||From $2.99/month for 2-year plan|
|Money-back guarantee||None||30 days|
With over three times as many servers, consistent speed across global locations, and watertight streaming unblocking, NordVPN pulls ahead as the more fully-featured VPN. But TunnelBear remains a top choice for new users who prioritize simplicity.
Now let‘s delve deeper into each factor:
Pricing and Plans: NordVPN is Cheaper Long-Term
The cost often plays a major role when choosing a VPN. Here‘s how the pricing shakes out for TunnelBear and NordVPN:
|TunnelBear Pricing||NordVPN Pricing|
|Monthly: $9.99/month||Monthly: $11.99/month|
|1 Year: $4.99/month||1 Year: $4.99/month|
|2 Years: N/A||2 Years: $3.99/month (Best Value)|
|3 Years: $3.33/month||3 Years: $3.49/month|
|No money-back guarantee||30-day money-back guarantee|
At first glance, TunnelBear‘s 3-year plan seems like an amazing deal at $3.33 per month. However, NordVPN‘s 2-year offering at $3.99/month is a smarter long-term choice.
Since NordVPN provides a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try the service risk-free. And locking in for 2 years instead of 3 gives you more flexibility. If you opted for TunnelBear‘s 3-year commitment and wanted to switch VPNs, you‘d be stuck waiting for the long contract to expire.
NordVPN also periodically offers flash deals, seasonal discounts, or coupon codes that cut the price by 50% or more. So savvy shoppers can lower the cost of NordVPN even further.
Features: NordVPN Packs More Privacy Tools
A VPN needs more than just a cheap price tag. Robust features for security, streaming, and general usability are crucial. How do TunnelBear and NordVPN compare on the feature front?
|Encryption||256-bit AES||256-bit AES|
|Protocols||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, NordLynx (custom protocol)|
|No-logs policy||Strict (audited)||Strict (audited)|
|Leak Protection||IPv6 and DNS leak prevention||IPv6 and DNS leak prevention + kill switch|
|Obfuscated Servers||No||Yes, evade censorship using stealth protocols|
|Streaming Unblocking||Netflix US only, inconsistent||Unblocks Netflix US, UK, JP + more geo-restricted platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer|
|Split Tunneling||Partial (mobile apps only)||Full split tunneling|
|Browser Extensions||Chrome & Firefox||Chrome & Firefox|
|Simultaneous Connections||Unlimited||6 devices|
|Dark Web Monitor||No||Yes, alerts you if credentials are leaked online|
|Router Support||No||Yes, install on router firmware|
|Ad and Tracker Blocking||Yes – "VigilantBear"||Yes – "CyberSec"|
|Settings||Simple||Advanced configuration options|
NordVPN simply offers more tools, settings, and functionality compared to the barebones TunnelBear service. Key advantages like split tunneling, obfuscated servers, dark web monitoring cement NordVPN as the winner for features.
And experts often favor NordVPN‘s Panama headquarters over TunnelBear‘s base in Canada. Panama has no mandatory data retention laws, while Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
For streaming, NordVPN pulls far ahead of TunnelBear in unblocking capabilities:
|Amazon Prime Video||❌||✅|
During testing, TunnelBear consistently failed to access overseas Netflix libraries, Hulu, and other major streaming platforms due to aggressive VPN blocking. NordVPN uses dedicated streaming servers that offer much higher rates of success unblocking geo-restricted content.
This makes NordVPN the clear choice for any streaming aficionados looking to watch foreign Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon catalogs. TunnelBear is unsuitable for binge-watching due to its poor unblocking capabilities.
Speed Comparison: NordVPN is Faster Across the Board
A VPN adds a bit of inevitable overhead as your traffic moves through more hops. But the fastest VPNs keep any speed loss hardly noticeable.
To compare NordVPN and TunnelBear, we tested connection speeds on local and international servers using both macOS and Windows devices. Speeds were measured with the Ookla speedtest tool for consistency.
Here are the average results across all locations:
|VPN||Download Speed Loss||Latency Increase|
And the breakdown by country:
|Server Location||TunnelBear Download Speed Loss||NordVPN Download Speed Loss|
Across nearly all locations, NordVPN demonstrated faster downloads and lower ping times. This holds true even when connecting to distant servers halfway across the globe.
TunnelBear‘s smaller server network struggles to keep up, with noticeable slowdowns as you move farther from your starting point. For watching HD video or online gaming where speed matters, NordVPN is the wiser choice.
Ease of Use: TunnelBear is More Beginner-Friendly
A VPN needs an intuitive interface so new users can quickly get online and seasoned customers can access advanced options. How usable are these two providers?
TunnelBear sports a visual map where you click and drag a cute bear to your desired location. Servers are organized by country, making it easy to select your preferred VPN exit point.
The settings menu features large buttons and straightforward choices. Options like the kill switch and IPv6/DNS leak protection are found under "VigilantBear." The experience is stripped down so even total novices won‘t get overwhelmed.[Insert image: TunnelBear mobile app interface]
NordVPN provides a map view alongside a vertical list of countries and cities. You can filter and favorite certain servers. On Windows, an algorithm automatically suggests the best server location based on load levels.
While the interface looks slick, NordVPN stuffs loads of settings and preferences into the "Advanced" section. Options like "Data compression," "VPN protocol," and "CyberSec" toggle can be confusing for VPN first-timers. But power users welcome the customization.
Winner: TunnelBear for simplicity, NordVPN for advanced control
Client Software and Devices: NordVPN is More Widely Supported
A quality VPN provider offers apps that run smoothly across a variety of operating systems:
|Chrome||Browser extension||Browser extension|
|Firefox||Browser extension||Browser extension|
The two services are neck and neck when it comes to native apps for desktop, mobile, and web browsers. But NordVPN adds value by supporting additional device types:
Smart TVs – NordVPN has apps for Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, and LG Smart TVs. TunnelBear lacks any VPN coverage for smart TVs.
Gaming Consoles – Connect NordVPN to an Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo Switch to encrypt your online gaming. TunnelBear does not cater to consoles.
Routers – Install NordVPN directly onto your router firmware to cover all connected devices. This expands protection beyond your computer or phone. TunnelBear again misses the mark for routers.
Winner: NordVPN for wider device and platform support
Customer Support: NordVPN Offers More Channels
Even a user-friendly VPN will occasionally require troubleshooting help. So responsive and knowledgeable support can make or break your experience. How do these two VPNs compare for customer service?
- Email support
- Online knowledgebase and FAQ
- 24/7 live chat
- Email support
- Extensive online knowledgebase and troubleshooting guides
While TunnelBear does maintain an email ticketing system and Help Center, users report frustrating delays of 24 hours or longer for responses. NordVPN stands apart with round-the-clock live chat where you can instantly get answers to your VPN questions.
As for self-help resources, both providers offer useful setup guides and tutorials in their online support hubs. But support articles tend to be limited in scope and number from TunnelBear, while NordVPN delivers much more expansive materials.
NordVPN vs TunnelBear: Which VPN is Best in 2023?
When weighing all the factors, NordVPN emerges as the clear winner in this head-to-head showdown for the best all-around VPN experience:
Price – NordVPN comes out ahead for long-term affordability. Two years costs only $3.99/month, and the 30-day money-back guarantee mitigates any risk. TunnelBear has no refund policy.
Features – With extensive tweaking options, obfuscated servers, split tunneling, and Dark Web Monitor, NordVPN bests TunnelBear for features. Unlocking streaming sites like Netflix is a NordVPN specialty.
Speed – During testing, NordVPN demonstrated lower reductions in download speeds and latency compared to TunnelBear – making it the faster VPN.
Ease of Use – TunnelBear wins here with the most beginner-friendly interface. But NordVPN gives experienced customers more configuration control.
Support – NordVPN shines with 24/7 live chat and an extensive knowledgebase. TunnelBear relies on slower email responses for support.
Compatibility – NordVPN offers the greatest platform support, working on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, smart TVs, game consoles, and more.
While NordVPN has a clear advantage overall, TunnelBear remains an excellent starter VPN if you just need basic security and ease of use for light browsing and don‘t need streaming access or advanced options. But for power users who want maximum features, speed, and flexibility from their VPN service, NordVPN is a smarter choice in 2023.
Whichever provider you select, be sure to take advantage of free trials and money-back guarantees to test a service before fully committing. With the right VPN, you can better safeguard your personal information and bypass filters for unrestricted web access. Compare TunnelBear and NordVPN for yourself to unlock a more private, secure, and unrestricted internet experience.