ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear (2020): Which is the Better Choice?
ExpressVPN is among the top providers in the industry. TunnelBear, on the other hand, is famed for being a reliable free VPN service. For customer support, ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat with helpful agents, while TunnelBear has an outdated web contact form and email support.
In terms of network infrastructure, ExpressVPN far outweighs TunnelBear. It offers 2,000 servers in 90 countries, as compared to Tunnel’s 1,000 servers in 23 countries. Features are quite similar and both support military-grade encryption, kill switch, and dedicated apps for popular devices.
Today, I will be comparing the two services and their “premium” offerings to determine, which provider offers better incentives to users. So, without further ado, check out this in-depth ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear comparison analysis.
Which VPN is the Better Choice?
ExpressVPN triumphs over TunnelBear, due to its ability to give users’ access into China, zero leak issues, 24/7 live chat support as well as flawlessly unblocking Netflix. TunnelBear fails to match these features and comes off as inferior. Available for $6.67/mo on a 1-year plan.
ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear: Overview
Pricing and Discounts: ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear
With either provider, you have multiple payment plans available. Although TunnelBear does adopt a “freemium” pricing model, so they have both: free and paid plans.
If you want to sign up for it, you will have to simply enter your email address. Once done, you will gain access to 4 locations only with a bandwidth cap of 500 MB.
|Special offer||35% Off on a 1-Year Plan||50% Off on a 1-Year Plan|
|Highest price per month||$12.95||$9.99|
|Lowest price per month||$8.32||$4.99|
As far as money backs are concerned, ExpressVPN offers a 30-days refund guarantee. Conversely, TunnelBear did offer a 30-day refund before, but not anymore!
Features: ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear
|Operating System Apps||Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/Firestick, some routers||Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux|
|Manual Install Devices||Some Routers, Set-Top Boxes||Some Routers|
|Split Tunneling||Yes (Desktop Apps Only)||Yes (VigilantBear)|
|Free Extras||Media Streamer Smart DNS, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari||Closest Tunnel, Wi-Fi Protection, 500MB Free|
As compared to other providers in the marketplace, ExpressVPN is the only VPN that offers a native app that you can install on your DD-WRT and Tomato routers.
The best part of all: if you do not want to go through the hassle of manually setting up the app, users have the ability to purchase a pre-configured router from them.
TunnelBear offers no such incentives, but it does offer some good features: VigilantBear and GhostBear. These allow users to leverage more security online.
As far as multiple device connections are concerned, ExpressVPN only supports 3 simultaneous logins. Meanwhile, TunnelBear offers 10 simultaneous connections.
Since TunnelBear is famous among “free VPN users”, I did not have high expectations from them. My assumptions proved true, after I tested their free and premium product on different sites.
I was able to access Netflix and all other VoDs with consistency, despite the VPN ban. Not to mention, the streaming speeds were amazing even when watching in 4k quality!
Sadly, TunnelBear offers no incentives to users in China for any sort of unblocking or bypassing of geo-restrictions. They lack the availability of a mirror website.
As such, it is impossible for users in the country to download and install the app on their devices. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, does offer a native Chinese page.
At the same time, it uses strong obfuscation technology that transforms all VPN traffic into regular HTTPS by routing it through port 443.
Setup and Interface
|Automatic Setup Wizard||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|Main Location Selection||List-based||List-based|
|Extra Settings Pages||Yes||Yes|
Similar to all other providers, ExpressVPN offers an automatic setup wizard for the four famous platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
In terms of interface, desktop apps have recently undergone a complete overhaul. Their design and appearance has improved significantly, adopting a more “minimalistic” look.
Launching the app on Windows, Mac, or Linux gives you instant access to a connect button and locations menu, so that you can get down to business quickly.
For the tech-savvy, there is a hamburger button, on the top left corner of the page. Clicking it will give you access to all vital settings and features.
The mobile apps maintain the same design and consistency in the user interface. Best part of all: they are incredibly easy-to-use even on larger screens like TVs.
As compared to ExpressVPN, TunnelBear fails at offering the same level of multiplatform compatibility. You only have apps for desktop, mobile, and browsers.
There is close to no support for Fire TVs, Apple TVs, and Kodi. In terms of design though, all clients look exceptional and incredibly “fun to use”.
In comparison to ExpressVPN, the VPN applications from Tunnelbear are filled with amusing bear graphics and bear joes with cute expressions.
If you click on the “General” tab, you gain access to options like “run when the computer starts.”Meanwhile, the “Security” tab gives you access to “VigilantBear and “GhostBear”.
All in all, the VPN apps of both providers are quite impressive. However, if I talk about “appearance” only, TunnelBear definitely takes away the cake!
Servers: ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear
In terms of server count, ExpressVPN obviously tends to be the winner. It offers a huge listing of 3,000+ servers in 94 countries and 160 locations around the world.
Meanwhile, TunnelBear does not even touch close to those numbers. It only provides users access to a limited 1,000 servers in 23 countries.
Bear in mind that the lesser the server count, the more effect it has on overall performance. High user load on different servers contributes the slower speeds.
Therefore, if it is worldwide accessibility you are seeking, TunnelBear might not be the most ideal option. You will find better functionality from ExpressVPN.
Of course, it is worth noting that ExpressVPN uses “virtual locations” as well. From a total of 160, the BVI-based provider offers virtual servers in 33 locations.
To get a better idea about the performance of each provider, I conducted an in-depth speed analysis for both providers.
This process involved testing 5 different servers for a myriad of internet-related tasks, including browsing, streaming, torrenting, and gaming.
These servers were based in USA, UK, France, Australia, and Canada. In bare speed tests, TunnelBear clocked in with a speed loss of around 30%, while ExpressVPN at 9% only!
Security: ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear
|VPN Protocols||PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN||L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN|
|OpenVPN Data Encryption||AES-256-CBC||AES-256|
|OpenVPN Control Channel Encryption||RSA-4096||RSA-2048|
|Cloaking Technology||Cipher Block Chaining||None|
|App Security||Kill Switch||VigilantBear and GhostBear|
|DNS Status||Private DNS||Private DNS|
ExpressVPN offers support for three protocols: PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN. Meanwhile, TunnelBear adds more the list by supporting IKEv2 and IPSec protocols too.
The BVI-based provider uses the OpenVPN as the default protocol across all devices. It uses AES-256-CBC ciphers with HMAC SHA-256 data authentication on the data channel.
For the control channel, it uses AES-256-GCM ciphers with RSA-4096 handshake and HMAC SHA-256 data authentication.
Not many providers have shifted to RSA-4096, but ExpressVPN is among the few that have. Therefore, it gains an edge over other providers, including TunnelBear
Although it uses the OpenVPN protocol as standard on all devices, iOS users get the choice of either utilizing the IKEv2 or L2TP/IPSec protocol.
Encryption is available through AES-256 ciphers, but some apps do use the older 128-bit cipher and SHA-1 for data authentication.
To get a better idea of the app security, I conducted a leak test on ExpressVPN and TunnelBear. The process involved the usage of 6 different tools to check for;
WebRTC and HTTP Request Leaks:
IPv4/IPv6 and Torrent IP Leaks:
Where ExpressVPN cleared all the tests from the 6 tools and did not reveal our original WebRTC/DNS/IP address, TunnelBear failed at the task.
When using IPv6, the tools did detect WebRTC leaks on both Windows and Mac apps. A simple solution to this is disabling IPv6 connections on your device.
|Headquarters||British Virgin Islands||Canada|
|Sign Up Information||Email Address||Email Address|
|Anonymous Payment Methods||Bitcoin and Mint||None|
One look at the table above and it becomes clear which provider is more secure. ExpressVPN has its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands, while TunnelBear is located in the United States.
Since the BVI is an autonomous nation with its own set of laws, it is free from the invasive tactics adopted by the 5/9/14 Eyes alliances, like mass surveillance and data retention.
The same cannot be said about TunnelBear, which is a founding member of the Five Eyes. As such, even if a provider boasts a no logs policy, trusting them is a difficult task.
As far as anonymous payment methods are concerned, ExpressVPN only supports Bitcoin and Mint. TunnelBear, on the other hand, offers no support for cryptocurrencies.
For configurations, both (ExpressVPN Vs TunnelBear) utilizes a shared network infrastructure. As a result, they can be considered equal in this aspect.
The lack of dedicated IPs is still quite alarming, considering that many VPN-users do have needs that require them to access local networks, while outside their home.
Customer Service: ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear
|Searchable Knowledge Base||Yes||Yes|
|Average Email Response Time||33 Minutes||1 Hour|
|Live Chat Support||Yes (Outsourced)||Yes (Outsourced)|
Both TunnelBear and ExpressVPN offer support via email, and a ticket system. ExpressVPN adds live chat to the list, which is missing with TunnelBear (quite alarming).
Email/ticket support did take some time with TunnelBear (averaging at 1 hour per reply), whereas ExpressVPN cut it shorter (averaging at 33 minutes).
We conducted these tests by sending each VPN three questions via email. Among them, two were general queries and two were a little more technical. See the statistics below:
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Can ExpressVPN be traced?||15 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does ExpressVPN store Logs?||18 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How to Watch Netflix with ExpressVPN?||55 Minutes||1||Yes|
|What features does ExpressVPN offer for torrenting?||47 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Is TunnelBear safe for the dark web?||1 Hour||1||Yes|
|How do I cancel my TunnelBear subscription?||48 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does TunnelBear work for Netflix?||52 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Who owns the TunnelBear VPN?||59 Minutes||1||Yes|
While both of the VPNs reviewed deliver amazing performance, security, privacy, and features, ExpressVPN definitely tends to be the better option.
It offers a larger network of servers, successfully bypasses the GFW in China, provides unmatched Netflix unblocking capabilities, and has zero leak issues.
TunnelBear, on the other hand, has a poor server infrastructure, lacks support for China, offers no live chat, and does not even accept cryptocurrencies.