ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear (2020): Which is the Better Choice?

Last updated: June 19, 2020
Muhammad Hamza Shahid

Muhammad Hamza Shahid

Facing difficulty in deciding which VPN to go for among the two? To simplify things, we've created a detailed comparison of ExpressVPN vs. TunnelBear.

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 For customer support, ExpressVPN offers 24/7 live chat with helpful agents, while TunnelBear has an outdated web contact form and email support.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 is the winner

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

Highlights
ExpressVPNTunnelBear
  1. 3,000+ Servers in 94 Countries
  2. AES-256-CBC and AES-256-GCM
  3. 3 Simultaneous Connections
  4. Apps for All Popular Devices
  5. Verified No Logs Policy (Audited)
  1. 1,000+ servers in 23 countries
  2. AES-256 bit Encryption
  3. 5 Simultaneous Connections
  4. Free Plan Available for Users
  5. Passed Two Security Audits

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 offer35% Off on a 1-Year Plan50% Off on a 1-Year Plan
Highest price per month$12.95$9.99
Lowest price per month$8.32$4.99
One-Year Price$99.5$59.88
Money-Back Guarantee30-DaysNone

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

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
Simultaneous Connections35
Operating System AppsWindows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/Firestick, some routersWindows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux
Manual Install DevicesSome Routers, Set-Top BoxesSome Routers
Split TunnelingYes (Desktop Apps Only)Yes (VigilantBear)
Free ExtrasMedia Streamer Smart DNS, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and SafariClosest Tunnel, Wi-Fi Protection, 500MB Free

Both ExpressVPN and TunnelBear offer exceptional multiplatform compatibility. You have dedicated apps for Windows, MaciOSAndroid, Linux, and even Fire TVs.

You even have browser extensions available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. ExpressVPN gains an upper-hand over PIA though, due to their router support for Apple TVs.

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.

Unblocking Capabilities

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
NetflixYesNo
HuluYesNo
Sky GoYesNo
Amazon PrimeYesNo
BBC iPlayerYesNo
ABSYesNo
CBSYesYes
NBCYesYes
ITVYesYes
Channel 4YesYes

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.

In simple words, the provider failed at unblocking Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Voot, Hotstar, Disney Plus and other streaming platforms.

ExpressVPN, on the other hand, managed to deliver amazing performance and unblocking capabilities. Thanks to its TrustedServer Technology and use of “obfuscation“.

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!

China

Chinese residents and expats are always in search for “working” VPN services that can bypass the many technologies employed by the “Great Firewall” in China.

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

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
Automatic Setup WizardWindows, Mac, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Android, iOS
Main Location SelectionList-basedList-based
Extra Settings PagesYesYes
Mobile FriendlyYesYes

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.

ExpressVPN Interface

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

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
Server Countries9423
Total Number of Servers3,0001,000

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.

Speed

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
Speed Loss9%30%

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

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
VPN ProtocolsPPTP, L2TP, OpenVPNL2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN
OpenVPN Data EncryptionAES-256-CBCAES-256
OpenVPN Control Channel EncryptionRSA-4096 RSA-2048
Cloaking TechnologyCipher Block ChainingNone
App SecurityKill SwitchVigilantBear and GhostBear
DNS StatusPrivate DNSPrivate 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.

Leak Tests

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:
DNS 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.

Privacy

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
HeadquartersBritish Virgin IslandsCanada
Connection LogsNoneNone
Activity LogsNoneNone
Sign Up InformationEmail AddressEmail Address
Anonymous Payment MethodsBitcoin and MintNone

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.

Configurations

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
Address AllocationSharedShared
Static IPsNoneNone
DDoS ProtectionNoNo
NAT FirewallYesYes

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

ExpressVPNTunnelBear
Video GuidesYesYes
Searchable Knowledge Base YesYes
Phone SupportNoNo
Email SupportYesYes
Average Email Response Time33 Minutes1 Hour
Ticket SupportYesYes
Live Chat SupportYes (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:

ExpressVPN

QuestionInitial Response TimeNumber of EmailsQuestion Answered
Can ExpressVPN be traced?15 Minutes1Yes
Does ExpressVPN store Logs?18 Minutes1Yes
How to Watch Netflix with ExpressVPN?55 Minutes1Yes
What features does ExpressVPN offer for torrenting?47 Minutes1Yes

TunnelBear

QuestionInitial Response TimeNumber of EmailsQuestion Answered
Is TunnelBear safe for the dark web?1 Hour1Yes
How do I cancel my TunnelBear subscription?48 Minutes1Yes
Does TunnelBear work for Netflix?52 Minutes1Yes
Who owns the TunnelBear VPN?59 Minutes1Yes

The Winner: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Wins

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.

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