Windscribe is a VPN that doesn’t seem to get enough attention. If you read our Windscribe review, you’ll see that it does quite a few things differently. From the build-a-plan option that offers VPNs for as little as two bucks a month to its unique R.O.B.E.R.T. malware and ad blocker, Windscribe has a lot to offer.
On the other hand, TunnelBear is a VPN that most people familiar with VPNs are aware of, but is TunnelBear worthy of its household name status? In our TunnelBear review, you’ll see us bemoaning the poor streaming performance, mediocre speeds and poor server location options.
To see if popularity carries over to performance, we decided to see how these two did head-to-head in this Windscribe vs TunnelBear battle.
Setting Up a Fight: Windscribe vs NordVPN
In an effort to make these comparisons as fair as possible, we’ve developed a nine-round system. In each round, we highlight a specific aspect of VPN performance. We talk about anything notable that each VPN offers in that particular field and compare the two against each other.
We wrap up each round by deciding which of the providers won the round. In some cases, this can be a bit subjective, and rounds can end in ties if it’s too close to call. The winner of each round gets a point, and in the event of a tie, both VPNs get a point. At the end, the VPN with the most points wins the matchup and is declared the winner.
Neither Windscribe nor TunnelBear really came out swinging in the first round of this review. Each VPN had decent performance in the U.S., with Windscribe coming out well in the lead here. However, things quickly went downhill from there for both providers.
In the UK, Windscribe had very low download speeds but fast uploads, while TunnelBear was the opposite with solid download speeds but poor upload performance. In Hong Kong, neither VPN performed exceptionally well, with TunnelBear winning this location. Finally, in Switzerland, both VPNs saw improvements, with TunnelBear coming out on top here as well.
Although neither of these providers will be making it on to our fastest VPNs list with results like these, both of them were usable for most tasks on all the servers we tested. Even the slowest servers on both networks — such as Hong Kong and the UK — were able to quickly play 1080p videos and felt reasonably responsive.
Despite reaching nearly twice the speed of TunnelBear in the U.S., Windscribe loses this round for its poor performance in every other location.
It seems that Windscribe has potentially emphasized the importance of its U.S. network infrastructure, allowing it to provide better performance there specifically while potentially leaving other locations in the dust, as we see with the UK.
The significance of this prioritization depends on your VPN use. If you exclusively connect to the U.S., you might see better performance with Windscribe. However, TunnelBear saw objectively better overall speeds and offers a more reliable performance worldwide.
Streaming is a cut-and-dry topic when it comes to these two VPN services. On TunnelBear’s network, the only geoblocked website we were able to watch anything on was Netflix. Hulu, Amazon and BBC iPlayer all detected the VPN and told us we had to turn it off to watch anything.
Windscribe, on the other hand, has appeared in quite a few of our “best of” articles for streaming, such as the best VPN for Netflix and best VPN for Amazon Prime Video. In those articles, we mention that the free servers can get through to these sites.
When we tested this again, however, it seems to no longer be the case. We were not able to reach content on any site — including Netflix and BBC iPlayer — with the free servers.
That said, the paid servers, called “Windflix” servers, still work just fine. Windflix U.S. gains access to Netflix and Amazon, as well as Hulu, which earned Windscribe a spot in our best VPN for Hulu article.
Although the free servers can no longer get through to Netflix, Windscribe’s paid servers still do a good job of working through VPN denial measures and accessing geoblocked content.
3. Security and Privacy
Looking at TunnelBear’s security and privacy, there’s not much to say. There are really no options when it comes to security, with TunnelBear using OpenVPN as the protocol on most devices. The exception to this is iOS users, who will be tunneling with IPSec instead.
Both of these are strong protocols, with OpenVPN being slightly preferred. Both of these protocols are paired with AES-256 encryption regardless of what kind of device you’re using. This is a great encryption and offers excellent security, which you can read about in our description of encryption.
Windscribe offers users a small number of protocol options, one of which is OpenVPN. However, this is not the default setting, with IKEv2 being the chosen protocol out of the box. Following industry standards, Windsribe pairs the chosen protocol with AES-256 encryption.
Both TunnelBear and Windscribe have privacy policies that prioritize transparency and show an encouraging level of respect for the user. However, the most crucial thing to look for in VPN privacy policies is what kind of information is being logged.
Windscribe collects a very minimal amount of user information, which is limited to connection timestamps that are destroyed when you disconnect and data volume information that is kept for 30 days. Technically, you don’t even need to give Windscribe an email address to get an account.
If you’re wondering whether TunnelBear keeps logs, the answer is a bit complicated. As with most “no logging” claims, there is usually a bit of a grey area. Tunnelbear’s logging does not include things like IP addresses or the sites you visit, but it does collect operational data, such as what operating system you’re using. This information is used to maintain the network.
Although both VPNs offer what we consider the golden standard of VPN security, OpenVPN with AES-256, Windscribe offers several additional options and collects less user data than TunnelBear, earning Windscribe the win in this round.
Both of these providers are torrenting-friendly, so there’s no need to worry about whether Windscribe allows torrenting or if you’ll get in trouble for using TunnelBear for P2P downloads. To test each VPN’s torrenting capability, we downloaded a 1.3GB test file with each one.
TunnelBear was slow to get going, taking a whole 90 seconds to break the 1MB/s barrier. After this, it revved up to around 3MB/s to 4MB/s, with peaks reaching no higher than 8MB/s. The entire 1.3GB download was completed in just over five minutes and 45 seconds.
Windscribe got up to speed much more quickly, reaching 2MB/s in only 30 seconds. It continued to speed up for the first two minutes until it reached its cruising speed of between 4MB/s and 7MB/s, with peaks as high as 10MB/s for short periods.
The connection seemed to be spending more and more time at this peak level as the download continued, but it finished after about four minutes and 50 seconds, which makes us think that even larger downloads might get even more benefit.
We do feel the need to point out that when testing all of this, we connected to the nearest server in the U.S., which is where Windscribe got its best performance and was the only location where it beat TunnelBear in our speed testing earlier. That’s still no excuse for TunnelBear’s torrenting performance, though, and this round is a clear victory for Windscribe.
5. Server Locations
TunnelBear has a pretty small network, with a mere 22 locations. The distribution of these servers isn’t the best, either, with a heavy emphasis on Europe, leaving Africa and the Middle East completely barren on TunnelBear’s network.
Windscribe has servers in 59 countries, with multiple locations in several of these countries, which comes out to it having servers in about 110 cities. The distribution is much better than TunnelBear, as well, with the infrastructure to service Africa and the Middle East thanks to servers in the Emirates, Israel, Turkey and South Africa.
This is the kind of round we all hope for, with a clear winner and no subjectivity involved. Windscribe has a network with more than double the countries of TunnelBear, which can offer nearby servers to a much greater number of people. There’s no contest here, and Windscribe is the clear winner in this regard.
6. Simultaneous Connections
Windscribe is as good as it gets when it comes to simultaneous connections. It allows an unlimited number of connections on all of its accounts. By comparison, TunnelBear only offers users five connections per account.
As with the last round, the winner is indisputable. Windscribe is practically unbeatable in this category.
Windscribe and TunnelBear have a similar structure of plans and options, but Windscribe beats out TunnelBear at every level. Starting with the monthly option, both Windscribe and TunnelBear offer unlimited data, but TunnelBear’s monthly price is a dollar more than Windscribe.
TunnelBear’s prices are about $1 per month more for the annual plans, as well. Both VPNs also offer a free plan — you can see both featured on our best free VPNs article — but the Windscribe free VPN comes with substantially more data.
- : 5
- Unlimited GB, five devices, priority customer service
- : Unlimited GB
- : 5
- Unlimited GB, five devices per user, centralized billing, account manager, price per user per month
- : Unlimited GB
- : 5
TunnelBear only gives free users 500MB of data per month for free, while Windscribe offers users up to 10GB if they confirm their email.
Windscribe also has a unique plan option, called “build a plan,” which allows you to pick the servers you want to use. The plan is $1 per month for each server you pick, with a minimum cost of $2 per month. The plan comes with 10GB of data per server you pick, or there is a $1 option for unlimited data.
- Per “Pro” server location
- : 10 GB
- : Unlimited
- : Unlimited GB
- : Unlimited
Windscribe has better pricing both monthly and annually, and even the Windscribe trial plan is better than what TunnelBear offers for free. On top of that, Windscribe has an actual refund policy and the build-a-plan option, making it the clear winner in this round.
User-friendliness is the most subjective element we look at in these reviews, and this Windscribe vs TunnelBear matchup is a great example of that. Both TunnelBear and Windscribe have easy-to-use clients but still manage to be practically polar opposites of each other.
Windscribe has an impressively minimalist interface that packs the most important information into a very compact window. The Windscribe desktop client is one of the smallest out there, which helps save screen space, and it really only has a dropdown menu for selecting your location and a large connect button.
TunnelBear, in stark contrast, has a large interface that takes up a good portion of the screen and features a map with small tunnels to show you where you can connect. There is the option to make TunnelBear’s window smaller, though, by leaving out the map. This makes it much more comparable to Windscribe’s UI.
The settings menus present even more differences, with TunnelBear offering explanations of what most of the options do, while Windscribe is much more functional in look. The Windscribe settings menus are cluttered by comparison, but the sacrifice is made for greater user configurability.
Someone unfamiliar with VPNs would most likely find TunnelBear much more comfortable to use overall, largely thanks to the differences in the settings layout and the included explanations for many of the options. Windscribe’s interface is very streamlined and clean, but it seems to target those who are fairly tech-literate, with its more functionality-driven layout.
Starting with TunnelBear, there isn’t much to talk about when it comes to bells and whistles. Going with the theme we found in the user-friendliness section, TunnelBear seems to want to make things easier on users by having almost everything preconfigured, leaving very little in the way of added features.
There is a TunnelBear ad blocker, but it’s actually just a free browser extension that does not have anything to do with the VPN service. Windscribe’s blocker is actually not built into the software, either, and must be set up from the website in your account dashboard.
Windsribe’s blocker, called “R.O.B.E.R.T.,” is much more robust than TunnelBear’s blocker, allowing you to customize what kind of content is blocked. This means it can be used for ad and malware blocking, but it can also be easily configured to block things like porn, gambling sites and even fake news publishers, based on Windscribe’s prebuilt lists.
Windscribe also gives users access to a tool called Secure.link, which lets you analyze and vet sites before you visit them by looking at what kind of trackers are present on the site without having to actually go there.
As we pointed out in the previous round, Windscribe seems to target features that feel much more oriented toward “power users” who want control over the minutia of how their VPN is functioning and what sites they visit.
This makes it a little harder for the average user to get the most out of these tools, and it would be nice to see R.O.B.E.R.T. being controlled from within the desktop software in the future. However, TunnelBear’s lack of anything extra makes Windscribe the winner in this round.
10. Final Thoughts
In the end, this Windscribe vs TunnelBear matchup turned out to be a bit of a bloodbath. Windscribe took seven out of the nine rounds, and in most cases, the comparison wasn’t even close.
Although TunnelBear took a round early in the speed section, it didn’t carry through to torrenting performance. Windscribe was able to run away with practically everything else, including pricing, features and streaming performance.
We’re always interested in hearing how your experiences with TunnelBear and Windscribe measure up to ours, so let us know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.