Tunnelbear vs PIA Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access and TunnelBear are two VPN services that are worth the try. In most of the categories listed below, PIA tops TunnelBear in most aspects—simultaneous connections, compatibility, and interface to name some of them.

If you’re still deciding which to install, here’s a rundown of each VPN’s features.

Comparison

logo tunnelbearlogo pia vpn
Logging PolicyNo loggingNo logging
JurisdictionCanada (Five Eyes Member)United States (Five Eyes Member)
EncryptionAES 256-bit encryptionAES-256
AES-128
SHA-256 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
ProtocolsOpenVPN
IPSec/IKEv2

OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP
IPSec/L2TP
WireGuard
Ad and malware blockersYesYes
Kill switchYes (macOS, Windows, Android)Yes
Leak TestsNo leaks foundNo leaks found
Speed TestAverage to FastFast
Torrenting & P2PYesYes
StreamingNetflix
Hulu
Amazon Prime
HBO Max
Kodi



Netflix
Hulu
Amazon Prime
Disney+
Crunchyroll
BBC iPlayer
YouTube
HBO Max
HBO Now 
GamingWindows
macOS
Linux (limited)
Android
iOS
Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via Router)
PS4 (Via Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via Router)
CompatibilityWindows
macOS
Linux (limited)
Android
iOS
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Windows
macOS
Linux
Android
iOS
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Selected Routers
Simultaneous Connections510
Servers3000+3300+
ChinaSometimesSometimes
Additional FeaturesGhostBear (Obfuscated Server)PIA MACE
Split TunnelingYesYes
PricesFree tier (limited usage)
$9.99/month
$4.21/month (1 year)
$3.33/month (3 years)
$9.95/month
$3.33/month (1 year)
$2.69/month (2 years)
Our Rating4.14.3
Websitetunnelbear.comprivateinternetaccess.com

Now that we have an overview of these two VPN providers, let’s dig deeper into which is better for different categories.

Privacy and Security

If you are going to choose a VPN, better pick a service that is not under the jurisdiction of any Five Eyes Nations (namely Canada, USA, UK, Australia, and New Zealand). In this case, both TunnelBear and Private Internet Access are under the said jurisdictions.

Still, both of them have strict no-logs policies. They assure customers that they don’t keep tabs on user logs or user data.

Both VPN services provide ad and malware blockers and split tunneling.

Encryption

TunnelBear and Private Internet Access use the same AES 256-bit encryption. This National Security Agency (NSA)-approved cryptogram assures you of security and protection.

PIA, however, ups its game a notch when it comes to encryption. This VPN provider uses SHA-256, which further secures your digital information. It also has an RSA-4096 handshake, which makes sure you are not connecting to an attacker’s server.

VPN Protocols

Private Internet Access uses popular VPN protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard, plus IPSec for iOS users. Meanwhile, TunnelBear uses OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2.

Leak Protection

It’s important to choose a VPN service that will hide your IP addresses. Upon trying both of the VPNs in an IP Leak test, TunnelBear and PIA were able to mask my IP address.

This is how my actual address looked like before turning on the VPN services:

IP Leak Test – No VPN

Selecting the Singapore server, this is how my IP address looked like when I used TunnelBear:

IP Leak Test – TunnelBear Singapore

On the other hand, this is my IP address upon using PIA and selecting its Singapore server:

IP Leak Test – PIA Singapore

Both of them masked my IP address and I didn’t experience any DNS leaks.

Server Security

Neither TunnelBear VPN nor Private Internet Access has a RAM-disk server, a server that will not keep data when you turn off your device. However, in 2020, PIA informed its users that they will be able to use its Next Generation Network as it comes out of beta. This upgrade includes RAM disks.

In Conclusion

Though both VPN providers are under the jurisdiction of Five Eyes nations, they showed reliable levels of security. But for this Private Internet Access vs TunnelBear privacy and security round, Private Internet Access wins.

Speed Test

Let’s see which one is faster between the two VPN services. I did a test to see TunnelBear and Private Internet Access’s server speeds.

Here was my speed before turning on any of the VPNs:

Speed Test – No VPN

I selected TunnelBear’s Singapore and US servers and here’s what the speed test displayed:

Singapore server:

Speed Test – TunnelBear Singapore

US server:

Speed Test – TunnelBear US

And here’s my speed when I selected PIA’s Singapore and US-Chicago servers:

Singapore server:

Speed Test – PIA Singapore

US-Chicago server:

Speed Test – PIA US

From here, it became evident that TunnelBear’s download speed is faster if I choose a closer server but its speed drops when I select a farther location like the USA. PIA’s download speed in its Singapore server is a bit slower than TunnelBear’s, but its US server is faster than its competitor. But if we’ll take a look at it, TunnelBear’s ping stats are better.

In terms of connection speeds, I’ll say it’s a tie.

Winner: Tie

Torrenting and P2P

Both Private Internet Access and TunnelBear allow torrenting and P2P. TunnelBear enables file-sharing in its networks but suggests you choose Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, US, and the UK as your preferred tunnels. It’s also best if you use a desktop application instead of browser extensions.

Likewise, Private Internet Access allows P2P file-sharing in all of its networks.

I’ve determined my network identity before turning on a VPN and this is the result:

Torrenting Leak Test – No VPN

This is how my IP and torrent address looked after selecting TunnelBear’s US server:

Torrenting Leak Test – TunnelBear US

And this is what it looked like upon selecting PIA’s US-Chicago server:

Torrenting Leak Test – PIA US

Both of them hid my network identity. There’s not much difference in speed either. So I’ll call this round a tie.

Winner: Tie

Streaming

Most users install VPNs to access geo-restricted content, especially when streaming. TunnelBear gives you access to the foreign libraries of Amazon Prime, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services. Private Internet Access provides access to the same platforms along with Disney+, Crunchyroll, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, HBO Max, HBO Now, and many others. In terms of streaming, PIA has wider access to geo-blocked content.

Netflix

Now I’ve tested both of their US servers to watch Spotlight on Netflix. I was expecting that PIA would give me a better Netflix streaming experience because it appeared fast when I conducted the speed test. On the contrary, TunnelBear gave better results. This can be the result of TunnelBear’s better ping stats.

Here’s what Spotlight looked like while I was using TunnelBear:

Netflix US – TunnelBear

Here is what the movie looked like while I was using PIA:

Netflix US – PIA

Private Internet Access gave low resolution and I’ve experienced lags upon loading the movie. That said, this VPN is not a good recommendation for streaming content. TunnelBear is a better choice when streaming, especially on Netflix.

Gaming

TunnelBear is well-suited with Windows, macOS, Linux (limited), Android, iOS, and browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Private Internet Access works on Windows, Android, iOS, and gaming systems like Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch (all via router VPN connection). When I used them for playing Mobile Legends, I experienced minor lags, especially with TunnelBear.

Here’s what playing Mobile Legends using TunnelBear looked like:

Mobile Legends - TunnelBear

And this is what it looked like while using PIA:

Mobile Legends - PIA

There are better VPNs for gaming, but if I have to choose between the two of them, I have to pick Private Internet Access.

Compatibility

TunnelBear is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux (limited), and browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. PIA, meanwhile, is compatible with the same platforms, but it has an advantage since it can be installed on selected routers, straight from the source.

TunnelBearPIA
Windows
macOS
Linux (limited)
Android
iOS
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Windows
macOS
Linux
Android
iOS
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Selected Routers

In terms of compatibility, I’ll go with a VPN service that can be installed on my router. This round goes to Private Internet Access.

Simultaneous Connections

If you are the type of person who wants to use several gadgets simultaneously, it’s smart to choose a VPN that can be installed on your router. In this way, you’ll only install the VPN once and not on every device. Plus, you will be able to secure every gadget that’s connected to your network.

TunnelBear allows you to use up to six connections, including laptops, mobile devices, and desktops, at the same time. Unfortunately, you cannot install it on your router, unlike PIA. This VPN service allows up to 10 simultaneous connections and you can install it on selected routers. In other words, you can use it on more devices.

For simultaneous connections, I have to choose Private Internet Access.

Servers

A VPN with more servers means a service with more security. TunnelBear has servers in more than 40 countries, amounting to 3,000 VPN servers all in all, while PIA has around 3300 VPN servers in 78 countries.

In 2020, both of these VPN providers shut down their Hong Kong servers as the Chinese government passed a security law that may become a threat to digital information safety. But Private Internet Access also restored it through a new Hong Kong exit gateway. Currently, you can access PIA’s Hong Kong server.

TunnelBear vs PIA, I would choose Private Internet Access in terms of servers.

China

Only a couple of VPN services claim they can bypass the Great Firewall of China. For TunnelBear, the VPN service says you can use it in China and there are active users in that area. However, it doesn’t guarantee that the connection will work every time because countries are more strict than others.

PIA doesn’t claim that it can bypass China’s firewall. You can’t expect it to work in every area in that country. 

I’m not convinced with how either of these VPN services will work in China. For this category, I’ll say it’s a tie.

Winner: Tie

Interface and Usability

When you install TunnelBear on your laptop, it will appear as a compressed interface with a world map. From there, you’ll see tunnels per region where the bear can travel. It has a cute concept. However, I am not a fan of its interface. I cannot expand its window, making it hard to navigate. It does have a country server list and I prefer to use it instead of the map.

TunnelBear Interface 1
TunnelBear Interface 2

I find PIA’s interface more helpful. Although its window is small, I find it easy to use and it displays other information like usage and subscription. It has a quick connect feature and a separate list of the country servers you can access.

PIA Interface 1
PIA Interface 2

Interface and usability-wise, I’ll place my bet on Private Internet Access.

Additional Features

TunnelBear offers Ghostbear. This feature is equal to obfuscated servers, a feature that masks your VPN connection traffic as regular Internet activity in a restricted environment. But if you don’t need to use it, might as well turn it off for it will affect the speed of your connection.

On the other hand, Private Internet Access has PIA MACE. This is the VPN service’s own ad blocker and it gives it for free for subscribers. This adds another layer of protection for Private Internet Access users.

They both have distinct additional features. But in the comparison of PIA vs TunnelBear, I’ll give my vote to Tunnelbear.

Customer Support

TunnelBear does not offer live chat support for its users. It has an email-based contact form. But I can commend how fast they send an email after they receive a ticket where they offer helpful content that may help my concern. If that doesn’t satisfy you, they’ll respond within hours. In my experience, they replied within two hours.

Unlike TunnelBear, PIA has live chat support. This is a big plus for me as the VPN provider can respond to your concerns more concisely. They also have a faster response time.

Here’s a table for a more comprehensible comparison:

TunnelBearPrivate Internet Access
Live ChatNoYes
Email SupportYesYes
Phone SupportNoNo
Ticket SupportYesYes
Video TutorialsNoNo
Online Knowledge BaseYesYes
Average Response Time2 hours39 minutes

I’m more into VPN providers with live chat support, so I’ll bet on Private Internet Access for this category.

Prices

Here are the prices TunnelBear vs Private Internet Access:

TunnelBearPrivate Internet Access
Subscription Lengths1 month (Free 500MB/month)No free tier
1 month ($9.99/month)1 month ($9.95/month)
One year ($4.99/month)One year ($3.33/month)
Three years ($3.33/month)Two years ($2.69/month)
Highest Price Per Month$9.99$9.95
Lowest Price Per Month$3.33$2.69
One Year Price$59.88$39.95
Money-Back GuaranteeCase-by-case basis30 days
Special OfferSave 67% for a three-year planSave 73% + 2 months free for a two-year plan
Save 50% for a one-year plan

If you want to try out a VPN service before subscribing, TunnelBear gives you free 500MB per month. But if you decide on a paid service, PIA offers more inexpensive deals. I’ll prefer Private Internet Access in this area, considering its service and features.

Verdict

Private Internet Access is a better choice than TunnelBear. It has a better interface, value for money, servers, compatibility—possibly in almost all of the areas. But if you’re looking for a VPN that will let you stream HD video, TunnelBear is a better option. TunnelBear will also give you a free plan if you’re just beginning to try out VPN services.

About the author 

Erwin Caniba

Erwin, our Chief Editor, has an established career in digital marketing. Since 2012, he’s always used a VPN. As such, it came to his mind to share his experience with every VPN that he’s used. And so, VPN Thrive was born.