Antivirus Software Review: Panda Security

In real life, Pandas are seen as one of the most placid mammals, however, in the digital world, one antivirus developer is trying to turn this reputation on its head: Panda Security wants to slash, maul, and claw malware using big data and artificial intelligence. In contrast to the traditional cybersecurity approach, which is often reactive and defensive, Panda Security wants to go on the attack, taking the fight to malware and viruses. Our review below will show just how successful this 'panda offensive' is.

What is Panda Security?

Panda Security is a Spanish IT security company (founded in Bilbao in 1990) that caters to both private and corporate users. Panda offers a completely free program ("Panda Security Free") as well as a premium package ("Panda Dome Premium"), both of which provide security, privacy, and performance optimization for Windows, Android, MacOS, and iOS users.

Review

Review Score
3.8 / 5
01/2020
good
Visit Website
Features
4.0 / 5
Security & Performance
4.0 / 5
Customer Support
3.7 / 5
Installation & Usage
3.7 / 5
1.

Pros and Cons

Good test lab results

Free basic protection

Lots of features

Poorly-conceived interface

Mediocre third-party features

2.

Installation & Usage

"Panda Security Free" can be downloaded from the provider's website (through a CNET link) without creating an account. Premium customers need to first input their payment method and information, after which they can download "Panda Dome", even without creating a Panda account. To administer your payment profile with the company, however, it is advised to create an account.

Downloading and installing the 2 MB file takes only a few minutes. In contrast to most other antivirus programs, "Panda Dome" has a certain 'nimbleness', and gives the impression of using only a limited amount of your PC's resources.

The program's interface is optically pleasing, and serves as the central panda "base" for all of the software's features, ranging from antivirus protection, to a VPN, to parental controls. The main window displays your security status, basically, whether your PC is protected, the number of scanned files, and five icons representing the program's most important features. By clicking on the button under status you can switch to a general overview.

At the bottom end of the interface, you'll see a news ticker, which you can turn off in settings.

You can access "Panda Dome's" other functions either by scrolling down past additional icons (16 in the "Advanced" subscription) or by clicking on the hamburger menu in the top left. In part, some of the menu items are included here as well as among the program's icons.

This questionable redundancy is not the program's only usability issue, unfortunately. The icons appear to have been arranged haphazardly, and, especially in the feature-filled premium version, this makes the interface appear extremely cluttered. Panda Security could overcome this issue relatively easily by grouping their features together into several categories.

Further underlining the problem, how the icons are organized does not seem to follow any particular logic. For example, when clicking on the "Scans" icon, we expected to be able to configure when scans are scheduled, however, this is (inexplicably) done in "Antivirus".

Panda Security is just the odd aesthetic/organizational change away from attaining a much better score in its user-friendliness. With some practice, it does become easier to find the desired features. We'll explore these in greater detail below.

Score: 3.7 / 5

3.

Features

As is common among antivirus programs, Panda Security protects your computer with both scans and real-time monitoring. This basic level of protection is provided free of charge with "Panda Security Free", albeit only for Windows users.

Scans are divided into three categories: "Critical Areas" searches for active viruses and only takes a few minutes, while "Full Scan" takes several hours to secure your computer against threats. Finally, you can also perform a "Custom Scan", wherein you set which files, folders, or partitions will be checked.

In the "Antivirus" sub-menu, you can set scans, to either be performed daily, weekly, or monthly, and further configure which areas they should check.

External storage and USB devices can only be scanned starting with the "Essential" subscription.

A firewall with which you can monitor your incoming and outgoing data traffic, preventing unauthorized access, is also included in "Panda Security Free", making it free for Windows users. Using this, you can select if you are connected to a home, work, or public network. You can also configure your firewall in settings and set rules for each program you have installed.

Real-time protection in "Panda Security Free" only provides the bare necessities. For example, "WiFi Protection" guards your network from unwanted visitors, such as hackers, and is included starting with the "Essential" subscription package.

Web protection for online security when surfing, shopping, or banking is likewise only offered to "Advanced" users. This subscription package also includes "Ransomware Protection", which defends you against so-called extortion Trojans that encrypt sensitive files on your computer, demanding a ransom to decrypt them. Parental controls are also included, which make it safer for your children to use the Internet.

More extravagant features can be unlocked with the "Complete" package. This includes total protection (encryption) of all sensitive data and the ability to add additional security to specific apps, files, or folders. The optimization tool boosts your computer's performance. A password manager, "Password Depot", is also included.

With the "Premium" subscription, you unlock the full VPN power of Panda Security: While free users can make use of the VPN feature, they're restricted to a daily volume of 150 MB. Premium subscribers, on the other hand, can surf unlimited using the VPN. Like the password manager, Panda VPN is also based on third-party software, namely, Hotspot Shield, which received average scores during our VPN evaluation, mostly based on our concerns about its data security and commitment to privacy.

Completely missing are dedicated email protection (to check messages and their attachments for threats) as well as webcam protection, which guards your webcam (and by extension, computer) against uninvited visitors.

Mobile Features

The mobile (Android and iOS) versions of the Panda Security app include anti-theft measures, as well as several other features. Alongside real-time protection and scans, these include "Privacy Auditor", which lists the permissions granted to apps you have installed. This can provide a very useful overview of which apps can track your location or access your media and messages.

Should your smartphone fall into the wrong hands, the app's anti-theft features can save the day. These allow you to remotely delete sensitive data, lock your device, or, should you still have some hope of recovery, locate it using GPS.

With "Premium", you can prevent unauthorized access to selected apps using "App Lock", by adding additional protection, such as a PIN or fingerprint scan.

In sum, Panda Security provides all of the most important features and some nice extras as well, even though its third-party software aren't of the highest quality.

Score: 4 / 5

4.

Security & Performance

To assess Panda Security, we consulted AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, each of which gives separate scores for performance and security.

SecurityPerformance

100% (6 / 6)

83% (5 / 6)

66% (2 / 3)

83%

TOTAL

83%

83%

In the most recent AV-Test from December 2018, "Panda Dome" received maximum points for security, and 5 from 6 points in performance. Over the last few years years, the program's free version was consistently awarded very good scores in terms of security, but dropped points on performance more than once.

During AV Comparatives' real-world protection test (October 2019) Panda received 2 out of 3 stars, with the deduction attributed to the slightly above-average number of false positives, whereby the program had no issue with compromised files. With regards to performance, Panda received 83 out of 100 points.

Although the scores from the test labs aren't perfect, they are consistently solid.

Score: 4 / 5

5.

Support

"Panda Dome" offers an in-app support hub with two links: One to a support forum (albeit, not a particularly active one), and another to the FAQs, which could be sorted better, for example, based on language.

Should you want to directly contact a 'support panda', there are several possibilities for doing so, including a hotline (Monday-Friday, nine hours per day), or through filing a support ticket (with answers promised within 24 hours). During our test, we received an answer to our support ticket within 18 hours. Unfortunately, this wasn't a personalized response, but a generic form email which only answered one of our four questions.

For "Premium" subscribers, "Total Care" support is offered, which can also be purchased separately by non-subscribers. This includes 24/7 hotline support and the ability to remotely connect by desktop.

The FAQs could do with some tender loving care (TLC), however, the variety of ways in which support can be contacted puts Panda near the top of the heap. That is, until we think about the quality of the response we received, specifically the noticeable lack of relevance to our question(s). As a result, we have to deduct points.

Score: 3.7 / 5

6.

Pricing

As its name suggests, "Panda Security Free" is free of charge. There are, however, four pay-based "Panda Dome" subscriptions ("Essential", "Advanced", "Complete", and "Premium"), each of which provides more features as its price increases. These can be paid monthly or yearly (the latter with a discount).

FreeEssentialAdvanced
Pricing
Set-up fee $0.00 - $0.00
Price per year $0.00 from $44.24 from $53.24
Software
Operating system
Windows
Android
Windows
Android
macOS
Windows
Android
macOS
Max. Number of devices unlimited 10 10
Special Protection Features
Real-time Protection
Internet Security
Email Protection
Ransomware Protection
Webcam Protection
Premium Features
Firewall
Password Manager
VPN Access
Adblocker
Cloud Backup
File Shredder
Parental Control
Performance Tuning
Mobile Features
App Lock
Track Location
Remote Lock
Camera Trap

Generally speaking, "Panda Dome" is not the most expensive, nor is it the cheapest provider we examined, however, its various premium packages offer a great deal of flexibility, specifically with regards to which extra features are worth paying for.

Since subscription packages and features for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions:

360 Total Security
Premium
$26.98
Visit Website
AVG
Internet Security
$39.48
Visit Website
Bitdefender
Internet Security
$39.98
Visit Website
Norton
360 Standard
$39.99
Visit Website
Kaspersky
Internet Security
$39.99
Visit Website
Avast
Premium Security
$39.99
Visit Website
Malwarebytes
Premium
$39.99
Visit Website
Avira
Pro
$44.99
Visit Website
Sophos
Home Premium
$45.00
Visit Website
ESET
Internet Security
$49.99
Visit Website
Panda Security
Advanced
$53.24
Visit Website

Conclusion

Review Score
3.8 / 5
01/2020
good
Visit Website
Features
4.0 / 5
Security & Performance
4.0 / 5
Customer Support
3.7 / 5
Installation & Usage
3.7 / 5

Panda Security offers, without question, solid antivirus programs that provide a variety of features, suffering only from the odd blemish. The interface doesn't make much sense, the third-party features (VPN and password manager) aren't anything to write home about, and the security and performance test lab results are "only" good, or slightly above average.

With that said, Panda Security does a lot of things right: With its different subscription packages, you can individually configure how you want your antivirus to function; despite its problems, the dashboard is relatively user-friendly; and the program provides good security, without holding your computer back. On top of all that, basic protection is completely free, and, if you're on the fence about paying for the service, you can test it for one month, free of charge.

Panda Antivirus
(40,274)
good test lab results
free basic protection
many features
half-baked interface
Plan
Free
Devices
unlimited
Protection Features
1
Premium Features
0
Panda Security Free
$0.00
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
3.8 / 5
good

Customer Ratings

The customer reviews that we evaluated showed that most users were satisfied with Panda Security. Many reviews commend the program's user-friendliness and effectiveness. In contrast, as seems to be typical among antivirus programs, criticism was leveled against the provider's support and billing issues.

Customer Rating
4.3 / 5
40,274 Ratings
good
We analyzed the reviews and ratings from various portals and found 40,274 ratings with an overall rating of 4.3 out of 5 .
Show sources

Alternatives to Panda Security

Should you want more features, we recommend giving Kaspersky, Avira, or ESET a look. Overall, for a similar price, we found Bitdefender to be much more impressive, owing to its excellent user interface and test lab results. A list of popular alternatives to Panda Security can be found in the table below:

Best Overall 2020
Bitdefender Antivirus
(265,104)
flawless user interface
excellent protection results
configurable quick actions
good support with 24/7 live chat
Our test winner Bitdefender not only offers high security, confirmed by independent test laboratories, but also convinces with its flawless usability and a comprehensive feature package.
Plan
Antivirus Plus
Devices
up to 10
Protection Features
4
Premium Features
2
70%
Black Friday Discount
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus
from $19.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Best Overall
4.7 / 5
excellent
Norton Antivirus
(1,510,916)
elegant-intuitive application
outstanding protection performance
great support
incl. Password Manager and VPN
Norton Antivirus scores with a lean application, top results in the testing labs and unrivaled support with 24/7 live chat.
Plan
Antivirus Plus
Devices
1
Protection Features
3
Premium Features
3
Norton Antivirus Plus
$14.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.5 / 5
excellent
Kaspersky Antivirus
(3,468,692)
quick setup
intuitive use interface
a lot of features
special features like VPN
Kaspersky Internet Security is a user-friendly anti-virus protection with perhaps the best feature package on the market.
Plan
Antivirus
Devices
up to 5
Protection Features
2
Premium Features
0
50%
Black Friday Discount
Kaspersky Antivirus
from $29.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.4 / 5
good
ESET Antivirus
(883,728)
simple and intuitive interface
many features
many configuration settings
offers UEFI scanners
Plan
NOD32
Devices
up to 5
Protection Features
2
Premium Features
0
ESET NOD32
from $39.99
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.2 / 5
good
Sophos Antivirus
(44,013)
easy to use
many features
affordable premium licenses
Plan
Home Free
Devices
up to 3
Protection Features
2
Premium Features
0
Sophos Home Free
$0.00
yearly price
Visit Website
Review Score
4.1 / 5
good
Author Janis von Bleichert
Janis von Bleichert studied business informatics at the TU Munich and computer science at the TU Berlin, Germany. He has been self-employed since 2006 and is the founder of EXPERTE.com. He writes about hosting, software and IT security.
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