Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 Review
Panda Security (previously known as Panda Software) have been in the Internet Security game since 1990, but the company is (arguably) not as widely recognised as stalwarts such as Norton and McAfee.
Although we liked this product’s interface, and a few other touches, in the end we have to judge software on how it performs. Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 missed one of our test viruses while other products have caught them all. That, unfortunately, is the most important issue to note from this review.
Panda’s range of antivirus products is slightly bewildering. As well as the Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 product we review here, there are also three more comprehensive products, known as “Internet Security 2014,” “Global Protection 2014,” and “Gold Protection.”
Then, in addition, there are two “Cloud Antivirus” products made by Panda, a free edition and another “Pro” edition, sold from a separate website. For the avoidance of doubt, this review is all about Panda Antivirus Pro 2014.
In common with most Internet security vendors, Panda sell their products for single or multiple machines, with update subscriptions lasting one, two or three years.
Overall, Panda’s prices for Antivirus Pro 2014 are a little above average when compared to competitor’s products. A one-year license for a single PC costs £31.99 in the UK, €30.99 in Euro countries, and $39.99 in the US. Based on current exchange rates, the European pricing is slightly odd, as one would expect the Euro figure to be higher than the Sterling figure.
Mid-way along the scale, a five-PC licence for one year costs £63.99 in the UK, €71.99 in Euro countries, and $79.99 in the US.
Panda offer a free one-month trial of Antivirus Pro 2014.
The features list for Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 is all rather predictable, but Panda make much of their cloud technology in their promotional literature. Essentially, their antivirus database is based online, in the “cloud.” This isn’t really that innovative, as most vendors are moving at least partially in this direction.
The main features of Antivirus Pro 2014 are as follows:
Web Filter: This promises to provide “safe Web browsing.”
USB Drive Vaccination: This claims to protect external devices against infections. We were curious to see what implications this had when we plugged in our infected test USB key!
PC Recovery System: This feature helps you to start your PC in safe mode if it becomes infected, complete with the ability to enlist remote help in solving your problem.
WiFi Firewall: This feature, unusual in an entry-level product, employs a bi-directional firewall to protect wireless connections.
Fraud Prevention: Panda’s fraud protection features claim to protect against phishing sites.
Fast Installation: Panda claim that Antivirus Pro 2014 is lightweight and quick to install, and that you can “install and forget.”
Vulnerability Detection: Panda notifies you of any un-patched Windows security issues.
Other than the firewall functionality, which most vendors keep back for their more expensive products, there was nothing hugely exciting on Panda’s features list. Even so, we refrain from getting excited about impressive lists of features until we see products in action. With this in mind, we proceeded to download and install the free demo for the purposes of our review.
Installation and Configuration
Panda’s demo install file was tiny, at just over 1MB. On the first install screen there was a small “settings” button to customise the install, but we proceeded, as always, with the vendor’s default settings.
After clicking “Accept and Install,” the installer proceeded to download the rest of the program data, a process which took a little less time than the four minutes originally quoted.
The installation then moved onto some kind of update process, which took around a minute. The icon for the software, complete with its undeniably cute logo, appeared during this process.
Next, a Windows Firewall alert appeared, indicating some kind of conflict between the Panda firewall and the one built into Windows. We understood and clicked through the error, but it’s fair to complain that this may have left a non-technical user unsure of what to do.
We were then warned about some missing Windows updates on our machine. We like to see this vulnerability protection built into antivirus software.
With all the warnings cleared, we were able to access Panda’s bold user interface. It’s fair to say Windows 8’s Metro GUI has had some influence on the design:
We were a little disappointed that the virus definition file wasn’t fully up to date. Clicking the update link resulted in the download of a 25MB update file. While we’re sure the software would have updated itself in due course, we do prefer it when everything’s fully up to date when a program is first launched. Once the file had downloaded, we also sat through a rather prolonged wait while the file was “reconstructed.”
Once we were finally back to the user interface, it’s fair to say we liked what we saw. The GUI was slick and well-designed, with settings easily accessible without being overwhelming for novices.
After a good look through the settings, we decided to plug in our infected USB key and proceed to our real-world tests.
We used our usual infected device to throw some test threats at Panda Antivirus Pro 2014.
The product got off to a good start. We always like to see software that is set to encourage users to scan USB devices as soon as they plug them in. In the case of Panda Antivirus Pro, a new option had been added to the USB “Autoplay” menu. After some consideration, we decided this probably would be sufficient to encourage novice users to scan external devices, so selected that option rather than “Open folder to view files.”
The scan completed within a minute or so, and we were pleased to see that it managed to successfully deal with two of our test threats: a “dummy” test virus, and a fake antivirus program.
However, a third and final threat remained on our USB device: a fake Google Chrome installer containing a selection of malware.
With some trepidation, we double clicked the file to see what would happen.
Unfortunately, Panda’s product did nothing to stop us running the installer, and clicking all the way thorough it.
By the time we’d hit “next” a few times, our test machine had multiple spyware infections. Our browser had also been hijacked.
Once the install process was complete, we kicked off a full scan of our test PC to see if the product would resolve any of the infections. While we ran the scan, we had a quick look at processor and memory utilisation. We were pleased to see only 14MB of RAM use and very little impact on the CPU. This was probably due to the cloud-based scanning method.
The scan itself took around over half an hour to complete, however, which was rather slow. Even worse, it didn’t manage to clear up any of the spyware, leaving our test PC in something of a muddle,
Internet security vendors tend to divide neatly into two categories when it comes to support: those who seem really keen to help, and those who make it rather difficult to get in touch with a real person.
Sadly, Panda appear to fall into the latter camp. The support section of their website leads to a ticket-based system, but it’s made very clear that only registered users qualify for help.
We also failed to find a telephone number for free support, although Panda’s website does state that it is available to paid subscribers. Perhaps the number is made available after purchasing. We found it easy to find a toll-free number for “Premium Tech Services,” but this only promised free diagnosis, so we instantly suspected this to be a chargeable service.
For us, therefore, as demo users, our free options were limited to FAQs and forum support. This is disappointing when some vendors fall over themselves to help with live chat and other options.
- Attractive Windows 8-style interface
- OS-integrated USB device scanning
- Windows vulnerability notifications
We weren’t so sure about
- Lack of free support for demo users
- Several steps to initial install
- Slow full system scan
- Failed to deal with all of our test threats
If Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 had passed all of our real-world tests, we would have forgiven the slightly laborious install, and even the lack of support options for demo users (which always seems short-sighted to us).
However, the product stumbled when faced with our fake Google Chrome installer, and ultimately allowed our PC to become infected. Sadly, all we’re then left with is a program with an attractive graphical interface and a few clever features – and that’s simply not enough to earn it a recommendation.