Panda’s pricing and protection are appealing but are undermined by iffy web performance and a trigger-happy detection engine
- Strong malware protection
- Plenty of features to explore
- Five subscription tiers to suit all budgets
- Far more false positives than rival suites
- Very slow browser downloads
While some security suites look drab and businesslike, the Panda Dome Complete interface has a backdrop of tasteful landscapes and nature scenes. Scroll down and you’ll also find a whole load of buttons: these reflect the wide range of features included in the suite, although not all of them contribute an awful lot to your online safety.
Behind the distinctive front-end, Panda’s engine will keep you safe from almost all malware and hacker attacks, with numerous tiers and subscription options to suit most people’s needs. It isn’t a perfect performer: in recent tests it registered a concerning number of false positives, and it can have a heavy impact on your browser’s download speeds. Even so, Panda Dome is worth a look, especially if you’re in need of a short-term, low-cost antivirus solution.
Panda Dome Complete review: What do you get for the money?
Panda Dome Complete costs £25/yr for a single device, or £26 for three. There are also options for five, 10 and 25 devices (within a single household) costing £30, £31 and £40 respectively. If you don’t want to make a twelve-month commitment you can use the suite on a pay-as-you-go basis for £2.19 per device per month – a rare, welcome touch of flexibility.
However you pay for it, you get a suite that’s fairly stuffed with features. In fact, the 22 buttons on the front page can be a bit overwhelming at first. Thankfully, you can click in the corner of the pane to make an explanatory label appear under each one. This reveals a decent set of core protection functions, including a custom firewall, a Wi-Fi security tool that blocks untrusted connections and an anti-ransomware module that automatically rolls back suspicious file operations. It will even create and monitor decoy files, to lure lurking malware into exposing itself.
Some of the additional features are equally interesting. A bundled VPN service lets you transfer up to 150MB of encrypted data a day via a choice of 21 servers around the world; that’s not enough for watching Netflix, but it will do for visiting the odd blocked website, or logging into your bank from a public hotspot. A parental control module lets you set time limits and block specific types of website from an extensive list – although, unlike the standalone Panda Family product, it doesn’t offer remote management and monitoring, so you’ll need to install and configure Panda on each device you want to be protected.
Frankly, some of the features feel like filler – we’re looking particularly at the file shredder, encryption and PC cleanup tools. The bundled password manager is a miss too, as it lacks key features like password sharing and emergency access. Happily, if you don’t want to pay for these features you don’t have to: the cheaper Panda Dome Advanced package leaves them out, while retaining the same protection features as Complete for a fiver less.
For those seeking an even lower price, Panda Dome Essential starts at £15/yr and drops the ransomware and parental control features. And while it’s not marketed under the Dome brand, Panda Free Antivirus provides the core malware scanning and blocking services without costing a penny.
At the opposite end of the scale, Panda Dome Premium starts at £35 for one device and includes everything in the Complete suite, plus 24/7 live support and unlimited VPN usage. It’s still a pretty basic service, however, with no kill switch and no split tunnelling: you’ll get a better experience, and probably a wider choice of servers, from a dedicated VPN.
Panda Dome Complete review: Will it keep you safe?
Panda’s multiple protection modules allow it to block threats from all angles. Independent security lab AV-Comparatives.org confirmed its effectiveness in its March 2023 malware protection test, which tested Panda’s ability to protect against more than 10,000 different types of malware attack.
While the software didn’t always recognise the specific exploit that was being attempted – Panda’s detection scores were low in both online and offline environments – it nevertheless blocked 99.97% of attempted attacks, a result that compares very respectably to other security suites:
|AV-Comparatives protection results, March 2023 (%)
|AVG Internet Security
|Avira Internet Security
|Bitdefender Internet Security
|ESET Internet Security
|G Data Total Security
|McAfee Total Protection
|Microsoft Windows Defender
|Norton 360 Deluxe
|Trend Micro Internet Security
There’s just one catch: while Panda saw off nearly every attack, it also racked up far more false positives than any rival suite, so if you’re relying on Panda to keep you safe, you might have to get used to manually approving innocuous items. That’s irritating, and potentially even dangerous – once you get into the habit of second-guessing your security suite, you could easily end up mistakenly unblocking something dangerous.
Panda Dome Complete review: Will it slow your computer down?
Our browser-based performance tests found that Panda Dome does a lot of scanning of online content – and it takes its time in doing so. For example, before we installed the Panda suite, we were able to download a set of ten executable files in a total of 6.0 seconds, while ten ZIP files took 17.7 seconds. Opening a series of ten PDFs in the browser in just 0.8 seconds.
After I replaced Windows’ built-in Defender protection with Panda, the results looked very different. Now the executables took 18.3 seconds, while the ZIP archives took 113.5 seconds to pass through Panda’s scanner and land on our SSD. The PDFs opened more slowly too, with a total delay of 4.1 seconds.
That’s the slowest performance I’ve seen from a major security suite, and there’s really no need for scanning to be this slow: with Eset Internet Security, McAfee Total Security and Norton 360 Deluxe, our EXE and ZIP files actually downloaded faster than with Windows’ default protection.
Still, Panda does well elsewhere. As well as testing protection levels, AV-Comparatives recently tested the performance of numerous security suites – and it gave Panda a rating of “very fast” for its full range of desktop activities, including copying files and installing and launching applications. So while Panda will inevitably have an impact on your download speeds, your computer should still feel slick and responsive in everyday tasks.
Panda Dome Complete review: Should you buy it?
Panda Dome has some definite strengths. It offers very credible malware protection, with a good spread of secondary features . If you find some of those features unpersuasive, the choice of subscription tiers means you can get a fair deal without paying for components you don’t want. What’s more, once you’ve chosen the bundle that suits you, Panda’s subscription terms are the most flexible we’ve seen.
At the same time, Panda’s high false-positive rate is a red flag, and its sluggish web performance is discouraging. Those caveats don’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t invest in Panda Dome but just be sure that you have a good reason for picking this particular suite. There are plenty of competing options – such as Norton or Bitdefender – that will provide equal protection, while being much less likely to block legitimate programs or slow down your browsing.