The service is brand new and because of that it still needs a lot of polishing to make it a reliable contender for the most advanced users. However, it does at least feature a decent VPN network to ensure worldwide coverage, includes torrent friendliness and forever free versions. And though Panda VPN is only available for Windows computers and Android mobile devices right now, iOS and Mac users are already in sight.
Panda VPN is still a new service mainly aimed at everyday internet users, which explains why users don’t have access to many of its inner workings. It’s true that this makes it a tool that is very easy to use as it throws away everything that might be confusing, especially to newcomers who will be able to get used to it in no-time.
But on the other hand it’s unfortunate that it’s only possible to choose the server to connect to given that providing customers with some degree of freedom is always preferable, especially in the case of newer services that need to find their space in a highly-crowded market. However, there are surely enough positive indicators for a brighter future, such as a good VPN network, support for torrent users – though it’s still unknown as to how this works exactly – and a friendly client that puts all Panda products in one place.
All Tools in the Same Place
When installing the VPN client, all the other security tools developed by Panda can be installed for free, too, including safe web protection or the antivirus. The VPN is integrated into Panda Dome, the company’s central app where users can also access all the other available software. This is a clever decision since not only does it make access all the more easier and simpler, but it also allows for the maintenance of all of the company’s tools in a single program instead of scattering them around in several different ones. In turn, users can customize this client’s aesthetics and access each individual tool’s specific settings. When it comes to the VPN, however, unfortunately it’s only possible to choose whether or not it starts at the launch of the computer.
First of all, Panda VPN’s network is administrated in a different way than most users might expect. The reason for this is that Panda doesn’t have any physical servers in the countries it covers, but attributes IP addresses belonging to them by using virtual servers instead. Nonetheless, users can connect to 18 different countries including some of the most common American and European locations but also some regions that are not that typical, like India, Japan and Hong Kong, for instance.
Several tests were run on Panda’s infrastructure and the results are positive. Naturally, the servers that are closer provide better connections, yet while the others still suffered from a noticable speed loss they still proved to be good alternatives. Our tests were based in Europe and unsurprisingly Germany was the country that provided the best results. However, Canada – still an ocean away – was only slightly slower.
Further testing covered IP and DNS leaks and while there’s nothing to point fingers at regarding the first one, the same cannot be said about the latter. Unfortunately, there are massive DNS leaks that constantly revealed the true location and ISP of our connection. This may not be that much of a problem for those that simply want to unblock a website as these usually focus on IP addresses, but Panda VPN can’t be considered completely safe when absolute discretion is needed, like when torrenting for instance.
And while the website acknowledges that torrenting is allowed through Panda VPN, there’s no information on whether this applies to all servers or if there are specific ones reserved for torrents. The app doesn’t help either, since there are no servers highlighted for this purpose nor is this term ever referenced. As a result, it’s impossible to confirm that Panda VPN is safe for such practice.
If there’s something to note in this area it’s that Panda is a trustworthy cyber security company, and as such the VPN itself doesn’t hold any special security features. These are left to other Panda products instead, like the external device control, the Rescue/Disinfection kit, and more. The company is not clear about the protocols that are used – which is important – but Panda VPN at least protects all connections with the standard AES 256-bit encryption and it is confirmed that no activity nor personally identifiable records are ever logged, for both free or premium users.
OS, Device Support
Since Panda VPN is a new service it is currently limited to only Windows computers running at least Windows 7 and Android mobile devices. But iOS and Mac users needn’t run away as support for devices using these operating systems is planned for the future. Likewise, it is expected that the company won’t be restricting itself to just computers and mobile devices, so over time more and more devices – in particular routers to cover every device in the household – are likely to be supported as well. Proof of this is the fact that Panda VPN already supports up to five simultaneous connections under the same account.
Panda VPN’s pricing options can be considered a double-edged sword. On the one hand users can only choose to pay for either a monthly or an annual plan, a large gap between the two that would be better filled with a semiannual or even quarterly option.
But on the other hand, Panda does offer a free version of their VPN that can be used for an unlimited amount of time. This obviously has certain limitations when compared to the paid plans, as not only is data capped at 150/MB per day but there’s only one location available, too. Device support is also greatly restricted to only a single connection.
The two paid versions deliver the same complete service, which is good since no extra payment is needed in order to remove any network or bandwidth limits. However, opting for the longest subscription, Panda Premium, provides a saving of 25% by the end of the year. Single monthly payments cost $9.99 but opting for the annual plan will drop this to around $7.44, billed once at $89.24 per year. Considering the service on offer, especially the rough edges that still need to be polished, it could be a bit cheaper.
Payment methods include all major credit cards and PayPal, with all purchases coming with a 30-day money back guarantee that can be used as another good means of testing the service risk-free.
The customer support at Panda Security is managed centrally, which means that contact methods for VPN related issues are the same as those for the antivirus and other Panda programs. If a question does arise then the most popular method is the ticket submission platform, but if more personalized help is required then it’s best to resort to the available live chat or the phone assistance. Furthermore, the most general questions have been answered in the FAQ and could help you without need of customer support, while the blog is useful for keeping up to date on the latest news from the company. The company is also available on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ should you need help there.
Panda VPN should be looked at as yet another example of the growing importance of these tools for general online security. No one can ask that a company whose immense popularity is based on their antivirus solution should change the market all of the sudden by immediately delivering the most complete VPN package, and Panda VPN surely didn’t do this. It lacks some important features, it suffers from DNS leaks and users could have been given more tweaks to play with other than just being able to choose servers. Given this the value is a bit overpriced, although a forever free version is always worthy of praise.
But at the same time, Panda Dome is demonstrating how to properly integrate new services in an already trustworthy program, making users feel that the VPN is already a built-in reality and a vital component of a complete security suite that can always be complemented with extra programs. Other than this, the major highlights of the service go to the VPN network because although it is not all that vast it has still proven to potentially be one of the fastest on the market.
- Easy access via Panda Dome
- Unlimited bandwidth
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Good speeds
- Ability to set proxy connections
- Maximum of five connections
- Short on features
- DNS leaks
- Poor device support