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Panda Cloud Antivirus Free

VERSION:  Windows 7 / Vista / XP, Single User

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Information Below:  Review, Screenshots


Review of Panda Cloud Antivirus Free Version 1.4:



Panda While most antivirus platforms contain a community feature that gathers antivirus intelligence from its users, Panda Cloud Antivirus Free is the first (that we can tell) platform whose architecture centers on automatic identification of new viruses in the wild. By storing virus definitions on the network and checking file signatures using a thin client, Panda Cloud deliberately sacrifices execution speed for update accuracy and local performance. The result is an innovative new antivirus application that keeps your computer safe without bogging down your system.


1) Installation:  5/5

Installation of Panda Cloud Antivirus Free on our reference machine* took a lightning-fast 39 seconds, with no system reboots. That's faster than most free and commercial anti-virus applications we've tested this year.

The installation process itself is simple: Panda Cloud displays only two dialog prompts before install begins. Once the install completes, Panda Cloud asks if you want to use the Free version, or activate the commercial version with a license key. As far as upsells go, this is fairly non-intrusive. (See Installation Time Comparison Graph)

*Reference Computer: Windows 7 Home Premium running on a Toshiba Pentium Dual-Core T4200, with 3GB of RAM and a 210GB hard drive.


2) Features & Ease of Use:  6/10

The Dashboard interface Panda Cloud Antivirus is a simple dialog screen that prominently displays your computer's current protection status. Four buttons along the top allow you to switch between this Status view, a Scan Now dialog, a Reports screen, and a Recycle Bin (what other antivirus applications call "quarantine").

Panda Dashboard:

View Larger Panda Screenshots

Click the small gear icon on the bottom right of the screen, and the Dashboard window literally flips around to show the Settings dialog. Here, you can configure a proxy server for Internet access, set configuration options for Autorun and for scanning USB drives, and configure advanced options such as file exclusions. Clicking the gear in the lower-left hand corner flips the UI back to Dashboard mode. While not an abundance of features, Panda is good at what it does offer - basic protection for no fee.

Nag Factor: Panda Cloud keeps its sales pitches to a minimum. The Status screen on the Dashboard displays an Upgrade link for Panda Cloud Antivirus PRO. A second Upgrade link resides in the Help menu (question mark icon in the upper right corner).


3) Virus Scanner:  3.5/5

To understand Panda Cloud's performance numbers, it helps to understand the application's architecture, which is markedly different from other antivirus applications. According to Panda Cloud's Web site, virus identifications signatures are not stored on the local computer, but "in the cloud" (i.e., the network); the local application is a thin client that checks file signatures against virus definitions in cloud storage. The more users who use Panda Cloud, the faster that set of virus definitions grows. Panda Cloud brags that, because of its unique architecture, it can identify and classify a potential virus in under 6 minutes.

Scan Types: Panda Cloud performs three basic types of on-the-fly scanning: (1) an on-access scan, performed immediately before a file is opened or executed; (2) a prefetch scan, performed when a file is downloaded to your computer from the Internet; and (3) a background scan of all currently dormant files.

Panda Virus Scanner:

View Larger Panda Screenshots

Beyond this, Panda Cloud also supports an Optimized Scan, which scans the most commonly infected areas of your computer, and a Full Scan. which scans everything on the local hard drive. (The Full Scan goes by the cryptic name Scan all My computer.)

Panda Cloud Antivirus Free's protection provides the same protections as the PRO version, except for behavioral analysis of running processes. Whenever a new virus is identified, Panda Cloud displays a pop-up window in the Windows System Tray to alert you.

Speed: On our reference machine (see above), Panda Cloud Antivirus Free processed 15.5MB of data per second. It took the application 66 seconds to examine our 1GB test file matrix. That's slower than many free antivirus programs, but that's intentional: Panda Cloud Antivirus sacrifices execution speed to preserve overall computer performance. (See Scan Time Comparison Graph)

Updates: Because Panda Cloud stores all virus definitions on the network, it does not maintain a local virus definition database like other antivirus platforms. (See Updates Per Day Comparison Graph)



4) Performance Testing:  6/10

A good antivirus program should not only prevent viruses and malware from infecting your computer but also not impact the Performance of your computer too much. We run each free antivirus program through a series of Performance Tests to see the impact it has on a standard computer. The results of our testing for Panda Cloud Antivirus Free are below:

Memory Use: Panda Cloud Antivirus Free 1.4 uses 9.7 MB of system memory. #3 ranked program of the 12 antivirus programs we tested this year.

Reboot Time: Panda added 17.9 seconds to our test computer's reboot time. #6 ranked program.

Installation Size: Panda Cloud Antivirus Free requires 150 MB of hard-drive space for installation. #2 ranked program.

Initial Scan Speed: Panda scans files the first time at a speed of 15.5 MB/s. #11 ranked program.

Subsequent Scan Speed: Panda performs subsequent scans at a speed of 32.1 MB/s. #8 ranked program.

Initial Application Launch: Panda Cloud Antivirus Free v1.4 added 2.122s to launch a web browser for the first time after a reboot. #11 ranked program.

Subsequent Application Launch: Panda added 0.210s on average for subsequent web browser launches. #9 ranked program.

File Conversion Time: Panda added 0.29s on average to convert a MP3 file to four other file types. #2 ranked program.

System Impact Score: The "System Impact Score" is a comparative score tallied from the above 8 Antivirus tests. Panda Cloud Antivirus Free scored a total of 52 out of 96 points when compared to the other antivirus programs tested. This placed Panda as the #7 rated overall free antivirus program we tested this year - right in the middle of the pack of our performance testing, but well behind performance leaders ClamWin, Avira, and Avast.

View graphs of the above Free Antivirus Performance Tests.



5) Effectiveness: (Virus/Malware Detection)  10/15

The most important function of an antivirus program is to keep your computer free from Viruses and other Malware. Below we'll take a look at some of the industry's top Virus/Malware Detection testing and certification.

a) AV Comparatives is an independent antivirus testing lab in Austria
providing some of the most trusted virus detection tests in the industry. They have 2 major virus/malware tests that they perform. In the most recent test in November, the Proactive Test, Panda was rated 2 out of 3 Stars. In the 2nd test last August, the On Demand Detection Test, Panda also received a 2-Star rating. The reason Panda didn't receive a 3 Star rating in these tests was due to Panda having too many false alarms in their malware detection.

   

b) AV-Test is another major antivirus testing lab which is located in Germany. In their recent antivirus testing in 2010, Panda received a 16 / 18 score on the Windows 7 platform. In the 2nd set of tests run on Windows XP, Panda received a 13 / 18 score. While on the 3rd test run on Windows Vista, Panda received a 14 / 18 score. All 3 of these scores were good enough to receive AV-Test's Certification level (12 points needed on each test for Certification). Overall, Panda performed very well in these 3 tests. Despite these tests being run on Panda's Internet Security software, they are useful when evaluating Panda's more basic antivirus program since they test the software's Protection and Repair capabilities against Viruses and Malware.

Win 7: Win XP: Win Vista:
       
c) Virus Bulletin - Panda hasn't been tested by Virus Bulletin since 2002. In the 4 tests Panda was involved in, it failed 3 out of 4 tests. Virus Bulletin's VB 100% award is given to antivirus software that detects all viruses "in the wild."


6) Help & Support:  4/5


On-Screen Help: While the Panda Cloud interface is easy to use once you're familiar with it, the visual options provide little in the way of on-screen assistance. There is no textual help - embedded or in a tooltip - for any of the buttons; users must learn what each interface element does through either visual intuition or experimentation.

Local Help: Most of Panda is in the cloud, and its Help manual is no exception. The online manual for the application is well written, and contains help links for the major user interface elements right on the main page.

Online Help: Panda Cloud's Help menu links to "Online tech support," which is really just Panda Cloud's online user forum. The forum is active, and is staffed by expert moderators.

Panda Cloud also gets bonus points for posting a short animation on its main page that explains the history of antivirus software - and why users need it - in language that's accessible to non-experts.

»Quick Support Links:

     • Online Help Manual
     • Free User Forum


CONCLUSION:

Panda Cloud Antivirus Free provides users with an interesting new security option - Cloud-based protection. One of the major advantages for Cloud technologies is supposed to be their lighter system footprint - although our Performance Testing only found Panda to be the #7 ranked program, so perhaps not as light a footprint as one would expect. Despite these performance issues that Panda needs to address, Panda Cloud Antivirus is a very promising new technology.


Overall Rating: Good    (Total Score: 34.5 / 50 = 3.5 Stars)


Misc Info:

    • Version Tested:
Version 1.4.0
    • Release Date:
    • Review Date:
    • Last Updated:
May 5, 2011
    • Previous Version:
Version 1.3.0
    • Other Panda Software:
Panda AntiVirus 2011 Pro (Commercial Version)


Useful Articles:

    • Free vs. Paid AntiVirus Software - Which is right for me?

    • Downloading Software? Follow These Precautions

    • What is a Computer Virus?

    • Viruses, Trojans, Worms, Adware, Spyware and Malware: What's the Difference?



Top 5 Free Antivirus Reviews:

  1) Avast! Free AntiVirus 6 Review - Rating:   Excellent
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  3) AVG AntiVirus Free 2011 Review - Rating:   Good
  4) Microsoft Security Essentials 2.0 Review - Rating:   Good
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