When it comes to protecting your PC from all those nasty threats out there, Panda is a name you should remember to consider. Like Microsoft's Security Essentials tool it's lightweight and unobtrusive, but it's also quietly effective at protecting your PC, version 2.3 outperforming all other free anti-virus tools on the latest AV-Test evaluation.
Version 2.9 Beta, reviewed here, will become version 3.0 on its final release. So what's new in the world of Panda? First there's the revamped user interface - familiar, yet different as it apes the stripped back look of Windows 8 and 8.1. There's also a new Wi-Fi Monitor, which lets users see which devices are currently connected to their wireless network, helping root out unwanted devices piggybacking your internet connection. Note, it only works with computers that are themselves connected by Wi-Fi.
There's no indication yet as to whether this feature will be available in the free version on its final release either. We raved about the new community based firewall in last year's beta release only to discover it was restricted to the Pro version when version 2.0 finally appeared.
Simplicity's the name of the game with Panda: the firewall is designed to automatically set rules for known applications and processes, reducing the number of prompts you see when an unknown program attempts to connect to the network or internet. This ensures that – for the most part – it can be left to its own devices.
You’re then left with the same lightweight cloud-based anti-virus as before. It provides real-time protection using the latest virus signatures backed up by the “cloud-based” part of the protection, which basically translates as freeing up system resources by doing all the analysis of your files over the internet, resulting in a lighter, faster package.
Sadly there are no automated scans offered; instead, just click the Scan button to manually run an optimised scan or choose to scan your entire computer on semi-regular basis.
Potentially dangerous items are quarantined in the program’s Recycle Bin, where you can easily restore them if necessary from the main interface.
As free solutions go, Panda is unfussy, uncomplicated and lightweight, making it a good choice for the budget-conscious who are running Windows on an under-powered setup. And as the AV-Tests show, it's starting to deliver top-notch protection too.