Product review: Panda Antivirus Pro 2010

By Erik Larkin, PC World |  Security, antivirus

Panda Antivirus Pro 2010 ($50 for a one-year, three-PC license) ranks fifth in our current roundup of 11 stand-alone antivirus apps. It was buoyed by positives such as strong traditional malware detection, but dragged down by negatives like poor behavioral scans.

In scans performed by AV-Test.org, Panda did well in traditional signature-based detection of known malware. Its 99.8 percent block rate placed it third in that category, behind only the G-Data and McAfee apps. However, it didn't fare as well in tests that gauge how well a program can identify and block new malware that doesn't yet have a signature. In heuristic tests that use 2-week-old signature files, Panda identified 53.7 percent of newer malware samples, which earning it eighth place in that category.

The program's ability to immediately check unknown files against Panda's online servers can help mitigate that relatively unimpressive showing, since this cloud computing approach can use the latest signatures as soon as they're available. But the app also fared poorly in behavioral analysis tests that measure how well a security program can identify malware based on how it acts. In those tests it successfully blocked only two out of 15 brand-new samples, which put it in last place among those programs that include the feature (not all do).

This app did well at getting rid of existing infections, and successfully disabled all 10 test infections. It also did a good job with a third-place tie when it came to cleaning up less-important files and system changes made by malware, which are often left behind by antivirus apps. However, it left one active rootkit in place; many of the programs we tested were able to remove all these samples of stealth malware.

Panda does sport a solid array of features. The company doesn't offer any program without a firewall, so you'll get one with Antivirus Pro (although we didn't test it as part of this standalone AV roundup). It also scans Web, e-mail and IM traffic for threats, and can check for missing Windows patches (malware authors often target existing security holes that users may have left unpatched). And its program interface is easy to get around, with different tabs for status, scans, reports, and the like.

However, checking or changing the program's settings can be a pain. A preferences link at the top of its window only shows a subset of the available options, with others split between separate settings links on the status and scan tabs. And while some of the settings and other program areas offer links to the relevant help sections, not all do. Without such links you're stuck manually searching for what you need.

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