There are two things that sets Panda Cloud Antivirus apart from its competitors. The first is in the name: the cloud. The program primarily uses cloud computing, meaning remote servers carry the weight of scanning and performing various antivirus and anti-spyware functions so your computer doesn’t have to. The second is its level of security. Compared to most premium software, Panda Cloud performs nearly as well.
The software is relatively lightweight — it doesn’t require much in the way of resources, thanks to the cloud computing — and runs off a local cache when the network is unavailable. It also provides options for URL and Web filtering along with optimized and custom scanning to isolate specific folders and files. Moreover, the software features automatic USB vaccination designed to help protect against potentially harmful files found in portable storage devices, along with the ability to create a rescue USB drive for booting an infected PC.
The list of positives is impressive, but there are some drawbacks to Panda. Despite fairly impressive detection rates and top-notch rootkit blocking, the program isn’t the most skilled when it comes to eradicating malware on infected systems, especially during offline use. Its anti-phishing capabilities also lag behind other programs, including the defaults for web browsers like Internet Explorer and Chrome. But it has shortcomings, Panda is still a worthwhile choice, and not just because of its high lab test rating. Panda Cloud includes some great extras, like a process moniter that tracks and displays running processes, their risk level, and whether they’re accessing the internet. There is also an Active Scan tool, which scans for active malware (though this feature is not compatible with Windows 8).
There’s something to be said for unobtrusive anti-virus software. While the bulk of software on our roundup features customizable menus and scan options, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition revels in a minimalist design that makes it low-maintenance. Though the application features no configurations of any kind, it automatically scans your machine in the background using cloud-based detection, subsequently performing a deeper scan if it comes across any malicious software or red flags. The bundled, real-time virus shield additionally blocks malicious URL and uses behavior-based detection, protecting against potential threats even if the application is somewhat difficult to install on already-infected machines. Balloon notifications are also non-obtrusive and muted, appearing briefly near the system tray whenever an issue arises or the software fixes a diagnosed threat.
Encased in a barebones window housed in the corner of your desktop, Bitdefender Antivirus Free Edition keeps to itself. The interface only offers options for toggling the virus shield and auto scan on and off, but it’s enough for the everyday user, and the window’s border doubles as an incredibly subtle progress bar that changes color depending on whether the software detects malware. Aside from commendable malware blocking and removal, the lightweight program doubles as an excellent anti-rootkit and anti-phishing utility, the latter detecting and blocking fraudulent sites through HTTP-based scanning.
However, the application’s lack of features is also it’s biggest flaw. Tech support is exclusively reserved to email, and the program doesn’t offer any sort of in-depth statistics, remote access, or even allow for file-based control. Still, it’s hands-off in the best way possible.