Security companies typically load up their top-tier security suite products with every feature imaginable. How do you top that effort? With Panda Dome Premium, Panda Security rises to the occasion by offering VIP-level support, not just for security issues but also for any technical problem. Furthermore, it promotes the limited VPN found in the rest of the product line to a full-featured product with no limits on servers or bandwidth, and it adds a component that ensures you don’t miss important updates. However, it’s both more expensive and less effective than its competition.
Just How Expensive Is Panda Dome Premium?
A simple, one-device subscription for Panda Dome Premium runs $166.99 per year. It’s hard to find any competing products that cost more for any amount of licenses. You can pay $179.99 for F-Secure Safe and $189.99 for ESET Internet Security, but both of those subscriptions get you 15 licenses, not just one. A $234.95 per year, Heimdal Premium Security Home subscription cost a good bit more than Panda, but it lets you install protection on 10 devices.
Pricing for Panda Dome Premium goes up and up as you need more licenses. You pay $190.99 for three Panda licenses and $202.99 for five. A 10-license Panda subscription goes for $274.99, compared to $149.99 for Kaspersky Security Cloud and Norton 360 with LifeLock Select. And the competitors give you more for less. For example, at the 10-license level Norton includes LifeLock identity theft remediation and 250GB of storage for your online backups, as well as 10 no-limits VPN licenses.
Got a lot of devices? For a whopping $334.99 per year, you can install Panda on all your Windows, macOS, and Android devices. Or you could spend less than half of that total for unlimited McAfee Total Protection licenses. Your $159.99 per year subscription lets you install McAfee protection on every Windows, macOS, Android, or iOS device in your household.
This suite does come with Panda’s Total Care tech support service. If you signed up for Total Care separately, you’d pay $70.50 per year, or $15 per month. But other companies roll in premiere-level support without such high prices. For example, Trend Micro’s Ultimate Service bundle lists for $179.95, merging all-problems tech support with a five-license subscription to Trend Micro Maximum Security.
As a standalone, Panda’s VPN costs $11.99 per month (slightly above the average for VPN tools) or $77.34 per year. Getting it as part of the suite is nice, but each tier of Norton 360, with or without LifeLock, gets you as many no-limits VPN licenses as it does security suite licenses.
It’s true that Panda frequently offers discounts, but so does the competition. Even when you consider its discounted prices, Panda’s pricing is way out of the usual ballpark.
Read Me First
Installed on Windows, this suite looks almost identical to Panda Dome Complete. It has the same nature-scene background choices, and the same horde of feature icons. The only visible differences on the main window are the addition of a stylized diamond that represents Total Care support and an icon for the Update Manager.
In fact, everything about this suite is identical to Panda Dome Complete, other than Total Care tech support, Update Manager, and a VPN without limits. That being the case, you should go read my review of Panda Dome Complete. There’s no point in repeating it here. Once you’ve finished, come here back to learn what the Premium level adds.
If you just can’t be bothered to follow that link, here’s a summary. When you upgrade to Panda Dome Complete from Panda Dome Advanced, you gain a password manager that, while improved from previous versions, is still just average. Other additions include system tune-up, a third-party encryption tool, and an anti-theft system for laptops that proved inaccurate in testing. Its ransomware-specific protection did a decent job in testing, though it was too slow to save some files from encryption. And the suite earned mediocre scores when tested against malicious and fraudulent websites. In short, it’s a decent suite but nothing to write home about.
Panda Total Care
The Panda Total Care support system can help you with any Panda problems, but it does quite a bit more than just support the suite. Among other things, the Premium support services web page promises assistance setting up your home Wi-Fi connection; social media privacy setup; smartphone and tablet setup; configuration of Web browser and email account security settings; troubleshooting of operating system, application and software problems; and Assistance with peripherals such as printers, cameras and scanners. In other words, the Total Care support agents will help you with just about any technical problem.
While testing Panda Dome Complete, I ran into a problem activating the Anti-Theft feature. That gave me a perfect opportunity to put this high-end support system to the test. I switched to a laptop running Panda Dome Premium, verified that the problem remained, and clicked the diamond icon. The resulting page advised me to “Let our experts diagnose and fix remotely any issue you may be experiencing.”
I clicked to start a live chat support session but was put off by a warning that I might not get a reply for several hours. That’s not what I consider live chat. Still, I entered my description of the problem. Every time I tried to activate Anti-Theft, it rejected my username and password, even when I used copy/paste to ensure I was using the correct password. I then went back to another project, awaiting a response.
The agent replied quickly, in about 10 minutes, not several hours. Over the course of an hour or so, the agent covered a wide variety of possibilities, none of which solved the problem. He advised me to telephone the support number to continue. I found this a bit odd, since it should have been easy to segue from online chat to a remote-control session, but I did as I was told.
Over the phone, another agent verified that he had access to all the details of my chat session. He initiated a remote-control session and also perused my Panda user account, which is awash in Panda product registrations, both current and expired. And he eventually figured out what was wrong. It was an account database problem that an ordinary user just would not encounter. Unfortunately, the solution relied on experts whose jobs didn’t include 24/7 availability. But by the next day all was well.
This was a much better experience than the last time I evaluated this product. I had literally the exact same problem, but the support process was a mess. Windows repeatedly deleted the remote-control software, saying it contained a virus. Some reactions from the support agents weren’t completely professional. I went through a total of four hours or more with support, over two days, and never got a resolution.
Other companies offer live chat support with remote remediation at no extra cost, though, to be fair, they typically offer this only for problems related to malware or program features, and only after you’ve exhausted other options. I didn’t have a non-Panda problem with which to challenge Total Care, but I have a lot more confidence in the process than the last time I encountered it.
An antivirus or security suite protects your files and your data, but only within the bounds of your computer. Once you start sharing data with the outside world, your local security solution has no power. That’s why you need a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. Your network traffic travels in encrypted form to a VPN server, meaning that nobody, not even the owner of the shady Wi-Fi network you’re using, can view or meddle with your data. And because your network activity seems to come from the VPN server, advertisers and other snoops can’t track your activities based on your personal IP address. As a side benefit, using a VPN may let you access region-locked content by spoofing your own location.
Panda’s VPN is a licensed version of Hotspot Shield. You can read our review of that product for the gritty details. Briefly, it has a widespread network of servers, and its VPN client apps look great and are easy to use. It scored well in our hands-on speed tests. Hotspot Shield has a complicated reputation when it comes to privacy, but the company has been vetted for use by organizations like Panda, Bitdefender, and Dashlane that license their product.
All the other members of the Panda product line, right down to Panda Free Antivirus, include VPN support. However, all the products except Premium suffer under stringent limitations. There’s no option to choose your VPN server—the program makes its own choice within the US. And no device can use more than 150GB of VPN bandwidth per day.
Those limitations are common for free VPN utilities, and for other VPNs offered as suite components. Hotspot Shield’s free edition puts a 500GB per day cap on each device, for example, and the free version of TunnelBear limits your usage to 500GB per month. With the VPN component in Bitdefender Total Security and Kaspersky, you get 200MB per day. Removing those limits costs $4.99 per month with Kaspersky or $39.99 per year with Bitdefender.
At the Panda Dome Premium level, there’s no limitation on servers or bandwidth. The panel on the VPN’s window that showed how much of your 150GB you used up instead displays “Unlimited.” And when you choose from the list of about dozen country locations, you don’t get an upgrade prompt from the VPN. I did note that Hotspot Shield itself has vastly more locations, providing servers in more than 80 countries.
There is another limit that surprised me. No matter how many Panda licenses you’ve purchased—up to and including unlimited licenses—you can only use the VPN on five Windows, macOS, or Android devices.
In testing, I observed that no matter which country I chose, the VPN displayed the notification “Virtual Server.” On the plus side, a VPN company can spin up new virtual servers as needed, which means it easily handles variations in demand. But on the downside, a virtual server may not be physically located in the country it claims to represent. That can be important to those who rely on a specific country’s privacy laws. In addition, this universal use of virtual servers doesn’t jibe with what Hotspot Shield representatives told my colleague, Max Eddy. In response to his query about virtual servers, they replied that Hotspot Shield only uses physical servers.
Some VPNs let you choose individual servers at the selected location, and many offer statistics that help you choose the fastest server, or the one least cluttered with other users. That’s not something you get with Panda. In fact, the country list isn’t even alphabetized. Once you’ve chosen your desired server location, you just click the Connect button to get your protection started.
You can configure Panda to connect through the VPN automatically after reboot. If you don’t choose that option, at least set it to connect any time you’re using an insecure Wi-Fi hotspot. That’s about it for configuration options. Hotspot Shield itself offers split-tunneling, which lets you designate the traffic that travels within the VPN and which travels without. Hotspot Shield also comes bundled with several other privacy and security services.
For maximum security, we advise that you use a VPN at all times or, at the very least, any time you connect with a network you don’t own. But you just can’t do that when the VPN caps your bandwidth. And when you can’t make your own choice of VPN servers, you miss many benefits of VPN usage. Alone of all Panda’s products, Panda Dome Premium gives you full-scale VPN protection, with full choice of servers and no cap on bandwidth.
In the wide field of VPN utilities, PCMag has named five Editors’ Choice winners: IVPN, NordVPN, ProtonVPN, Surfshark VPN, and Tunnel Bear VPN. Annual subscription prices range from about $60 (Tunnel Bear) to about $120 (NordVPN). The incremental price increase between Panda Dome Complete and the VPN-rich Panda Dome Premium ranges from $60 at the one-license level to $132 at the unlimited level (though in each case you just get VPN support for five devices). If you’re considering getting Panda Dome Premium for its VPN support, you should definitely take a look at these Editors’ Choice-winning VPNs as well. Better still, think about combining one of these VPNs with an Editors’ Choice security suite.
When you’re about to use a program and it notifies you there’s an available update, what do you do? Right, you go on to the task you intended rather than take a side-trip to update-land. That’s only natural. However, skipping updates can come back to bite you. Quite often, the reason for an update is to patch some security hole in the program. No patch means no protection. New since my last review, Premium-level Pandaphiles get an update manager to ensure installation of those security patches.
When you click to search for available updates, the product gives you two choices. You can search only for critical updates, or you can do an in-depth search for all updates available. To see the feature in action, I chose the latter.
The search window promised results in less than a minute, and it delivered. Even though the test system had received all available Windows updates the day before, the scan found four missing Windows patches, one of them critical. It also found several other Windows-related patches, plus updates for Chrome and TeamViewer. I selected all the found updates and told Panda to apply them. It quite reasonably reported that “This process may take some time,” and advised minimizing the window to let it work in the background.
It finished in about five minutes, identifying the updates that had completed, those that required a reboot, and those that failed installation. I rebooted and ran the scan again. This time only the failed update appeared, naturally. And once again it failed to install. A little sleuthing revealed that the update would require a new license, something Panda can’t be expected to handle.
The update manager is a nice addition. Smart users will configure it to run a scan every week. But it’s in no way a premium-level feature. I’m not sure why Panda didn’t slip it into one of the lower-tier suites.
The Highest Price
At this Premium level of Panda’s product line, you get tech support for any and all tech problems plus a VPN without limits on bandwidth or server selection. Panda Dome Premium boasts one of the most attractive user interfaces in the field, but it also sets records for price. Its unlimited plan costs more than twice as much as that of McAfee Total Security, and it’s pricier than better competitors at every subscription tier.
Kaspersky Cloud Security is an Editors’ Choice for cross-platform security, and it works well across all platforms. Norton 360 Deluxe, our other Editors’ Choice in this field, also offers a broad selection of features and platforms. In addition, it gives you online backup, the ultimate security, with 50GB of hosted storage, as well as a no-limits VPN. With these and other choices available at a very considerably lower price, there’s just no need to consider Panda Dome Premium for your cross-platform security suite needs.