Editor's note: Panda Security is offering free license keys for Cloud Antivirus Pro 1.3 to users who register using this download link. You'll be required to enter your name and e-mail address to receive the license key, which is good for one year. Also note that during the registration process, the checkout cart will state at some point, "Your card hasn't been charged yet." This is apparently a cart template and does not affect users who are taking part in the license key giveaway.
Panda Security continues to build better features into the company's Cloud Antivirus lightweight security suite as a Web filter for URL scanning joins the existing protection tools. Available exclusively today from CNET Download.com, Panda Cloud Antivirus Free 1.3 and Panda Cloud Antivirus Pro 1.3 ($29.95), both programs up the ante of what's expected from cloud-based antivirus programs.
There are few other changes the company has made to the program. Automatic transparent engine and program updates have been bumped from Pro to the Free version, and upgrade nags have been removed as well. Sharp-eyed fans of the client will notice a slight interface refresh to the recycle bin and quarantine windows, unifying them.
Certainly, not having nags makes the program less annoying, while risk-enhancing practice of relegating auto-updates to the premium version is thankfully going away. The Web filter bolsters your Web browser's native malicious site blocking technology, and works in all browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Opera, and Safari.
Unfortunately, during installation Cloud Antivirus commandeers your search provider and opts you in to changing it to Yahoo. Otherwise, the installation process is fast. I did notice a slight hiccup during several installation tests where the program appeared to ready to use, but in fact required another five to seven seconds before the interface opened automatically.
Version 1.3 also fixes several major bugs, including a blue screen of death crash after installing and Windows 7 Start menu slowdowns.
For users who are skittish about security clients that are free and in the cloud, Pedro Bustamante, senior research adviser at Panda Security, said that consumers don't have to pay for security anymore. "You're getting better protection, better performance, than with any paid suite out there." He cautioned, though, that there is a point to still using premium suites. "We still have a lot of users who want tech support, who want to call and get somebody on the other line, or who don't trust free for whatever reason."
CNET Labs' benchmarks determined that Panda Cloud Antivirus Free 1.3 had a small but detectable impact on system performance. Read the full review for a detailed analysis, but in short the program could have less of an impact on computer startup times but does have a very fast scan and caused the least disruption to the Cinebench test.
At this point, no independent efficacy tests are available for recent versions of Panda Cloud Antivirus. Panda's premium security suites have scored well in recent tests, although the detection engines in the two programs are not identical so to compare Panda Cloud Antivirus and Panda Internet Security based on the merits of the two program's engines alone would be inaccurate.