Based in Hong Kong and a trademark of a company called DoEnter Limited, PandaPow provides a VPN service that is fast to configure and easy to use. They offer support for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS, but keep in mind that some extra setup steps are required for the mobile devices to take full advantage of the functionality offered by PandaPow VPN.
PandaPow advertises unrestricted and anonymous browsing, which sounds very good on paper, but the truth is that no VPN service can make you 100% anonymous and that some restrictions apply regardless of what service you decide to opt for.
The sign-up process is very easy with no additional personal information required except your e-mail address. Once you opt to sign up for their services however, the payment information will be needed to process the transaction and they only allow the following payment methods:
They do not accept bitcoin as a payment method, which is a shame, although in their FAQ page they mention to accept bitcoin through Coinbase. However, we couldn’t find Bitcoin as a payment method in the checkout process, so it seems that the FAQ page isn’t up to date.
Privacy and Logging Policy
There is a mention that they may share your information if legally obligated, and that your personal information will never be shared with a third party for commercial or other purposes.
There is also a mention of a possible termination clause in case there are copyright infringement issues, in which case they reserve the right to close the specific account in order to avoid legal actions. One may wonder how exactly do they identify people engaging in copyright infringement if they do not store any information about users activity? This is questionable.
The Windows software performed very well, it was easy to use and there were no disconnects or issues of that sort. However, we do have to mention that its simplicity in this case is not something that brings a professional flavor to it, but rather a restrictive and hard to customize experience. The menus are not intuitive, but once you get the hang of them, they provide a pretty solid set of options.
Only after right-clicking on the icon in the task-bar and selecting “settings” we could access the menu and change some options:
The interface could be improved a little in order to get a better idea of what the application map is, but apart from that, we can’t say that we had any issues with the functionality itself. We were able to modify parameters in real time and change connection location smoothly.
We were unable to access Netflix or Hulu on any of the tested servers. It would have been a nice plus, but we will not count it against PandaPow since it’s very common for these features to be unavailable with VPN services nowadays. Other media streaming services such as CNN were available and performed very well.
We addressed the support team about the availability port forwarding but we still have not received an answer from them. We were unable to find anything on their website so we will assume that the feature is unavailable. Same exact situation applies to proxy.
We appreciate that their software allows to see the connection log. Speaking of connection logs, we noticed that they are using 128-bit Blowfish cipher, SHA1 160-bit for data channel encryption and RSA-1024 for authentication. That is insecure by today standards.
The speed tests provide some decent results. Nothing out of the ordinary, but we had steady and acceptable results regardless of the tested server location. Here are the speedtest.net results that we obtained:
As mentioned before, the speed was not great on paper, but the browsing experience was good. There were no interruptions or disconnects and the connection was made very quickly, even on servers in remote locations.
As far as torrent download speeds go, the results were not extraordinary, most of the tested servers returned mediocre results. Here are the test results for US West, Netherlands, France and Germany respectively:
Their Android VPN app has a score of 3.8/5 from 108 users on the Google play store. We can’t really say that number is sufficient to get a good idea, but we thought it’s worth mentioning. Most of the complaints come from battery drain issues and unstable connections, and after testing it we have to disagree. The battery usage was normal considering that the application uses an active internet connection and it didn’t seem to consume much more power than normally.
The mobile application performed very well, it was rather easy to use and has quite a few options to customize your experience
The browsing experience was stable, most adds were blocked and we ran into no problems whatsoever. One thing that we would like to mention is that even though the connection was stable, the speed was a bit under our desired parameters. We try not to be very critical when it comes to mobile performance, but we feel that a certain level of quality has to be provided when we are speaking about a paid service.
PandaPow also offers setup guides for the iOS devices that require some extra steps beyond the normal application installation from the store. You can find the information needed to setup these devices here.
PandaPow offers several pricing plans with different discounts available as the subscription period increases. They also have a plan available for $99/year that provides a VPN router:
Considering the features they offer, we found the prices to be quite decent, and with a good variety of plans available, you are very likely to find a plan that best suits your needs.
We have to emphasize the fact that we disliked the restricted number of payment methods available and the fact that bitcoin is not a supported payment method. This is not something that has to do with the functionality or desirability of the product, but we feel that having bitcoin as an accepted payment method should be a must in the case of VPN products which are meant to increase your online privacy.
We submitted a couple of support tickets to PandaPow regarding payments and functionality, and the response time was great. The information provided by them was correct, and they were helpful and professional.
Overall the customer support was very good and we had no problems understanding what was communicated to us and even though the website has a few typos and grammar flaws, it’s nothing that impairs you from understanding what is being stated.
Regarding the 7-day money back guarantee, the customer support team did a great job of delaying the process, but we received the refund, eventually.
In short, we feel that the service performed well enough in some aspects and that it lacks in others. We understand that all VPN services provide different features for different prices but we also feel that some of them should be a must regardless of what the price of the service is. Here is a quick break-down of what we liked and what we didn’t:
- Good intuitive software with a decent number of options.
- Connection logs available.
- Very good mobile application that offered a good experience.
- Easy sign-up process with a minimum of personal information required.
- Wide variety of supported platforms.
- Support team was mostly helpful with a good response time. Only certain issues were evaded but we cannot hold them accountable for that.
- PandaPow does not accept bitcoin as a payment method.
- Out of date OpenVPN shipping with their software on Windows. The same applies for OpenSSL. Both are insecure!
- Slower than average browsing and torrent download speed on almost all tested servers both on desktop and mobile connections.
- Poor infrastructure that should be improved in order to bring the service to a market-worthy level. Even if they have lots of servers, many that we checked out are VPS/cloud servers and it’s common for their performance to be much lower than dedicated hardware.
- Delaying refunds.
Taking all the above into consideration, we give PandaPow a 4.5/10 with the hope that the next review will have a lot more to talk about quality. Having a stronger and more secure infrastructure and a better support team would definitely help. We do not mean to discourage or discredit the effort that PandaPow put into the VPN service, we simply hope that they will improve it and bring it up to a higher standard. For now, we can’t recommend it for security and privacy, but rather for bypassing the Great Firewall of China, as it seems that the service is working fine in China.