PandaPow Classic Review

PandaPow Classic

BestVPN.com Score 6 out of 10
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This PandaPow Review covers the traditional software-based VPN service offered by this Hong Kong-based provider.

PandaPow also offers a portable VPN router that effectively comes free with a subscription for its service. You can read more about the PandaPow WiFi at the end of this review.

As we shall see, the service by-and-large works well enough on the whole. However, it is bare-bones, and there are some issues.

VPN Stats

  • Server Locations 9
  • Average Speed 20 Mbit/s
  • Simultaneous Connections 2
  • Jurisdiction Hong Kong

Likes

  • Based in Hong Kong
  • BBC iPlayer works
  • Android and iOS apps
  • No usage logs
  • 7-day money back guarantee

Dislikes

  • Extensive connection logs
  • DNS leaks detected

Features

Countries 9
Simultaneous connections 2

Privacy

Jurisdiction Hong Kong

Performance

BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 20
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average) 20

Features

  • 15 server locations
  • 3 concurrent connections
  • OpenVPN
  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • No usage logs
  • BBC iPlayer support
  • Android and iOS apps
  • 7-day money back guarantee

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Speed and Performance

All tests were done using a  50 Mbps/3 Mbps fiber connection. To their UK servers I was averaging between 35 and 45Mbps, and to the US 20 to 35Mbps. My download speeds dropped considerably to the Netherlands, where I was hovering around 10Mbps during my tests. The UK and US results were decent enough, if not up there with the likes of ExpressVPN. It was quite surprising and baffling how there was a large drop in the Netherlands. Most IPv4 DNS requests were fielded by proxied Google DNS servers. This is not the privacy nightmare it might at first seem, as all requests appear to come from PandPow. Netherlands DNS resolution, however, is performed by US servers, which may scuttle geo-spoofing attempts. I found US Netflix blocked when connected to a US server, but BBC iPlayer worked when connected to a UK server.

Pricing and Plans

Prices for PandaPow Classic start at $9 per month, dropping to $7 per month if an annual subscription is purchased. There is also a seven-day money-back guarantee is available. A PandaPow WiFi (router) and PandaPow Classic combo package is available for $149 per year (with three months extra for free).

Privacy and Security

PandaPow is based in Hong Kong, which has no mandatory data retention laws. According to its privacy policy, no usage logs are kept. It does, however, keep various connection (metadata) logs: “In addition to any personal information you provide us, we may store the following pieces of data: IP address, times when connected to our service, the total amount of data transferred, and transfer speed information.” On the plus side, the NSA and its ilk have no jurisdiction in Hong Kong. For it's client, it uses a custom build of the open source OpenVPN client, which is a good thing. PandaPow claims its “proprietary” VPN protocol is “designed specifically to avoid detection and blocking that otherwise breaks standard VPN protocols.” When I asked for further details, I was told that, “We don't want to describe in detail what may be used against us, by those who want to block our VPN. Let's just say our VPN service has been successful for years in places where many of our competitors are having problems getting blocked.” My guess is that OpenVPN connections are simply routed over TCP Port 443. And even then, probably only when you specify during setup that your location is in China (see below). The OpenVPN configuration and log files make it clear that the following encryption is used: Blowfish-128 cipher, RSA-2048 handshake, and HMAC SHA-1 hash authentication. In other words, baseline OpenVPN settings. Please see VPN Encryption Terms Explained for more details. PandaPow says that perfect forward secrecy (PFS) is implemented. This would not be surprising, as PFS has been implemented in the latest official OpenVPN 2.4.0 update. This configuration should be fine for more casual use. But it falls below our minimum recommendation for a “secure” VPN connection that should be resistant against any known form of attack for the foreseeable future. PandaPow tells me that, "We are in process of adding options for even stronger encryption, e.g. AES-256."

Support

Support is by ticketed email or live chat. It might be because my time zone in the UK is very different to that of Hong Kong, but live chat was never available when I visited the website. Phone support is available during Hong Kong business hours (GMT+8). Regular international call charges apply. I sent some questions by email, and received an only partial response two days later. When I asked for clarification and additional details, PandaPow took a full two weeks to respond. Now, I know this all happened over the holiday period, but I was still rather surprised by this very long delay. Especially as the company was aware that I reviewing its product! As discussed under encryption above, when I did receive answers, these were either partial, evasive, or factually incorrect. Whether this is due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to deceive, I have no idea.

PandaPow Wifi Router

This Hong Kong-based service bills itself as “possibly the easiest to use VPN on the planet.” And certainly, in this PandaPow WiFi review, I find it difficult to argue with this claim. Range issues aside, the PandaPow router is very easy to use. The problem, however, was apparent the second this admittedly quite smart-looking bit of kit dropped through my letterbox. Processing VPN encryption is a very processor and memory intensive task. In order to do it without seriously damaging your internet speeds, you need beefy hardware. And the PandaPow WiFi, with its sleekly diminutive looks, simply does not pack that kind of grunt. The result is poor internet performance.

Pros

  • Very easy to set up and use (if within range)
  • Router looks good and is sturdy
  • Will fit into a jeans pocket
  • USB-rechargeable battery
  • Can connect to router over WiFi

Cons

  • Terrible internet speeds
  • Poor WiFi range

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Features

The PandaPow Wifi Router has the following features:

  • Port selection
  • Filter feature that allows you to exclude or include traffic based on specific domains, IPs and ports
  • Client filter that allows you to exclude specified devices from the VPN
  • Servers in nine countries
  • USB-rechargeable battery
  • It uses OpenVPN (despite claims to the contrary)

You can, of course, connect as many devices to the router at once as you wish. As with all VPN routers, these can be devices that cannot usually be configured for VPN, such as smart TVs and games consoles.

Router Hardware Specifications

The PandaPow WiFi router is a compact, portable VPN router. You connect your devices to it via WiFi, and it connects to the internet over wired LAN (plug it into your router), WiFi, or USB modem. The specs I have been provided with are:

  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n (maximum transfer rate: 150 Mbps)
  • 8MB Flash and 64MB RA
  • CPU: AR9331@400MHz

These specs are notably lower than those of, for example, the Betterspot VPN Router. Unfortunately, this can be seen in the speed. Unlike similar VPN routers I have reviewed, the PandaPow WiFi packs a USB-rechargeable battery. This is a great feature and helps to make the PandaPow truly portable.

Physical Design

The PandaPow WiFi router looks great. Its styling is sleek, and the device is compact enough to slip into even the slimmest jeans pocket. The plastic casing feels a little cheap but is robust. This is a router that can easily handle daily knocks and scrapes.

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PandaPow WiFi Recap

Given its tiny size, it was always clear the PandaPow was never going to be an internet speed demon. Even by the standards of similar devices, however, its performance is poor. It also has the worst WiFi performance I have yet encountered, in terms of both speed and range. The PandaPow WiFi is clearly not suitable for day-to-day use. After all, how many people are willing to sacrifice 90% or so of their internet speed? Its ease of use and rechargeable battery could give it some utility as a secure travel router.

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Final Thoughts

PandaPow Classic offers a decent “budget” level VPN service. There are better and worse services on the market. However, their Wifi router is something that could be useful on your odd travels.

Visit PandaPow »

3 Comments

  1. Kumpulan Remaja
    on December 31, 2017
    Reply

    Most of the times we can’t connect Helpdesk is even more useless , the only thing they know is send us your log After that no more emails back , we wait almost 1 month now to solve our problems The only part of Pandapow that works fine is the billing process , http://kumpulanremaja.com then they answer very quickly STAY AWAY from Pandapow there are better services for the same money

  2. Dirk Heck
    on July 15, 2017
    Reply

    Pandapow is useless Most of the times we can't connect Helpdesk is even more useless , the only thing they know is send us your log After that no more emails back , we wait almost 1 month now to solve our problems The only part of Pandapow that works fine is the billing process , then they answer very quickly STAY AWAY from Pandapow there are better services for the same money

  3. Douglas Crawford
    on January 27, 2017
    Reply

    Please leave you thoughts

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