In this Panda Hybrid Bamboo pillow review, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the Summer 2022 addition to this bedding specialist's range. Panda makes a selection of sleep accessories, and its USP is that pretty much everything uses bamboo as a key material.
Its original pillow is one of T3's favourites, scoring a full five stars in our Panda Pillow review. The big difference in the Hybrid pillow is that it uses a whole new kind of memory foam – this one is infused with charcoal (it's not as weird as it sounds, as I'll get onto later in my review). Will that be enough to bump the original out of its spot in our best pillow ranking? Read on for my full Panda Hybrid pillow review.
Panda Hybrid pillow review: the memory foam
Let's start with the headline feature: the 'Charco-Cell' memory foam. Like the original, it's designed to respond to the heat of your body and contour to the exact shape of your head and neck, keeping everything cradled in place all night long.
If you're not used to memory foam, the sensation might take a little getting used to (see our memory foam vs down vs synthetic pillow explainer for a run-down of the differences between the different types) – one of the benefits is that it provides uniform support without the need for plumping, which could be good if you suffer back or neck pain. This pillow is definitely one you sink into, and it takes a second to bounce back into shape when you remove pressure from it.
Here, Panda has also added charcoal into the mix. It sounds weird, but charcoal actually has various properties that make it well suited for use in sleep products. For example: it's naturally antibacterial, moisture-wicking and odour resistant. It's not super common in the sleep market, but it's not unheard of either – OTTY uses a charcoal-infused foam in its OTTY Pure mattress and Pure plus mattresses, for example. I've never seen it used in a pillow before though.
Cheaper memory foam can have a habit of trapping your body heat and reflecting it back at you in the night. Panda's solution is to add 'Active O2 Micro-pods' into the foam, to enhance airflow and create a cooling effect. Based on the cross-section below, I suspect this might be a fancy term for 'holes in the foam'. Either way, the Panda Hybrid pillow stayed pleasantly cool all night, with no issues with overheating.
The memory foam insert is encased in a neatly finished white mesh casing, so you don't need to worry about the dark foam showing through your pillow case. If you run your hands over this you can feel the perforations, although you won't feel them through the lightly padded outer shell.
To me, Panda's new charcoal-based foam doesn't feel enormously different to other memory foam pillows I've tried, although that's not to say it's not effective. It's comfy and cool to lie on, and moulded nicely to my head shape. My main issue with this pillow is that it's just a bit too shallow for me. While it looks a fairly standard depth when it's sat on the bed, when pressure is applied it obviously sinks down to a lower height.
In use, it felt to me like my head was dipping down lower than that neutral spinal alignment we should all be aiming for, even when I was lying on my back, which is a position that requires a lower loft. And of course, you can't plump it up in the way you can with more traditional stuffing options. This is a really personal thing, and will depend on your build and sleep style, but it's worth being aware of especially if you know you usually prefer a deeper / firmer pillow.
Panda Hybrid pillow review: the cover
Where does the bamboo come in, I hear you ask? While Panda does sometimes use bamboo in stuffing (you'll find it here in the Panda Cloud Duvet), here it's just in the cover. Bamboo is billed as another wonder-material, apparently hypoallergenic, moisture and odour-wicking, and temperature regulating. And it's a sustainable resource, too.
The bamboo cover here is a high point; it's silky smooth and quilted, with a mesh border to boost airflow further. It can also be removed and washed separately, which is useful.
It's in the cover where Panda's attention to detail and build quality really shine. Everything is beautifully finished, with thoughtful design flourishes, like the embroidered Panda logo and neat black piping around the border of the mesh. It seems like a minor thing but I was also pleased to find that there's just one small fabric tag on the outside – often even high end pillows have a whole wodge of cheap feeling printed labels attached, which does dampen the luxury vibe somewhat (to be fair to those companies, Panda has the benefit of being able to add the care info to the pillow insert). It is worth pointing out that if you have pale pillowcases you'll be able to see the Panda logo and piping through it.
Panda Hybrid pillow review: verdict
The Panda Hybrid pillow boasts an impeccable build quality, with excellent attention to detail and thoughtful touches. To me, the memory foam feels similar to other memory foams I've tested, but that's not to say it's not effective. Although it is on the shallow side once it's compressed from your head (a personal thing, but something to be aware of if you're used to pillows with high loft) it cradles the head nicely and doesn't trap heat, either. The cover is a high point; the bamboo fabric is smooth and silky, with a pleasant amount of light quilting, and the ability to zip it off and wash it separately is always welcome.
Panda Hybrid pillow review: alternatives to consider
For a closer look at two alternatives, head to our REM-Fit 500 Cool Gel pillow review and Levitex pillow review. These are my two personal favourite foam pillows. Neither are 'true' memory foam, in that they'll both bounce back immediately once you take pressure off. So you don't get that sinking sensation you get with true memory foam, but there's still the uniform support for your head and neck. The REM-Fit is deeper than the Panda, so a good choice if you prefer a chunkier pillow, although I do prefer the silky soft bamboo cover on the Panda pillow.
Levitex's USP is that it's available in a range of depths to suit your build and sleep style; there's a questionnaire you can do to find the right size for you. It looks less fancy and luxurious than the Panda and the REM-Fit, but it's equally dreamily comfy to sleep on, and the ability to pick your perfect pillow height is a big win.