ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6 Review
ESET have been making antivirus products for Windows since 1998. In recent years, their offerings have become popular amongst enthusiasts due to their perceived low resource utilisation.
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6 certainly lives up to its “lightweight” promise. It’s a small program, and doesn’t hog system resources. In fact, it came close to becoming one of our favourite antivirus programs, but then fell at a quite significant hurdle. You’ll probably want to consider this product, but be sure to read the review in detail, especially if you’re not that confident with technology.
ESET’s product range for Windows PCs is nice and simple, and consists of an Internet Security product and the Antivirus product reviewed here.
ESET’s purchase options are very flexible, allowing you to purchase a licence for up to four computers for one, two or three years. You can save up to 30% by going for a longer subscription.
A one-year, one-PC subscription costs £29.99 in the UK, €34.99 in Euro countries and $39.99 in the USA. One noteworthy point is that, for some reason, the three-year subscription is not offered in the US.
Although the pricing of ESET becomes more economical if you purchase the software for multiple machines, it is slightly above average when compared with other products.
ESET offer free trials of all their products. It’s necessary to register with the vendor to access a trial download.
ESET have always been keen to highlight that their products minimise resource usage and don’t slow down PCs, and this fact remains prominent in their promotional literature.
Beyond this, the features list for ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6 is reasonably extensive. Key features include the following:
Anti-Phishing: This protects you from inadvertently arriving at sites that are out to steal your personal details.
Anti-Spyware: Spyware threats are distinct from “traditional” viruses. Like most vendors, ESET highlight the fact that their product looks for both.
“Cloud-Powered” Scanning: This claims to scan faster thanks to a cloud-based “file reputation database.”
Removable Media Control: Going beyond the scanning of USB devices, this feature allows you to lock down the use of removable media, and prevent people copying files out to external devices.
Host-based Intrusion Prevention System: This is a firewall that runs at application level, preventing changes to programs.
Gamer Mode: This automatic feature prevents the software from creating interruptions during a full-screen gaming session.
The features list for ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6 isn’t the largest we’ve seen, but everything on it makes sense. Furthermore, we discovered a couple of extra hidden-away features when we explored the interface, as you’ll see later in the review.
Regardless, we prefer to see how products perform in real life, rather than rely on marketing promises anyway, so we requested our trial download.
Installation and Configuration
Our test machine for the review was a PC running a clean install of Windows 7 Pro, 32 bit.
As mentioned above, ESET required us to register prior to accessing a trial download. After providing our details, we were sent an email with an activation link. After clicking the link, we were taken to a download page, which included trial license details.
We clicked the “Live Installer” link, which downloaded a tiny file to our machine. Running it began the familiar Windows installation process. The installer downloaded an additional 48.9MB of program data.
Next, we had to accept the license agreement:
We then had to decide whether to agree to participate in ESET’s “Live Grid Network,” their cloud-based threat database. We were also asked whether we wanted the program to scan for “potentially unwanted applications.” This feature sounded innocuous enough, so we enabled it.
After clicking “next,” the installation proceeded, and was notably quick, taking less than two minutes to complete.
When the software started for the first time, we were required to activate it. It wasn’t immediately clear which option to choose, as although we could have chosen the “trial” option, we had also been given a username and password when we registered.
We opted for the username and password option, and the software activated with no problems – we were granted a 30 day license.
After clicking “finish,” we were taken directly to the program interface. We liked the clean appearance of the GUI, as well as the fact that we noticed the software silently complete an update almost immediately.
User interfaces for antivirus packages vary hugely, but ESET have got things just right. The basic appearance is very simple, but really advanced settings are only a couple of clicks away. ESET is undoubtedly as configurable as any product we’ve tested.
While we explored the interface, we found a couple of features that hadn’t been highlighted on the features list, such as Facebook scanning and the ability to send files to ESET for security analysis. Some vendors would shout loudly about such functionality, so ESET’s “understated” approach is rather refreshing.
With the GUI explored, it was time to proceed to our real-life tests.
As usual, we used an infected USB device to introduce some viruses to our test system.
ESET’s product got off to a good start by immediately offering to scan the device when it was plugged in. We always like it when products do this, as it guides novices well, helping them to minimise the chance of an infection. We allowed the product to scan our infected key as suggested.
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6 then immediately appeared to pass all of our real life tests with flying colours! Not only did the product identify all three of our threats, it even detected individual threats nested within our malicious fake Google Chrome installer.
HOWEVER, despite the product identifying all the threats, it did nothing to automatically delete or quarantine them.
While we would stop short of castigating ESET completely for this, we proceeded to do something that a non-computer-literate user could do: we went ahead and ran DEFENDER.EXE, our fake “scareware” antivirus program. Although NOD32 had identified it as a trojan, it still allowed us to run it. We would have preferred a more heavy-handed approach, as this simple “mistake” allowed us to infect our test machine.
Finally, we kicked off a system scan. Ironically, this found and removed the aforementioned threat almost immediately.
We were impressed with system utilisation. During the scan, ESET’s memory usage was around 90MB, but CPU usage rarely peaked any higher than 30%.
We were left with slightly mixed feelings upon concluding our real-life tests. While NOD32 Antivirus 6 had no problem identifying all of our test threats, we felt like the product’s default settings for dealing with them could have been better. While a technically competent user would feel completely protected with this product, a naive technophobe could arguably find themselves inadvertently installing a malicious program. As such, we can only conclude that our tests went quite well, rather than perfectly.
One particularly notable thing about ESET’s customer support is that they seem unusually keen to talk to customers and help them! Their support phone number is very prominent on their website:
In addition, there is an online knowledge base, email support, and even remote support for those that need it.
It’s good to see such a wide range of options, and even better to see a company that appears so keen for you to contact them.
- Small resource footprint
- Easy to use yet highly configurable
- Great support options
- Identified all of our test threats
We weren’t so sure about
- Default options should take what to do with threats out of novices’ hands
- Pricing slightly above average
ESET NOD32 Antivirus 6 comes close to perfection, but then goes on to prove how worthwhile our real-life tests can be in assessing a product.
It was very frustrating to see the product identify all of our threats in seconds, but then go on to allow us to run one of the infected files and install a scareware product, even though a scan went on to quickly remove it.
This leaves us in a strange position in terms of a recommendation: there are many good points about this product and only one bad one, but the bad one is fairly significant.
As such, we can only judge on what would happen in reality. We think ESET would give great protection to techies and enthusiasts, and for them we give it a hearty recommendation. But because a novice could have run into trouble during our tests, we would recommend the less technical look elsewhere.