avast! Pro Antivirus Review
Avast! have received plenty of positive press about their Internet security products. This review focuses on their Pro Antivirus software, which is a mid-range commercial product bridging the gap between their free offering and their more expensive “Internet Security” and “Premier” packages.
avast! Pro Antivirus did nothing badly wrong during installation and configuration, but unfortunately it struggled in our real-life tests. There are better options out there for the money.
While avast! are perhaps best known for their free antivirus product, we concentrate in this review on avast! Pro Antivirus.
The “Pro” products sits above the free option in avast’s range. Those wanting a more comprehensive solution can choose from avast’s “Internet Security” and “Premier” products.
The pricing of avast! Pro Antivirus is around average, and the solution is available with one, two or three year subscription options. Multiple PC options are also available. A one-PC subscription for one year costs £29.99 ($39.99 in the USA). A three-PC subscription for the same period costs £39.99 ($54.99).
It’s worthy of note that longer subscriptions substantially improve value for money, thanks to additional discounts. A three PC subscription with a three year commitment is £79.99 ($104.99), essentially providing one year free.
As is usually the case with antivirus software, a 30-day trial is available. In addition, avast! also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
avast! Pro Antivirus has a fairly standard list of features, but the list does include several items that are not included in avast’s free offering.
The key features are as follows:
Gaming Mode: This mode effectively “silences” the product so that it doesn’t interfere with gaming sessions by generating pop-up messages.
SafeZone: avast! describe this as a “private and isolated” desktop window, designed for use when carrying out shopping or Internet banking transactions.
Sandbox: This is an optional virtual environment that you may choose to use when running “risky” programs.
Real-Time Protection: This streams virus definition updates directly to the software so the database is always current.
FileRep: This feature uses a cloud-based reputational system to protect against known malicious files.
Remote Assistance: Uniquely, this feature allows you to initiate remote support sessions using the software itself. This can be used if you need a friend to help you via the Internet.
The features above complement a standard function set that also includes the basics: scheduled, on-demand and on-access virus scanning, along with email protection.
Installation and Configuration
We took advantage of avast’s free trial to review the Pro Antivirus software.
First we downloaded the installation file, which was quite large at 135MB. Many vendors now use tiny installation files that continue to download program data during the installation.
Next, we ran the installer, and were given a choice of “Express” or “Custom” install. We always install with default settings during a review, so chose the former option.
At the next step, we discovered that avast! have some kind of affiliation with Google, as the installer asked if we wanted to install Google Chrome and set it as the default browser, and also install the Google toolbar. Both options were ticked by default but easy enough to deselect, however we’re not a fan of products installing unnecessary supplementary software (even though we are fans of Google Chrome). We chose to untick the boxes.
The install then proceeded, and showed adverts and tips during the process.
The main install phase took no longer than a couple of minutes. Once complete, we were informed that an automatic virus scan would take place.
Upon clicking “finish” we were given the option of paying for the software or beginning our trial. We were not required to hand over any personal details to begin the trial which made a refreshing change.
At this point, we clicked the avast! icon in our system tray. At the same time the user interface appeared, we heard a voice telling us that the database had been updated. These verbal notifications will probably annoy and delight users in equal measure!
The user interface for avast! Pro is dark and bold, as you can see from the screenshot above. One of the first things we noticed was the prominent button for a VPN facility. We wondered if we had found an extra feature, but found that this was in fact a paid service requiring separate activation.
We continued to explore the GUI. We found the basic functions, such as quick access to system scans, easy to find.
More advanced settings were just a click away, and with 20 sub-headings for different features, enthusiasts will find plenty to tinker with should they wish.
Although we were reasonably happy with the avast! user interface, we did find it quite “busy,” with lots to take in, and several distracting attempts to persuade users to upgrade to a more advanced product.
All-in-all, our first impressions of the product were reasonably favourable. While the UI wasn’t the most agreeable we’d seen, it was not worthy of serious criticism. We decided to proceed with our real-life tests.
As usual, we dug our our trusty infected USB key in order to introduce some test viruses and put the software to the test.
We were mildly disappointed when we plugged the device in, as we always like it when software is set to scan external media by default. avast! didn’t jump to life immediately, so we proceeded to click the “open folder to view files” option.
All of our test threats were visible within the file explorer, so we proceeded to try to open each in turn, beginning with the one that should be the “easiest” for an antivirus product to detect, a test virus from the European Expert Group for IT Security, which has been “in the wild” for some time.
There was a worrying delay before anything happened, but then an avast! window appeared saying that the software had quarantined the virus.
Next, we tried DEFENDER.EXE, a fake antivirus product intended to scare unsuspecting users into handing over money. This was instantly detected as a trojan and blocked.
Pleased with the results of our first tests, we moved onto our final threat, an infected fake installer for Google Chrome.
Again, the wait before anything happened seemed rather long, as if the file was being scanned. However, the installer then started to run.
Sadly, we were able to click our way through the install. By the time it was finished, our test machine was liberally scattered with malware, and our IE search had been hijacked.
We decided to kick off a full scan of our PC. While we did so, we had a look at the CPU and RAM utilisation during scanning.
We were very surprised to see avast! only using 8MB during the scan, and barely touching the CPU. However, the scan itself was pretty slow, taking about 20 minutes to complete. Worst of all, it didn’t find any of the malware left by the fake Google Chrome.
Overall, we were rather disappointed with the results of our real life tests. Although our fake Google Chrome is a tricky threat, several products have detected it on sight.
avast! are one of those vendors who seem keen to help their customers. A live chat link is prominent while you explore the avast! website, and the support phone number is shown during installation.
In addition, avast! offer a remote installation service for those that require it, at the fair price of $14.99.
Avast! also have forum support, an FAQ section and a ticket system, all adding up to a very comprehensive range of support options.
- Plenty of support options
- Remote assistance feature
We weren’t so sure about
- Very low system usage during scans – but very slow scans as a trade-off
- Installs Google Chrome by default
- Seems slow to react when opening infected files
- Product completely missed one of our test viruses
avast! Pro Antivirus is an inoffensive product, but scored a big “fail” on one of our real-life tests – and we do mean a BIG fail. A few other products have let us install our fake Google Chrome file, but most have at least cleared up some of the malware it leaves behind. Avast! both let the threat straight in, and failed to repair the damage.
For this reason alone, we can’t recommend avast! Pro Antivirus – not when there are plenty of other products that deal perfectly with all of our test threats – a shame.