Best Antivirus – The Ultimate Round-Up
Computer magazines often carry out group tests of a handful of antivirus products.
Here at Best Antivirus, we have now reviewed every mainstream consumer antivirus product. Later in this article, you’ll be able to view a league table of the top ten and read about our chosen top three, and what makes them special.
First, however, we’re going to talk about our general findings, and about the approach we took when assessing the software.
Reviewing every antivirus product out there has been surprisingly enlightening; We would never have expected quite so much variation in how different products work to achieve the same thing.
We’ve done our best to take a practical and pragmatic approach to our reviews, and as such we’ve kept one key principal in mind:
The vast majority of people who install an antivirus product are not technical geniuses; they just want an antivirus product that works, and keeps them safe online.
This is such a basic principal, yet it’s something that many computer magazines seem to forget when they do their own group tests.
We’ve taken a more subjective approach, and not made the mistake of assuming that every potential user of these products has a full understanding of IT security. As such, some products have been marked down a little in our overall percentages for doing things in a way that could cause novices to infect their machines due to a lack of knowledge.
Here’s a quick example: eSet NOD32 Antivirus has long been a favourite of our review team. The product did pretty well in our reviews, scoring 85% and ranking eighth overall. It also correctly identified all of our test viruses.
However, the product didn’t do quite enough to automatically block access to the viruses, leaving novices potentially free to go ahead and infect their computers.
All of our reviews take things like this into account. We still recommend eSet NOD32, but once we had also seen every other product on the market, we realised that other vendors have made better functional decisions that keep PCs safer.
This is why we feel that our reviews go a little further than simple antivirus roundups that concentrate solely on which threats each product is able to identify. There are other factors that come into play and determine whether a machine becomes infected. That’s why we often discuss issues like whether each product automatically scans (or suggests scanning) USB devices on insertion – it’s features like these that truly protect novice users.
Details of the three test threats we used can be found on our “How we test” page.
From the initial batch of 23 products we tested, 10 failed to identify all of the threats and two more failed to deal with them quite as we would have liked. This alone proves that antivirus products are far from equal!
Our fake Google Chrome installer, containing a selection of spyware and adware, was usually the threat that caused products to stumble. The malware it installs is a major nuisance, and there’s plenty of it. It’s the kind of threat that, once installed, slows a computer down and infests it with intrusive pop-ups.
Technophobes installing this by mistake would probably end up with a bill from their local IT professional, who would have to spend quite a while reversing the damage.
When you take into account that around 50% of the products we tested wouldn’t prevent this infection, it just goes to show how important it is to choose the right antivirus product.
Our League Table
|95%||Perfect results, generous features. The best of the bunch.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|93%||The very definition of lean and mean, and great value too.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|92%||The household name in Personal Firewall makes great antivirus too!||Read Review||Visit Site|
|91%||Ideal for all kinds of users, regardless of technical ability.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|90%||A return to form for a product many techies had given up on.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|88%||An effective product with a decent feature set, but not the fastest or best value.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|85%||Perfect results, good for techies, but not configured quite how we’d like by default.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|85%||Modern, effective and easy to like.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|81%||Proof that a free product can still catch all of our test viruses.||Read Review||Visit Site|
|80%||Not a perfect product, but it’s free and it cleared all of our test threats.||Read Review||Visit Site|
Our Top Three
Once we had finished our review process, it was interesting to find that none of our top three products were from the “best known” antivirus vendors (although Trend, Norton and Kaspersky were ranked fourth, fifth and sixth respectively!)
This goes to show that true innovation often comes from unexpected directions. Our number one product is from a vendor who previously specialised in anti-spyware software, and our third-place product is from a vendor better known for personal firewalls. The fact that these “pretenders to the throne” are giving the stalwarts a run for their money can only be a good thing in terms of future innovation.
Winner – WebRoot SecureAnywhere Antivirus
We encountered WebRoot SecureAnywhere about half way through our review process. At the time we said that “Webroot SecureAnywhere Antivirus deserves a place on every shortlist – quite possibly at the top.”
We were pleased, therefore, to find that once we’d concluded our initial round of reviews, it remained at the pinnacle of our list. It also managed to remain there after a cosmetic revamp that came with the 2014 edition.
WebRoot are perhaps best known for their Spy Sweeper product. Some years ago, this was often the “go-to” product for IT professionals who needed to remove adware infections from client PCs. This product has now been discontinued, but the fact that Webroot have moved into full-blown Internet security software is good news for all, especially based on the performance we saw in our review.
SecureAnywhere has a lovely, modern feel and we particularly liked the “slider” style interface that will seem instantly familiar to a generation raised on iPads and iPhones. There are also some seriously detailed settings available to techies.
The product walked our real life tests, and the performance was the best we’d seen. Webroot SecureAnywhere wasn’t the cheapest product we tested, but it was still our deserving winner.
What we liked
- Perfect test results
- Superb performance and low resource usage
- Generous features list (including firewall)
- Great balance between ease-of-use and configurability
2. VIPRE Antivirus 2014
VIPRE Antivirus is the perfect example of a “lean and mean” product, and it’s good enough to secure a second-place position despite a fairly limited set of features.
VIPRE sets out to be a “low footprint” product, and truly succeeds. This isn’t a product that gets in the way and slows a computer down, but it does work quickly and efficiently when it encounters viruses.
Also particularly worthy of mention is VIPRE’s pricing model. It’s rather unusual, but very competitive, with the option of a lifetime subscription, and also a very inexpensive package for ten PCs at a time.
VIPRE came very close to topping our league table, but we had to give first place to a product that performed just as well AND provided a few extra features.
However, if you’re trying to decide between the two, don’t instantly choose SecureAnywhere because of a 2% percentage difference. Depending on your requirements, you might prefer VIPRE instead. Either way, you should be satisfied with your choice.
What we liked
- Faultless in our real-life tests
- Excellent performance
- Superb value for money
3. ZoneAlarm PRO Antivirus and Firewall 2013
ZoneAlarm PRO’s presence in the top three surprised us, even though we conducted the reviews!
First off, ZoneAlarm is better known as a firewall product than an antivirus product. Furthermore, we actually had a few small issues during the install. The fact the product is still here after these is testament to just how much it managed to redeem itself!
One of the key reasons ZoneAlarm PRO did so well is the product’s generous feature-set. As well as an antivirus product, you get a well renowned firewall, various supplementary features, AND 5GB of free online backup.
None of this would have been enough to secure ZoneAlarm a good review score had it not been for the fact the program also successfully zoomed through all of our real-life tests.
So, we were left with a well-formed package, which is generously priced too, especially if you have multiple machines to protect.
What we liked
- Tons of features
- Good multi-PC bundle
- Great test results