Symantec Corp.'s Norton AntiVirus (NAV) has always been a highly effective software security package, and the 2011 version is no exception. New in the 2011 edition are capabilities such as Norton's SONAR 3 technology and an interactive map showing where security threats are coming from around the world. Our in-depth review takes a look at specific product features while analyzing overall proactiveness, performance impact, and more.
Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 2011 is a Microsoft Windows-based PC security suite aimed at home users. This $39.99 product is advertised as protecting against malicious Internet-spread threats such as spyware, rootkits, and bots. New in the 2011 version is Symantec's proprietary SONAR 3 technology, which allows the software to identify threats based not only on virus definitions, as most security protection suites do, but on how the application behaves. Theoretically, at least, even unknown threats can be detected.
Other built-in tools include Norton Insight, designed to intelligently scan only previously un-scanned files so as to cut down on scan time. AntiVirus 2011 also features "Pulse" updates, which can update the system as frequently as several times per hour.
Download and Installation
NAV 2011 is an 86MB download which took about five minutes to conduct over my cable Internet connection. Norton's installation continues to be the simplest of any suite I've tested. All you need to do is to double-click the installation file and then click "Install." This takes less than one minute to complete, which is also the fastest install I have seen.
Also, Norton spent only about three minutes to automatically download and apply updates, once the installation had finished.
User Interface (UI)
NAV's interface has evolved for the 2011 version, showing improvements in slight but noticeable ways. The layout remains mostly the same. The main interface shows the security status at the top left. The security status is not now immediately obvious. Actually, it was better presented in the 2010 version with a large icon on the left. That said, the updated interface is more modern in every way.
The text is sharper and easier to read. Also, gone is the lame-looking background. It's been replaced with an interactive world map that displays where most threats are coming from around the world. (Really, though, the world map is more cool than useful.)
Also, with your permission, NAV 2011 scans your network to create a network security map. The network security map shows the security of the network you're connected to and the security status of other computers on the network, if available.
Use and Effectiveness
NAV 2011 runs unnoticeably in the background, even when updating. Windows startup and shutdown time were not increased by more than a few seconds, an excellent result.
To test the effectiveness of Norton AntiVirus 2011, I used several test virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security website. The four files provided for download have different extensions -- including .com, .zip, and .txt -- which contain viruses. Please see the test description for extensive information on the tests. Antivirus software should detect the files as threats.
We evaluate the performance impact of security software using PCMark05, a full system test suite.
The benchmark numbers were hardly different with Norton installed vs. without Norton installed. This means that NAV 2011 carries little performance impact. This is what we want to see.
Time it took to perform a full system scan
Norton took 39 minutes to scan the 128GB of data on our test computer. Anything under one hour is considered fast. Norton almost ties Kaspersky 2011's time of 37 minutes, and easily defeats the time of one hour, 38 minutes turned in by Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE).
Unlike MSE, NAV 2011 is not a free product (although Symantec has just released a free edition of Norton Mobile Security, its security software product for Android OS smartphones). Still, Symantec's antivirus software package for Windows PCs is a good value, with a single-user license priced at $39.99 and a five-user pack at $89.99. Norton AntiVirus continues to be one of the best security software suites on the market, providing top-notch protection with minimal performance impact or user involvement. This allows us to give it our full recommendation.
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