Norton has always been a favorite security package among home users, and the recently released 2013 edition is no exception. The new Norton AntiVirus (NAV) 2013 consumes practically twice as much disk space as NAV 2012, but it also offers a new user interface (UI), improved installation, and new cloud-based management tools, among other new features. Is it worth $49.99 to buy the new product? How about $39.99 to upgrade from an earlier version? We address these questions in this review.
A rival to software from McAfee, Kaspersky, VIPRE, and many other offerings in the crowded AV marketplace, Symantec's Norton AV 2013 is designed for PCs running Microsoft Windows, including Windows 8. By the way, Windows 8 itself will also turn into a competitor, since Microsoft's new OS includes a built-in security suite known as Windows Defender.
The new Norton AV package is nearly twice as large as the 2012 edition, and the price has increased $10 since last year to $49.99 per PC for one year. A five-user pack, at $89.99, could represent a better value for large households and very small businesses.
For starters, NAV 2013 offers a better version of SONAR threat detection, a Symantec technology that uses behavioral detection for guarding against new and emerging threats.
Also new in NAV 2013 is an enhanced update service which allows the product version to be updated without the need for software reinstallation -- a very big deal for the legions of people who just want to "set it and forget it."
On top of that, Norton's "Pulse" updates send out new virus definitions every five to 15 minutes. (In contrast, some competing products only update once per day.)
NAV has ballooned in size since last year, consuming 156MB of disk space as opposed to 86MB for the 2012 edition. On the other hand, downloading the product is only a one-time deal. Personally, I prefer this kind of a standalone download package as opposed to an installer that downloads the files as part of the installation. This way, you can install the product offline.
The installation is about as easy as it gets. You simply click "Install" and NAV 2013 takes care of the rest. The software will also detect whether you have another antivirus product installed, and if so, ask you to uninstall it before continuing. (It's not a good idea to have two AV products installed at the same time, because the two can conflict.)
User Interface (UI)
The UI is noticeably improved. In comparison, NAV 2012 displayed too much information. NAV 2013 is better organized, as well. I like the new tile-based layout. Moreover, it's very easy to tell if the system is in "secure" status, because if so, the leftmost tile will be colored green.
In keeping with Symantec's long-time emphasis on minimal performance impact, there is even a separate screen in the application to detail Norton's CPU usage relative to that of other applications.
The advanced settings are easy to access, although most users are not likely to venture in here. This is where individual components of the product can be turned on and off.
Also new are cloud-based tools for changing and managing settings on your Norton-equipped devices. (If you invest in the pricier Norton 360, you also get additional management features such as Norton Online Family, which provides second-to-none parental controls.)
In Use and Effectiveness
To gauge the effectivness of NAV 2013, I used test virus files from Eicar.org, an IT security Web site. The Eicar files have various extensions containing viruses. Antivirus software should detect the files as threats.
Symantec is true to its word about minimal performance impact. After installing the product, I couldn't notice any difference in the performance of my PC. For a more scientific analysis, I used Futuremark's PC Mark 7 system benchmark suite. The results of the before and after runs showed less than a three percent difference; anything less than five percent can be dismissed as benchmark error. Obviously, this is a very good result.
Full System Scan
NAV 2013 initially took 48 minutes to sift through 118GB of data; this is an average amount of time for a full scan. Subsequent "quick scans" took just minutes.
Norton AntiVirus continues to be one of the most polished security products available for home users. In NAV 2013, the UI is the best yet, and the software has almost no impact on system performance. The 2013 version also brings numerous new features to the table, including online management and an enhanced update service.
My only real complaint is that the selling price increased this year to $49.99. However, this is an expected price point for a home protection suite.
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