Best Antivirus 2010 Buyers Guide

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By Charles P. Jefferies

For 2010 we reviewed ten paid antivirus solutions — today we break the reviews down and show you which one is the best.

Antivirus Software Solutions

The following antivirus products are participating in this review; all are paid-for applications. For free antivirus products, check out our 2010 Free Antivirus Buyers Guide.

How We Test

The antivirus solutions will be objectively and subjectively rated over three categories:

  • Pro-activeness and Protection
  • Ease of Use and Install
  • Performance Impact and Scan Time

Antivirus solutions will be given a rating for each category; higher numbers are better.

Pro-activeness and Protection

This section is the most heavily weighted and focuses on two things:

  • 1. (20 points) How proactive was the antivirus software at detecting the virus files?
  • 2. (7 points) Did the antivirus software successfully protect the system from the virus files?

Solution

Pro-activeness

Virus Removal

TOTAL

McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2010

15

7

22

Webroot Antivirus 2010 With Spy Sweeper

20

7

27

Bitdefender Antivirus 2010

20

7

27

Panda Antivirus Pro 2010

18

7

25

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.2

20

7

27

Trend Micro AntiVirus + AntiSpyware 2010

10

7

17

Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010

17

7

24

Kaspersky AntiVirus 2010

20

7

27

CA Anti-Virus Plus Anti-Spyware 2010

16

7

23

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus

10

7

17

Pro-activeness: Webroot, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and ESET are the stand-outs in Pro-activeness; they successfully detected and blocked the virus files before I initiated the download. Panda and Norton also detected all of the files as threats immediately but did allow them to be downloaded. The files were quarantined and thus inaccessible but should have been removed automatically. Trend Micro and PCTools let all of the files through without warnings; they were only detected after a full system scan.

Virus Removal: All of the antivirus solutions received a full score in the Virus Removal section since they were all able to remove the virus files.

Ease of Install and Use

This section has three parts:

  • 1. (4 points) How streamlined and foolproof was the install process?
  • 2. (6 points) Is the interface user-friendly?

Solution

Install Process

Interface

TOTAL

McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2010

3

4

7

Webroot Antivirus 2010 With Spy Sweeper

3

4

7

Bitdefender Antivirus 2010

3

6

9

Panda Antivirus Pro 2010

4

4

8

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.2

4

5

9

Trend Micro AntiVirus + AntiSpyware 2010

3

4

7

Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010

4

5

9

Kaspersky AntiVirus 2010

3

5

8

CA Anti-Virus Plus Anti-Spyware 2010

3

3

6

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus

2

4

6

Install Process: Norton is the only product in this roundup that advertises a quick install and it delivers; the install takes one click and less than one minute. All of the other solutions more or less required the same number of clicks to install.

The install process rating also takes into account the size of the installer file. ESET and Panda both received an extra point because their installer files were less than 50MB; all others were 75MB+, with Trend Micro the largest at 108MB. Not everyone has a fast Internet and the size of the installer file can make a difference.

PCTools received an additional point off since it wanted to install a third-party toolbar with the software.

Interface: All of the interfaces were generally pleasing and I would describe none as hard to use.  ESET, Kaspersky, and Norton received an extra point for having the simplest interfaces. However, Bitdefender takes top honors; it has hands-down the best approach to user interfaces I have seen. The interface can be dynamically switched between beginner, intermediate, and advanced types; all fit the user type extremely well. Clearly a lot of development work went into the interface. 

I docked a point from CA Anti-Virus since its interface is a blatant upsell to the more expensive Internet Security suite; only some of the functions are enabled on the basic antivirus suite.

Performance Impact and Scan Time

There are two parts to this section:

  • 1. (6 points) System performance impact measured with Futuremark’s PCMark benchmark suite
  • 2. (4 points) Time it took to complete a full scan of our test system’s hard drive

Solution

Performance Impact

Scan Time

TOTAL

McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2010

5

4

9

Webroot Antivirus 2010 With Spy Sweeper

4

4

9

Bitdefender Antivirus 2010

4

4

8

Panda Antivirus Pro 2010

6

3

9

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.2

6

4

10

Trend Micro AntiVirus + AntiSpyware 2010

6

3

9

Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010

6

4

10

Kaspersky AntiVirus 2010

6

3

9

CA Anti-Virus Plus Anti-Spyware 2010

6

1

7

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus

4

4

8

Performance Impact: Antivirus suites that had a five percent or less impact on our system’s performance received full credit and one point was taken off for every five percent over that. The majority of suites did well; Trend Micro actually had the smallest performance impact followed by ESET, Kaspersky, and CA Anti-Virus.

Webroot received an additional point off because the test system actually felt a bit slower with it installed, which I did not see from other antivirus suites. Bitdefender and PCTools showed the largest performance decreases to the tune of 12 and 15 percent, respectively.

Scan Time: Most suites received four points for scanning the test system in under an hour; Panda and Trend Micro came in just over an hour at 1:20 and 1:05, respectively. CA Anti-Virus took over five hours to scan so it only receives one point; and yes, I ran the test several times.

Conclusion

Solution

Pro-activeness and Protection

Ease of Install and Use

Performance Impact and Scan Time

GRAND TOTAL

McAfee AntiVirus Plus 2010

22

7

9

38

Webroot Antivirus 2010 With Spy Sweeper

27

7

9

43

Bitdefender Antivirus 2010

27

9

8

44

Panda Antivirus Pro 2010

25

8

9

42

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.2

27

9

10

46

Trend Micro AntiVirus + AntiSpyware 2010

17

7

9

33

Symantec Norton Antivirus 2010

24

9

10

43

Kaspersky AntiVirus 2010

27

8

9

44

CA Anti-Virus Plus Anti-Spyware 2010

23

6

7

36

PCTools Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus

17

6

8

31

ESET NOD32 Antivirus 4.2And the best antivirus software we review in 2010 was: ESET NOD32 Antivirus

ESET took our top spot for several reasons. Highlights include a polished and simple interface, a high level of pro-activeness, and a very small impact on system performance. It also had the fastest scan time and the smallest installer file.

Bitdefender and Kaspersky tie for second. Bitdefender had the best-designed interface and was proactive but lost points for a higher-than-average performance impact. Kaspersky is a fantastic all-around suite and just missed beating ESET because of its slightly longer scan time and larger installer file.

Finally, Webroot and Norton were just one point off of second place and tied for third.

While some of the products rated higher than others, remember that all ten individually received my recommendation and passed the testing process.

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