Norton AntiVirus 2014 Review

by Charles P. Jefferies Reads (6,763)

TG Rating

Rating 1 to 10, top score 10.
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9.00

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Design
    • 9
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 9.00
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Excellent user interface (UI)
    • Low performance impact
    • Useful extras
  • Cons

    • Not free
    • No built-in firewall
    • Virus scanning isn't all that speedy


Norton has been one of our top rated antivirus (AV) security suites for several years now. In this review, we’ll see how, despite a few small drawbacks, this year’s version promises to continue the overall positive trend with its excellent user interface, high protection level and minimal performance impact.

Overview

List priced at $49.99 for a one-year PC license, although usually discounted to $39.99 on Symantec’s own web site, Symantec’s Norton AntiVirus home security software features a host of technologies to help prevent and defeat detected malware in real time. It also includes a number of extras such as a deep scanning tool, bootable recovery disc creator, Windows 8 app scanning capability, and an important but often overlooked feature: free 24/7 phone and email support for one year from purchase.

Norton’s interface continues to be one of the most streamlined and easiest to use. Information displayed on the main screen is kept to a minimum, preventing a lot of potential confusion from showing too many statistics and so on. The icons on the main screen have been slightly rearranged for the 2014 version, mainly by moving some of the icons located on the right side of the screen to the bottom and adding a backup button. The minimize and close buttons in the upper right have also changed in appearance.

It’s very noteworthy that this interface is Windows 8 compatible and touch-friendly. We’ve seen a trend in many major software suites towards larger icons to accommodate touch capability.

Settings

Norton’s settings are nicely organized into three categories across the top of the screen: Computer, Network and General; subcategories are listed on the left side of the screen within those categories. Individual settings have handy color-coated sliders; green generally means it’s either enabled or set to automatic; red is reserved for disabled items and those set to “Ask Me.”  We found no reason to change the default settings during our testing, although advanced users can certainly get their hands dirty. (For expanded views of the screenshots at right, please click on the images.)

Scan

Running a scan in Norton requires about two clicks on average, unless you’re doing a custom scan where you of course have control over all the settings. Norton’s scanning technology is first-rate; every scanned file is verified against its online file database to determine whether it’s good or malicious. The advantage to this approach is that even the newest threats won’t stay new for long; as soon as a file is flagged as bad in the database, it’s known to all computers scanning with Norton since they’re all comparing against it. This kind of proactiveness is highly effective at combating threats.

Updates

Norton performs updates automatically though users can initiate them manually via the LiveUpdate section of the program. Norton performs “pulse” updates every 10-15 minutes, a much shorter interval than typically seen. (We normally expect hourly updates.)

Browser Integration

Norton automatically integrates into popular web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. It places an icon next to links in web pages indicating whether they’re safe. Major search engines can usually be trusted to return only “safe” links (i.e. malware free), but the double check will be appreciated — especially by those who know little about computers.

Included Extras

A home security suite wouldn’t be complete without included extras; these are both expected and welcome. Norton includes three major extras:

Norton Power Eraser is a deep-scanning tool designed to detect malware at its very deepest levels; it’s advertised to clean malware not found by normal virus scans. In other words, this is what you would turn to if a regular scan didn’t address an infection or odd behavior. This tool is actually available free for download even if users don’t have Norton.

Norton Bootable Recovery Tool is designed for creating an emergency rescue CD, DVD or bootable USB flash drive. This would be used in a situation where the computer is too infected to start properly. The typical solution in those scenarios is to reformat the computer, but a bootable recovery disc provides one last good shot at curing the computer.

Norton Zone is a cloud-based feature new for 2014; it’s outside the reach of what we normally expect to see in a home security suite. What it does is to let you share files securely with others. It’s a neat feature, definitely not necessary but certainly an alternative to email.

Performance

The initial download for Norton is a download manager which retrieves the actual installation files from Norton’s servers; the files total about 200MB. This is a little on the heavy side but easily managed with a fast Internet connection.

Norton’s installation continues to be as simple as can be, requiring one click to initiate the program’s installation after the download finishes. Another plus is that a restart isn’t required to finish the install.

System Impact

We used Futuremark’s PCMark 7 security suite to analyze Norton’s impact on overall system performance before and after the installation. We recorded a sub-five percent difference, small enough to attribute to benchmark error; users definitely won’t notice this insignificant of a performance impact.

To test Norton’s proactiveness, we attempted to download several malicious files courtesy of Eicar.org, an IT security website. Norton immediately detected the downloads and wouldn’t even let them initiate. This is the kind of watchfulness we’d like to see in every home security suite.

Time it Took to Perform a Full System Scan

It took 52 minutes to scan our test system’s 161GB of data, a somewhat above average time for an anti-virus suite. Kaspersky Anti-Virus 2014, for example, did a similar scan in about half the time. This is only for a full scan however; a quick scan took less than two minutes.

Conclusion

We’re pleased to fully recommend Norton Anti-Virus 2014. This software continues to be a quality leader among home security suites. It offers a streamlined, easy-to-use interface, minimal performance impact, useful included extras. Most importantly, it is proactive about defending from threats. Our complaints are mostly minor: the initial installer is somewhat large, it’s not free, there’s no built-in firewall, and competing products completed scans faster.

Norton Anti-Virus 2014 is an average value at company pricing. However, few competitors offer free 24/7 phone support for a year. Keep an eye out for sales in retail stores and on various web sites; home security software tends to get discounted rather heavily.

Pros

  • Excellent user interface (UI)
  • Low performance impact
  • Useful extras

Cons

  • Not free
  • No built-in firewall
  • Virus scanning isn’t all that speedy


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