Avast Premium Security
Avast is a well-known cyber-security vendor known for its strong and reliable antivirus engine as well as for its potent free version that provides an impressive number of extra features for a free antivirus solution. Today, we will go over the three antivirus suites that Avast has to offer – Avast Free Antivirus, Avast Premium Security, and Avast Ultimate – and we will try to determine whether users would benefit from the paid options or would be better off with sticking to the free package. Our main focus throughout the article will be Avast Premium Security as it is the most balanced suite of the three options so this will be our point of reference when talking about the other two variants.
Installation and Interface of Avast Premium Security
The installation of Avast is a bit different compared to that of its competitors. Whereas other antivirus solutions such as Kaspersky or Trend Micro have very quick and streamlined installation processes that barely require you to do anything, Avast gives you quite a lot of customization freedom – clicking on the Customize option will allow you to choose which of the items that come with the package you’d like to get installed and which you’d prefer to leave out. For instance, you may not want any Avast browser extensions or you are already using a standalone Firewall service and don’t need the one offered by Avast. This is a nice touch that allows users to leave unnecessary software out of their system. However, there’s also the bad side to this: Avast has its own browser (“Avast Secure Browser”) and it relentlessly tries to make it your default one. First of all, the “Set as Default Browser” setting is of the opt-out type which means that it is a setting that’s enabled by default and you’d have to manually disable it in the installer if you don’t want the Avast Secure Browser to be made your system’s default one. Furthermore, even if you do notice the setting in its small font and disable it, that won’t be enough to prevent Avast from making its browser your default one. Once the installation is finished with you having disabled the aforementioned setting, you’d be given two options: Customize Setup and Finish Setup. If you go for the latter, the Avast Secure Browser would still be set as your default one. To prevent that, you’d need to instead opt for Customize Setup and then uncheck the “Set as Default Browser” option a second time! As respected and as popular Avast might be as an antivirus, this level of sneakiness in order to get you to install its browser and make it your system’s default one makes a very bad impression and is, in our opinion, a very poor choice on the end of Avast’s developers. If this was something limited to the Avast Free, then it would make more sense and be a bit more acceptable and understandable. However, this is a product that users pay for and it is baffling how its developers have still made sneaky attempts at tricking their customers into making potentially unwanted changes in their systems.
Once you are past the installation and you start the program, you are introduced to the clean interface of Avast Antivirus that may look a bit too simplistic to some users. The starting screen of the program will show you the current security status of your PC (hopefully you’d see the reassuring green “Protected” text written there) and give you the option to start a quick scan. On the left side of the screen, you will see buttons for the main menus/areas of the antivirus: Dashboard (Status), Protection, Privacy, and Performance. Clicking on these menus, you might find it that they hide quite a lot of other buttons, which might seem a bit overwhelming at first. However, in many of the cases, those buttons would reveal little more than a simple on/off switch used to enable or disable the specific feature. We wouldn’t say that Avast isn’t user-friendly but you may need to do some exploring through its settings first before you properly get to know the program.
Another thing that annoyed us, however, were Avast’s attempts to needlessly promote their other products that we saw during the installation with the Avast Secure Browser, is the appearance of locked features in the Avast Premium Security interface. Those features are, of course, only available if you get the Ultimate edition of Avast or if you purchase them separately. However, buttons for them still appear in Avast Premium Security which is basically a form of advertisement for said features. Again, if this was the Free Avast version, it would make more sense, but getting ads (even unobtrusive ones) inside a paid product is a whole other thing and it shows a lack of class in our opinion.
We understand that from what we’ve said so far Avast may not look like such a great antivirus but our previous complaints were mostly nitpicks that the majority of users are likely to barely even notice. Anyway, what’s the really important aspect of any given antivirus is its ability to keep malware away from one’s computer and to stop threats that have already managed to enter it. In this regard, as expected, Avast does quite a good job of protecting systems it’s installed on.
The latest test by the AV-Test independent lab gives Avast the reassuring 100% score for its ability to detect both known malware threats, using its database, and new, unknown Zero-Day attacks, using behavior monitoring.
Se-Labs have also given Avast Antivirus a relatively high score on their tests, putting it at the 6th place out of 15 of the best antivirus solutions available at the moment.
AV-Comparatives’ score for Avast, however, differs a bit – AV-Comparatives ranks Avast at the 12th place out of 16 tested antiviruses, giving it a score of 99.3% for its malware-detection capabilities. Here, it may be worth noting that Kaspersky, another big name in the antivirus industry had an even lower score on that same test.
According to independent security researchers, Avast does a good job of immediately stopping known Ransomware threats before they could even get near the files they are supposed to encrypt – an important feat that not many antivirus solutions out there are able to achieve. Potent Ransomware protection is one of the most important aspects of any modern antivirus seeing as how this type of malware is particularly difficult to stop and deal with. However, bear in mind that, when faced with an unknown Ransomware threat, Avast might give different results so it is unwise to think that its sheer presence on your system guarantees that no Ransomware could get to your files. Using your own discretion and common sense to keep your data and PC secure will always be the best possible protection you could employ no matter how strong your antivirus might be!
Obviously, one of the most important features in an antivirus is the different types of scans you can perform to keep your computer clean and safe. In the case of Avast, there’s quite a lot of scanning variety and we liked that. Smart Scan combines the typical Quick Scan most antiviruses have with a vulnerability scan – what it does is it scans the locations where malware’s most likely to be hidden while also detecting any insecure system settings such as a disable Firewall that may make your computer more vulnerable. You also have the mandatory Full Scan as well as a Targeted Scan that will check only certain directories and files that you’ve specified. There is even a Boot-Time scanning option that will perform the scan before your PC boots into Windows – a rather useful feature seeing as how there are lots of malware threats that hide too deep to be detected from within the Windows interface. To add to all of that, you also have the option to create your own custom scans where you can combine different aspects of the aforementioned scan variants and schedule them any way you want. All in all, Avast is among the antiviruses that offer the greatest scanning variety and we really like that. It’s even possible to perform several scans at the same time so that you can, for example, check an external drive you’ve just connected to your computer while a Full System Scan is running in the background. Not many antiviruses offer that level of flexibility.
In terms of scanning speed, Avast is a bit slower than some of its competitors – its Full Scan, for example, takes about an hour to scan through 100GB of data and consecutive scans don’t decrease this amount by a whole lot. Still, it’s not too bad and, on the flip side, the Smart Scan feature takes mere seconds to complete.
This is a feature that’s quickly becoming more and more popular and starting to get implemented inside an increasing number of antivirus solutions. We really like its addition to Avast as it means that users get an extra layer of protection against arguably the most problematic threat on the Internet at the moment. The gist of this tool is that it prevents select folders and the files they contain from being modified by unauthorized software and processes. This means that, in theory, no Ransomware should be able to encrypt any of the data present in a folder that’s under the Ransomware Shield’s protection. Additionally, this feature is able to automatically detect folders on your computer where potentially important data is being stored and start protecting it immediately. For the most part, this automatic detection of valuable folders works but our advice is to still manually set the tool to keep all folders you consider important protected instead of relying on its ability to automatically do that for you.
Avast Premium Security offers a number of security features for your Internet browsing. For starters, the Real Site System will keep malware from tampering with your DNS settings while another feature will automatically scan your downloads and the sites you are about to visit to ensure that there’s no hidden malware in them. There is also a browser extension by Avast that will block tracker, provide safety ratings for different sites, and keep you from visiting unreliable web locations.
According to AV-Comparatives’ tests on how well Avast’s online security works, the results here are quite impressive. The detection rate for malicious URLs of Avast is 93% which is topped only by Trend Micro’s 97% and Bitdefender, which scored 98% on that same test. One note we must make here, though, is that the Avast browser extension is available for free on Chrome Store and you can add it to Chrome even if you aren’t using any other Avast product.
Avast does indeed provide a full-fledged Firewall tool instead of simply reskinning the default Windows one – something that is done by some other otherwise popular antivirus solutions such as Avira. The Avast Firewall will monitor the various connections between yours and other devices and will let you know if any security risks are present. In general, it’s best to leave this feature alone but if you think that its security may be interfering with a certain connection that you know is otherwise safe, you still have the option to whitelist exceptions. The Firewall offers an intuitive interface that even not-so-experienced users should be able to navigate through.
Wi-Fi inspector (Available with Avast Free)
The main goal of this tool is to provide you with relevant security information about your wireless network. It will tell you what devices are connected to it, inform you if any vulnerabilities are detected that need fixing, and help you fix them.
Avast Secure Browser (Available with Avast Free)
Yes, this is the browser we mentioned earlier that Avast seems to be particularly determined to set as your default one. Despite the rather invasive way Avast tries to push this browser, the tool can come in handy if you want to enhance the safety and privacy of your online sessions. The browser is Chromium-based and among the security perks that it provides are a built-in blocker for trackers, ads, and malicious sites, controls for blocking different types of flash content, as well as a customizable privacy browsing mode.
The Avast Secure Browser also offers a basic password manager as well as a Bank Mode that, when enabled, will use a separate Desktop to run the browser so that keyloggers and snoopers won’t be able to gain information about your credit or debit card details.
All in all, there are certainly a number of things to like about this browser but we think that most users would still prefer to use their regular browsers instead, which is why it could be a bit annoying when Avast tries to make its browser the computer’s default one during the installation of the antivirus. Also note that, like the Avast browser extension for Chrome, the Avast Secure Browser is a free tool and it comes with Avast Free so it isn’t necessary to go for the Premium package in order to get it.
Other Tools and Features
Avast Premium is chock-full of extra features so we won’t be providing a detailed analysis of all of them. Here is a brief listing of the other perks that come with this package:
- Sandbox – gives you the ability to open/run suspicious files and apps in a secure environment separated from your system so that even if the file/app is malicious, it won’t be able to harm your computer or data.
- Web camera shield – keeps unauthorized software from using your webcam.
- Spam filter – flags spam messages sent to your email address.
- Password manager (Available with Avast Free) – helps you sync your login details across browsers and even across devices (works with smartphones).
- Software updater (Available with Avast Free) – detects and can automatically install software updates for different programs in the system.
- File Shredder – helps you free space on your computer by finding potentially unneeded data (such as file duplicates) and allowing you to quickly delete them.
Lastly, we will take a quick look at the perks you get with Avast Ultimate.
- SecureLine VPN – a VPN service with servers located across 36 countries, peer-to-peer support, and apps for both desktop and mobile. The service is quite quick and there’s also a kill-switch that will force all VPN connections the moment you disable VPN in order to keep your IP hidden. However, some users have reported problems with streaming (which, according to Avast, should be available with SecureLine VPN) and there aren’t too many configuration options to choose from.
- Cleanup Tool – a PC maintenance tool that helps remove junk data and clean unneeded system records. It’s not something amazing and it’s definitely not the main selling point of the Ultimate product, considering that there are better cleanup tools out there that are available for free. CCleaner is an example of such a tool that can be downloaded and used for free and it is, ironically, another Avast product.
- Premium Password Manager – this feature builds upon the more basic (yet still potent) password manager that comes with both Avast Free and Avast Premium. Its main addition is the Password Guardian function that will monitor your details and let you know if any of them get exposed due to data breaches. It’s a nice addition but not really worth the extra money you’d pay for Avast Ultimate.
Premium vs Free
The free version of Avast has always been one of the biggest draws of this antivirus, especially considering the fact that the free package comes with quite a few perks that few (if any) other antivirus vendors offer with their free versions (the ones that even have a free version. However, Avast Premium obviously brings a lot more to the table with a number of powerful features that can significantly improve the security of one’s computer. The most notable of those features in our opinion are the Firewall and the Ransomware shield, both of which significantly add to the overall functionality and level of security provided by Avast. Of course, it needs to be that way considering the rather costly price of $69.99 for first-year subscriptions that customers would have to pay for Avast Premium. This is the price for a one-device license and, in our opinion, it is rather high. However, if you go for the 10-device license option, you’d only have to pay 20 more dollars to a total of $89.99 which is quite a bargain. Avast Ultimate costs the same ($89.99) but the license is for only one device and the new functions it adds don’t add that much more value to the suite so we don’t really recommend it if value for price is what you are after.
Obviously, the pricing of Avast is quite uneven, especially since there is a perfectly-functional free version available. So, which one is better Avast Free or Avast Premium – we honestly cannot say. In our opinion, regular users who seek to keep their machines protected would get sufficient protection with Avast Free Antivirus and if they want more functionality, they could turn to some of the other antivirus options available on the market (you can read our reviews on two other quality antivirus solutions here and here. On the other hand, if you are a business owner and need to ensure the safety of a bigger number of computers, then we most definitely recommend the 10-device license version of Avast Premium which provides a whole lot of value for its price.
Avast is definitely one of the better, if not one of the best antiviruses out there. However, uneven pricing and some minor nitpicks here and there still hold it back from truly getting to the top of our list. Still, the reliable protection and several additional features of the free product as well as the extensive functionality of its Avast Premium definitely make it an antivirus solution that we can recommend to our readers.