Avira Premium Security Suite 8.2
Avira Premium Security Suite ($54 for one user as of 12/23/08) excels where it counts. This package beat the competition in "Paying for Protection," our 2009 roundup of nine security suites, in detection tests, continuing Avira's long history of strong performance in such tests.
While detection ability is critical, it is not the sole component of a security suite. And Avira's somewhat clunky interface (which feels suited to a more technical user), combined with its lack of a parental-control feature, knocked it down in our rankings to fourth place.
Avira's suite shone in tests conducted by AV-Test.org, a German antivirus testing lab that partners with PC World to evaluate antivirus applications. Put up against 654,914 Trojan horses, password stealers, and other malware, it successfully identified an impressive 99.2 percent of the threats. In catching aggravating adware, it was an even stronger enforcer, tagging 99.6 percent.
The sweep continued in heuristic tests designed to simulate how an antivirus app might deal with new, unknown malware. In tests with two-week-old signature files, Avira's package identified 55.3 percent of the samples, a top showing.
Avira's suite successfully identified all the active and inactive rootkit samples. But in a surprising about-face, the suite cleaned up only four out of nine active rootkits, a last-place finish for that task. While the suite would likely prevent a rootkit from installing on your PC, if one already existed on your machine, these tests show that the suite probably wouldn't be able to scrub it away.
The scan speed was good, putting Avira's suite in second behind Panda Internet Security 2009 for on-access scan speed, which comes into play whenever you save or open a file. And it nabbed a third-place finish in on-demand scan speed, for scheduled and manually run scans.
Avira's suite needs no boost in detecting malware, but its interface could use some polish. Techies will quickly recognize terms such as ‘Local protection', but typical users might not know off the bat that it refers to your computer, as opposed to a remote server or network connection. And the program uses many small icons to indicate scans and other tasks, so you'll have to move your mouse over the icons constantly to get the description of what each does.
Also, the interface divides settings into a basic view and an expert mode, a clunky approach that most other suites avoid. The basic view hides a lot of settings; if you want to access any of the configuration settings for the antispam Mailguard, for example, you'll have to okay a prompt to enter expert mode. Say no, and you won't see any of that feature's options.
The antispam feature also stands out as the only one we tested that didn't add a toolbar to Outlook or any other e-mail applications for dealing with spam. Instead, you must open the suite to label messages as spam, approve others as not spam, or handle related functions.
Avira does offer a decent backup feature. You can choose one or more directories or drives to back up, select a destination for the backups, and pick from many scheduling options, including daily, weekly, or whenever you connect a particular USB storage device.
The suite also has good information in its help files, and pop-ups are generally clear and informative. But if you have a question that the built-in help can't answer, you're stuck sending an e-mail and waiting for a response; the German company doesn't offer U.S. phone support.
If you're a more technically inclined user willing to figure out a few things on your own, and you want the best malware detection available, Avira's suite might be a fine choice for you. But a number of other suites are easier to use. And if you fear that you already have a rootkit on your system, this is not the suite to buy.
Avira Premium Security Suite 8.2
A good choice for more-technical users who want the best detection but don't need phone support or parental controls.
- Top-notch virus detection
- No parental controls
- No phone support