Bitdefender Total Security review: Good protection, extras could be a little better
Bitdefender Total Security offers pretty good value, but we'd like to seem some improvements.
By Ian Paul
Arkadiusz Wargua / Getty Images
At a Glance
Effective anti-tracking browser extension
VPN limited to 200MB per day, per device
Bitdefender Total Security offers top protection with a number of extra features including a safe payment environment, VPN, and a secure file deletion utility. The latest release includes improved real-time data protection and vulnerability assessment, and there’s a Digital Identity Protection service available for an extra fee.
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Bitdefender Total Security is as good as it ever was. Since we last looked, the company has improved its real-time data protection scanning and vulnerability assessment, and it builds on previous advances such as the easier readability of its vulnerability scan results.
The vulnerability scan is Bitdefender’s take on what is an increasingly common approach to security scanning: It checks whether you’re behind on operating system updates, the strength of your Windows account passwords, the security of the browser and other applications, network issues, and more. Bitdefender’s version assesses these concerns distinctly from the malware scanning, which is a bit odd. Perhaps one day this scan will merge with the quick scan option as we’ve seen other suites do to further simplify scanning choices.
Note: This review is part of our best antivirus roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
The latest version of Bitdefender for Windows looks very similar to previous years. As usual it all starts with the left rail and menu options for Dashboard, Protection, Privacy, and Utilities.
Below that are just two additional options: Notifications and Settings.
The design within each section is simple and easy to read, with small tiles for each option making it more visible—previously, sections such as Protection were just a series of sliders. You can still find all the sliders, they are just one level deeper where there’s space to clearly explain each feature and what it does.
The default items on the Dashboard now include three types of scans (quick, system, and vulnerability), as well as portals to the VPN and Safepay, and a free tile to use as you see fit. Actually, all tiles can be changed if you’d prefer other options.
Dipping into Protection, you have the Ransomware Remediation option that protects against ransomware attacks at the system level. This feature is not on by default, but you can activate it with one click.
Bitdefender comes with a customizable firewall that lets you control any app’s outgoing access to the network, and there’s an alert mode if you want to know and approve when each app asks to connect to the internet.
In addition to basic protection, Bitdefender Total Security includes 200MB per day, per device as part of the package. There’s also Safepay—a sandboxed browser for secure online payments and transactions, and an anti-tracker extension for web browsing in Firefox or Google Chrome. (Anyone using the new Edge browser can install Bitdefender’s extension directly from the Chrome Web Store. Currently, Bitdefender doesn’t enable installation for Edge from the desktop app as it does with the other browsers.)
The Utilities section is fairly straightforward. There’s a one-click optimizer for removing unnecessary files from your devices, profiles for how the antivirus behaves based on what you’re doing (game mode, movie mode, etc.), an anti-theft feature that can locate, lock, or wipe your PC, and a file shredder called Data Protection.
Bitdefender also has a cloud component called Bitdefender Central, which houses its new Digital Identity Protection feature. This service monitors your personal data, and alerts you when your info hits the so-called “Dark Web.” It costs an extra $60 per year, which is pricey considering other suites include similar services for free.
Parental controls are also found in Bitdefender Central, offering the ability to limit screen time, and view applications activity, device locations, recently added phone contacts, and web browsing activity.
Bitdefender Total Security is priced at $40 per year as the introductory price, which covers up to five devices. The standard asking price is $90. That’s a bit cheaper than other standard suites, but those suites typically include the password manager, digital identity protection, and more VPN bandwidth as part of the package.
For this latest round of tests we changed things up a bit from our previous tests. For benchmarks we ran UL’s Procyon Office benchmark in addition to PCMark 10. As usual we also ran the video encoding test using Handbrake and a large video file, and we also tested how long it took for Excel to open an e-sports grade file. For PCMark 10 there was no significant impact overall between a fresh install of Windows 10 and one running Bitdefender after a full system scan. Nevertheless, there were noticeable dips in the App startup score, as well as the video conferencing score. That suggests mid-range PCs and budget PCs may see an impact in those areas.
Procyon was a different situation, with a noticeable dip from a score of 1,643 before Bitdender to a score of 1,408 after. The biggest dips were in Outlook, Word, and Excel in that order, with PowerPoint being the least affected. For the Handbrake test there was no noticeable dip in performance, and for the Excel spreadsheet it took about 12 seconds longer to open after Bitdefender was installed and running.
While there were some areas of concern, overall Bitdefender didn’t have a huge impact on performance, though mid-range and budget PCs may see a small impact with Microsoft Office.
In AV-Comparatives’ Malware protection test from March 2022, with more than 10,000 test cases, Bitdefender stopped 99.99 percent of threats. That’s an outstanding score; however, out of 17 suites all but five scored 99.98 or higher, with the other five scoring between 98.61 and 99.97.
Bitdefender Total Security is what it’s always been. A very good antivirus suite with some very useful features to meet most users’ needs. We’d prefer to see digital identity protection and more VPN bandwidth folded into the Total Security package similar to competing packages. Overall, Bitdefender offers solid protection and good value for the money.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.