PCWorld (USA)

Avast One: Well-priced PC security with excellent protection

Avast is back with a new design and new pricing. Is it better than what we’ve seen before?

- BY IAN PAUL

There are two things Avast’s paid security suites have been known for besides solid protection: good design and high prices. That’s changing a little bit, and for the better, with Avast One, the company’s new top-tier product. Avast still offers Premier as a step down, but Avast One is a suite well worth considerin­g if you’re interested in solid antivirus plus some extra features and multi-device coverage. It has a new design, three pricing tiers, and a lot more features included without extra cost, and the pricing is much better than last we looked. For this review we’re looking at Avast One Individual.

Avast One includes an entirely new desktop app. Gone are the blue and purple tones, as well as the orange splotch logo. In place of all that, you get a more subdued aesthetic, with a lot of whites and lightly

shaded colors, accented by a bolder and easy-to-spot blue for the interface buttons.

The left rail has four simple menu items: Home, Explore, Messages, and Account. This makes Avast One look deceivingl­y simple, but there are a ton of features once you start digging in.

The first time you fire up Avast One, it asks to run a smart scan, a not uncommon feature in a number of antivirus suites. Smart Scans combine a security scan with scans for other problems such as browser trackers and an excess of temporary files. The basic idea is to clean up your PC and keep it running smoothly, as opposed to just scanning for malware.

This is a good idea since many top suites come with PC cleaning and maintenanc­e utilities, but often require you to activate them. A smart scan gets you to use at least some of these capabiliti­es, which is important considerin­g some of them used to cost extra and now are just included in the suite. The one issue with Avast’s approach is that it does the scan in three stages: browser threats, viruses and malware, and PC cleaning. That’s fine, but it requires user interventi­on to initiate each phase instead of just plowing through the entire scan and delivering a report at the end. The constant requiremen­t to say yes to continuing at the end of each phase gets a little annoying. It’s not a deal breaker, but this could be handled better.

While the smart scan is the primary scan Avast asks you to do, scroll down Avast One’s Home page and you get shortcuts to run a deep scan, to run a targeted scan on a specific folder or set of folders, to initiate a VPN scan, or to use the PC optimizati­on tools.

Moving on to Explore, you get into the meat of Avast One’s features. Explore is really more of a launchpad for all the deeper controls of the security suite. For example, under Explore you have Scan Center, which has its own screen and includes the controls for all the types of scans you want. This includes the types of scans we’ve already talked about, as well as a boot-time scan. You can also save scans in the Custom Scans section if there’s a type of scan you want to run repeatedly. This is also the section where you can schedule scans, such as

running a deep scan once a month, and perform a quick scan every day.

Other key security features inside Explore include file shield for monitoring changes to files for malicious behavior, ransomware protection, web shield for staying safe online, a firewall allowing you to block internet access on a per-app basis, webcam protection, and a number of other features.

The firewall is particular­ly nice since it offers customizab­le security in a very simple interface. It’s not the most advanced firewall you can find, but it’s a firewall that even nontechies can use if they feel the need. For paid users, the firewall hides key identifier­s of your PC from other devices on the same network such as the PC’S name and the type of device. If another device starts doing a port scan on your PC, the firewall will notify you, and it’s built to deter man-in-the-middle attacks.

Avast’s built-in VPN allows unlimited bandwidth as part of the paid packages, with a wide range of country locations to choose from. Free users also aren’t left out, with a solid 5GB per week. This is quite a switch from the prior suites, which asked for more money to use the VPN. The paid version supports peer-topeer transfers, as well as streaming servers for viewing geo-restricted content. Avast can also automatica­lly turn on the VPN when you do things like go to banking or shopping websites. Those are nice additions, though be aware that you really shouldn’t be going onto a banking website over Wi-fi on a network you don’t trust.

The paid version also has what is commonly called dark web monitoring but what Avast calls Password Protection. This feature alerts you if any of your passwords for online services ever get revealed in a data breach.

The other two parts of Avast One are for managing your account and receiving notificati­ons from the company. That’s it. The interface is far more simplified than it once was, and it already wasn’t very complicate­d. This is an excellent design and is easily navigable by anyone from a grizzled PC veteran to a novice user.

PERFORMANC­E

Testing house Av-test ( fave.co/30uqgxd) gave Avast Free, which uses the same detection engines as Avast One, a 100 percent score for protection against 0-day malware and widespread and prevalent malware. The testing occurred in July and August 2021.

Av-comparativ­es’ September 2021 Malware Protection Test ( fave. co/3wumgca) found that Avast blocked 99.97 percent of threats from more than 10,000 samples. That’s good, though Avira, Bitdefende­r, G Data, Mcafee, Norton, Totalav, Total Defense, and Vipre scored slightly better—we’re only talking hundredths of a percent here.

Av-comparativ­es’ real-world protection test for July and August ( fave.co/30gbrgp) found that Avast blocked 99.7 percent of threats from 380 samples. Only Norton, Panda, and Trend Micro had a better score, while AVG, Bitdefende­r, K7, Kaspersky, Mcafee, Microsoft, Total Defense, and Vipre scored the same.

For our in-house hardware performanc­e tests, we found that Avast had no real performanc­e impact on our large file transfer test, archiving test, and Handbrake encoding test. The only noticeable change is that unzip times were actually a little bit faster at just under 7 minutes with Avast installed compared with around 8 minutes without it installed.

For the PC Mark Extended test, the PC performed slightly better, with an average score of 1630.67 after three consecutiv­e runs compared with an average of 1643 without Avast installed. The main performanc­e impact was found in the productivi­ty tests that deal with spreadshee­ts and text documents. That’s perhaps not surprising given that Avast One is monitoring files for malicious changes.

The difference isn’t too huge overall, however, and unless you’re opening a ton of large datasets in Excel you shouldn’t see much of

a performanc­e impact. Gaming performanc­e was unaffected by Avast One.

PRICING

Avast One Individual ( fave. co/3wstgjg) costs $48 for the first year for new customers, with a regular price of $100 per year. For that price you get one Avast account that covers five devices. That’s quite a switch from Avast’s old Premier pricing, which would cover a single PC for $70.

Avast One Family provides six accounts and coverage for up to 30 devices and is priced at $72 for the first year for new customers, and a regular price of $140 per year.

If a paid suite isn’t your bag, then there’s also Avast One Essential, which includes a lot of features for free, including that 5GB of VPN usage every week. But you miss out on items like the sensitive data shield, webcam protection, and optimizati­on features such as the disk cleaner and driver updater.

Avast One is available for Windows, macos, Android, and IOS.

BOTTOM LINE

Avast One is a very good security suite. The price is right, and its protection is excellent. The performanc­e impacts are negligible for most users, and it’s also a good value within the Avast lineup, which is not something I would have said about Avast Premier a few years ago. If you’re looking for a new security suite, or you want to upgrade your current Avast lifestyle, I’d highly recommend looking at Avast One.

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 ?? ?? Avast One’s Explore section.
Avast One’s Explore section.
 ?? ?? Avast One’s messaging alerts you to actions that should be carried out.
Avast One’s messaging alerts you to actions that should be carried out.
 ?? ?? Old habits die hard. Despite all the changes, Avast still offers to install Google Chrome during setup.
Old habits die hard. Despite all the changes, Avast still offers to install Google Chrome during setup.

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