Avast has traditionally provided good protection against malware threats and a great-looking interface. However, it was often felt that users had to pay for that great interface over standout features
It has also struggled to balance paid products and its free antivirus software. The free version was so good that it is hard to justify paying the extra fee for a few additional features.
In reviewing Avast Premium Security, the first paid tier, the question is, is paying for the additional features Premium offers worth it?
Works with: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android
To use full-featured product, you have to purchase a license. 60 day free trial available.
Premium Security costs 40 USD for one license per year at the time of writing. Ten licenses cost 50 USD per year for the first year. Those ten licenses can be installed across various operating systems, and only ten USD more is costed aggressively to appeal to almost all of us who need to defend multiple devices, be they PCs, smartphones, or tablets.
Compared to Bitdefender's similar tiered product Antivirus Plus, one license only costs 30 USD, with this product being a perennial editor's choice. Meanwhile, compared to the rest of the Avast product range, the free version and Avast One, Premium Security has three more features than the free version and five less than the flagship product One.
The free version features malware protection, a firewall, and real-time/app monitoring. Premium Security adds webcam protection, malicious website protection, and ransomware protection. One, which can cost 100 USD, but numerous specials can be found, including a VPN, an update manager, data breach monitoring, a tracker blocker, and several optimization tools.
Installation and Appearance
Downloading and installing Avast products could not be simpler. However, next to some of the products, direct competitors' installation can take somewhat longer. Fortunately, while it may take longer, it requires minimal input from the end user.
As for the interface and user experience, this is an area in which Avast has excelled in the past, and things have only gotten better. Since ditching the dark gray, green, and purple color scheme for a much lighter one with orange highlights, much more focus has been given to ease of use.
Four main sections are listed in the main navigation bar on the left. Those are Home, Explore, Messages, and Account. The Home section, where most users will likely spend their time, informs the user of discovered security issues and allows the application to perform a smart scan.
Other scanning options are found in the Scan Center in the Explore section. When the software performs a scan, the threats discovered are listed, and the option to resolve the problem is given.
If you have Premium Security, this is no issue, but on the free version, the resolve option redirects to an upgrade prompt for a paid version. I can see this offending user wanting to try the product before signing on the dotted line.
Independent Lab Results
This publication follows the published results of three independent labs that test consumer-grade antivirus software packages rather closely. Those three labs are AV-Comparatives, AV-TEST, and SE Labs. All three have recently tested Avast's free offering, which includes the same malware protection module as the other two paid products.
Regarding AV-TEST's latest testing from September to October 2023, Avast scored top marks. The lab tests protection, performance, and usability. Each is scored out of six, with Avast achieving top marks in each test. This flawless score meant that Avast scored one of the Top Product awards issued by the Lab.
Av-Comparatives does three separate tests on consumer-grade products. Those are the Real World Protection Test, conducted from July to October 2023; the Performance Test, conducted in October 2023; and the Malware Protection Test, done in September 2023. Avast scored exceptionally well, achieving the top award issued by the lab, Advanced + certification, in all three tests.
SE Labs does things a little differently by testing two main parameters for a combined score at the end. The Lab first tests protection, which the lab terms the Protection Accuracy Rating.
This is given a score in percent, with Avast scoring 100%, then the lab tests detection accuracy, with the test being called the Legitimate Accuracy Rating; here again, Avast scored 100%. This gave Avast a Total Accuracy Rating of 100%.
These results were scored in the latest test done in the 3rd quarter of 2023, which meant Avast achieved these labs' highest award, the AA Certification for consumer-grade security products.
Based on the lab results listed above, it is clear that the basic malware protection features included in the free version are excellent. Rather than covering all the features, this section will focus on those included with Premium Security. Of the three additional features, two deserve special mention.
Malicious Website Protection
In tests conducted by third parties, Avast's web protection blocks phishing frauds below the browser level. Instead of diverting the browser to a warning page, it displays the now-familiar pop-up warning to say it cut the connection to a site infected with phishing. It was noted that Avast blocked 99% of the verified fraudulent URLs in the tests, beating all three browsers' own anti-phishing protection by 20 percentage points or more.
It has become essential to protect against the modern scourge of ransomware. Avast included a ransomware protection module in Premium, and One makes the product far easier to recommend to end users. This is in part due to ransomware's ability to cause immediate harm.
Avast's ransomware shield works by tightening access and denying any unauthorized programs that attempt to modify sensitive files. Some of the company's competitors use behavioral analysis methods to determine if the endpoint is compromised by ransomware and attempting to encrypt files.
In practice, Avast protects the Documents, Pictures, Desktop, Videos, and Music folders for all active Windows accounts, protecting these from third-party modifications.
As for files, Avast protects file extensions related to Archives, Audio, Database, Disc Images, Documents, Pictures, and Video. Ransomware threat actors often favor the exact file types and extensions. In all, it can be considered a great addition to the product.
Avast does offer a Firewall with the free version and is bundled subsequently with the more premium offerings. For those on Windows machines, the operating system already comes with a pretty decent firewall, where often, one offered by a third party is superfluous.
However, Avast's Firewall can be recommended as it does not bombard the end user with queries. Further, it prevents malicious changes to registry settings that can simply switch off the Firewall without the end user noticing anything.
While it still might be considered a basic Firewall, it is good and not excessive as some encountered in the past have been.
Avast Premium Security is a good product, from the perspective of independent lab results and hands-on experience. It is felt that Premium is the odd middle child in terms of value. Avast One seems to be the product Avast wants you to subscribe to while still providing a good free version. Premium is somewhat lost in the middle.
Appearance of Avast Premium Security: