AVG Internet Security 8.5 review

£39
Price when reviewed

AVG Internet Security 8.5 is a free upgrade for existing users of the popular Czech suite, and as the name implies it’s not a complete new version. What it does bring, though, is a new behavioural analysis module, courtesy of the company’s acquisition of Sana in January.

The new module is called Identity Protection – a misleading name, since it aims to detect all types of malware, with no particular focus on ID theft. It works by looking not at signatures but at factors such as whether a process is signed, whether it spawns other processes and whether it acts as a network server. Naturally, if a process looks suspicious it’s intercepted automatically, but for the curious or distrusting the software will happily show you the calculations that have led it to trust or distrust a process – a reassuring feature most behavioural modules omit.

Apart from this new arrival, the main AVG 8.5 application is unchanged from its forebear, AVG Internet Security 8. The main interface remains clean and simple enough, once you get through the slightly confusing firewall configuration. And, of course you still get the web-based protection that impressed us in our last security suite Labs, plus email integration, anti-spam and most of the standard modules, though there’s nothing fancy like parental controls or backup.

On the flipside, the browser plug-ins are still cheapened by an irritating Yahoo search box, which can’t be closed without hiding the AVG toolbar. And the Identity Protection module isn’t neatly integrated: it doesn’t work on all system architectures, it insists on placing a second icon in your system tray, and it isn’t accessible from the main AVG interface at all, instead employing its own separate console.

The new module also leaves the suite feeling distinctly bulky. This month we’ve upgraded our test machine to a Core i7-920 with 3GB of DDR3 RAM, but with AVG Internet Security 8.5 installed it still took 31 seconds to boot to the desktop, plus a further 21 seconds of CPU churning over the next two minutes, settling down to a total RAM footprint of 718MB. For comparison, our A-List favourite Avira Premium Security Suite booted in just 24 seconds, with 14 seconds of post-desktop activity and RAM consumption of 582MB.

And, in straightforward malware detection, AVG 8.5 again trails slightly behind Avira, identifying 94% of our in-the-wild malware samples while Avira manages to spot 96%. To AVG’s credit, though, it did identify one sample – a Bravix Trojan dropper – which Avira overlooked.

But while AVG doesn’t quite take the gold in every test, we’ve noted in the past that its web filters are second to none. And its new behavioural module should give it an edge against brand-new, never-before-seen threats, though that’s all but impossible to test realistically. As a security package it’s definitely on the up.

All the same, this half-way release feels like a Frankenstein suite, with Sana’s technology clumsily bolted onto the AVG back-end. It gives credible results, but we hope the next version is a little nimbler and more elegant.

Details

Software subcategory Internet security

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? no
Other operating system support Windows 2000

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