ESET Smart Security 4 review

Price when reviewed

Eset isn’t pussyfooting around – the new edition of its suite steps up a whole version number, unlike AVG with its mere half point step. But in terms of what’s new it’s arguably less of an upgrade.

ESET Smart Security 4 review

The biggest new core feature is self-defence: Smart Security now deflects attempts by other processes to tamper with its core files or settings. That can only make it more robust, but it’s far from clear how widespread a threat that really is.

The package can also now inspect HTTPS and secure POP3 traffic, so in theory it should be able to detect if your PC has been turned into a conduit for malware, aimed either at your machine or someone else’s. Again, though, we’re uncertain how useful that really is: we’d hope a good security suite would catch the host software before it could open up a dodgy data stream.

Other upgrades are practical but unexciting. For example, Eset has also rolled its SysInspector tool into the package, which lets you compare system states at different times or across PCs, and there’s a new bootable media builder.

Smart Security 4 also keeps pace with other suites by adding familiar features such as activity graphs, intelligent postponement of intensive tasks when running on battery power and an alert that nags you if you haven’t installed a critical patch from Windows Update. Arguably that’s a valid concern for a security package, as much modern malware can proliferate only via unpatched PCs ??” but it smacks of barrel-scraping.

While it’s easy to be sniffy about the new features, however, it’s important to remember that these are additions to a package that’s already a mature one. When we looked at the last version in the Labs, we appreciated its clean and responsive interface, the easy configuration and the intelligent integration with our email software. That’s all here still, along with the impressive firewall: alone of this month’s offerings it sailed through a GFI LANGuard scan without exposing a single vulnerability or any open TCP ports.

We also liked Smart Security 3’s minimal impact on our system and version 4 keeps up the good work. Its boot time of 26 seconds was a smidgen behind Avira’s 24 seconds, but with only 11 seconds of post-boot CPU activity it was overall the quickest to initialise of the three packages reviewed this month. Even better, RAM usage quickly settled down to just 572MB, lower even than Avira’s 582MB.

Unfortunately, Smart Security 4 shares one less-prestigious characteristic with its earlier incarnation. Its performance in our simple malware detection test wasn’t shameful, but it failed to keep up with its rivals, indentifying only 90% of threats in this month’s test. It overlooked an Ardamax dropper and a generic Krap.G Trojan that were caught by all its competitors.

For that reason, we’re held back from recommending Eset’s offering as a general-purpose security suite. But if a light footprint or an impeccable firewall are more important to you than comprehensive malware detection, it’s a fine choice; and while the new features in version 4 are hardly thrilling, they certainly do no harm.


Software subcategoryInternet 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 supportWindows 2000

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