Norton Security 2016: Effective but not extensive
Some people will tell you that Norton is a resource hog; in reality, that hasn’t been true for many years. Indeed, this month Norton Security – the “Internet” has been dropped, implying a broader remit – proved one of the nimblest suites on test. With the software installed, AV-Test found that applications launched a negligible 6% more slowly – a tiny fraction behind Bitdefender’s first-place 4%. An 18% impact on website loading placed it very near the top of the table, too.
The interface is very clean, to the extent of looking a little bare. Norton’s features divide into Security, Identity and Performance. Click on the first of these and a new set of buttons appears allowing you to launch a scan, update the databases and check your history. There’s also a set of toggles, allowing you to configure various real-time protection features: these are all switched on by default, however, and we see no reason why you’d ever want to turn them off. If you want to properly customise Norton Security’s behaviour, you can click to jump into the main Settings interface. Here you’ll find fine-grained controls for determining what gets scanned, and what happens when a suspicious item is found.
The Identity pane opens Norton’s privacy protection features. The headline here is the Norton Identity Safe password manager. It’s a perfectly good tool, and you can use it across all your computers and mobile devices by installing the standalone app on each system. Since the app is free, however, its inclusion here doesn’t add much value to Norton Security. You’ll also find settings for Norton Safe Web, a browser extension that blocks malicious pages and adds rating icons to web search results, so you can steer clear of dodgy sites.
Norton’s security features are complemented by a handful of Performance tools: we’re sorry to say, we found these entirely useless. The disk defragmenter is superfluous, since there’s a perfectly good defragger built into Windows. The File Cleanup module sounds like it might help you free up some valuable disk space, but all it does is clear out temporary files left over from updating the OS and applications; the Disk Cleanup tool that’s built into Windows actually does a better job.
The final performance feature is the Startup Manager. This shows you all the various processes that run automatically when Windows starts up, and lets you disable or delay them, to improve boot time and reduce the number of background programs eating up your resources. For each process, you can see a trust rating assigned by Norton, but there’s no information about what it actually does, so deciding what to disable is a shot in the dark. You might as well use the startup controls built into the Windows Task Manager.
The last link in Norton Security’s front-end is labelled “More Norton”. Click it and you’ll be invited to try out various online services, including the free Norton Family. This is Symantec’s parental control offering, allowing you to restrict PC usage by time and block specific bits of information from being shared online. Two distinctive features are the ability to review your child’s search terms, and for kids to interactively request exceptions if they want to access a blocked site that they think should be available. As usual, though, smartphone usage monitoring and location tracking are premium features; you’ll need the Family Premier app, which costs a steep £30 per year.
There’s a link to Symantec’s online management portal too, which lets you manage subscriptions and licences across your various devices. You can’t actually control or configure your applications from here, though: if you’re looking for the option to remotely check settings or review scan histories then you’ll be disappointed.
Norton Security 2016: Verdict
Next to Kaspersky Internet Security and its battery of practical security tools, Norton Security looks and feels somewhat lightweight. But while the suite may be short on bells and whistles, we can’t complain about its effectiveness. AV-Test found that Norton achieved a flawless 100% protection rate against both zero-day threats and established malware – a performance marred only slightly by a handful of false positives.
In light of which, the price isn’t bad. It doesn’t exactly feel like great value when several of the features are of limited use, and others are available for free. But if you’re looking for a highly configurable package to sit in the background and keep you safe, Norton Security is a strong contender indeed.