10 Contenders For The 'Ultimate Protector' Crown (Part 2) : Bitdefender Total Security 2013, Trend Micro Maximum Security, Mcafee Internet Security 2013

6/5/2013 9:09:51 AM

Bitdefender Total Security 2013

Price: $80 (3 PCs, 1 Year)


Quiet as a mouse, lethal as a lion far and away our favorite feature of BitDefender is its Autopilot mode, which ought to be called "Shut Up and Leave Me Alone" mode. When engaged, BitDefender’s autopilot steps in as if to say, "I’ve got this, you just go about your business," and as you do whatever it is you do on your PC, any and all security-related decisions that need to be made are handled silently in the background.

This feature alone is a godsend if you’re the designated IT guy for friends and family members no more late-night calls about security pop-ups or, even worse, messed up machines because your mother-in-law granted permission to a dirty download even though a security warning advised against it. D'oh!

Bitdefender Total Security 2013

Bitdefender Total Security 2013

It also requires a fair amount of trust, which BitDefender earned as we did our best to break down its defenses. There wasn't much that BitDefender didn't recognize right off the bat as malicious, and the few dirty downloads it didn't immediately identify were thwarted by its cloud-based definitions. Malware stands little chance, though it comes at a small cost.

There's the price of the security suite itself, but you'll also pay in performance. Our 6GB file transfer test took 11 seconds longer to perform with BitDefender installed, which translates into roughly a 10 percent performance hit. Both PCMark scores suffered slightly, though oddly enough, there was no increase in boot time. Scanning was also a mixed bag, with an initial sweep taking over half an hour, but reducing to less than four minutes during subsequent runs.

The performance hiccups aren't enough to sour us on BitDefender. It offers a tough veil of protection that's unobtrusive, and value-added features like a virtual keyboard for shopping sites, online storage, and a vulnerability scan that detects out-of-date software add to the overall package.

Trend Micro Maximum Security

Security for social-networking butterflies

Price: $90 (3 PCs, 1 Year)


Trend Micro Maximum Security

You can customize Trend Micro’s user interface by uploading a photo of your own or selecting from a handful of preloaded images.

It's been three long years since we last reviewed Trend Micro, having exiled the program from our annual AV roundups for its particularly poor showing back then. We don't hold grudges, however, and apparently neither do the Maximum PC readers who voted Trend Micro into this year’s AV cage match. Have things changed since then?

They most certainly have. Whereas the old Trend Micro cowered in the corner when we unleashed a flurry of malware, the latest version threw itself in harm’s way and made sure nothing outwardly awful infiltrated our test bed. Malware was able to sneak in by hiding in zip files, but they were quickly beheaded as soon as they stuck out their necks. As an extra precaution, we recommend enabling real-time scanning of compressed files, an option that’s not checked by default.

Independent testing labs generally gave Trend Micro high scores, so between their tests and ours we’re much more confident in TM’s ability to hold the fort when danger comes knocking. It’s also a good choice if you spend a lot of time on social networks. Trend Micro expanded the number of social networks it scans for dangerous links to now include Google+, Linkedln, Pinterest, and Sina Weibo, in addition to Facebook, Twitter, and Mixi. There’s also a "Privacy Scanner” for Facebook that analyzes your settings and makes recommendations.

Not all is roses and rainbows, however. Trend Micro's active scanner had the biggest negative impact on our file-transfer test, which took nearly 50 percent longer versus a clean install. We're also disappointed Trend Micro doesn't offer more fine-grain control over its settings. Part of the reason is because there's no built-in firewall, just a "firewall booster" feature that aides the Windows firewall. Overall, Trend Micro is leaps and bounds better than three years ago, but there's still room for improvement.

Mcafee Internet Security 2013

No longer the performance hog it once was

Price: $80 (3 PCs, 1 Year)


Mcafee Internet Security 2013

McAfee’s redesigned interface will especially appeal to users with touchscreen displays.

For better or worse, reputations are hard to shed, and some folks still view McAfee as a gas-guzzling dump truck parked out on the front lawn, oftentimes uninvited. OEMs like to bundle McAfee with other trial ware on new systems, a two-way relationship that also benefits McAfee, albeit at the expense of street cred. And then there’s the recent drama surrounding company co-founder John McAfee, who faked a heart attack to evade Belizean authorities (it's a long, bizarre story that's worth a Google search).

None of that really matters as far as we’re concerned, because the reality of how a product performs far outweighs the perception of the masses. So, how did McAfee perform? Like a roller coaster with several ups and a few downs.

This year's build is redesigned with a touch-friendly tiled interface that’s obviously geared toward Windows 8 users, though it functions just fine with a mouse and keyboard and on Windows. All the main functions sit front and center, and it doesn’t take much effort to dig beneath the surface to where the advanced controls are located.

When surfing shady websites, McAfee did a good job blocking most malicious downloads, though it did let a few dirty files reach the desktop. Most that touched ground were quickly put under lock and key, but a few slipped through, including a file identified as a keygen by Malwarebytes.

System performance was another mixed bag. McAfee didn’t affect our test bed’s boot time, nor did it bog down our PCMark 7 benchmark run. PCMark Vantage, on the other hand, scored 1,700 points lower. Subjectively, the system didn’t feel sluggish with McAfee installed, which hasn’t always been the case.

We can’t say whether power users are ready to forgive McAfee for past sins, but as it stands, it’s an above-average scanner filled with features.

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