Ahoy there mateys. As much as we’d love to do this entire review in pirate speak, you’ll have to settle for the nautical name as we look at Avast and its antivirus offerings. Avast means stop, and that's exactly what Avast aims to do - put a stop to any computer virus or malware that attempts to infect your computer. But how does it compare to the best antivirus software (opens in new tab) on the market?
Avast made its name with its free product, namely Avast Free Antivirus, but it also offers premium products that seek to compete with the best internet security software (opens in new tab) out there like Norton 360 (opens in new tab) and Bitdefender Internet Security (opens in new tab).
Its a solid tactic, using the free antivirus software to spread the Avast name far and wide, building up the reputation of the company to help it sell the high end security software. It's clearly working too, with Statista (opens in new tab) reporting that Avast has 7.95% of the worldwide anti-malware market and Avast itself claiming to have over 435 million downloads of its products.
But ignoring its popularity, how good is Avast? Can its free antivirus software really match up to the paid versions you can find elsewhere? And what about the premium security suites? Are they up to the task? Read on to find out, me hearteys (last pirate pun, we swear).
Avast review: Avast Free Antivirus
Unlike most of the other antivirus software in our buying guide, Avast offers a free version of it’s basic software, imaginatively called Avast Free Antivirus.There are no tricks here, no hidden fees or time limits before you have to start paying. It’s just free. But surely it can’t be as good as premium antivirus software, can it?
Well yes, actually it can. The free version of Avast offers you the complete package when it comes to antivirus software, you just miss out on a lot of the extra bells and whistles that you get with most premium internet security suites. That means that Avast Free Antivirus blocks viruses, malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, and other common online threats. It also scans your WiFi network to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your network that would allow hackers and malign programs access to your devices.
Avast Free Antivirus even throws in a password manager, which lets you securely lock all your passwords in a vault, which can be used to login to any of your saved websites using a single click. This means you can have complex, difficult passwords without having to remember them all. Considering the entry price of zero dollars, this is a fantastic offering.
Avast review: Avast Premium Security
If you’re looking to shell out some cash for a little more protection, then Avast Premium Security is the next step up the ladder. You can get cover for a single device for $59.88 for the first year, or ten devices for $83.88 for the first year. These prices rise up to $69.99 and $89.99 respectively after that. Avast Premium Security covers Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices and you can mix and match on a per device basis if you choose the multi-device coverage option.
But what do you get for your investment? Well, there’s a Real Site feature that helps to identify fake websites and blocks attempts to redirect you towards them through DNS hijacks. There’s also a Sandbox feature that lets you run suspicious apps in a safe, enclosed environment before letting them run on your PC, so you can figure out if they’re legitimate before giving them access to your files and hardware.
The main feature that comes with Avast Premium Security is the advanced firewall, which blocks hackers from getting access to your data via the internet by monitoring your incoming and outgoing connections. On top of that there is also an extra level of ransomware security, above what the standard package offers. This blocks untrusted apps and connections from accessing, altering or encrypting your data to stop hackers taking it hostage. You’re also safe from peeping toms thanks to the Webcam Shield, which blocks unauthorized access to your device’s camera so you can be sure that no one is watching you while you watch cat videos on the internet.
Rounding out the feature set, there is a file shredder which disintegrates files on your computer so that they can’t be recovered, which is perfect for files containing sensitive data like bank details or home addresses.
Avast review: Avast Ultimate
Avast Ultimate isn’t so much a product, but rather a bundle containing several Avast products at a cheaper cost than buying them all individually. You get access to Avast Premium Security and all the benefits that we mentioned above, along with Avast SecureLine VPN and Avast Cleanup Premium. Avast Ultimate (single device) costs $89.88 for the first year and $99.99 per year afterwards. To cover 10 devices, Avast Ultimate costs $113.88 for the first year and $119.99 every year after that.
Avast SecureLine VPN gives you unlimited access to Avast’s VPN server network, encrypting your connection and letting you anonymize your online activities so that you can’t be spied on by advertisers, your employers or anyone else. It also lets you access georestricted content, so you can watch access and watch Netflix when you’re abroad.
Avast Cleanup is a program that helps to speed and tune up your computer by removing forgotten programs and bloatware (programs that sneak onto your computer alongside more useful products). It also lets you put programs into sleep mode to stop them draining your PC’s performance.
Avast review: How good is Avast?
So the feature set for Avast lines up with the competition, but how well does it actually perform as an antivirus and internet security program? To answer this we turn to the experts over at AV Test and AV Comparatives, two of the world’s leading authorities on antivirus software testing to see just what they thought of Avast.
AV Test (opens in new tab)’s latest round of protection tests found that Avast Free Antivirus blocked all of the 402 zero-day malware samples that were set against it (zero-day means that the malware was tested on Avast within 24 hours of it being discovered by AV Test). Avast also blocked 100% of the 20,606 other widespread and prevalent malware attacks that were set upon it. So that’s a perfect performance, from a free antivirus software, for those keeping score at home.
The downside to Avast comes in the performance department though. On a standard, mid-range PC the industry average slow-down when launching popular websites is 18%, but Avast almost doubles that at 34%. It’s the same story with software applications too, with Avast causing a 26% slowdown versus the expected 16%. So it might be as capable as the rest, but it’s not nearly as lightweight as the competition.
Avast had similarly impressive results during AV Comparatives (opens in new tab) real world protection tests during February and March 2020, where it blocked 99.7% of all malware attacks while only recording 5 false positives. That performance is in line with the best antivirus software out there and even beats some of the big names like McAfee.
Avast review: Price
As we’ve already mentioned, Avast Free Antivirus is completely free. No time limits, no obligations and no hidden costs. If you’re looking to upgrade then we’ve outlined the costs for Avast Premium Security and Avast Ultimate below:
- Avast Premium Security (1 device): $59.88 for the first year, $69.99 thereafter.
- Avast Premium Security (10 devices): $83.88 for the first year, $89.99 thereafter.
- Avast Ultimate (1 device): $89.88 for the first year, $99.99 thereafter.
- Avast Ultimate (10 devices): $113.88 for the first year, $119.99 thereafter.
Should you choose Avast?
If you’re looking for a capable antivirus program and your budget is the sum total of zero dollars, then Avast is a fantastic offering. It offers exceptional antivirus protection that rivals many of the premium, expensive brands out there but it doesn’t cost you a dime.
If you’re considering upgrading to the Premium Security package though, we feel that Avast’s offering is a little light on features and quite expensive compared to the competition. We’d recommend you look at the offerings from Bidefender and Norton 360. That’s not to say Avast’s premium services are bad, just that there are better deals out there.