Norton Anti-Virus used to be synonymous with security software and, although there are now well over 20 rivals to the granddaddy of Internet Security (IS), it is still the best known name. These days, a simple antivirus program is base-level cover and the 2014 version of Symantec's Norton 360 includes a plethora of additional protection technologies.
The feature sets of most IS suites have stabilised over the years, so you can expect to see antivirus, anti-malware and anti-spam provision, a good two-way firewall, and probably a parental control module. The battle between rival products is now largely fought on the extras provided and, increasingly, the number of platforms covered within the same packages.
Norton 360 sits above Norton IS in Symantec's range and includes all five of the modules just mentioned in a three PC licence. It also offers a number of extra features aimed at web browsers, though in this version you don't get complete multi-platform cover, such as Norton for Mac. If that's important, you need to buy Norton 360 Multi-Device, which costs £70 and covers five devices.
Symantec does provide Norton Mobile Security for Android users though, which includes anti-malware, anti-theft, backup and call/SMS blocking. That’s pretty good for a free App.
Symantec likes to revamp the interface for its software each year, and this year's incarnation offers four yellow blocks on a white background, not an ideal colour scheme, but it’s workable. They're labelled Security, Identity, Backup and Tune-up, and are all pretty self-explanatory. Click on any of the blocks and it moves up to reveal a five item menu.
This is the quick and easy way to operate the software; if you want more detail, switch to Task view, which breaks down many of the available protections into individual tasks.
A lot of the protection Norton 360 2014 puts in place is automatic, such as updates – including Norton’s Pulse every 5-10 minutes. Similarly, Safe Web installs into Explorer, Firefox or Chrome to provide browsing protection.
Safe Web checks out any sites you're about to visit, using the accumulated knowledge of its user base. It provides warnings for any that are known to be dodgy and this can be extended to Facebook through a free download – this checks all the links that have been passed to you recently.
Before Norton Anti-Virus arrived on the scene, there was Norton Utilities, which was written by Peter Norton and delved into the secrets of early PCs. Tune-up is quite a way from that propeller-head approach to PC maintenance, and it doesn't offer much that you won’t see in rival IS suites.
There's disk optimisation, file and registry clean-up, a diagnostic report and a start-up manager. The latter enables you to switch off applications that have set themselves to start when your PC does, placing a load on the system that you may want to avoid.
There’s also a Performance view, where the control panel flips over in a nifty bit of animation. This shows events such as downloads which have taken place in the last three months, and the usage of disk and memory on a variety of timescales. These views are useful if you’re trying to isolate a change in your system’s performance and correlate it to some specific software event.
Symantec provides 2GB of online storage for backup (though it can be used for other things). Given the greater allowance provided by several free solutions, such as Dropbox and Google, this looks stingy, particularly as it has to be shared between all three devices in the licence.
Using our normal scan tests on 30GB of assorted files, we saw very similar results to those from the 2013 product. The scan completed in 13 minutes and 16 seconds, giving a scan rate of 132 files per second. Last year's Norton 360 managed 127 files per second, a very similar speed.
There's also a resource hit of 29 per cent, judging by the difference of 27 seconds in a 2GB file copy, with and without a system scan running in the background.
Looking at the more comprehensive tests run by AV-Test, the 2013 product (under Windows 7) scored 14.0/18.0, a good result, but not up with the leaders in the group. In fact, the drop off was due to one particular aspect of testing, which may not be that vital to you.
Breaking the results down into the component parts of the test, it scored 5.0/6.0 for Protection, which looks at its efficacy dealing with threats manifesting within the last four weeks, as well as zero-day attacks.
It did extremely well in the Usability category, too, scoring a full 6.0/6.0. It generated only one false positive throughout the whole of the test period and that was for an item in a scan. There were none thrown up during browsing or software installation.
In the Performance category, which looks at the resource hit of running the IS software, it didn’t do so well. With a 7 second average slowdown when visiting websites, downloading and running software, it scored 3.0/6.0, and this was the major factor holding its overall score back.
Norton is still one of the best choices of IS software on the market and with the discounts available widely on the Internet, it represents very good value for money. We'd prefer to see it being a little less Internet dependent for functions like help, but in other ways, like its Pulse updates, that same aspect provides extra protection that can be very valuable.
However, some other providers have built in multi-platform support at a lower cost and offer a larger online storage allowance than Symantec's 2GB. These days, how much can you back up in 2GB?
Manufacturer and product
Symantec Norton 360 2014
Yes, including Facebook scans
PC and Android
Cleans files and registry, optimises disk, diagnostic report. Trims startup apps
Backup, Identity protection, password protection
Number of devices covered