ESET Smart Security 6 review

Pros

  • Anti-theft features
  • Flexible parental control adjustments
  • Simple on/off controls

Cons

  • No back up or PC tune-up
  • Heavier than average resource usage

More and more people are using notebooks or tablets as their primary computing device, carrying them between home and office or working in a variety of locations. With this change in working patterns, having a mobile computer stolen is an increasingly prevalent problem and one ESET has set out to alleviate in version 6 of ESET Smart Security.

The Anti-Theft module in the new product does several things which, although not preventing theft in the first place, could help considerably in getting a stolen device back.

You install Smart Security 6 and register the machine with ESET. Then, if the device is stolen, it can be accessed remotely, so the device can declare its location whenever it’s within Wi-Fi range. This isn’t quite as thorough as having a GPS tracker fitted, but you don’t have to add any hardware to your machine.

If your device is fitted with a camera, you can also take photos of its new “owner,” which may help trace him or her. Finally, if need be, you can wipe the hard drive remotely, reducing the value of the device. This is a good feature set, but bear in mind that it can’t do much if the thieves themselves wipe the hard drive.

The main part of the suite provides most of the features you’d expect from an Internet Security (IS) suite. As well as antivirus, antispyware and antispam modules, there’s a two-way firewall, parental control, anti-phishing and a social media scanner.

There are a few things missing compared with rival IS offerings. There’s no online backup for important files, for example, no PC tune-up – a facility which is increasingly found in complete IS suites – and no secure browser, which cuts in when you’re banking online.

In fact, there’s little sign of web protection, certainly from within Chrome. There’s no ESET Chrome Extension installed and no visible sign of whether a browsed site is safe or not. There are settings for web access protection, though, so we assume the suite is doing things behind the scenes.

ESET offers a tool called SysInspector (pictured above) which takes a snapshot of your PC, showing the currently running apps and processes and indicating those that are suspect. You can then take steps to improve things, though a more automated tune-up process would be handier.

The program’s interface is simple and clean, perhaps a bit too minimal in some respects. You can find the settings and parameters you need after a bit of hunting, but a few more settings nearer the surface wouldn’t hurt – or possibly an advanced control panel, for those who like more info from the off.

A lot of the modules just have enable/disable switches, although parental control offers a simple setting based on the person’s age, and also individual control of categories of information, like fashion, weapons and gambling, which can be set or unset individually. The combination enables flexible individual regimes to be set up.

In our usability tests, ESET Smart Security 6 took just under 30 minutes to scan our 30GB test basket of mixed files. It looked at 113,619 of them, giving a scan rate of 63.2 files per second. This is a decent performance that puts it in the middle of the IS products we've reviewed, speed-wise.

Repeating the test to look at how well the software fingerprints files it's already examined, the ESET scanner took 14 minutes and 10 seconds to examine 11,956 files. This is a good reduction and means that after an initial scan, the application won't be wasting time re-evaluating files that haven't changed.

Looking at how system resources are affected by an AV scan, we saw an increase of 22 seconds in the copy time of 2GB of data, which represents a 23 per cent increase. This puts the application in the bottom third of those we've reviewed over the years.

The test site AV-Test rates ESET Smart Security 6 at 13.0/18.0, which is a fair score, though not one of the leaders of the pack. This is under Windows XP, as the Windows 7 version hasn’t been evaluated yet.

When you look at the breakdown of results, ESET does very well in the Protection category, scoring 5.5/6.0. This included a full 100 per cent in spotting malware only identified in the last four weeks, and it did nearly as well in seeing true zero-day attacks, with an average of 98 per cent.

The Usability score was also good, at 4.5/6.0, with the software scoring an above average three false positives and no false alerts over website visits. It did, however, give two false blocks while installing legitimate software and a fairly hefty nine warnings, when the group average was just one.

Its worst score was in the Performance category, where it only got 3.0/6.0. This part of the test measures the resource hit while doing typical things like visiting websites, downloading software and running programs.

The test machine took 9 seconds longer to complete a selection of these tasks, when the group average was 6 seconds. This result is a little worse than our own, but plausible under different test conditions.

Verdict

ESET Smart Security 6 is a well-designed IS suite, particularly geared to mobile PC users. Its anti-theft offering is, as far as we know, currently unique in this product area and could be very valuable in recovering a stolen machine.

In other respects, there's nothing to particularly recommend this suite over some of its rivals. It's good at spotting malware and reasonably good at avoiding false positives, but it does put a comparatively high load on system resources.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Product

ESET Smart Security 6

Antivirus protection

Yes

Antimalware protection

Yes

Antispam protection

Yes

Browser protection

Yes (no separate secure browser)

2-way firewall

Yes

Parental control

Yes

Multi-platform support

Other products for Linux, Mac, Android, Symbian and Windows Phone

Online storage

None

PC tune-up

Snapshot via SysInspector

Extra features

Theft protection, identity protection, gamer/battery-saving mode

Number of PCs covered

3 (1-4 PC options)