Avast’s 2021 collection ranges from the solid but basic free tier, to mid-range but very capable Premium Security, to the top-of-the-range, rich bundle called Avast Ultimate.
Avast Free Antivirus
Avast Free Antivirus offers a great deal of features for a free option. First of all, you’re getting an excellent platform for nothing, and without any limitations forcing you to upgrade. This includes real-time protection against malware, efficient URL filtering, and even some extras like a rudimentary password manager, software updater, and network scanner.
Secondly, its setup process is highly configurable and user-friendly. It does, however, automatically install the company’s Chromium-based Secure Browser without user input, and it is immediately set as your default browser - there’s an option to turn it off during the setup, but it’s rather unnoticeable and if you do see it, finalizing the setup will automatically set it as a default browser anyway.
The great thing about Avast Free is that it’s mostly unnoticeable, protecting your device quietly in the background. There are several (very accurate) scanning options and quite a lot of configuration possibilities. The lengthy Full Scan performs a detailed check of your entire system and it took 32 minutes for it to scan 50GB of our test data. The Smart Scan performs a much faster operation (only around 10 seconds in tests) during which it searches for malware and scours your system for missing patches, vulnerable passwords and settings, as well as suspicious add-ons in your browsers.
To prevent unauthorized apps from making changes to files in specific folders, the program deploys an additional layer of protection against ransomware called Ransomware Shield.
The Targeted Scan allows you to select which files and folders you want to have examined, while the Boot-Time Scan analyses your system even before Windows is launched. There’s also an option to create custom scans. Additionally, you can define what the program will do with the found threats, whether its priority will be performance optimization, and so on.
Avast Premium Security
The free option sounds like enough for a modest user, but upgrading to Avast Premium Security will get you expanded functionality in the form of a user-friendly firewall, webcam shield (with medium efficiency), capable spam filter (which isn’t installed by default but that’s easy to fix), data shredder, a password manager, simple Wi-Fi scanner, and more.
You’re also getting a sandbox environment where you can launch dubious apps without harming your system, and the Real Site system preventing hackers from hijacking your DNS and redirecting your traffic to dangerous websites.
In addition, the Remote Access Shield feature provides protection against hackers - it lets you choose who can remotely access your computer and lets you block the rest. If there are any missing security patches for your installed apps, Avast Premium Security’s Software Updater will automatically find and install them.
Add to this Avast’s Online Security browser extension that blocks trackers and malicious URLs, as well as rating your search results in terms of safety, and you’re getting yourself a comprehensive and efficient defense system.
In terms of installation, Avast Premium is highly customizable, allowing you to (de)select any of the 21 security features you’re planning on using (or not), be it browser extensions, a firewall, the cleanup tool, etc.
If you can overlook the fact that Avast installs it pretty much without your consent, Secure Browser is quite useful in terms of security as it provides features like a custom stealth mode, history cleaning, forced HTTPS connections, a blocker of ads, trackers, and suspicious URLs, webcam access control, a password manager, an anti-fingerprinting system, blocking of Flash content, and more. It’s especially important for sensitive operations like banking as its Bank Mode allows you to run the browser on a separate Windows desktop, blocking any third party’s attempts to log your keystrokes. Secure Browser is also available with the free version of Avast’s platform.
The Avast Premium setup process will encumber your device with more than 1GB of files, but it will only add a single major background process and several drivers, and that’s it. This all means that having this program won’t slow down your device significantly, although sometimes boot and file copy times can entail some hiccups.
Once you install the program, you’ll face a clean, intuitive, and stylish console with clearly divided features and options into four main categories on the left-hand side - Status, Protection, Privacy, and Performance. Although most options lead deeper into more detailed settings, the learning curve isn’t steep at all and you’ll get around in no time.
If you require a single-device one-year license, you’ll have to pay $69.99 ($39.99 for the first term), but for only $20 (10$ for the first term price) per year more, you’ll be able to cover up to 10 devices at the same time. Avast Free Antivirus offers a 30-day free trial for Windows users, and a generous 60-day one for Mac users, which is plenty of time to test the platform and decide if it’s worth paying for.
Basically, Avast Ultimate is a bundle of Avast products created around Avast Premium Security. This means that it provides everything from that package and more - unlimited use of Avast’s SecureLine VPN, the Premium version of Avast Password Manager, and a useful PC optimization tool. As with the previous plan, you have the option of choosing between protecting one or up to 10 devices.
The main attraction here is the unlimited VPN which you would normally pay around $85 for a one-year subscription if you were buying it separately. This package will cost you $99.99 per year or $119.99 per year for 10 devices (the first term is $69.99 per year or $79.99 per year for ten devices), meaning that you’re getting very capable and feature-rich antivirus protection accompanied by a valuable VPN solution, for almost the price of a separate VPN product.
This VPN solution is rather basic but is enough to hide your online identity and it provides some useful perks. These include P2P support, connections on five devices at the same time, apps for both desktop and mobile, as well as a reasonably large network of servers in 57 locations around the world. Although it’s advertised as enabling you to stream geographically restricted content anywhere in the world, it still failed to unblock Netflix and BBC iPlayer in our tests (but these unblocking capabilities tend to vary in the world of VPN).
One of the handiest features provided by a VPN in general is a kill switch, and SecureLine performs well in this area. Its kill switch steps in to block your entire Internet access and protect your real IP address from becoming exposed in an event that the VPN fails for any reason.
Avast has a lot to be proud for in its 2021 collection - not only does it provide solid security capabilities in its two paid packages, but even its free version offers more than what many competitors are willing to give in their free tiers. Whichever solution you decide to go for, you won’t be disappointed, especially with the top-of-the-range Avast Ultimate that comes with an unlimited VPN program.