In the internet security world, Bitdefender is the product to beat. The company keeps winning comparative tests of IS software, not just for the efficacy of its anti-malware provision, but for the low level of resource hit and the range of modules included in its suites.
With Total Security 2015, Bitdefender has reworked its interface again – it seems to be an unwritten law that any IS product must look completely different from last year's model.
This interface is an improvement: gone are the large icons sliding through the control window, replaced by three big tiles for Protection, Privacy and Tools and smaller ones for Scan, Update, Safepay and Optimise.
The brand new stuff is Profiles, a Startup Optimiser, and One-Click PC Tune-Up. All three are designed to simplify the kinds of day-to-day housekeeping you need to perform.
There are four profiles for your security settings: Standard, which keeps all of Bitdefender running; Work, which boosts performance for recognised work apps; Movie, which reduces interruptions from other applications; and Game, which releases all resources to video and game processing.
The Startup Optimiser selectively removes programs which install themselves to run when you boot your PC. It displays an estimate of your current startup time, which we found pretty accurate, and breaks it down into Windows and application start times. In our case the applications only took 12 seconds of the total 165 seconds.
One-Click PC Tune-Up looks at disk, registry and privacy settings and can now be run, as the name suggests, with a single click. It's fairly intelligent, though you might want to get it to leave things like browser caches and history alone by deselecting them. This tune-up saved a useful 8.5GB on our test PC.
Other modules cover all the bases we've come to expect, including a 2-way firewall, parental controls and online banking protection. A digital wallet is available to handle online payments and a vulnerability scanner points out any obvious system problems.
The digital wallet works with your browser to handle automatic logins to websites and applications, auto-filling of forms with name, address and credit card details and stores licence and Wi-Fi access keys. It's a handy way of shortcutting that password book.(opens in new tab)
Anti-theft provision includes the abilities to lock down, wipe and locate your PC, should it be stolen – most useful for laptop and tablet owners. When we used the locate facility on our test desktop PC, it put us somewhere in South Yorkshire, a long way from our test site in South Devon. We imagine this was because the software couldn't get its digital fingers on any kind of GPS or phone network hardware in our distinctly un-mobile machine.
Online backup takes the form of syncing selected folders with their cloud counterparts. It's set up from the My Bitdefender site, rather than locally, and offers a bit less ease of control than the more usual 'what, where, when' approach of backup software.
There's another shortcoming to the online backup – there's only 2GB of supplied storage, shared among the three devices on the licence, which is better than nothing, but not by much. We'd expect a minimum of 5GB to be useful. Bitdefender will sell you more, of course, and you should possibly factor in the extra cost to set that up.
The whole suite is taken care of by AutoPilot, a system which intelligently selects options for most of the choices available in the software. You can just install Bitdefender Total Security 2015 and leave AutoPilot to get on with it, and virtually all parts of the software will behave sensibly.(opens in new tab)
Testing the software's scanning speed, it looked at our 30GB file basket in 17 minutes 12 seconds, examining 50,979 files in the process, which gives it a scan rate of 49.4 files per second, not particularly quick. On repeating the test, it looked at 10,694 files in 3 minutes 55 seconds, showing a good degree of file fingerprinting.(opens in new tab)
System resource use appears low. We copied 2GB of files with and without a system scan running in the background and only noticed a five per cent difference. This puts it joint fifth in terms of resource hit among the IS suites we've tested.
AV-Test (opens in new tab) has given Bitdefender top marks in its lab tests for the last three years, no mean achievement, and the latest round scores it at 17.5/18.0, a near-perfect score.
In the three subsets of tests – Protection, Performance and Usability – only Performance, which measures the hit on the PC's performance when undertaking a wide variety of everyday tasks, dropped half a point.
Even so, that represents a delay of just one second over the entire test, with the group average a more hefty four seconds.
Protection looks at both zero-day and more established threats and the software scored a perfect 100 per cent in both categories.
Under Usability, AV-Test couldn't catch the software out, as it gave no false positives, either warnings or blockages, of any software, during a test which included visiting websites and installing and using legitimate software.
Despite the meagre 2GB of online storage and a dodgy result from the anti-theft location tool, this is one of the best IS suites you can buy. It gets a very high ranking at AV-Test (top product for the last three years), has a simple, easy to navigate interface and covers pretty much all the areas of protection you could want. The new customisation profiles are useful if you use your PCs for entertainment as well as work, too.
Manufacturer and product
Bitdefender Total Security 2015
Yes, including online banking wallet
PC only, though Mac, iOS and Android apps available
Disk, registry, privacy and start-up optimisations
Security profiles, identity protection, password protection, file encryption, device anti-theft
Number of devices covered