Norton 2012 betas tweak already well-regarded suite

Symantec's Norton 2012 betas make minor improvements to last year's highly-reviewed Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus, but they're still worth checking out.

New Norton betas include the ability to rate a download's stability based on the file behavior on the computers of other Norton users and full Google Chrome support, setting the tone for the premium security suite updates due later this year.

Released today by Symantec, Norton Internet Security 2012 beta (download) and Norton AntiVirus 2012 beta (download) also include a new start-up manager that debuted earlier this year in Norton 360, changes to Symantec's SONAR technology, and a new autofix feature for curing installation woes quickly.

Norton Internet Security 2012 beta makes minor changes to a strong product.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

The changes are not ground-breaking, but do appear to be able to keep Norton on top of its game. The Chrome support is a long-request feature for the world's third-most popular browser, and extends Norton Safe Web toolbar features such as search result evaluation, link scanning, and Norton's ID Safe to Chrome users.

The two engine changes in the Norton 2012 betas aren't exposed in any new interface modules, yet they are important. Insight 3.0, and its component Download Insight 2.0 feature, have been improved. As mentioned above, Download Insight now looks at downloaded files for security and stability. It won't stop you from downloading a file that's known to cause instability, but it will warn you and provide an option to stop the download.

This is a fairly well-designed feature, and can tell the difference between operating systems. This means that if a file is known to be stable on Windows 7 but unstable on Windows XP, only Windows XP users will see the warning.

Norton Internet Security 2012 beta offers more nuanced download ratings, and will warn you when a download is known to cause system instability.

(Credit: Screenshot by Seth Rosenblatt/CNET)

Meanwhile, improvements in SONAR 4.0 include upgraded behavioral protection, which monitors running programs for suspicious behavior and will stop them if it detects any. One of the bigger changes in SONAR is that it now scores DLL file separately, allowing for more nuanced detection.

There have been some interface tweaks in the betas, adding bright green to a formerly yellow-and-black interface. While not a major redesign, the green does serve to better highlight key features, such as your security status. Norton's online storage vault also catches up to the competition this year, integrating a cloud sync feature, and the Norton Power Eraser for last-ditch fixes has been integrated with the Norton bootable recovery tool, so you won't have to download them separately.

While CNET Labs won't benchmark the Norton 2012 betas until the final versions are released, Symantec itself says that it is seeing substantial, double-digit benchmarking improvements over 2011's strong times.

Let us know your thoughts on Norton's 2012 betas in the comments below.

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