ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93 - Free download and software reviews - CNET Download.com

ESET Smart Security 5

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CNET Editors' review

The bottom line: Back from the nearly dead, or at least the un-updated, ESET returns with high-level security that's light on your system. But for a top-tier suite, it's also light on features. Good thing it's priced lower, too.

Review:

The last time ESET updated its two security suites--the antivirus and anti-malware-only NOD32 and the more feature-heavy alternative Smart Security--it was a different computer security world. It was March 2009: Anonymous barely existed, Stuxnet hadn't gone public, and ransomware was the stuff of science fiction.

Version 5 of ESET Smart Security is a solid, creative attempt to create a suite that adapts to a rapidly changing threatscape, with an emphasis on generic detections and the now-commonplace reliance on both cloud and locally stored detections. It left us wanting in one area that many don't consider "core" security, and so its lower price and good benchmarks might win over people unhappy with other suites.

ESET Smart Security 5

Installation
ESET's installation could be faster, although it's by no means sluggish. It's slowed down by a preponderance of screens, including registration, and an unnecessary query as to whether or not the user wants Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) protection activated or not. While a legitimate query, there's no reason for it to slow down the install by yet another screen to click through.

PUPs are definitely a security issue, though, so perhaps the program ought to just scan for them on the first scan automatically, and then ask you if it's a scan you always want.

One decent thing about the registration process is that it's all done from within the suite--no need to jump to your browser. Also, there's no reboot required after the installation. Still, the one-minute-or-less installs from Norton and Trend Micro should be a goal that all security suites aspire to.

Interface
The layout of ESET 5 remains unchanged from version 4, except for minor details, although neither is quite as easy to use as it ought to be. The interface opens to a window indicating your security status. The default is colored green and labeled Maximum Protection, which changes to red and a warning when core security features, such as Network Protection, have been disabled. The center pane doesn't indicate this very clearly, but the plain text Maximum Protection labels that tell you which parts of your computer and activity are protected are actually links. Click one to drill deeper into your settings, toggle features, and gain more granular control over your security.

The left nav lets you access other features, including Computer Scan, Update, Setup, Tools, and Help. To the interface's credit, each tab's layout is kept similar, and there are helpful mouse-over tooltips that help clarify things like the differences between default scans, but key features, like the Advanced Settings window, are hard to find.

Along with a lack of clarity about how to get around ESET's interface is the confusion created by redundancy. There's nothing gained by making things harder to find, and even savvy users will probably have to take more time than necessary to get up to speed.

Features and support
ESET Smart Security 5's core features put the suite at or near the top of its class. Its collection of features, while not revolutionary, are nevertheless extremely well implemented. What it lacks are many of the modern ancillary features that justify the higher price.

On the side of the basics, there are two default scans: a "Smart Scan" and a custom scan. ESET has improved its antivirus and antispyware engines so that they don't detect only threats, but prevent your host files from corruption before the bad guys go after you. There's removable media control, so you can block USB keys or external drives from connecting to your computer, and the new gamer mode automatically initiates silent running whenever a program is running at full screen. This is perfect for movies and presentations, as well as games. You can also activate it from the system tray.

ThreatSense, ESET's cloud-based detection, isn't new--yep, it had it three years ago--but it's been expanded in version 5 to include reputation analysis. All of that comes in the basic NOD32. Upping to Smart Security gets you antispam, parental controls, and a "smart" firewall that learns how your computer uses the Internet very quickly. For example, many firewalls don't know what to do with Firefox's development build "Aurora" initially, and will ask you to verify that it's legit. ESET's recognized it immediately and let it through without an annoying pop-up.

Speaking of browsers, ESET's browser guards are browser-agnostic, and don't require an extension. You won't get search results ratings, but ESET successfully blocked us from attempting to reach known dangerous Web sites clicked on in search results.

The firewall's advanced settings remain Smart Security's strength. You can extensively customize the firewall's behavior, but you don't have to. There are five default settings: automatic, automatic with user-defined exceptions, interactive, policy-based, and learning. You can set safe zones, configure remote desktop access, and manage intrusion detection, all from an uncluttered and easy-to-use menu. ESET chose usability over flashiness with its design, and you can jump between advanced options for any of Smart Security's tools from the same pane. Unfortunately, the advanced firewall settings are buried--it's easiest to get to them through the Network option on the Home screen.

The antispam filter is similarly effective and configurable. The program can automatically mark outgoing addresses as safe, as well as detect global address books. Smart Security is surprisingly light, consuming around 15MB of RAM when running a scan.

ESET skips over many of the ancillary features that the high-end suites tend to include, such as password management, free online storage and file syncing, or mobile protection. However, Smart Security retails for $59.99, about $10 cheaper than most "Internet Security" suites.

It's not too much of a stretch to say that ESET owns the Support space. In addition to the hot-line support, forums and knowledge base, no other security suite offers an education module like ESET does. Called "Cybersecurity Training," the module features an interactive city that you can explore to learn about how to protect yourself, your personal data, and your computer when online. It's an in-depth approach that we wish other vendors would take, because at the end of the day, it's going to be your own wits that keep you safest.

It's accessible from the installation CD if you buy the physical boxed copy of the program, and we're not sure just yet about how to launch it from the downloadable version.

Performance
ESET's overall performance presents a reliable security option. It's not the most effective security suite we've seen this year, and the benchmarks leave room for growth, but overall it's a solid, secure choice, with low false positives and a light touch on your computer's performance.

Real-world test results for ESET were confusing. On our real-world test computer, an x86 Windows 7 laptop that we use for all hands-on testing of security suites, ESET scans were invariably slow and ponderous. On average, the first scan took nearly two hours, and subsequent scans were only faster by about 20 to 30 minutes. These marks did not match up to CNET Labs' results, which found ESET's scan times on a freshly imaged computer to be among the fastest results we've seen so far this year. Because of the large number of programs that get installed and uninstalled on the real-world laptop, which could adversely affect the computer's Registry, we're inclined to favor the labs results in this case.

CNET Labs' benchmarks found both ESET Smart Security 5 and ESET NOD32 5 to have performed generally well above average. Note that we can't directly compare this year's results with last year's because we upgraded our testing computer from Windows 7 x64 to Windows 7 x64 with Service Pack 1.

Smart Security slowed down the Labs' computer boot time by an average of 17.2 seconds--five seconds faster than the average of all suites tested to date this year--whereas NOD32 5 added an impressively low 13.9 seconds. For both programs, ESET's boot time impact was minimal.

Both suites had a small impact on the computer's shutdown time, slowing it down only by about six to seven seconds longer than an unprotected computer. However, it should be noted that the shutdown time for an unprotected computer was half that, so even though ESET's impact was minimal when compared with other suites, it's still having a big affect on the computer itself.

On all of CNET's in-use system performance tests except for the Cinebench test, ESET's impact was extremely minimal. The Cinebench results were close to the average level of impact. So, all things being equal, you're not going to notice much when ESET is running as you go about your computing business. This was borne out by our real-world tests, too.

Security Program Boot time Shutdown time Scan time MS Office performance iTunes decoding Media multitasking Cinebench
Unprotected system 40 6 n/a 395 120 342 17,711
Average of all tested systems (to date) 63.0 15.8 1,136 416 125 348 17,112
ESET NOD32 5 53.9 12 727 411 124 342 16,946
ESET Smart Security 5 57.2 14 658 401 124 343 17,148

*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better.

In independent threat detection and removal tests, the new version of ESET holds its own but doesn't achieve top marks in all areas. In the AV-Test.org test on Windows 7 from the first quarter of 2011, the previous version of ESET, Smart Security 4.2, squeaked by with a passing score of 12.5 out of 18 overall. The suite had a 4.0 rating out of 6 in Protection, a 3.0 in Repair, and a 3.5 in Usability.

The second quarter 2011 test, on a Windows XP computer, definitely showed improvement in some areas and regression in others. It scored 13.5 out of 18 overall, a solid midrange score. The suite improved in Protection with 4.0, a small uptick in Repair performance with 3.5, and a big improvement in Usability to 5.5 out of 6. The Usability score looks at, among other metrics, how many False Positives a suite detects. So even though version 4.2 was based on a nearly three-year-old engine, the suite was still able to improve quarter-over-quarter.

Third-quarter results aren't in yet, but version 5 beta results shared by AV-Test.org with CNET indicate that the suite has made serious improvements over version 4.2. It notched a 98.5 percent malware detection rate, equal to the overall average rate during May 2011 certification testing. Still, that wasn't as high as some competitors, such as Bitdefender. The suite was able to remove 95.7 percent of active malware infections, significantly higher than the industry average of 85.7 percent. In AV-Test.org's zero-day attacks test, ESET blocked 87.8 percent of the attacks, compared with the average of 80.5 percent. Still this wasn't as good as Bitdefender, which blocked all of the attacks. ESET also did not find any false positives.

The most recent AV-Comparatives.org Whole Product test, which looks at on-demand scanning, retroactive tests, and "real-world" guards--including cloud-based protections--puts ESET Smart Security 4.2 toward the front of the class, out of 17 suites tested. Looking at Whole Product test results cumulatively from January 2011 to June 2011 found that ESET came in seventh, blocking 98.2 percent of threats.

Dennis Technology Labs, a member of the Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organisation (AMTSO), found in January 2011 that ESET Smart Security 4 earned an overall protection score of 134 (PDF), the third-best score Dennis Labs awarded.

Conclusion
ESET returns to a tougher security world, not just from the competition but from the threats that it's meant to protect you against. Though the benchmarking is generally solid, improvements are needed in all other areas of the suite before we would be comfortable awarding it higher marks.

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All User Reviews
  • All versions:

    4.4 stars

    out of 257 votes

    • 5 star: 179
    • 4 star: 34
    • 3 star: 18
    • 2 star: 17
    • 1 star: 9
  • Current version:

    4.6 stars

    out of 18 votes

    • 5 star: 14
    • 4 star: 2
    • 3 star: 1
    • 2 star: 0
    • 1 star: 1
  • My rating:

    0 stars

    Write review

Results 1-10 of 18

  • 5.0 stars

    "Absolutely necessary"

    December 20, 2011  |   By mwilders

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    This is the best security software available. I love every feature. I use it on all my computers.

    - Super fast and reliable
    - Great interface
    - Amazing LAN connection monitor
    - A must for advanced users

    Cons

    I cannot think of one

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Fantastic product!"

    December 18, 2011  |   By unifex_

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    It does what it's supposed to do without any useless bloatware. The interactive setting allows me to control which program on my computer is trying to access the internet.

    Cons

    None that I know of.

    Summary

    Somehow most of the reviews nowadays (including the CNET review) are focusing on what I call "marketing features" rather than the real features. In particular, I don't see how a shutdown time can be important, especially when it's measured in seconds. I could see that 10 minutes is too long, but 5 or 15 seconds is certainly the same thing. Same about the boot time. How often does one boot the PC up anyway?

    As far as the internet protection, the actual antivirus is not very important these days. Most people use routers with hardware firewalls which would prevent most of the threats. Turning off mostly useless "remote" features of Windows takes care of the rest. Using webmail instead of a local mail client eliminates most email-based threats since most email services come with their own virus scanners. What remains is protection in a public hot spot, which is not an issue for a desktop, only for a laptop. There ESET is more than adequate.

    Finally, what I find very useful, ESET allows me to control which program is allowed to access the internet. Nowadays every app I install wants to "register". I don't know why the developers think that if I want to try out their product for 10 minutes I'd actually give them my real name and email address. Moreover, I don't see why does every little utility need to access the internet and why would I trust the developers I never heard of with my information, even if they claim to collect only "non-identifiable" stuff. Why give them anything at all? Will their app not function if the PC is not connected to the internet? If so, why would I want the app? So with ESET I set the rules and I allow who connects the net, not the developers.

    As to the features that CNET finds lacking, I can't see any need for them. Why bloat? I find the ESET product solid and functional and not too taxing on my system. That's all I need.

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  • 1.0 stars

    "not #1 anymore"

    December 11, 2011  |   By byer1moor

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    does the main things it's supposed to.

    Cons

    it now works for developers instead of it's customers who are paying for it.ie; it blocks keygens & cracks even though they are not a threat.

    Summary

    avast is the best out there now

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  • 4.0 stars

    "cloud viral detection...feels secure"

    November 11, 2011  |   By freakdeep

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    -memory efficient
    - high rated detection

    Cons

    none...highly recommended

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Works Great"

    October 26, 2011  |   By petert2005

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    Has a lot of features (some advanced stuff that other suites don't have).
    Is very good on system resources (The best I've tried so far and believe me I've tried a lot).
    Even warns you about windows updates and allows you to install them(I presume you can turn it off to If you don't want them).
    Allows you to password protect your settings.
    Spam Protection works great

    Cons

    Some smaller features that others offer aren't include such as a virtual keyboard, site reviews, link protection on sites and social networks e.g. Facebook. Some of the latest competitors also offer sandbox protection in browsers, file vaults etc. It doesn't offer general computer cleaning like some do - start up programs, removing unneeded junk etc.

    Probably main problem for most users is that there's a lot of options - the actual User Interface (UI - Design) may be confusing and hard to grasp for some users when compared to other suites. It can seem messy at times.

    It could also do with the ability to create a quick launch area of most used features.

    Summary

    I've tried many security suites and was using for a few years BitDefender. However it became quite buggy, started effecting my internet connection drastically and seemed to generally slow down the computer.

    ESET Smart Security's interface is a bit basic and a little bit cluttered and confusing at times (some basic users may have issues). But the simplicity allows it to use less RAM/CPU meaning you can get on with what you want without having to worry.

    It's Antivirus and spyware detection rates seem good and the Firewall is really good, offering multiple modes of choice.

    As mentioned above it does have a few small features missing, but to me a lot of NOD's competitors seem to just throw in as many features as possible which in turn leads to the suite slowing everything down. This has many both basic and advanced tools and technologies that will protect you well without putting a drain on resources.

    The only thing I wish it had was something to show the most used tools. It has a game mode which I use a lot, but unlike other suites, you have to go into the program to activate it, you can't simply right click and click a list. Although I don't mind as the suite is still better than all of the others I have tried.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Simply Amazing And Best"

    October 13, 2011  |   By Computer_Expert

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    BEST BEST BEST BEST

    Cons

    NOTHING SO FAR

    Summary

    I RECOMMEND IT TO MY FRIENDS AND TO YOU GUYS

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Doesn't drag down the performance and keeps you safe"

    October 12, 2011  |   By hammers1986

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    Clear and clutter free interface, beneficial for home users because you can install as a default if you don't want to tinker and there is an option for advanced users to tinker.

    I am using this because it is so light on my resources, my internet is fast and my computer is highly responsive. I am quite amazed that ESET managed to keep the 64bit installer to 60MB in this day and age, keeping it streamline and bloatfree.

    Also ESET is renowed for detection and protection. I knew for a while that ESET is highly regarded along with Kaspersky

    Cons

    The installation wasn't smooth as I would have liked. It was stuck on 'Removing backup files' during the installation so I had to re-do the installation again but after that no problem.

    Pleased to see they removed ESET from the Windows Add/Remove because that was causing problems for people not knowing that we have to uninstall via the Start menu not the Add/Remove.

    It's a bit pricey, I would like to see it come down a bit but do blame partly on the government for that because of the VAT (adding over £6!) on top of it.

    Summary

    I actually was using KIS 2012 and it's a great program but I found my internet was lagging a bit and my computer sometime clunky despite having Virgin Superhub 50meg speed, M4A89GTD PRO/USB3, Phenom II X4 965 BE and 8GB DDR3 RAM so no I don't have a slow computer and slow broadband speed.

    After switching to ESET, my computer and internet is much better. So if you're looking for a program which gives you solid protection without impacting the performances then ESET is a good choice.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "The best totally"

    October 1, 2011  |   By malwaregeek

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    Good protection and has no effect on your computer at all.
    blocks sites and has a great detection rate.
    easy to use and parental controls actually work great!

    Cons

    This program is missing a couple of features such as a link scanner and self defense although HIPPS is a great start.

    Summary

    This program I recommend to everyone. Its easy to use and automatically decides! Got the best detection rate I have ever seen!
    This program can change the way people look at the internet for they will be constantly defeating all malware it finds and could wipe out all malware FOREVER!!!

    Updated on Oct 16, 2011

    Sorry about that but lets get on with it. I love eset got best detection and no false positives. Though the default for HIPS and firewall is bad since the HIPS on default lets through everything and firewall does to. Therefore you must switch HIPS to learning mode and firewall to learning mode to. That way eset will block everything.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Im using it for 2 years now"

    September 21, 2011  |   By carlos-sheppard

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    Im using it for 2 years now

    Cons

    Im using it for 2 years now

    Summary

    Im using it for 2 years now

    Reply to this review

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Still the best."

    September 20, 2011  |   By hybrid47

    Version: ESET Smart Security 5 5.0.93

    Pros

    Boot times are WAY better than 4.2 Now you only have to wait for all the other detritus to load before normal usage.

    Cons

    Intially wouldn't let me re-register my existing account after the upgrade (and no they weren't typos!). Now works beautifully after a couple of reboots.

    Summary

    Running XP SP3 32 bit. Runs unobtrusively in the background as an AV should

    Reply to this review

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Results 1-10 of 18

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