The last time we saw a wholly new version of ESET's NOD32 and Smart Security, ransomware didn't exist, Anonymous had just started its campaign against the Church of Scientology, and the first Stuxnet attack hadn't even been launched. The latest versions from ESET bring its suites up to speed with the competition, but except for an innovative education tool, ESET doesn't surpass what's already out there. The basic antivirus suite NOD32 version 5 (download) and the more feature-rich Smart Security version 5 (download) are available exclusively today from CNET Download.com.
ESET is known for not including many of the ancillary features in its high-end Smart Security that the competition would include in their analogous editions, and version 5 is no different. You won't find password management, free online storage and file syncing, or mobile protection here.
The suites do offer robust removable media management, so you can whitelist specific drives and block all others. The cloud-powered chunk of ESET's protection engine, which has been around much longer than many of its competitors' ones, leverages generic signatures heavily to recognize malicious behavior quicker. It also will block attempts to manipulate core system host files.
There's a new gamer mode that differs from most on the market by activating silently whenever you enter into full-screen viewing. So, whether you're watching Netflix at full screen or running a presentation for clients, ESET will run quietly until you return to normal viewing. That's not to say that ESET is a noisy program. In my tests, the Smart Security firewall asked me to choose whether to block or allow a program precisely zero times.
The best new feature in either ESET suite is the Cybersecurity Training module. ESET developed it to assist various public agencies across the United States, and it uses simple animations to teach how to be safer online via scenario training. Education and your own best judgment is by far the most important computer security tool around.
That's not to say that the suites won't protect you, because they will. ESET scores well on independent efficacy tests, with virtually nonexistent false positives and high marks for both detection and removal. CNET Labs found that ESET's impact on your computer's performance was generally much lighter than average.
This is where the cost of the suites comes in. NOD32 is at the high end of the antivirus suite range, at $39.99 for a one-year, one-computer license, but you get quite a lot for it. Smart Security goes for $20 more, but lacking the value-added extras that its competitors offer makes it a harder sell.