Children off the streets and in the classroom? Shorter days? New security suites? Yes, it's that time of year again, when most makers of computer security suites implore you to update to the latest version. We've looked at nine new premium suites so far. Some have made only incremental changes, and others were so eager to ditch their dirty bathwater that they almost lost the baby, too.
Note that as other suites get released, we'll be updating this story. And for those of you who like the wayback machine, here's last year's roundup.
So far this year, we've looked at nine premium suites: Panda Global Protection 2012, ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2012, Bitdefender Total Security 2012, Kaspersky Internet Security 2012, Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012, Lavasoft Ad-Aware 9.5 Pro Internet Security, AVG Internet Security 2012, ESET Smart Security 5, and Norton Internet Security 2012. There are still a few more suites to come.
In terms of security, so far the new Bitdefender is the newest suite that will keep you safest. It outperformed last year's leader, Norton Internet Security, blocking more malware and viruses, and detecting fewer false positives, than any suite this year. Determining which suite will keep you safest is an imperfect science, especially because CNET uses multiple third-party sources to ensure that our results aren't skewed by a single test. However, Bitdefender consistently scored at the top or among the top four suites tested, and so we're confident in recommending it above all others if security is your only determination.
In terms of system performance, as you can see on the chart below, Norton Internet Security remains the suite with the lightest impact on your performance. (Read more on how CNET Labs tests security programs.) However, this year it under-performed on two key metrics: boot time impact, which is the time you have to wait to use your computer after turning it on; and scan time, the amount of time it takes to run a scan. Bitdefender's impact on start up and shut down times leaves much to be desired, but its effect on your computer as you use it turned out to be minimal.
It's also $10 more than Norton Internet Security, so we strongly advise you check out the free 30-day trial and be sure you're comfortable with the price you'd be paying for the protection and ancillary features you'd be getting.
Overall, we're comfortable at this point with recommending Bitdefender as the best high-end security suite so far this year. That may change as the last few suites get released.
How the Fall 2011 security suites affected system performance*
|Security program||Boot time||Shutdown time||Scan time||MS Office performance||iTunes decoding||Media multitasking||Cinebench|
|Average of all tested systems (to date)||63.0||15.8||1,136||416||125||348||17,112|
|Panda Global Protection 2012||46.8||22.3||1,191||432||126||373||16,912|
|ZoneAlarm Extreme Security 2012||66.5||17.4||1,825||423||125||348||17,310|
|Bitdefender Total Security 2012||61.6||31||920||402||127||346||17,363|
|Kaspersky Internet Security 2012||61.3||18||1,320||429||125||345||17,122|
|Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012||88||11.3||502||437||125||345||17,290|
|Lavasoft Ad-Aware 9.5 Pro Internet Security||54.4||16.9||2,080||405||125||347||16,884|
|AVG Internet Security 2012||69.9||11.3||792||416||124||344||17,259|
|ESET Smart Security 5||57.2||14||658||401||124||343||17,148|
|Norton Internet Security 2012||51.8||10.3||1,066||410||123||343||17,386|
*All tests measured in seconds, except for Cinebench. On the Cinebench test, the higher number is better. Times in bold are the best in that category. Tested on Windows 7 64-bit Service Pack 1.