Avast has one of the most popular antivirus apps around, due in part to offering a free version, and it's one that performs respectably. The company acquired its rival AVG in September of 2016, and now both use Avast's malware scanning engine, but their distinct personalities remain. Here are the highlights of Avast's latest release.
Easy to use: Avast has four main protection components: File Shield, Behavior Shield, Web Shield, and Mail Shield. If, for example, you use webmail and/or you find that Avast's Web Shield interferes with your web browsing, you can disable both relevant protection layers, while keeping the others active. Now, ordinarily, an antivirus app will keep warning you to turn these features back on. But if you really don't need them enabled, you can tell Avast that you want to ignore those warnings, and it won't bother you about those settings again.
Solid protection: According to independent labs, such as AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, Avast Free isn't quite as sharp as industry leaders like Trend Micro or Bitdefender, but it's arguably the best protection you'll find that comes without a price tag.
Aggressively low pricing: If you do decide to order Avast Pro, you can do so from within the app, and Avast offers a one-year subscription for a reasonable $15, which is about half of its street price. If you change your mind, Avast offers a 60-day trial of Avast Internet Security, which was priced at $20 a year. Pro purports to add enhancements to online banking security and "a test space for checking suspicious apps." This latter function appears to be a sandbox, in which you can open an app and investigate its behavior without risking an infection.
Relatively muted sales pitch: Free antivirus apps have a reputation for being pretty pushy about paying for a subscription, but Avast is on the low-key end of the spectrum (and it has been for a number of years). There are a couple upgrade buttons on the main console, and a number of features (a firewall, URL safety verifier, and "Webcam Shield," among others) that redirect you to an order screen when you click on them, but nothing felt particularly tricky, and the sales pitch doesn't make ironclad claims about what the program can do.
Data collection transparency: Avast tells you right off the bat that it wants to gather anonymized usage data, some of which may be used to help fund development, but you can disable this function in the Privacy settings. Though it would be nice if it explained what "certain" information it wanted to gather.
Some settings could use more explanation: Avast's settings menus have a number of icons marked with an exclamation point that you can click on for further details. But the description for CyberCapture doesn't sound substantially different from what a virus scanner already does: It "analyzes unrecognized files, defends and warns you about new threats, and helps keep your system secure." And Hardened Mode is there "to further lock down the security of this computer." But in what way?
Subscription offers can get confusing: The $15 Avast Pro offer is available via the upgrade buttons on the main console, but it's not an option when you click on one of the features that has a padlock on it. There, you get two different offers: $20 a year for Avast Internet Security or $30 a year for Avast Premiere. But if you, say, click on the padlocked "Sensitive Data Shield" icon, you only see the Avast Internet Security offer, and it has a different list of advertised features.
While there are some quirks in the interface, Avast is a respectable and respectful antivirus app overall, and the paid version is notably budget-friendly.