ESET is best known for NOD32 Antivirus, with Internet Security being the next step up; its extra features include theft recovery, a hardened version of Google Chrome, parental controls, and protection against unauthorized webcam use. Let's show you how it compares to big hitters like Norton and McAfee.
High-quality protection: While past versions of ESET may not have had the lightest impact on system performance, the latest numbers from the independent lab AV-Test indicate that ESET's anti-malware engine interferes minimally with the speed of things like moving files around, installing and uninstalling apps, and zipping or unzipping archives. ESET actually performed better overall than the other 20 apps tested, which includes Norton, McAfee, Bitdefender, and Microsoft's built-in anti-malware protection. Meanwhile, independent lab AV-Comparatives shows that ESET is very good at avoiding false positives -- where a scanner incorrectly identifies a benign file or program as malware.
Friendly interface: ESET has streamlined navigation with intuitively labeled sections. If you want to really get under the hood, there's an "Advanced Setup" section with a search function, plus a "?" icon that will take you to a webpage explaining the settings for every subsection in the Advanced Setup area of the interface.
Encrypted keyboard input for banking websites: Anti-malware apps have been bundling secure browsers more and more, and ESET checks this box with a modified version of Google Chrome. When you browse to a banking website in your regular browser, ESET will offer to open up that webpage in its secure browser, which has a special function to encrypt your keyboard input. This can protect you against malware that spies on that input, and against people spying on unencrypted Wi-Fi connections. Other anti-malware apps sometimes provide this kind of input security by encrypting an on-screen keyboard instead, but it's much easier and faster to type on a physical keyboard.
Potentially confusing setup experience: After installing ESET, it will prompt you to restart to complete the process. But during our testing, it opted to perform an initial malware scan instead. On our test system -- containing a clean install of Windows 7 on a solid-state drive in a Dell laptop -- the scan took 20 minutes (although subsequent scans took only 2 minutes), during which time it wasn't clear how much overall protection ESET was providing, since we hadn't restarted yet. It's also unusual for an anti-malware app to begin an automatic system scan. Automatic checks for updates are normal and even preferred, but actual scans require system resources that you may want to use elsewhere at that time. So scheduling those scans yourself is preferable.
When first starting Windows, and on subsequent starts, ESET also warned us that it could not connect to LiveGrid, which is the company's cloud-based malware protection. The actual problem was that our laptop had not yet finished establishing a Wi-Fi connection. The warning did go away as soon as the network connection was established, however.
Cost can get relatively high: On ESET's website, a one-year subscription to Internet Security is $60. This is not necessarily bad, but it's also a one-device license. If you want to protect 5 devices (not uncommon for a family), that price climbs to $100 a year. We also didn't find significant discounts at third-party sellers such as Amazon or Best Buy. At the time of review, McAfee was offering a 10-device subscription to Total Protection for $45 a year on its website, and Amazon had a 5-device license for just $25. Amazon also offered a 10-device subscription to Norton Security Premium for $35 a year. While ESET's anti-malware protection is excellent, the price for that extra mile is also a factor.
While ESET produced some behavioral quirks during our testing, none of those affected the quality of its malware protection or our ability to actually use the program. It's biggest issue is competing on cost.