McAfee LiveSafe is the company's premium antivirus software, which in 2016 added cloud-based malware analysis to its feature set. All three of McAfee's antivirus offerings allow one subscription to be used on an unlimited number of devices.
Behavior-based malware protection: McAfee LiveSafe doesn't just scan for viruses; it also looks at software behavior to see what might be malware. Conventional antivirus apps depend on a database of virtual fingerprints (called signatures), but the most dangerous malware regularly alters its signature to something that the scanner no longer recognizes as a virus. So looking at behavior is a more effective strategy than simply tracking virus signatures. Sometimes the analysis can only be done when the user opens a file or clicks a dangerous link. McAfee's Real Protect sends a profile of the behavior to a cloud-based scanner, which helps determine whether malicious activity is afoot. Putting analysis in the cloud is intended to reduce battery consumption and to decrease the time it takes to scan your system.
At this point, behavioral analysis is the only way to keep pace with malware evolution. The feature has become common among the leading anti-malware companies, but it's worth noting as you compare antivirus apps.
Unlimited devices: Last year, McAfee changed its licensing so that one subscription could be used on any number of your personal devices. So far, no major competitor has matched this offer, so it remains notable. McAfee does not appear to have adjusted its pricing to compensate, either; you can regularly find promotions on its website offering the same kinds of discounts that we saw before the company changed its licensing, as well as the usual deals from third parties like Amazon or Best Buy.
Robust Android support: While Apple has locked down iOS to the point that third-party security apps can't do very much, Google lets apps like McAfee Mobile Security get under the hood. We have a full review of McAfee's Android app, which is a full-fledged security app and not just another anti-theft add-on.
Scanning technique could use more clarity: While McAfee's cloud-based behavioral analysis is beneficial, we couldn't find any mention of it in the app or in the marketing materials. We only know that Real Protect exists in McAfee's home desktop products because the company gave us a demo. McAfee also told us that the cloud feature cannot be disabled, which we confirmed by navigating the app's settings. The app's real-time scanning options are limited to on and off. Without that demo, we would've had a hard time distinguishing what makes the new version new.
Offline scanning quality is ambiguous: Because McAfee's scanner depends on the cloud, you may get a reduced-quality scan when you don't have an Internet connection -- and the app may not tell you so. Disabling your Internet connection does not produce any feedback from the app, nor does running a scan without a connection. We did not observe a difference in scanning speed or scanning results when connected or disconnected.
LiveSafe is efficient and easy to use. McAfee's antimalware products deliver consistently reliable performance, according to independent testing labs like AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, and McAfee remains the only antivirus app maker offering support for all your devices. But other than that, there isn't a whole lot to put McAfee ahead of competitors like Bitdefender or Norton. Behavioral analysis is helpful but not unique, and McAfee's extension into the cloud is buried under a layer that makes its benefits difficult for the user to distinguish from normal operation.