ESET Smart Security premium is a full-featured security package that includes a password manager, data encryption tools, parental controls, and even an anti-theft feature that can track your computer down if it gets stolen. All this protection will run you $79.99 MSRP for Smart Security Premium (See it on the ESET website), which is what I tested, and it covers one device for one year. That’s almost double the typical price for basic antivirus, but you can save some cash by getting the “non Premium” version, which is $20 less and lacks password management and data encryption. You can then save another $10 by just getting the basic NOD32 antivirus package, which has typical pricing of $39.99 a year.
ESET Smart Security Premium – Design and Features
The ESET UI is simple and easy to navigate. There’s no guessing involved: everything is labeled and makes sense, without buried or nested menus to trip you up. In general the core function of ESET is to automatically detect unwanted applications via real-time protection, but in addition to that it offers two other tools: SysInspector, which is a fairly robust Windows diagnostic tool, and ESET Banking and Payment protection. SysInspector is basically a system scanner for IT folks that gives you an idea of what running processes might be suspect, and the banking software is a secure browser used for banking. It’s a bit redundant if you know enough to check site addresses for https, but if you’re buying it for someone less savvy they could benefit from it.
After installation, ESET automatically ran its first scan. On my PC, it took ESET just under 20 minutes for its initial scan, and it only combed through my OS drive, which is a 250GB SSD. That is an extremely long time for an SSD, and much longer than any of the other AV suites I’ve tested, so perhaps it was much more thorough than other suites (that’s just a guess). There are a lot of scanning options too, including setting up custom scans, analyzing removable media, and there’s also the option to drag-and-drop files onto the software UI to initiate a scan. Overall ESET seems to have all of the scanning bases covered, with the notable exception of a “quick scan” option.
After performing an initial scan, I ran a follow up scan which took nine minutes and 29 seconds. Though that’s half the time of the first scan, that’s way longer than other apps required on the same drive. I certainly appreciate a thorough scan, but as an end-user ESET’s time-consuming scans are mildly annoying.
In Another “security” feature that’s included in the premium version, but is not commonly found on suites like this, is called Secure data. It lets you create a virtual, encrypted drive on your computer, locked tightly behind a password, just like the antiquated TrueCrypt and similar programs. You can encrypt thumb-drives, as well.
Parental controls are pretty standard fare. You set it up to protect individual Windows User Accounts, and can block sites by content and whitelist any exceptions. What it doesn’t have are time-limit settings, so it’s not as useful as what is offered by some of its competitors.
Sophos also offers anti-theft protection, which is sort of like Apple’s Find my Mac. The software lets you set up a “Phantom Account,” which is a fake, non-protected user account for your PC or laptop. When a logs-in to the PC, they’d have to use the phantom account since the others would normally be locked down, and this allows ESET to collect location data. If someone steals your computer, you visit the site and click the “My device is missing” option in the anti-theft settings. When you hit that button, ESET begins monitoring the computer remotely to gather evidence to help recover it. It’s a very cool feature but obviously I wasn’t able to test it in the real world.
ESET Smart Security Premium – Testing
In addition to my own hands-on testing, I also relied on the very thorough testing done by our sister site PCMag.com. They run each antivirus package through a battery of tests and also report the findings of independent security labs as well, so I’ve summarized the results. Starting off, the recommendations of third-party labs are considered.
ESET was able to achieve Level 2 certification from MRG-Effitas, which is excellent, as the only software to reach Level 1 was Kaspersky. In tests run by SE Labs it was able to achieve a top ranking along with all of the usual suspects as well. AV-Test Institute ranks programs on their protection, performance, and usability, and ESET earned a middling score, usurped by Kaspersky, Bitdefender, and Trend Micro. When PCMag collated the lab results ESET ended up with a very good 9.2 out of 10 rating, but once again Kaspersky and a few others scored higher overall in third-party lab rankings.
When it comes to “opening a folder of malware testing,” ESET did OK, catching 93 percent of malicious software and blocking 90% of malicious URLs, for an overall score of 89. That puts it ahead of the free utility Windows Defender, but way behind Webroot and Norton, both of which caught 100 percent of malware in the tests. When shown a batch of 100 malicious URLs, ESET caught 90 of them, which is better than average, and puts it in the top third of security suites. Only Norton and Trend Micro fared better in this test.
In Phishing tests, ESET’s anti-phishing failed to measure up against Norton, the industry leader, catching 26% fewer scams. However, it performed much better than Internet Explorer and Firefox’s built in protections, and scored a dead-heat with Chrome.
ESET’s purchase options come down to how many devices you want to protect, and how long you want to protect them. You save money extending your subscription beyond a year. Adding more than 1 device only costs $10 extra per device added, which isn’t too bad, but it’s definitely more expensive than some of the other AV suites we tested.