Antivirus Software Review: Avast
Over recent years, cybercrime has become one of the fastest-growing developments in criminal statistics. While the physical world becomes less dangerous, the virtual one seems to be heading in the opposite direction, providing all the more reason to have a solid line of defense against malicious online activities. Avast offers one of the most popular free antivirus programs out there and in this review, we'll let you know whether it's earned its good reputation.
What Is Avast Antivirus?
Pros and Cons
Packed with features
Functional freeware version
Excellent support area for DIY types
Limited options for contacting support
Scans can inhibit your computer's performance
Installation & Usage
It only takes a few minutes to install Avast, concluding (optionally) with the first scan of your computer, which helps the program determine if your system is infected with any malware, or if outdated software has created any vulnerabilities. At installation, a free, 60-day premium trial subscription was offered, just like with AVG Antivirus. While on the subject, both programs have a nearly identical setup process, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise as AVG was bought by Avast in 2016.
Immediately after installation, Avast will ask if you'd like to run your first scan with the software.
Avast's user interface is streamlined and aesthetically harmonious thanks to its blue tones, orange accents (from the company's logo), and green 'all clear' buttons (if your computer is secure). In the menu on the left, in addition to being able to view your current status, you'll have the ability to perform a quick "Smart Scan" and to view all of Avast's features, divided into categories like "Protection", "Privacy", and "Performance".
When everything is green in the status area, your system is in good shape.
Notifications, such as warnings or information about updates, appear in the upper menu bar. Here, you can also access the program's settings, which have a very practical integrated search feature, helping you find what you need quicker. Even without the search tool, the app is well-arranged, with the result being that you won't ever need to spend long looking for a tool or module.
Avast's settings are neatly grouped into categories such as "Security", "Privacy", and "Performance".
Despite Avast's variety of features, navigating it is both easy and enjoyable, owing to its well-conceived and tidy interface: It shouldn't take long to find any feature or setting you might be looking for, and the most important information always seemed to be just a click away, but never more.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Avast Antivirus does not suffer from a shortage of features. In fact, even the freeware version wasn't lacking anything that we look for in an antivirus program. The wheelhouses of any antivirus software are its scanning capabilities and provision of real-time protection.
Comprehensive manual scans
In Avast Antivirus, you can view the different types of scans by clicking on Security > Virus Scan. In addition to the aforementioned Smart Scan, which you likely performed after installing the software, you'll find a few additional scan types as well: "Full Virus Scan" checks your entire system, whereas the "Targeted Scan" only evaluates specific, user-defined files or folders. With a "Boot-Time Scan", you can identify threats to your system when it's starting up.
It's also possible to create user-defined scans and schedule these at regular intervals. In addition to the kind of scan to be performed, you can also select how often it should be repeated (never, once, daily, weekly, or monthly), and what the program should do if any threats are identified.
Avast Antivirus offers plenty of scan options.
Customizable real-time protection
You can take a closer look at real-time protection by clicking on the "Security" tab in the menu. In the "Core Shields" area, you can toggle the File, Behavior, Web, and Mail shields on or off. Additional options for each of these can be found under settings. These include the ability to instruct the program to automatically check your incoming and outgoing emails or to block Web attacks and unsafe downloads.
Some real-time protection features are only made available to paying subscribers. These include ransomware protection, which defends you against extortion attacks, a particularly nefarious type of malware that encrypts your data, only returning access to it for a fee. Webcam protection too, which prevents unauthorized access to your webcam and microphone, is likewise only offered to users of the premium version.
You can adjust each of the program's real-time protection shields independently of one another.
That about covers the features available to freeware users. For paying customers, Avast Antivirus also includes a firewall that monitors all incoming and outgoing data traffic on your network, all the while preventing unauthorized access.
Should you want to set a specific time when suspicious network packets are to be monitored, or if joint-use of your internet connection should be temporarily allowed or disabled, you can do so in the settings menu.
Paying subscribers can make use of the software's firewall.
File-shredder and Sandbox
The program's file shredder allows you to completely destroy saved data, preventing it from being reconstructed or recovered. This is particularly handy for users who want to recycle or throw away a hard drive, memory stick, or other storage devices, without fretting over what others might be able to retrieve from it.
The "Sandbox" is another of Avast Antivirus's special features, allowing users to open questionable apps or data in a secure partition, without endangering the rest of their computer. This protects against the risks posed by unverified software. For example, if you want to know what is contained within a suspicious .exe file, you can launch it securely by right-clicking on it and selecting "Open in Sandbox".
You can open suspicious apps or programs in "Sandbox" without putting your system at risk.
Safe WiFi usage
Avast's "Wi-Fi Inspector" scans networks you are connected to, alerting you to any security issues it encounters. At home, this allows you to find out if there are problems with your router, or if any connected devices are in danger (or posing a danger). On public networks, you'll be able to see whether there are any threats nearby.
Bonus features: VPN and more
During installation, you can (optionally) install Avast Secure Browser, which comes with an integrated adblocker. In the past, Avast Antivirus also came with a password manager, however, this has been discontinued.
Even though Avast doesn't come with a standalone VPN, Ultimate package subscribers can take advantage of Avast SecureLine. During our assessment, we rated this service as average owing to its relatively small server network, few features, and lack of a security audit.
The mobile version of Avast Antivirus offers additional security features, including a "Photo Vault", which encrypts and PIN-protects pictures in your device's gallery, and the so-called "Wi-Fi Scan", which assesses the security of the network you're connected to.
Since smartphones are a common target for (physical) thieves, the mobile app also includes a number of anti-theft tools. For example, you can set Avast to mark your device as "lost", whenever an unrecognized SIM card is inserted.
You can also remotely access your device, and locate it using GPS. These anti-theft measures are included in all versions, however, some can only be used by premium subscribers, such as "Camera Trap", which allows you to secretly photograph your phone's thief or the PIN lock, which marks your phone as lost after eight incorrect PIN input attempts.
The mobile version of Avast Antivirus comes with a number of practical anti-theft features.
Likewise reserved for premium users is "App Lock", which provides an added layer of security for your apps, requiring the input of a PIN or fingerprint scan to open them.
Avast Antivirus has all of that features expected from a product of its caliber, as well as a few nice extras to boot.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Security & Performance
Avast Antivirus cuts a very fine figure in both areas: AV-Test awarded it perfect scores in both categories, whereas the program aced the performance test from AV-Comparatives, collecting 90 from 100 points.
The most recent real-world protection test (February-May 2021) withheld a third star from the software owing to an overabundance of false positives and a few security vulnerabilities. All the same, 99.9% of attacks were neutralized, with the remaining 0.1% dependent upon user behavior.
Performance-inhibiting full system scan
Avast Antivirus required around 45 minutes to perform a full scan on our system during the assessment. Unfortunately, we noticed a considerable dip in our computer's performance with surfing, opening programs, or copying files all adversely affected.
The third-party testing labs awarded Avast Antivirus high scores in terms of both security and performance, a conclusion that we can throw our support behind as well. The only negative is that, while reliable, a full system scan with Avast Antivirus can adversely impact your computer's performance, making it difficult to perform regular tasks while scanning.
Score: 4 / 5
An investigative report published jointly by Motherboard (Vice) and PCmag in January 2020 revealed that Avast, through its subsidiary, Jumpshot, had sold user data on a massive scale to third parties, including Google, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, and Yelp. According to the authors, this data refers to "Google searches, GPS coordinates used in Google Maps, LinkedIn site history, YouTube videos, and porn browsing history, including the entered search terms and the videos watched." Even though no personal data was sold, it would not have been difficult for the purchasing entities to identify individual user IDs on the basis of movement data and device numbers. In the interim, Avast's CEO Ondrej Vlcek apologized for the incident and closed Jumpshot.
DIY users will feel right at home in Avast's support center, thanks to its keyword-searchable variety of resources. To gain an even better idea of Internet security or digital matters be sure to check out Avast's Academy, which is part of the company's efforts to not only protect but also educate users. Additionally, there is also a forum.
The company's self-help offerings are so good, that in most cases, it really isn't necessary to get in touch with live support. This is probably Avast's hope since directly contacting the company and its support personnel is much more problematic. As a freeware user, no provisions are made for filing support tickets, whereas premium users can send emails. At present, the company does not offer a live chat. During testing, our query was answered within three hours.
Avast Antivirus's support center is first-class and its response times are good.
Avast appears to have put a great deal of effort into its FAQs and guides, while (unfortunately) saving on its live support. Still, in our experience, the response times for the latter were excellent, leaving us with a rather favorable impression of how the company assists its users.
Score: 4 / 5
Avast is available in free, premium, and ultimate versions. The two paid subscriptions (premium and ultimate) can be booked for either a single device or up to ten devices.
The service also offers three different business subscriptions, relative to the organization's size.
A current overview of the service's prices can be found below:
|Price per year||$0.00||from $79.98||from $139.98|
|Contract period (months)||0||12||12|
|Max. Number of devices||unlimited||10||1|
|Special Protection Features|
Since subscription packages for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions. In comparison to other similar services from our sample, Avast Antivirus's premium version is in the more affordable end of the midfield.
It's possible to test the premium version of Avast Antivirus for 30 days at no cost, however, you will have to input a payment method to start the trial. We recommend canceling the subscription when it concludes (or shortly beforehand) and then monitoring your account to make sure that you aren't charged for a subscription you aren't using. All the same, each subscription comes with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.
Avast Antivirus offers a wide range of features in a very nicely designed package that is not only easy to use but also reliable where it counts, in terms of security and performance. Free users can access the most important features, and there are a few bells and whistles to entice prospective customers to the premium or ultimate versions: These include "Sandbox" and "Wi-Fi Inspector", both of which add further security, setting the program apart from its competitors.
We did have to deduct points in terms of support, since, despite the excellent FAQs and guides, the lack of a human touch was felt, something that could be problematic for users who may not be so technically inclined and require a helping hand. In terms of performance too, the software dropped points since it can slow down your PC while scanning. All the same, this is a problem common to most antivirus programs and therefore, not a major issue.
All-in-all Avast Antivirus was rated very highly in the customer reviews that we examined, attributable, in large part, to the significant number of perfect scores in the Play Store. There, many users commended the program for doing its job well and without much intrusion. On Trustpilot, the program performed less favorably: There, a number of reviewers decried billing irregularities, such as automatic charges even after cancellation. Additionally, the company's support also came in for a bit of criticism.
Alternatives to Avast Antivirus
The antivirus software market is large and highly competitive, making some of Avast's rivals worth a look. Bitdefender, the top performer in our assessment, offers better support (including a live chat) and received even higher scores from the testing labs, all while remaining easy to use and providing a similar package of features.
A list of solid alternatives to Avast Antivirus can be found below:
- Trend Micro
- G Data
- 360 Total Security
- Internet Security
- Virus Protection
- Free Antivirus
- Android Antivirus
- Avast vs. Avira