Antivirus Software Review: Bitdefender
Not a day goes by without a new type of malware appearing. They can wreak serious damage, and the worst part is that anyone connected to or using the Internet is a potential target. Adequate virus protection is more important than ever, and thankfully, the choice of providers grows almost as quickly as the number of threats. Being the first thing that comes to mind when someone says cyber security around the world is the goal of Bitdefender's developers. We'll show you how close the Bucharest-based software engineers comes to reaching this in the test below.
What is Bitdefender?
Bitdefender is a Romanian cybersecurity company, founded in 2001, whose antivirus software is installed today on more than 500 million systems around the world. The company's antivirus software is available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. We evaluated "Bitdefender Total Security 2020" on Windows and the Android-App, but during this review will discuss other subscription options as well.
Pros and Cons
Flawless user interface
Configurable quick actions
Excellent results from the test labs
Good support with 24/7 live chat
Confusing license structure
Installation & Usage
Bitdefender is around 500 MB and not so straightforward to install as other programs. After installation, you need to create a user account and enter a license key, with first-time users receiving a free-trial account. Should you accept it, the company's "Anti-Tracker" is automatically installed in your browser. Despite the large size of the installation file, the entire process takes only a few minutes.
After installation, a short tutorial plays in the main window (which can be skipped). Whether you watch it or not, the program is fairly easy to come to terms with.
In the upper corner of the screen you can see your current status, which informs you if everything on your system is in order, or if there are issues that require your attention. In the module below, Bitdefender provides recommendations for how to improve your system using its integrated features, but if no issues are detected, there's some more space for all of the program's important features. This is important to mention since the lower half of the interface is where options for customization are shown. For example, here you can pin the features that are most important to you, in what we think is a really nice touch.
You can access all other features on the main menu to the left, which is divided into the sub-categories "Protection", "Privacy", and "Utilities". The first pertains to your security features and includes manual scans. By default, these play a somewhat less prominent role in Bitdefender's dashboard, however, you can modify this in the configurable quick actions.
Under "Privacy" you'll find data protection measures, including a password manager. Bitdefender's utilities include optimization tools as well as anti-theft protection.
The remainder of the menu's options include settings, notifications, account and subscription information, as well as a support area.
Bitdefender's user interface is nearly perfect, and the ability to customize quick actions adds a nice feature to the dashboard, ultimately setting the program apart from its competitors.
Score: 5 / 5
Bitdefender certainly doesn't suffer from a lack of features, however, these are confusingly distributed across the various Windows, MacOS, and mobile device subscriptions offered for the program. The cheapest option, "Antivirus Plus" for Windows and "Antivirus" for Mac, offers standard virus protection alongside extras like a password manager. Scans, real-time protection, web protection, and anti-phishing are included in the free version. If you're looking for unlimited VPN usage, the "Premium Security" subscription will be your best bet. A detailed comparison of features is only offered for the "Internet Security" and "Total Security" packages, differences that we'll explore later on in this text.
Bitdefender's main feature are its scans, which are divided into a "Quick Scan" and a "System Scan". You can automate both, by configuring them to run when you start your computer, or be performed weekly or monthly. Apart from this, you can also set which actions should be performed after the scan finishes, for example, if the computer should shut down, or the scan window should be closed.
Of course, you can also create user-defined scans, and select where they'll be performed.
Real-time protection, which continually scans files, is also offered by Bitdefender. In the advanced antivirus settings you can set parameters for this, for example, if Bitdefender should only check files or applications when they are accessed, or if it should also search through archived files as well.
Email protection is also one of the real-time features, and allows you to select if your incoming and outgoing emails are checked.
Bitdefender's "Online Threat Prevention" proactively protects you from malware on websites, and even checks search results so that you don't inadvertently visit dangerous sites, all the while defending you against phishing. This feature also looks for weaknesses in your network.
Bitdefender's "Ransomware Protection" secures you against extortion Trojans, which are malware that encrypt files on your computer demanding a ransom in exchange for their release.
Among the additional features is "Webcam Protection", which prevents unauthorized access, alerting you when apps attempt to use your webcam. Rounding out the list is a data shredder, with which you can completely remove files from your system without leaving any traces. You can also use this outside of the program by right-clicking on the file you want to dispose of and selecting "Shred with Bitdefender".
The program's firewall provides you with an overview of your connection, as well as a record of attempted cyber attacks. Under settings you can configure this feature further, for example, setting individual guidelines for each program installed on your system.
Bitdefender also includes a password manager, which protects your credit cards and other sensitive data in a cyber vault. We certainly won't trash it as an extra, however, as so often, this feature can't really compare to a dedicated program. If interested, we recommend taking a look at our extensive evaluation of the best password managers on the market.
Parental controls are included as well. These allow you to monitor your children's activity online in the program's dashboard. This is also the center for anti-theft measures, however, this feature is only available with the "Total Security" subscription. Bitdefender's anti-theft measures help GPS locate your device, lock it, view its IP address, remotely remove data, or even activate an alarm.
System tuning, with one click optimization which finds and removes unnecessary data, is likewise only available with the "Total Security" subscription.
Depending on the subscription, Bitdefender also includes a VPN. Windows users can use this starting from the "Total Security" subscription up, however, daily volume is limited to 200 MB. For Mac users, the most affordable "Antivirus" subscription includes this feature (albeit with the same limitations). Unlimited VPN usage is only offered to "Premium Security" subscribers.
Bitdefender also provides protection on mobile devices. "Antivirus Free" does not offer anything more than a virus scanner, with the app only becoming useful in the "Mobile Security" subscription (which is included in the "Total Security" package).
On Android and iOS devices, Bitdefender also enables users to scan and benefit from real-time protection. Unfortunately, in contrast to other mobile apps, such as that of ESET, scans can't be planned or scheduled in advance.
"Web Security" ensures that you won't be threatened by malware in mobile browsers. With "App Lock", you can decide which apps you would like to provide additional protection to in the form of a PIN or fingerprint authentication. You can also set Bitdefender to take a picture of anyone who repeatedly enters the incorrect PIN or fingerprint.
"Account Privacy" is also very practical, recognizing data breaches that threaten your user or email accounts and alerting you to them.
Apart from that, the same anti-theft measures included in the desktop app also feature on the mobile app. Once you activate these, you can locate your device or remotely delete files. One feature missing is automatic locking when an unknown SIM card is inserted.
Bitdefender's intuitive user interface is filled to the brim with useful features. The free and lowest-priced subscriptions could do with access to some more of these, whereby extra features like the password manager and VPN, which are only available with "Premium Security" and above look better on paper than they perform in practice. This is more nitpicking than criticism though: Bitdefender offers pretty much every feature that we look for in an antivirus program.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Security & Performance
In this series of reviews, the test labs are the gatekeepers to the winners' podium. Some programs that perform well in every other aspect trip up when examined by the experts. This isn't the case with Bitdefender: Because of its excellent test results, we count the software among the most secure antivirus solutions available on the market.
AV-Test gave "Bitdefender Internet Security 24.0" maximum points in October 2019 in both security and performance. In the real world protection test conducted by AV comparatives (July-October 2019), Bitdefender impressed with only 0.3% compromised files and two false positives. In the performance test, the program gathered a respectable 88 points.
Bitdefender is definitely an A student among the antivirus programs, shown in its ability to continually ace test lab evaluations.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Bitdefender's app comes with an integrated support panel. It provides digital bookmarks to a 400-page user handbook (PDF) that explains features in simple language. For those who want more responsive support, answers can be found in the support center, FAQs, articles, and even video guides.
You can also directly contact the support team by email or phone, and in the web dashboard, even a 24/7 live chat. There is also a forum frequented by the developer's tech support personnel.
In live chat, we were connected to a helpful support team member after about five minutes. Our email to the team, however, was only answered after about three days.
In total, Bitdefender sets new standards in terms of customer support, at least on the surface: Along with an excellent user handbook, the help center offers a great deal of information for DIY types, while telephone, live chat, email, and the well-frequented forum provide users with a number of possibilities for coming into contact with the support team. In chat, we received an answer immediately, however, processing of our support ticket took simply too long.
Score: 4.3 / 5
Bitdefender makes selecting an adequate subscription far more complicated that it needs to be, overwhelming users with options. The company does provide comparative tables of its different subscriptions, but oddly enough, this list is incomplete, meaning that you can't actually compare all of the developer's products side-by-side. Similarly, the introductory level subscriptions for Windows and Mac offer different features, creating even more confusion.
Offered are a free version, the low-cost basic version ("Antivirus Plus" for Windows and "Bitdefender for Mac" on MacOS), as well as "Internet Security", "Total Security", and "Premium Security", each of which provides ever-greater numbers of features. For each subscription, you can select how many devices you'd like to use the program on (one, up to three, up to five, or up to ten) and the length (one, two, or three years), whereby the savings grow with each year and device. There's also the "Family Pack", which includes all features provided in the "Total Security" subscription, and installation on up to 15 devices.
For business clients, there are a number of different subscription options, the price of which depends largely on the size of the organization.
|Antivirus Plus||Internet Security||Total Security|
|Price per year||from $19.99||from $39.98||from $44.99|
|Contract period (months)||12||12||12|
|Max. Number of devices||10||10||10|
|Special Protection Features|
In terms of price, Bitdefender belongs to the middle-to-high segment. Bitdefender is not the only antivirus program with a complex subscription structure. Since subscription packages for each program vary, the table below compares each provider's offering on the basis of a sample, with similar conditions:
Bitdefender's goal to become a household name in global cybersecurity appears, upon closer inspection, less ambitious than at the outset, considering how close the Romanian developer already is. Bitdefender is user-friendly, packed with features, and easily customized, also performing well with the test labs. Its more extravagant bonus features, an integrated VPN and a password manager, for example, don't appear to be completely thought-out, and the subscription structure is unnecessarily complicated. Nevertheless, where it matters, Bitdefender doesn't really do that much wrong.
In the customer ratings that we evaluated, Bitdefender received very good reviews. A number of users commended its ease of use, variety of features, and effective protection. However, in Trustpilot, we also noticed critical voices: They warned about subscription traps and billing irregularities. Problems of this kind are not uncommon among other antivirus program, so we recommend paying close attention to your monthly statements after your free monthly subscription expires.
Alternatives to Bitdefender
Kaspersky Internet Security and ESET offer a comparable number of features to Bitdefender, but didn't perform so well with the test labs. In contrast, Avira shined with the test labs, however, its user interface was not appealing to us. The most parallels are with Norton Antivirus, which is packed with features, intuitive to use, and excelled with the test labs. A list of popular alternatives can be found here: