Avast Premier – Review 2019

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Many companies offer security at three or even four levels: free antivirus, feature-enhanced commercial antivirus, security suite, and cross-platform security mega-suite. Avast has streamlined that pattern, with just free Windows and macOS protection plus the all-inclusive Avast Security Premium. This product effectively replaces Avast Premier, while Avast Internet Security simply drops out of the picture. The full cross-platform suite offers rich protection for Windows and Android, less for macOS, and very little for iOS.

At $89.99 per year for 10 cross-platform licenses, Avast is cheaper than some, more expensive than others. Avira Prime offers five licenses for $99.99 or a whopping 25 for $129.99. That’s even better than Kaspersky Security Cloud’s offer of 20 licenses for $149.99. Norton 360 Deluxe costs $99.99 for five suite licenses, five no-limits VPN licenses, and 50GB of hosted storage for your backups. You pay $119.99 per year for McAfee Total Protection, but that subscription lets you install protection on every device in your household.

On Windows, this suite looks almost identical to the free antivirus product. The main Status page features a big notification saying, “You’re protected,” with a button to launch a Smart Scan. A simple menu down the left side lets you switch from the Status page to view features related to Protection, Privacy, and Performance. The main difference from the free edition is that suite-specific features aren’t locked away.

Upsell Opportunities

A few apparent bonus features turn out to be extra-cost add-ons, in some cases revealing the upsell only after you’ve invested some time in them. Avast Cleanup Premium scans your system for useless and erroneous file and registry items, with the aim of speeding performance by sweeping this junk away. But when you go to resolve found problems, it asks for another $2.99 per month. Driver Updater requires a separate installation. After you install and run it, you learn that fixing the problems it found costs another $2.09 per month.

Avast SecureLine VPN gives you a seven-day free trial, but continued use of the VPNrequires a separate subscription of $2.89 per month. Or is it $3.99? When I installed and ran the VPN, I got the $2.89 price at the point I tried to connect. But when I responded to a prompt warning that my location is not private, it asked for $3.99 to license the VPN, and offered a 60-day trial. Some of the other prices may also vary.

AntiTrack Premium is based on the technology Avast obtained when it acquired TrackOFF. This component foils websites that track your activity by creating a fingerprint based on the copious amounts of data available from the browser. And if you want to use it, you’ll pay an extra $1.49 per month.

These subscriptions look small, on a per-month basis, but they add up. Adding Cleanup Premium, SecureLine VPN, Driver Updater, and AntiTrack Premium for a year would more than double your Avast subscription cost. I can’t help but contrast this with Avira Prime


Performance Results Chart

Behavior-based detection systems and other security monitors necessarily keep an eye on file system operations, which could conceivably slow those operations. To check a suite’s effect in this area, I time a script that moves and copies a large collection of large and small files between drives. Averaging multiple runs with and without the suite, I derive a performance slowdown factor. I do the same with another script that zips and unzips the same file collection.

The baselines for these two scripts also came in faster than previous runs, both in my initial test and my re-test. The move and copy test took 30 percent longer with Avast active while the zip and unzip test took nine percent longer.

In the chart, Avast doesn’t look so great; it’s down near the bottom. But in truth, you probably won’t notice any drag. In testing, I certainly didn’t. Even so, some products have aced this test. ESET, G Data, and Webroot all showed no impact at all in any of the three tests.

Protection for Macs

Your Avast subscription gets you 10 licenses that you can use to install protection on devices running Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. Avast Security Premium (for Mac) doesn’t get you the wealth of features found in the Windows version, but if you have sufficient licenses, you may as well install it.

I’ve reviewed the macOS product separately. If you’re thinking of installing Avast on your Macs, please read that review. Briefly, both labs that evaluate Mac products certify Avast’s antivirus capabilities. Its full scan runs quickly, and it includes a simplified version of the Wi-Fi Inspector that notifies you of potential intruders. Its phishing protection proved effective in testing, but at present it only works in Chrome. And, as in the Windows edition, its Ransomware Shield prevents unauthorized modification of protected files.

If you’ve used up your licenses on other devices, fear not. The free Avast Security (for Mac) has almost every feature found in the premium edition. Ransomware Shield is absent in the free edition, and the Wi-Fi Inspector doesn’t offer notification of new devices. That’s it.

Comprehensive Android Protection

As noted, Avast gives you way fewer features on macOS than on Windows. Not so with Android. The Android app is brimming with features for security, anti-theft, performance, and more.

Start by installing the free Avast Mobile Security from the Play store. You may want to experiment with the free edition for a while before deciding whether to expend a license upgrading to the premium edition. The free edition is ad-supported, but it includes most of the product’s features. You get the full antivirus, web shield, and Wi-Fi security features, as well as limited anti-theft features. The Photo Vault privacy feature is more of a demo, limited to 10 photos. But all the performance features come with the free edition. App Lock and VPN are premium-only. I’ll discuss all these features below.

For testing, I did upgrade to the premium edition. The product’s main window displays a slightly animated status circle, green for fine, yellow when it needs attention, red if there’s a big problem. Below this are big buttons for Boost Ram, Clean Junk, Scan Wi-Fi, and VPN Protection. That’s not all, though; scrolling down reveals other features that may need attention, and tapping the three-line menu icon at top left gets you access to all features.

Avast Security Premium Android

Initially, the status indicator shows yellow, because (as with most Android security products) you have a ton of permissions to give. Avast walks you through the process, making it easy to enable all the features. Don’t worry; you’ll get to green!

Antivirus and Scans

The big status indicator also serves to launch a scan. This scan checks for malware in your apps, of course, but it also finds device settings that might make your Android vulnerable to attack. You can schedule an automatic scan at the time of your choice on any or all days of the week. Avast also checks the apps you install for malware and warns about Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs) and apps with a low reputation.

Windows-based attacks often involve PDFs, documents, and other non-executable files. Most Android attacks involve apps, but other entry points are possible. Avast’s unusual File Scanner can check files in any or all folders.

When you tap to Check Wi-Fi, Avast runs a scan to verify that the hotspot is secured with a strong password. After that check, the button changes to Check Speed, which is more of a performance task. You can check Wi-Fi security or speed from the menu as well.

Anti-Theft Features

For many Android users, loss or theft is a much bigger worry than the possibility of a malware infection. Avast comes with a full contingent of anti-theft features, managed from an online console.

From the console, you can get the phone’s current location, or set it to regularly send the location. If you’ve just misplaced the device locally, you can make it sound a siren. And you can remotely lock the device, or even wipe its data. A separate Get Data command lets you pull a copy of your contacts before a wipe.

Another pair of commands let you go all James Bond on the thief. You can snap a photo without the thief’s knowledge, or record audio using the device’s microphone.

In its default configuration, the device automatically snaps a photo after eight failed login attempts. It also goes into Lock mode if a thief changes out the SIM card; you can also trigger Lock mode remotely by marking the phone as lost. By default, this locks the device, starts the siren sounding, and captures a photo of the thief. This is one thorough collection of anti-theft features.

App Control

During installation, Avast encourages you to turn on App Locking. This feature lets you put selected apps behind a secondary PIN code. Avast makes suggestions as to what you should protect, starting with Settings.

App Insights helps you understand which apps you use the most, and what permissions each app requires. It makes sense that apps like Alexa, Facebook, and Google show up in the “high permission apps” category. If you see a flashlight app, a game, or some other trivial app in that category, it could be a problem. Tap an app for a detailed information page that includes buttons to stop or uninstall the app.

Performance Features

Tapping that Check Speed button runs a simple test that measures your Android device’s upload and download speeds on the current network. Strangely, I got significantly higher values after enabling the VPN. PCMag’s own VPN speed tests almost invariably show small or large slowdowns associated with VPN usage, so I don’t know what to make of this test.

Tapping Boost Ram simply kills off background tasks, which does indeed make more memory available for the active task. Tapping Clean Junk sends Avast on a search for useless files—it didn’t find any on my test Android. Both these features finished their work in seconds. The junk scan suggested I install the separate Avast Cleanup app, but I didn’t do so.

Digging into the menu you’ll find Power Save. This feature offers a low battery warning at 30 percent and can be set to automatically engage power-saving settings at 10 percent battery life.

Two-Fisted VPN

As noted, this app has VPN protection built right in. Just tap the connect button and it hooks you up with the optimal server. You can also choose from almost 60 server city locations, including Gotham City, USA. (IP geolocation suggests that Milwaukee stands in for Gotham City).

Many security suites offer a VPN component with significant limits. For example, they’ll disable the option to choose the server you want, or impose a bandwidth cap, or both. I didn’t find any such limits in Avast’s VPN component.

The menu does indicate that Avast SecureLine VPN isn’t installed. To see what would happen, I installed it. As on other platforms, this app offers a seven-day trial, after which you must subscribe. I can’t imagine why you would.

Other Features

From the menu, you can see that Avast offers an Android firewall. However, it turns out that you can’t enable the firewall unless you root your phone. And rooting your phone is a very bad idea, security-wise. This feature seems like a mistake.

I’m not entirely sure why you’d need the Photo Vault, which puts selected photos into encrypted storage. You can add photos from your collection, or snap pix directly into the vault. Perhaps this is the place to store those naughty pictures of you and your partner? Do note that if you uninstall Avast without getting those photos out of the vault, they will be lost.

If you’re stuck on a limited monthly data plan, Avast can help you budget your bandwidth. Just give it the details about your plan and it will present a recommended daily limit. It also tracks your totals as the monthly cap approaches.

Some Security on iOS

As with almost every cross-platform suite, Avast gives iOS the short end of the stick. It makes sense, in a way. Apple has baked security into iOS so thoroughly that it both keeps malicious software out and interferes with low-level security software.

As with the Android app, you start by installing Avast Security and Privacy from the Play store. The free edition gives you several security-related features. Identity Protection searches known breach data to see if your email address appeared. Wi-Fi Security checks the security of each connection you make. And Photo Vault lets you lock away up to 40 pictures in encrypted storage, where the free Android edition only gave you 10 protected photos.

Using one of your licenses to upgrade this product to Premium doesn’t get you a lot. It lets you add multiple addresses for Identity Protection. It removes the limit on the number of pictures in Photo Vault. And you get an extremely streamlined VPN that Avast calls Secure Browsing, not to be confused with Avast Secure Browser on Windows.

Avast Security Premium iOS

As in the Android edition, the VPN doesn’t seem to have any bandwidth cap. However, you have no control at all over the server location used; it makes its own choice. All you can do is turn it on and off.

One more thing. To me, the user interface on an iOS device has a weirdly unfinished look. Most of the screen is a big blank, with no frame or border. The security indicator is centered vertically in that blank, but aligned at the left, making the screen look unbalanced. Icons for Identity Protection, Wi-Fi Security, and Secure Browsing huddle at the bottom.

Uneven Cross-Platform Protection

Avast Free Antivirus is an Editors’ Choice at the free antivirus level, due to its excellent scores and impressive collection of bonus features. The current product line drops Avast’s entry-level suite, going straight from free antivirus to this review’s subject, the cross-platform Avast Security Premium. On Windows, you get firewall, spam filtering, secure deletion, ransomware protection, and lots more. The Android edition likewise is brimming with features, not just antivirus and anti-theft, but performance and tuning features as well.

Mac users don’t get nearly as much; the macOS free edition has almost everything that this product offers. And, as is common, the iOS app offers very little. On the plus side, your subscription gets you 10 licenses, so you’re likely to have enough to use even on platforms where security is limited.

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, you get protection for 20 devices at a lower per-device price than Avast, and it beats Avast feature-wise on all platforms. The labs love Kaspersky, too. Norton 360 Deluxe gives you five cross-platform security licenses, five no-limits VPN licenses, and 50GB of hosted storage for your backups. These two are our Editors’ Choice selections for cross-platform multi-device suite.

Sub-Ratings:
Note: These sub-ratings contribute to a product’s overall star rating, as do other factors, including ease of use in real-world testing, bonus features, and overall integration of features.
Firewall:
Antivirus:
Performance:
Privacy:
Parental Control: n/a

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