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.
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. An Avira Prime subscription gets you the premium version of every Avira product, both existing ones and new ones that may arise. That’s quite an offer.
If Avast’s wider product line looks attractive, if you do want all the goodies, you might consider the Avast Ultimate bundle. For $99.99 per year, you get a single-license subscription to Avast Premier plus the paid versions of Avast SecureLine VPN, Cleanup Premium, and Passwords. Presuming you wanted them all, that’s nearly $200 of products for about $100. Note, though, that unlike other products in the Avast store, this one doesn’t show any discounts for multi-device licenses. And Avast AntiTrack is still an extra cost.
Features Shared With Avast Free Antivirus
Avast Free Antivirus comes with Avast’s full arsenal of malware protection, plus a useful collection of bonus features. It’s one of our Editors’ Choice products for free antivirus, and naturally this suite includes all the same protective features. You can read my review of the free antivirus for a deep dive on the features shared by both products. I’ll summarize my discoveries here.
Lab Test Results Chart
Malware Protection Results Chart
Phishing Protection Results Chart
All four of the independent testing labs that I follow track Avast closely. It earned 17.5 of 18 possible points in tests by AV-Test Institute. It achieved an Advanced+ rating (the highest possible rating) in three tests by AV-Comparatives, and Advanced in a fourth. SE Labs certified it at the AAA level, the best of five certification levels. This time around, it failed both rigorous tests imposed by MRG-Effitas, but then, many products do.
I use an algorithm to map all scores onto a 10-point scale and generate an aggregate result. Avast came in at decent 92 points, with results from all four labs. Of the products tested by all four labs, Avira, Norton 360 Deluxe, and Kaspersky did best, with aggregate scores of 9.9, 9.8, and 9.7 respectively.
Avast earned 8.4 points in my own hands-on malware protection test. That’s just a middling score, but Kaspersky and Bitdefender Total Securitycame in around the same. When the labs praise products that don’t do well in my own tests, I listen to the labs.
Malwarebytes, Sophos, and Windows Defender detected 98 percent of these samples and all scored 9.8. Webroot SecureAnywhere Internet Security Completedetected 100 percent of the same samples, but not-quite-perfect blocking meant it scored 9.7 points.
To get insight into how well each product handles the very latest malware problems, I start with a feed of malware-hosting URLs discovered by MRG-Effitas within the last few days. I launch each and note whether the antivirus blocked URL access, wiped out the download, or did nothing. Avast scored 90 percent in this test, which is decent, but not at the very top. McAfee, Sophos, and Vipre Advanced Security managed a perfect 100 percent.
Phishing websites don’t attempt to plant malware on your system or subvert vulnerable applications. Instead, they try to trick you, the user, into blithely giving away your precious login credentials. To this end, they imitate sensitive websites such as banking sites, shopping sites, even gaming and dating sites. It just takes one unsuspecting victim to make the whole charade worthwhile.
Phishing protection in Avast has two prongs, a browser-independent Web Shield and an Online Security browser extension for Chrome and Firefox. Both are needed. Without the browser extension, Avast Free Antivirus scored a dismal 81 percent for phishing detection. Adding the extension brought that up to 97 percent. That’s very good, though Kaspersky and Trend Micro Internet Securitytook a perfect 100 percent.
According to my Avast contacts, the premium product’s Web Shield “has an extra layer of phishing protection from the Free product.” I dutifully ran my antiphishing test again, this time in Internet Explorer, which gets no help from a browser extension. The results came in quite a bit better than they did for the free antivirus, and testing again with the Online Security extension helping brought the results slightly higher, but didn’t top Avast Free’s score. I let that previous score stand.
See How We Test Security Software
Other Shared Features
Clicking the Smart Scan button on the main window launches a multifaceted system scan. It checks for browser threats, flags software that lacks security patches, scans for active malware, and warns about “advanced issues”. That scan took about five minutes in testing, while a full system scan for malware ran 34 minutes. The free edition’s scan found three advanced issues, all of them requesting an upgrade to Premium. Running the same scan in Premium naturally found nothing to worry about.
The Wi-Fi Inspector crawls your network (Wi-Fi or wired) and lists all found devices. In a modern household, full of Internet of Things devices, the list can be quite long. It displays its findings visually, with the router at the center surrounded by concentric circles of icons. Devices that have connected most recently show up in the innermost circles. And it flags possible network security problems. This feature works in much the same way as the free and separately available Avira Home Guard and Bitdefender Home Scanner utilities.
Implemented as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox, Avast’s password manager component handles all the basics. It captures credentials as you log in to secure sites, and offers to replay them when you revisit those sites. It handles multiple sets of credentials for the same site, and two-page login forms don’t give it trouble. Avast doesn’t offer a complete form-fill system, but it will fill credit card data in web forms. You won’t find advanced features like secure password sharing or two-factor authentication, but it takes care of the essential tasks of a password manager.
The Online Security feature, also implemented as a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox, adds another layer of defense against malicious and fraudulent websites. It marks dangerous links in search results pages. You can use it to actively block ad trackers and other trackers from gathering information about your online activities. Its SiteCorrect feature kicks in when you misspell a popular domain name, keeping you safe from typosquatting sites.
You’ve heard again and again how important it is to install all security updates. But keeping everything up to date can be so frustrating! When you launch an app, you want to use it, not spend time on a suggested update. Avast’s Software Updater component works in the background to locate apps with missing security patches; you can also manually run a scan whenever you like. Just click the button to automatically install all found updates. Easy! In the Premium product you can make it even easier by turning on Automatic Updates. With that setting enabled, Avast takes care of updates entirely in the background.
So, just what do you get by upgrading from the free antivirus to the full security suite? For starters, the suite adds a robust two-way firewall component. That’s the heart of most suites—antivirus plus a personal firewall.
For firewall testing, I use a physical PC that’s configured to connect through the router’s DMZ port, which effectively connects it directly to the Internet. When I challenged the test system with port scans and other web-based tests, it correctly put all the ports in stealth mode, so external attackers couldn’t even see them. This is no great feat, given that Windows Firewall alone can do it. It’s only relevant if a product fails to do what the built-in firewall can.
The other major task for a personal firewall is making sure programs don’t abuse their access to your network and internet connections. The firewall components in Norton and Kaspersky configure permissions for known programs and keep an eye on unknowns, making their own security decisions. I approve; relying on the user to make important security decisions is a bad idea. Other firewalls handle unknowns differently. For example, Panda Dome Complete simply allows outbound connections but blocks unsolicited inbound connections.
For program control, Avast defaults to a mode called Auto-decide, meaning that (like Norton) it makes its own decision about each new program. For testing, I tried switching to Ask mode. Doing so didn’t result in a spate of popups about internal Windows components, because Avast had already created rules for those components in Auto-decide mode.
When I tried to get online using a browser that I coded myself, Avast first ran a quick analysis on the never-before-seen program. After vetting the program as safe, it asked whether to allow or deny its access to the internet. Avast, unlike many competitors, defines five levels of network access, but only a true firewall expert should consider switching away from the default level the firewall suggests.
If you click deny when you meant allow, or vice versa, you can open the full list of applications and correct your mistake. This list also shows all the application rules that Avast’s Auto-decide mode created on its own. Digging deeper into the firewall’s settings, you can find extremely complex rules that even I wouldn’t consider editing. Leave these alone!
Protecting against network-based attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system or important apps is not precisely a firewall function, but it’s often included. Exploit defense isn’t something Avast attempts, as I verified in past reviews.
As part of my firewall evaluation, I check to make sure a malware coder couldn’t simply turn off protection. I couldn’t find any chinks in Avast’s armor. It protected its Registry settings against modification, and when I tried to terminate its processes, I got the message “Access Denied.” The same happened when I tried to disable its essential Windows services. Neither could I simply stop the services; doing so triggered a confirmation popup that required user permission.
Although it doesn’t block exploits at the network level, this is a sturdy firewall. If you leave its program control components in Auto-decide mode, it will do the job without a plethora of popups.
Any time malware slips past your security product’s real-time protection, it’s bad. However, in most cases the malware doesn’t enjoy its freedom for long; the antivirus company quickly pushes out an update to smack down the zero-day offender. But that’s no help if the malware has already encrypted your important documents. Like many competitors, Avast offers an additional layer of ransomware protection. The Ransomware Shield component blocks all unauthorized modification of files in protected folders, and you can bet a ransomware attacker isn’t on the authorized list.
By default, Ransomware Shield protects the Desktop, Pictures, and Documents folders for all users. If you keep important files in other folders, add them to the protected list. By default, Avast protects Archive, Audio, Database, Disc, Document, Picture, and Video files. Hover over each category to see which filetypes it includes. You can add any filetypes that don’t appear in any category, such as TXT files.
When a program tries to modify any protected file, Ransomware Shield checks it against its cloud database of known clean programs. If the program comes back as unknown, you get a notification, and you can choose to block or allow the app. That means you can easily give the go-ahead if Avast blocks the brand-new video editor you just installed. But if the warning is unexpected, you should block the app, and run a full scan for malware. Bitdefender Internet Security and Trend Micro offer similar protection against unauthorized file changes. Panda takes the concept farther, blocking unknown programs from even reading data in protected areas.
For a sanity check, I tried modifying text files in the Documents folder with a hand-coded text editor. Avast leapt into action, warning of an unauthorized change. It also blocked file access by a very simple ransomware simulator that I coded myself.
Next, I turned off all protective shields except Ransomware Shield, isolated the virtual machine from the network, and experimented with a collection of actual, real-world ransomware samples. Results were mixed. Some of the samples just didn’t attempt encryption during the time period I allowed. Avast blocked several from making changes, without terminating the ransomware process. One of the blocked samples encrypted a boatload of EXE and LNK files, filetypes that Avast doesn’t protect by default. Another blocked sample replaced the desktop with its ransom note, even though it didn’t succeed in encrypting any files.
And then there’s the seriously bad news. One of my real-world samples somehow evaded Avast’s protection. It encrypted all the important files in the Documents folder and presented its ransom note. After this shocking result, I rolled the virtual machine back, double-checked that Ransomware Shield was turned on, and tried again, with the same result.
Just about every early-days security suite included some form of spam filtering, because back then it was important. Nowadays it’s a rare user who doesn’t get spam filtered by their email provider. All the popular webmail providers do a good job, and business email tends to get filtered at the server. Having a local spam filter is unimportant to enough users that Avast doesn’t even install the antispam component until you request it.
The spam filter checks your incoming POP3 and IMAP email traffic, marking spam and phishing messages by modifying the subject line. If you’re using Microsoft Outlook, it filters any type of email account and automatically moves unwanted messages to the spam folder. Those using some other email client must define a message rule to divert the marked messages.
If you just click the component on the Privacy page, you get a simple on/off toggle. Clicking the Settings gear gets you to the simple configuration settings. At the top is a sensitivity slider. At the default Strict mode, it handles most spam but lets you decide on uncertain items. Slide it back to Relaxed and you get more spam, but need not worry about missing valid mail. Going the other way, to the No Mercy setting, you may find some valid mail tossed in with the spam. Your best bet is to leave this slider at the default middle setting.
Other settings help you whitelist known good correspondents and blacklist known spammers. You may want to check the box that tells it to whitelist the recipients of your outbound emails, so you don’t accidentally block valid responses. Outlook users can tell Avast to whitelist any address that’s in the address book. You can also manually whitelist or blacklist specific addresses or domains, for example to ensure mail from pcmag.com never winds up in the spam folder.
That’s about it for settings. It’s quite a contrast with the eight pages of antispam settings in Check Point ZoneAlarm Extreme Security. Since most users aren’t likely to mess with the settings, keeping them simple makes sense.
Sensitive Data Shield
In theory, Avast’s on-demand and on-access malware scans should eliminate any data-stealing Trojans (along with other malware) before they can do their dirty deeds. The Sensitive Data Shield feature helps ensure that even if such a Trojan manages to run for a while before getting caught, it won’t find data to steal. You start by running a quick scan for exposed personal data.
My test systems don’t have a lot of data files, nothing like your own home or office computer, so I wasn’t surprised when the scan turned up nothing on the virtual or physical test machines. I was a bit surprised when the found-nothing scan stuck spinning at 100 percent, forcing me to reboot.
I went to my workaday computer and copied over a raft of sensitive documents. These included tax returns, forms for setting up a trust, an application for a Home Equity Line of Credit, and other finance-related forms. Even with this trove of sensitive data sitting temptingly in the Documents folder, the Sensitive Data Shield scan found nothing. I can’t confirm that this feature does anything.
Full-Fledged Data Shredder
In the physical world, if you accidentally throw out an important document you can paw through the trash to recover it (or, in the worst case, do a little dumpster diving). The venerable Windows Recycle Bin gives you a similar power to rescue discarded digital documents. The files you recycle remain available until either they age out or you empty the bin. However, if your aim is to truly and permanently delete a file, the Recycle Bin gets in the way.
It’s not hard to delete a file without sending it to the Recycle Bin; holding down Shift while you choose Delete bypasses the bin. But even then, the data isn’t well and truly destroyed. It remains in the same data clusters it always occupied on your hard drive; it’s just that those clusters now have a flag marking them as available for reuse. Forensic recovery software can often recapture that incriminating letter or secret spreadsheet that you thought was gone forever.
Avast’s Data Shredder component exists to foil forensic recovery of deleted files. For quick access, you can right-click a file and choose Shred using Avast from the popup menu. Once you confirm your intention to delete the file irreversibly, Avast overwrites its data clusters with random bits before deletion. A software-based recovery tool will get nothing but those random bits.
If you routinely work with top secret materials or criminal plans for world domination, this basic file shredding may not be enough. Hardware-based recovery systems have the ability, at least in theory, to recover data even when it’s been overwritten. But fear not, you can foil even hardware-based systems by digging into the shredder component’s settings. Like G Data Total Security, Avast lets you crank up the number of random overwrite passes to 99 (even though the laws of physics suggest nothing beyond seven passes is needed).
Better still, choose the Department of Defense algorithm, which overwrites the data space three times with different bit patterns. It’s good enough for the government! But don’t even think about using Gutmann’s algorithm; there’s just no need to run the more than two dozen overwrite passes that this algorithm specifies.
Because of the way Windows handles file deletion, the unused space on your drive is littered with a seething mess of data from old, deleted files. Like adaware antivirus total, Avast lets you overwrite all unused disk space with random bits. This effectively shreds all previously deleted files after the fact. Avast also wipes the file’s name and metadata from the system. It even overwrites the unused space at the end of each file’s last data cluster. The one downside is that this thorough cleanup can take many, many hours.
Many security suites include a file shredding utility for wiping out the unsecured originals of encrypted files. Kaspersky Security Cloud makes shredding originals part of the encryption process. But free space shredding is more often found in encryption-specific products such as Folder Lock and Steganos Safe.
Before you sell or give away a computer, you should always wipe it clean of your personal data. Avast does offer to shred entire drives, but since you can’t shred the boot drive, it’s not suitable for pre-sale cleanup. For that kind of cleanup, I usually use a free bootable utility like DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke)
Your webcam is incredibly handy for taking meetings when you can’t get to the office, or letting grandma have a video chat with the kids. But some sinister types of malware subvert the webcam, forcing it to capture your activities in video and audio, without the telltale light that usually warns you the webcam is active. Don’t worry; Avast has a simple plan to protect you from webcam spyware.
In the default Smart mode, Webcam Shield allows known and trusted programs to use the webcam, but asks your permission before letting an unknown program peek through the camera. At the Strict level, even trusted apps can’t use the webcam unless you confirm they’re allowed. And if you select No Mercy, Avast totally disables the webcam.
ESET Internet Security includes webcam protection as an extension of its Device Control system, offering options similar to Avast’s. Bitdefender and Kaspersky, like ESET, offer webcam protection just like what Avast does.
Other Suite-Specific Features
As you peruse the Protection and Privacy pages, you’ll encounter a few more features unlocked by upgrading from free antivirus to this suite. Real Site is a tough one to see in action. Going beyond protection against phishing frauds, it aims to foil DNS poisoning attacks. This sort of attack hijacks the DNS servers that translate human-readable domains like PCMag.com into machine-friendly IP addresses. In effect, it creates undetectable phishing sites.
Antivirus researchers can’t just peruse the disassembled code of suspected malicious programs. They really need to let the shady file execute and watch what it does, but without letting it do any real harm. Their solution is to run the file in a sandbox, a virtual environment that lets the malware run but prevents permanent changes to the file system or Registry. You can run a file in this suite’s Sandbox just by dragging and dropping it. Settings let you choose whether sandboxed apps can access the internet, and whether downloaded files should be saved outside the sandbox.
Increased Performance Drag
This is a full-featured security suite, integrating almost all the expected suite features and then some. One might be forgiven for expecting such a product to suck up system resources and slow down performance. In the past, Avast’s entry-level suite has shown no impact at all in my performance tests. This time around its scores weren’t as good, for various reasons.
To measure boot time, I run a script that launches at startup and waits for 10 seconds in a row with no more than five percent CPU usage. At that point I consider the system ready for use. Subtracting the start of the boot process, as reported by Windows, yields the boot time. I average multiple runs of this test, then install the suite and average multiple runs again, to see the difference.
The first time I ran this test, I found that the baseline boot time had dropped to about a third of its usual value. Also, Avast took ages to start, because it defaults to loading the Avast Secure Browser at every startup. The results were so out of line that I uninstalled the suite and started over.
This time around I found that the baseline boot time was still well below the usual, perhaps due to some improvements in a recent Windows Update. With Avast launching at startup, average boot time increased by 96 percent. Note, though, that the “long” boot time was still less than 45 seconds, and that most users don’t reboot often.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Parental Control: n/a