ESET Antivirus is a Slovakian-based security company that doesn’t have the same mind share or cachet as the bigger names in the industry, but their NOD antivirus engine has a track record that stretches back to the early ’90s. The modern NOD32 engine forms the core of each of ESETs security offerings, and its performance is backed up by very favorable independent lab results. Beyond the basics, each of ESET’s more advanced antivirus suites add features such as a firewall, parental controls, and a password manager. Bona fides like those demand careful consideration, which we afforded through rigorous hands-on testing with the flagship ESET Antivirus; ESET Smart Security Premium antivirus suite.
ESET Smart Security Premium is a reliable, medium-impact antivirus solution against all types of malware. It’s also effective against zero-day attacks as it implements cloud-based scanning and the latest achievements in machine learning.
And while some of the extra features aren’t that useful, most of them are very efficient and worth the price. Thanks to the affordable price-tag, and market-leading scanning and diagnosis features, ESET is a safe bet as an all-inclusive type of antivirus.
It will be an equally good investment for users looking to get strong protection for desktop or mobile devices. With six packages to choose from and different subscription options, the company offers a customizable security solution for a modern-day user.
As a result, ESET is one of few antivirus software suppliers, providing inexpensive and, at the same time, strong products that are incredibly easy to use. Its award-winning solutions are on par with the software of industry’s recognized leaders. However, it still has some downsides that don’t let it make a leap forward and outstrip its rivals. Read our ESET antivirus review for details.
What We Like
- Independent lab verification
- Protects more than just viruses
- Good multi-device pricing structure
What We Don’t Like
- Slow scanning
- Includes encryption but no shredding
- Expensive single-device plan
Type of Protection: Signature-Based and Advanced Active Heuristics
ESET Smart Security Premium, like all ESET products, uses the NOD32 antivirus engine, which uses a combination of signature-based virus detection and advanced heuristics to identify emergent threats.
Like other signature-based antivirus engines, NOD32 uses a database of known virus signatures to identify and root out established threats. By analyzing the files on your computer, and files that you download, and looking for similarities to known viruses, it’s able to find infected files and either cut out the malicious code or remove the offending files if less drastic remediation isn’t possible.
Unlike standard antivirus engines, NOD32 also uses advanced heuristics to identify a wide variety of other types of malware, including brand new threats. This function also looks for signs of potential infection, but it’s actually capable of observing suspicious files within a sandboxed environment. If the file behaves like spyware, ransomware, or any other type of malware, it’s unable to harm your computer due to being trapped in the sandbox environment. ESET can then eliminate the threat before it causes any problems.
Scan Locations: Full Scan, Custom Scan & More
There is no option to run a quick scan manually, which is the type of scan that most antivirus suites default to. Some users will be put off by this omission, although ESET Smart Security Premium does automatically scan operating memory after each update.
ESET Smart Security Premium has a surprisingly light footprint, based on both lab testing and our own hands-on experience.
The basic scan is actually a full scan that thoroughly inspects every local disk you have installed in your computer, and then cleans any threats that are detected during that process. This scan can take a very long time depending on how many hard drives you have and how much data you have stored.
In addition to the basic scan, you can also choose to perform a custom scan or removable media scan. The removable media scan allows you to check flash drives and memory cards, while the custom scan provides fine control over scan locations.
With the custom scan, you can actually choose to run a fast scan of just operating memory or boot sectors, which is a nice option that’s a bit buried in menus. You can also opt to scan a specific drive, including any network drive that you’re connected to.
Types of Malware: Viruses, Spyware, Ransomware & More
ESET Smart Security Premium, ESET’s NOD32 specializes in viruses, but its advanced heuristic capabilities help it root out a variety of other types of malware, including spyware, ransomware, and other malicious files and programs. According to independent testing from AV Comparatives, it’s capable of catching and removing about 90 percent of malware threats with very few false positives.
ESET Antivirus – Ease of Use: User-Friendly Interface
ESET Smart Security Premium has a user interface that’s fairly easy to get a handle on. The home screen of the app isn’t very functional, as it just displays an image of their robot mascot and some information about the features that are available from the specific version of the software that you have installed. The home screen also has a handful of clearly defined links that lead to the virus scanner, manual updater, additional tools, and setup options.
The computer scan option is the star of the show, as this section is where you can activate the virus scanner. It includes an area where you can drag and drop suspicious files, a link to activate the basic scan, and a link to access more advanced scans.
Additional tools, including the password manager, anti-theft protection, data encryption, and banking protection are all accessed through the tool menu. Clicking an option opens it up in the same window, resulting in a clean user experience that’s easy to navigate.
Update Frequency: Database is Updated Daily
Virus signature database updates are available on a daily basis, and ESET automatically checks for updates every hour. Users can set a custom schedule to check as frequently as every 10 minutes, or go up to 44 days between checks. You can also turn off the automatic update feature and initiate updates manually.
In order to keep on top of cutting edge malware, ESET uses its LiveGrid cloud-based threat detection system. When this system detects unknown malware on a device, it transmits the specifics to ESET for analysis and rapid inclusion in their threat database.
Performance: Slow Default Scan
ESET Smart Security Premium has a surprisingly light footprint, based on both lab testing and our own hands-on experience. Over a week of testing, we noticed no impact on system performance with the ESET antivirus suite running in the background, and very little impact during active scans.
Our one complaint is that after the initial scan completed, Chrome immediately crashed on our test system. It could have been a coincidence, but our research found a number of ESET users complaining about similar crashes.
Additional Tools: Network Monitor, Password Manager & More
NOD32 is ESET’s basic antivirus that’s laser-focused on identifying and removing viruses and other malware, and there are two products built on that base.
The first improvement over the basic NOD32 is ESET Internet Security, which adds banking protection and a network monitor for smart home devices. It also adds a basic firewall, phishing protection, parental controls, botnet protection, and anti-theft measures.
ESET has a user interface that’s fairly easy to get a handle on.
We tested ESET Smart Security Premium, which adds a password manager and an encryption tool that you can use on folders and USB drives.
Each version of ESET’s antivirus suite adds value through additional tools, although some are more useful than others. The biggest problem is that the version we tested, Smart Security Premium, just doesn’t add enough value compared to ESET Internet Security. The password manager is very basic, and the encryption tool has a glaring flaw. While it works just fine, there is no option to shred the original, unencrypted files. If you want to do that, you’ll need an additional file shredding utility.
Type of Support: Email, Live Chat & Phone Support
Support is available through the ESET Smart Security Premium website, or directly through the app. You have the option to contact support via email, a web-based live chat system, or phone. The live chat system and phone support are both available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time.
If you have trouble outside business hours, or on the weekend, the app provides links to a knowledge base to help with basic problems and a FAQ-style page that answers a lot of basic questions.
ESET NOD32 Antivirus
ESET NOD32, the entry-level ESET package, is quite generous and includes all the necessary features to be effective in 2022. It covers up to five desktop devices and will be money well spent if you don’t need protection for a mobile gadget:
- Anti-malware protection (keeps traditional malicious attacks at bay)
- Anti-ransomware module (stops ransomware from encrypting sensitive data and demanding a ransom in Bitcoins)
- Anti-phishing protection (helps the user to stay away from phishing websites that steal credentials and/or banking accounts)
- Anti-spyware module (proactive security against spying software that plants itself deep into the system)
- Gaming mode (keeps the overall system impact to a minimum; no pop-ups while you’re playing)
- Machine Learning (protects against emerging threats)
- UEFI Scanner (pre-system launch attacks can be quite dangerous. This module detects them)
- Cloud Scanning (uses the whitelisting approach to reduce the scanning time)
- Covers up to three devices (desktop computers only – no mobile gadgets)
- Compatible with Win, Mac, and Linux
ESET Internet Security
On top of the basic feature set, this pack offers a personal firewall and a range of specific tools for stronger online protection. According to the ESET development team, this is their most popular product. With Internet Security, you can protect up to ten devices at once, including Smartphones and tablets.
Here’s what you’ll get with it:
- Protection for desktop and mobile devices (Android-run)
- Strong firewall protection (keeps network-based attacks from penetrating system defenses)
- Network Attack protection (an extra layer of defense against malware that aims at vulnerabilities in the network)
- Anti-spam (keeps your mailbox clean from spam and harmful attachments)
- Banking protection (automatically launches a secure browser when you do online shopping/banking)
- Anti-botnet module (protection against one of the most dangerous types of attacks)
- Parental controls (allow you to set time limits and protect your children from explicit websites)
- Webcam protection (prevents suspicious apps from taking control over your camera)
- Connected Home (protection for the router)
- Anti-Theft (tracks a lost phone/tablet and helps you retrieve it before it’s too late)
ESET Smart Security Premium
Note though, that the set of features available for platforms other than Windows will be different and will correspond to the top tier ESET offer for the respective device. To make it clear, let us switch to ESET packages for Mac and Android.
Owners of multiple devices that need the most advanced protection might want to upgrade to Security Premium. Under it, you can have your Mac and Android devices covered. As mention, this is ESET’s most feature-packed package with a couple of extras:
- Password Manager (self-explanatory: comes up with hard-to-crack passwords, manages, and stores them in a secure place)
- Secure Data (encryption for the essential files. Can also encrypt USB keys – for the operating system, for example)
That’s pretty much it for the Security Premium extras. So, make sure that you do, indeed, need the password manager and data encrypter before you commit to the most expensive ESET plan.
Be aware, with ESET Smart Security Premium multiple devices license, you can use, say, one license on Windows PC enjoying all the advanced features the package offers, one license on Mac with ESET Cyber Security Pro features and two on Android devices having all the benefits the premium ESET Mobile package brings. And, it will cost you less than buying separate licenses for every device.
ESET Cyber Security
This is a Mac-exclusive package with an affordable price and a decent set of features. In many ways, Cyber Security is similar to the Windows-oriented NOD32 package. Here’s what you can expect to get with it:
- Protection against malware attacks
- Anti-ransomware module
True, the list of available features isn’t imposing, but since Macs are a lot more secure than the Windows OS, Cyber Security is actually quite strong against outside threats. If you want more security features for Mac and broader coverage, upgrade to the higher tier – Cyber Security Pro.
ESET Cyber Security Pro
MacOS users in the market for protection against network attacks, parental controls, and phishing attacks might want to pay a top dollar for CS Pro. It’s a trendy package in 2022, as it provides a solid list of tools and modules for staying secure and keeping your data safe. Cyber Security Pro includes all the features from the standard edition and adds a couple of extras. Take a look at what it has to offer:
- Advanced personal firewall
- Anti-phishing protection
- Parental controls
ESET Mobile Security
As the name suggests, this next ESET package is oriented at mobile devices. And while iOS isn’t supported yet, the ESET Antivirus; ESET Mobile Security package is intended for Android-running devices. Android users will find this antivirus solution to be a worthy investment. The list of mobile-oriented features is rather significant:
- Real-time scanning (same as in the other packages)
- USB Scanner (quickly scans any USB drive you connect to your phone)
- App lock (prevents the thieves from accessing the most critical apps on a stolen device)
- Anti-theft (a proactive module that locates a stolen device)
- Payment protection (an extra layer of security when you bank online)
- Low-battery alert
- Connected Home
The basic antivirus for Android is available for free, and it comes with a reliable scanner as well as some convenient features, such as a remote lock, GPS Localization, and a remote siren.In contrast, premium version adds up a bunch of useful features such as call filter, low battery alert, camera snapshots, location tracking, in addition to those mentioned above.
Price: Aggressive Multi-Device Pricing
Priced at $59.99 for a single device license, ESET Smart Security Pro is positioned in the middle of the road for this type of antivirus suite. Each additional device only costs $10 more, so the pricing is much more attractive if you have multiple devices to protect.
The main problem with the pricing on Smart Security Pro is that NOD32 is available for $39.99 per month, and Internet Security costs $49.99 per month. Since Smart Security Pro only adds a basic password manager and an encryption tool with no shredder, it’s difficult to justify the additional expense.
ESET Smart Security Premium is a great antivirus, but realistically, you can get that same protection from ESET Internet Security or NOD32 for less money. Although it performed relatively well, the default scan was slow and we feel the feature-poor password manager and an encryption tool without a file shredder isn’t worth the extra money.
- Product NameESET Smart Security Premium
- Platform(s)Windows, macOS, Android, Linux
- Type of LicenseHome (business license also available)
- Number of Devices Protected1-10