KEY DETAILS OF AVAST FREE ANTIVIRUS
- Stay safe from viruses, malware, spyware, and hackers
- There have been 2 updates within the past 6 months
- The current version has 1 flag on VirusTotal
- Also available on Android, Mac
Avast has one of the most popular antivirus apps around, due in part to offering a free version, and it’s one that performs respectably. The company acquired its rival AVG in September of 2016, and now both use Avast’s malware scanning engine, but their distinct personalities remain. Here are the highlights of Avast’s latest release
Easy to use: Avast has four main protection components: File Shield, Behavior Shield, Web Shield, and Mail Shield. If, for example, you use webmail and/or you find that Avast’s Web Shield interferes with your web browsing, you can disable both relevant protection layers, while keeping the others active. Now, ordinarily, an antivirus app will keep warning you to turn these features back on. But if you really don’t need them enabled, you can tell Avast that you want to ignore those warnings, and it won’t bother you about those settings again.
Solid protection: According to independent labs, such as AV-Test and AV-Comparatives, Avast Free isn’t quite as sharp as industry leaders like Trend Micro or Bitdefender, but it’s arguably the best protection you’ll find that comes without a price tag.
Aggressively low pricing: If you do decide to order Avast Pro, you can do so from within the app, and Avast offers a one-year subscription for a reasonable $15, which is about half of its street price. If you change your mind, Avast offers a 60-day trial of Avast Internet Security, which was priced at $20 a year. Pro purports to add enhancements to online banking security and “a test space for checking suspicious apps.” This latter function appears to be a sandbox, in which you can open an app and investigate its behavior without risking an infection.
Relatively muted sales pitch: Free antivirus apps have a reputation for being pretty pushy about paying for a subscription, but Avast is on the low-key end of the spectrum (and it has been for a number of years). There are a couple upgrade buttons on the main console, and a number of features (a firewall, URL safety verifier, and “Webcam Shield,” among others) that redirect you to an order screen when you click on them, but nothing felt particularly tricky, and the sales pitch doesn’t make ironclad claims about what the program can do.
Data collection transparency: Avast tells you right off the bat that it wants to gather anonymized usage data, some of which may be used to help fund development, but you can disable this function in the Privacy settings. Though it would be nice if it explained what “certain” information it wanted to gather.
Some settings could use more explanation: Avast’s settings menus have a number of icons marked with an exclamation point that you can click on for further details. But the description for CyberCapture doesn’t sound substantially different from what a virus scanner already does: It “analyzes unrecognized files, defends and warns you about new threats, and helps keep your system secure.” And Hardened Mode is there “to further lock down the security of this computer.” But in what way?
Subscription offers can get confusing: The $15 Avast Pro offer is available via the upgrade buttons on the main console, but it’s not an option when you click on one of the features that has a padlock on it. There, you get two different offers: $20 a year for Avast Internet Security or $30 a year for Avast Premiere. But if you, say, click on the padlocked “Sensitive Data Shield” icon, you only see the Avast Internet Security offer, and it has a different list of advertised features.
While there are some quirks in the interface, Avast is a respectable and respectful antivirus app overall, and the paid version is notably budget-friendly.
From Avast Software:Lightweight, state-of-the-art protection that won’t slow down your PC. Avast Free Antivirus has been redesigned to be easier to use while staying light on your PC. It offers proprietary, cutting-edge CyberCapture technology that finds and stops unknown files, as well as improved Wi-Fi Inspector which can identify even more weak points in your router. It also features SafeZone, the world’s most secure browser, and an enhanced Game Mode which turns off background checks and updates to maximize your gaming experience.
2. Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox is a popular Web browser available on a variety of platforms. Its code DNA reaches back to the dawn of the World Wide Web and has shaped other software and software companies, including The Tor Project
- Surf the Web comfortably, relying on speed, safety, and power of customization
- There have been 5 updates within the past 6 months
- The current version has 1 flag on VirusTotal
- Also available on Android, iOS, and Mac
Battery-friendly video streaming: We tested video streaming on both Firefox and Chrome. While Chrome usually provides smoother page scrolling, Firefox surprisingly pulled ahead when it came to CPU power consumption with HD videos on YouTube, one of the most popular browsing activities. This power consumption has a direct effect on how long your battery lasts, and on the likelihood of a laptop fan noisily kicking in to keep your PC cool.
Easy reading thanks to smooth text scrolling: On a text-heavy Web page, Firefox does a better job than Google Chrome (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS) at making vertical scrolling scale to your Windows mouse settings. While the default scroll speed is relatively slow, Firefox has a lot more steps between “not enough” and “way too much.” Text-heavy webpages also tend to glide up and down more smoothly in response to your mouse wheel movements, which makes it easier for your eye to track where you are on a page. However, Chrome still scrolls more smoothly on media-heavy pages.
Highly customizable interface navigation: Mozilla introduced a UI overhaul in November 2013 that didn’t go over very well. Among other things, the standard menu design was replaced with a “hamburger” button that opened to reveal a number of icons. On the bright side, Mozilla gives developers deep access into modifying Firefox’s behavior, and one of them quickly introduced Classic Theme Restorer, which ended up giving Firefox the most user-customizable interface of any browser on the market, even three years later. With Classic Theme Restorer, the bookmarks button doesn’t have to look (confusingly) like a clipboard; you can tell at a glance which custom search engine you have loaded; and you can freely mix design elements from both the “classic” UI and the overhaul.
Underwhelming performance on media-heavy Web pages: Embedded videos, animated images, and large static images have become a very popular way for both advertisers and content creators to reach their audiences. But this rich-media environment takes its toll on a Web browser that can’t load all that data smoothly. Chrome feels prepared for this evolution, while Firefox arguably requires an ad blocker to prevent chunky scrolling and delayed loading of different sections on the page. (Firefox on Android fares much better in this department.) Basically, Chrome feels optimized for visual elements, while Firefox feels optimized for reading.
Mozilla has committed to finally replacing the Gecko page rendering engine with a new one called Quantum, but the company doesn’t expect to make it available until the end of 2017.
Sync requires managing another account: With Google Chrome, you can log in to your Google account (which you already have if you use Gmail or subscribe to YouTube channels), and it will pull in your bookmarks, add-ons, and themes from any other device where you’ve used the Chrome browser with that Google account. With Firefox, you need to create a separate Firefox account, which you won’t use anywhere else. Thankfully, though, the login screen works just fine with password managers like LastPass CHROME.
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