ESET was originally a Slovakian company and its global headquarters is still in Bratislava. The company's blend of AV signatures, heuristics and reputation analysis is combined in its Smart Security product, the mid-point in its range of three.
Smart Security 8 includes botnet security, to prevent your PC being seconded into a remote network, a memory scanner to overcome the heavy encryption of recent malware, and an exploit blocker, to prevent attacks on browsers, document readers and email clients. You can download ESET Smart Security for free, here.
ESET Smart Security review: features
The suite includes specific modules for AV, anti-spam and anti-spyware, anti-phishing support tied into your browser, a two-way firewall, parental control and scanning of social media sites, like Facebook and twitter. It doesn't include online storage or backup and there are few PC tune-up facilities; there are tools for activity monitoring and scheduling, but these aren't as comprehensive as Windows' own.
ESET produces anti-virus software for Mac, iOS and Android devices, but these aren't included in Smart Security; you need to invest in Multi-Device Security to protect across platforms. (See also: 2015's best antivirus for PC and laptop UK.)
ESET Smart Security review: interface
The interface is rather lacklustre, with a simple menu down the left-hand side of the window and main features filling the rest of the pane. It's easy enough to navigate, though and windows are improved by one of the best drawn androids this side of I Robot. (See also: Best internet security software 2015 UK.)
ESET Smart Security review: system performance
Running our scan tests shows ESET to have a fast scanner. It looked at 135,806 files in 22 minutes 41 seconds, giving a scan rate of 99.8 files per second. Repeating the test saw the scanner examine just 9,528 files in 32s, indicating that there is a fair amount of fingerprinting going on, to avoid having to rescan files which haven't changed.
There's also little load put on the system by the scanner, with just a 23 percent increase in our copy test time, when a scan was running in the background. (See also: 13 best backup software 2015 UK.)
ESET Smart Security review: antivirus performance
AV-Test scored Smart Security 8 at 14.5/18, which is good, but not among the front-runners. This breaks down into 5.0/6.0 for Protection, 3.5/6.0 for Performance and a full 6.0/6.0 for Usability. The Usability score measures false detections and warnings the software generates when working with legitimate applications. During the two-month test period, it only produced three false positives, against a group average of nine.
As with many of the IS suites tested by the site, its performance in detecting widespread and prevalent malware was a full 100 percent, using 12,327 samples. However, the product dipped a little when tested with zero-day attacks, scoring 94 percent and 98 percent, against an average of 94 percent.
Finally, going against the result we saw, the software was measured as giving a five second slowdown when visiting websites and downloading software, against a machine not running the suite.
ESET Smart Security 8 is an efficient IS suite, though it doesn't have many of the extras which are now often standard issue. It's good at what it does and from our tests has a fairly light touch. (See also: 2015's best antivirus for PC and laptop UK.)