ESET Smart Security 6 – Free download and software reviews – CNET

27 Jul 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on ESET Smart Security 6 – Free download and software reviews – CNET

Quick Specs

CNET Editors’ review

by: Seth Rosenblatt on September 13, 2011

The bottom line: Back from the nearly dead, or at least the un-updated, ESET returns with high-level security that’s light on your system. But for a top-tier suite, it’s also light on features. Good thing it’s priced lower, too.


Version 5 of ESET Smart Security is a solid, creative attempt to create a suite that adapts to a rapidly changing threatscape, with an emphasis on generic detections and the now-commonplace reliance on both cloud and locally stored detections. It left us wanting in one area that many don’t consider core security, and so its lower price and good benchmarks might win over people unhappy with other suites.

ESET Smart Security 5


ESET’s installation could be faster, although it’s by no means sluggish. It’s slowed down by a preponderance of screens, including registration, and an unnecessary query as to whether or not the user wants Potentially Unwanted Program (PUP) protection activated or not. While a legitimate query, there’s no reason for it to slow down the install by yet another screen to click through.

PUPs are definitely a security issue, though, so perhaps the program ought to just scan for them on the first scan automatically, and then ask you if it’s a scan you always want.

One decent thing about the registration process is that it’s all done from within the suite–no need to jump to your browser. Also, there’s no reboot required after the installation. Still, the one-minute-or-less installs from Norton and Trend Micro should be a goal that all security suites aspire to.


The layout of ESET 5 remains unchanged from version 4, except for minor details, although neither is quite as easy to use as it ought to be. The interface opens to a window indicating your security status. The default is colored green and labeled Maximum Protection, which changes to red and a warning when core security features, such as Network Protection, have been disabled.

The center pane doesn’t indicate this very clearly, but the plain text Maximum Protection labels that tell you which parts of your computer and activity are protected are actually links. Click one to drill deeper into your settings, toggle features, and gain more granular control over your security.

The left nav lets you access other features, including Computer Scan, Update, Setup, Tools, and Help. To the interface’s credit, each tab’s layout is kept similar, and there are helpful mouse-over tooltips that help clarify things like the differences between default scans, but key features, like the Advanced Settings window, are hard to find.

Along with a lack of clarity about how to get around ESET’s interface is the confusion created by redundancy.

There’s nothing gained by making things harder to find, and even savvy users will probably have to take more time than necessary to get up to speed.

Features and support

ESET Smart Security 5’s core features put the suite at or near the top of its class. Its collection of features, while not revolutionary, are nevertheless extremely well implemented. What it lacks are many of the modern ancillary features that justify the higher price.

On the side of the basics, there are two default scans: a Smart Scan and a custom scan. ESET has improved its antivirus and antispyware engines so that they don’t detect only threats, but prevent your host files from corruption before the bad guys go after you. There’s removable media control, so you can block USB keys or external drives from connecting to your computer, and the new gamer mode automatically initiates silent running whenever a program is running at full screen.

This is perfect for movies and presentations, as well as games. You can also activate it from the system tray.

ThreatSense, ESET’s cloud-based detection, isn’t new–yep, it had it three years ago–but it’s been expanded in version 5 to include reputation analysis. All of that comes in the basic NOD32. Upping to Smart Security gets you antispam, parental controls, and a smart firewall that learns how your computer uses the Internet very quickly.

For example, many firewalls don’t know what to do with Firefox’s development build Aurora initially, and will ask you to verify that it’s legit. ESET’s recognized it immediately and let it through without an annoying pop-up.

Speaking of browsers, ESET’s browser guards are browser-agnostic, and don’t require an extension. You won’t get search results ratings, but ESET successfully blocked us from attempting to reach known dangerous Web sites clicked on in search results.

The firewall’s advanced settings remain Smart Security’s strength. You can extensively customize the firewall’s behavior, but you don’t have to. There are five default settings: automatic, automatic with user-defined exceptions, interactive, policy-based, and learning. You can set safe zones, configure remote desktop access, and manage intrusion detection, all from an uncluttered and easy-to-use menu.

ESET chose usability over flashiness with its design, and you can jump between advanced options for any of Smart Security’s tools from the same pane. Unfortunately, the advanced firewall settings are buried–it’s easiest to get to them through the Network option on the Home screen.

The antispam filter is similarly effective and configurable. The program can automatically mark outgoing addresses as safe, as well as detect global address books. Smart Security is surprisingly light, consuming around 15MB of RAM when running a scan.

ESET skips over many of the ancillary features that the high-end suites tend to include, such as password management, free online storage and file syncing, or mobile protection. However, Smart Security retails for $59.99, about $10 cheaper than most Internet Security suites.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that ESET owns the Support space. In addition to the hot-line support, forums and knowledge base, no other security suite offers an education module like ESET does. Called Cybersecurity Training, the module features an interactive city that you can explore to learn about how to protect yourself, your personal data, and your computer when online.

It’s an in-depth approach that we wish other vendors would take, because at the end of the day, it’s going to be your own wits that keep you safest.

It’s accessible from the installation CD if you buy the physical boxed copy of the program, and we’re not sure just yet about how to launch it from the downloadable version.


ESET’s overall performance presents a reliable security option. It’s not the most effective security suite we’ve seen this year, and the benchmarks leave room for growth, but overall it’s a solid, secure choice, with low false positives and a light touch on your computer’s performance.

Real-world test results for ESET were confusing. On our real-world test computer, an x86 Windows 7 laptop that we use for all hands-on testing of security suites, ESET scans were invariably slow and ponderous. On average, the first scan took nearly two hours, and subsequent scans were only faster by about 20 to 30 minutes. These marks did not match up to CNET Labs’ results, which found ESET’s scan times on a freshly imaged computer to be among the fastest results we’ve seen so far this year.

Because of the large number of programs that get installed and uninstalled on the real-world laptop, which could adversely affect the computer’s Registry, we’re inclined to favor the labs results in this case.

CNET Labs’ benchmarks found both ESET Smart Security 5 and ESET NOD32 5 to have performed generally well above average. Note that we can’t directly compare this year’s results with last year’s because we upgraded our testing computer from Windows 7 x64 to Windows 7 x64 with Service Pack 1.

Smart Security slowed down the Labs’ computer boot time by an average of 17.2 seconds–five seconds faster than the average of all suites tested to date this year–whereas NOD32 5 added an impressively low 13.9 seconds. For both programs, ESET’s boot time impact was minimal.

Both suites had a small impact on the computer’s shutdown time, slowing it down only by about six to seven seconds longer than an unprotected computer. However, it should be noted that the shutdown time for an unprotected computer was half that, so even though ESET’s impact was minimal when compared with other suites, it’s still having a big affect on the computer itself.

On all of CNET’s in-use system performance tests except for the Cinebench test, ESET’s impact was extremely minimal. The Cinebench results were close to the average level of impact. So, all things being equal, you’re not going to notice much when ESET is running as you go about your computing business.

This was borne out by our real-world tests, too.

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