It's not all good news. When we first tested Avast 2014 it conflicted with a few other applications. Internet Explorer crashed whenever we searched Google, for instance, a problem which disappeared when we disabled the Avast browser add-on. Various patches and updates have helped, but a few users are still reporting issues.
The independent testing labs can't agree on Avast, either: AV-Comparatives rate it highly, but AV Test and VB100 say it's just mid-range.
In our view, Avast Pro Antivirus 2014 delivers good protection, though, and its interface and lengthy feature list mean the program is well worth a try.
12. Panda Antivirus Pro 2014
£31.99 (1 PC, 1 year); £71.99 (3 PCs, 2 years)
Panda's latest antivirus offering, Antivirus Pro 2014, catches the eye immediately, its bright Windows 8-inspired interface making it easy to locate and access the program's features.
There are plenty of features here, too. Click Scan, say, and you'll find Quick, Full and Custom scan options, a Cloud Cleaner link and scheduler. A vulnerability scanner checks for missing updates and security patches, and you get options to create a rescue disc and install a rescue boot mode (a startup option which can repair your PC even when Windows doesn't launch).
And just in case this isn't enough, you also get USB drive vaccination, a virtual browser (surf the web in a virtual environment, isolated from your main system), even a firewall. There isn't the same level of browser protection as you'll sometimes see elsewhere − you don't get warning icons on your search engine results, say − but the program is still more like a security suite than a standard antivirus tool.
Our tests found the program gave good results, and with independent labs generally scoring Panda's technology very highly, Panda Antivirus Pro 2014 seems to be a solid and appealing package.
13. Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus Plus
£39.95 (1 PC, 1 year); £69.99 (3 PCs, 2 years)
As you'll guess from its name, Trend Micro Titanium Antivirus Plus is another tool which goes beyond the usual antivirus basics. A spam filter does a good job of protecting your inbox, and the program is excellent at preventing you from reaching dangerous links, by checking them as they appear in your search engine results, social network streams, emails, instant messages and more.
This extra functionality isn't obvious from the interface, though. If anything, it's far simpler than most of the competition. Click the 'Scan' button on the console, say, and you're not taken into a complex dialog with a host of options to consider: it just launches a quick scan. Other scans can be launched with one further click. And even if you delve more into its settings, the program remains relatively straightforward.
Protection is above average, too. Titanium Antivirus Plus blocked everything we threw at it, and Trend Micro products generally score well with independent testing labs.
One potential down side is that, much like Norton AntiVirus, Titanium Antivirus Plus can sometimes raise alerts over programs which are entirely safe (you can ignore these, but they may still become annoying). Price is another issue, particularly the single PC licence, but it's probably worth it: Titanium Antivirus Plus will keep you safe from a wide range of threats.
14. Norton AntiVirus
£39.99 (3 PCs, 1 year); £64.99 (3 PCs, 2 years)
Detecting and removing malware is important, but a good antivirus tool will focus first on preventing any initial infection, and Norton AntiVirus is better than most at making this happen. Risky sites are highlighted in your search engine results, and the program does a great job of blocking access to malicious URLs, as well as highlighting dangerous downloads.
There have been some disagreements over the tool's effectiveness. Some independent testing labs have given it relatively low scores for file detection rates, while Symantec has questioned the validity of these figures, saying these tests don't take all the product's components into account. The dispute means Norton products are no longer submitted for AV-Comparatives Real World test, making them harder to compare with others.
As well as its core technologies, Norton AntiVirus also comes with some very useful extras. Identity Safe is a powerful password manager; a capable intrusion detection system blocks network attacks; performance monitoring highlights resource-hogging programs; there's a bootable recovery disc, extra "deep cleaning" tools, convenient links to other Symantec services, and more.
Norton AntiVirus is a capable product, and has worked well for us. It's a pity that Symantec and the testing labs can't agree on how to assess it, though: we'd like to see it properly compared to the competition.