German security vendor Avira is probably best known for its highly-rated free antivirus, but the company also makes a wide range of commercial products for both home and business users.
Avira Antivirus Pro takes the accurate engine of the free product and extends it with real-time blocking of phishing and infected websites, and an extra layer to protect your online shopping and banking transactions.
Unusual bonus features include the ability to control which devices can connect to your USB ports, as well as scan them. Although the product doesn't have a firewall of its own, it can help you manage and control the Windows firewall. There's also a ‘PUA Shield’ to help avoid potentially unwanted applications bundled with legitimate software.
Prices range from £30 ($38) for a one-computer, one year licence, up to £121 ($151) to cover five computers for three years. That's higher than average – F-Secure Anti-Virus, for example, will set you back £20 ($25) to cover one device for a year – but there are similarly-priced packages around.
Avira Antivirus Pro has a 30-day trial available. It arrives as a compact download and installs the bulk of the package almost entirely automatically, in our experience with no conflicts or complications.
We ran a few simple checks and tests on Avira's program files to confirm they're all digitally signed, the certificates are valid, and so on. This can identify issues with even some big-name companies, but Avira passed every check without difficulty.
If you're the hands-off type, you could leave the program alone post-installation and get on with your regular life. Avira Antivirus Pro manages its own updates and generally stays out of your way. It may not seem that way with the free version and the trial build as there are regular ads, but the Pro edition can turn them off (tap the Notification icon top-right, and click Never).
There's perhaps a small complication in Avira's Browser Safety, a bundled ad and tracker-blocking module. This installs as a browser extension, and may result in one-off alerts asking whether you want to accept it. But once you've agreed there are no more hassles, and if you're not a fan of security extensions you can opt not to install this at all.
Installing Avira Antivirus Pro added an Avira Connect icon to our system tray. This acts as a launcher and manager for all the Avira applications you've installed on your system, and other devices too. You can run a quick scan, start an update or toggle real-time protection from Avira Connect in a couple of clicks, but to do anything else you must hit Open to launch the full program.
The main Avira Antivirus interface is cluttered and a little intimidating. While other tools have stripped back their consoles in years, Avira is crammed with tiny links, options and buttons, and yet still doesn't immediately display everything you might need. There's a Scan System button, for instance, but not a Quick Scan option.
On the plus side, Avira Antivirus Pro is far more configurable than most of the competition. Tap System Scanner and you'll find separate scans to check local or removable drives, your Windows folder, Documents folder, active processes and more. You can add further custom scan types of your own, and configure them in very fine detail.
The problem remains ease of use. The program has some good ideas, including the ability to create a desktop shortcut to launch a particular scan type. But there are also irritations. You can't double-click a scan to launch it, for instance – you must select it and hit a toolbar button, or press F3 – and a UAC prompt appears each time.
Once a scan has started, we found it correctly detected and removed all malware. Scans take longer than average and falsely flagged more programs than usual on our test system, but if that ensures you stay safe, it might be a price worth paying.
URL blocking is more cumbersome than with other products. Avira can sort of keep you safe by installing its Browser Safety or Safe Shopping browser extensions, but these don't work with Internet Explorer or Edge. There's a Web Protection module which tries to cover everything, but this doesn't seem to use the same technology. It isn't as effective as the best of the competition, and it still didn't work properly with IE or Edge on our test system.
The Device Control feature aims to control user access to USB or external hard drives, at least in theory. Unfortunately, it's poorly implemented, with a basic interface hidden away in the Settings dialog, and there’s no mention of it in the Help file (not that we could find, anyway). It didn't appear to do anything useful on our test PC, and even when it's working, there's no easy way to specifically prevent users changing Device Control settings.
Avira Antivirus Pro has a Firewall section, but this only checks the settings of the Windows firewall. It provides an interface to manage these, but this isn't a significant improvement on the standard firewall dialogs, and overall the feature has little value.
The remaining Web Protection and Mail Protection modules are little more than report pages, for example listing emails scanned. There's a little more detail than you'll get with other products, but again, we doubt you'd miss these features if they weren't there.
There's no doubt that Avira Antivirus Pro has an accurate engine, but you can get that already with the free build. The other features aren't nearly as useful, and their implementation is a mess. This feels like a package that's outgrown its current interface, and Avira really needs to ditch it and start again.
Avira scored full marks in our own small-scale malware detection tests, but to really understand its reliability we also check the company's ratings with the main independent testing labs.
Avira typically scores highly in AV-Comparatives' monthly real-world protection tests, often achieving 100% protection rates. The company was awarded the top Advanced+ rating seven times in 2016, matching Bitdefender and Kaspersky.
AV-Test's recent Windows Home User test returned similar results. This product was one of five top-rated packages from a field of 18, along with Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Norton and Trend Micro.
MRG Effitas runs specialist tests to see how security software copes with financial malware. Its May 2017 report [PDF] found Avira Internet Security delivered better support than most packages, but was beaten by one real-world bot. The only packages which protected against all threats were Kaspersky Internet Security and Webroot SecureAnywhere.
We completed our checks by assessing how the package might affect the speed of your computer. PassMark's last Performance Benchmark report [PDF] makes for grim reading, placing Avira Internet Security in 13th place out of 15 when averaged across multiple tests. AV-Comparatives' May 2017 Performance Test runs different checks, but gave similar results, ranking the company a disappointing 14th out of the test set.
Avira Antivirus Pro does a good job of keeping you malware-free, but so does Avira Free, and there's not enough power here to justify parting with your cash.