TrustPort Antivirus Sphere review

Back-to-basics malware protection from the Czech Republic

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Our Verdict

This TrustPort offering can be accurate, but it’s also short on features and sometimes awkward to use.

For

  • Above average antivirus accuracy
  • Good value for multiple users
  • Simple interface
  • Configurable

Against

  • No URL filter
  • Very few features
  • Feeble ‘recovery disk’ builders
  • Outdated Help file

TrustPort is a Czech Republic-based company which offers a range of antivirus and network security software to home and business users.

As you'll guess from the name, TrustPort Antivirus Sphere is the company's baseline antivirus product. It's a stripped-back tool which concentrates very much on the fundamentals: signature and heuristics for detection, anti-exploits to protect browsers and frequently used applications, and a bootable rescue disk to remove stubborn threats.

This isn't quite as basic as it sounds. Antivirus Sphere includes two engines, for instance, both from respected developers: AVG and Bitdefender.

There's some flexibility, too. Tired of antivirus false alarms? You don't have to delete or quarantine detected threats. The program can repair them, prevent them from being opened, even just rename them if you're reasonably sure they're nothing serious.

The price is average at £23.17 ($29) for a one computer, one-year licence. TrustPort offers excellent discounts if you add more computers, though, and a three computer licence costs only £31.30 ($39). Licence renewals get a further 25% off, and overall TrustPort offers good value to long-term users.

Setup

Unlike some of the competition, TrustPort doesn't try to hide its trial builds. Even the Buy page has a Download Demo button, just in case you want to sample the product before handing over your cash.

The installer is relatively large at almost 400MB, and the server was sluggish, but our file arrived eventually. Setup gave us more advanced options than usual, including defining a proxy, but you can ignore all of that if you're not interested. Otherwise the program installed without hassle, checked for any updates, then downloaded and applied them automatically with no input required from ourselves.

We checked TrustPort's folders and found files supporting the Bitdefender and AVG engines, as well as TrustPort's own. Some of the files weren't digitally signed, mostly from Bitdefender, and a few of them had surprisingly old copyright dates (2007, 2008). This doesn't necessarily indicate any problems, but it does make it more difficult to authenticate the files and see who's published them.

Security tools which use third-party engines sometimes fail to protect their files properly. In some cases malware can disable them by closing their processes or deleting their files. TrustPort brushed off our simple attacks, though, and system protection wasn't affected at any time.

Features

TrustPort Antivirus Sphere's simplicity has one immediately obvious advantage: a very clear and straightforward interface. It's essentially a toolbar featuring just five large buttons, with only one of those – Scan Now – that you'll use on a regular basis.

The program supports five main scan types: Quick, All Disks, Local Disks, Removable Media and Scan Selected Target (whatever folder you need). As usual, you can also scan files or folders from File Explorer by right-clicking and selecting the Scan option.

Annoyingly, the trial displays a ‘running in Trial mode’ message before every scan, and you must click OK to clear it and continue. It's reasonable to display a warning when the program starts, or maybe once a day, but this level of nagging isn't something we'd expect from a professional developer.

Once they're running, the scans can be very thorough. Scan an executable from Explorer, for instance, and Antivirus Sphere doesn't check that file alone. It also examines memory and running processes, helping the program spot companion threats or anything else that might be shielding the target.

Quick scans really were quick, sometimes taking as little as 30 seconds. That's not necessarily a good thing if the package isn't checking everywhere it should, of course. Full and targeted scans (this drive, that folder) were a little faster than average, spotted all our test threats and didn't raise a single false alarm.

There's no specific URL and browsing filter, although downloads will be scanned, and we struggled to find any other significant features. 

As for the other buttons, OnAccess Scanner simply toggles protection on and off. The AntiExploit button optionally changes AntiExploit mode or switches to Application Doctor, another way of classifying and controlling processes.

The Extra Applications section seemed promising, but in the end, sadly it wasn’t, offering only two options to build a bootable recovery environment. The first was via a plugin for the ancient BartPE, which was discontinued in 2016 after not being updated in years. The second offered to prepare a Windows PE CD, but only works if you've installed the Windows Automated Installation Kit – not something the average user should be expected to do.

There's a similar dusty and dated feel to other parts of the program. Clicking Help doesn't display a local help file, it just opens a web page to download a PDF manual. This wastes time talking about "what is a computer virus and what is not", and comes packed with very old security references.

Do readers really need to know that .286 and .386 files were drivers in Windows 3.x and earlier? How does it help to tell people that a PDB file is a PalmOS database, when the PalmOS brand disappeared over a decade ago, and PDB files are now used by Microsoft to hold debugging information?

None of this is going to appeal to beginners, but more experienced users will at least appreciate the configuration options. You can define and control what the system will scan, set online and offline update rules, automatically run different types of scans at your preferred times, and use the AntiExploit module to monitor process behaviour. 

The most interesting tool here might be the Application Inspector, a whitelisting-type system which gives you a great deal of control over what runs on your system. The recommended setting monitors risky programs and doesn't allow them to change sensitive data until you give permission. Switch it to Secure Mode and only trusted and digitally signed files will be allowed to run. That could cause you serious issues if you're always downloading new freeware, but it's also a very good way to block even brand-new and undiscovered threats.

Protection

TrustPort Antivirus Sphere breezed through our limited malware detection tests, but to get the full picture we also like to check reports from the main independent testing labs.

Unfortunately, TrustPort isn't assessed in most of the usual places. AV-Test doesn't cover the company at all, AV-Comparatives hasn't benchmarked it in years, and the relatively new SE Labs only covers the top antivirus names so far. Also, the company isn't in PassMark's latest performance benchmark.

There is one notable success story. TrustPort AntiVirus has been included in the VirusBulletin VB100 tests for some time now, and the last averages rated it as one of the best packages around. These tests are a little dated and we would like to see more reports for confirmation, but it's clear that TrustPort Antivirus Sphere can offer good levels of protection in at least some situations.

Final verdict

TrustPort Antivirus Sphere can be accurate and the multi-user price is good value. It's dated and short on functionality, though, and really needs a major refresh to properly compete with the best of the rest.