9. ESET NOD32 Antivirus 7
£29.99 (1 PC, 1 year); £69.99 (3 PCs, 2 years)
ESET may not make as many headlines as some of the competition, but it's still worth paying close attention to what the company is doing. Their products come packed with features and functionality, even the "bottom of the range" ESET NOD32 Antivirus 7.
A new "Device Control" module, for instance, allows you to define which devices your PC users can access. Don't want your kids to plug in an infected USB drive? Block them in Device Control − maybe CDs and DVDs, too − and you'll be a little safer.
ESET SysInspector is a powerful tool for inspecting your PC's innards and highlighting potential problems. There are modules to watch file system activity, or check running processes for suspect files. You get antiphishing, cloud-based scanning, a HIPS. And the latest edition has a stack of new features: a memory scanner improves detection of malware, an exploit blocker protects vulnerable apps, the mail plugin now finally works with Office 2013 and Windows Live Mail, and enhanced Windows 8 compatibility sees security notifications now displayed on the Start screen.
All this functionality is based around a solid core, too. ESET products rate highly with independent labs; they were one of AV-Comparatives top seven "Products of the Year" for 2013. The program scores particularly highly for usability, being unlikely to raise false positives, block legitimate programs and generally get in your way, and if that's high on your list of priorities then you might want to give NOD32 Antivirus 7 a try.
10. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus
£29.99 (1 PC, 1 year); £64.99 (3 PCs, 2 years)
Security vendors love to claim their products are "lightweight", but Webroot is one of the few who actually deliver. Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus arrived on our system as a 744KB executable, didn't present us with any complex setup options, and just set itself up in a couple of minutes: we didn't even have to reboot.
Webroot's cloud-based technologies mean there's no need for regular bulky virus definition updates, and scans are extremely quick; our initial health check took around six minutes − perhaps six times faster than a standard antivirus tool − while further scans in the same session were barely more than a minute.
How effective is it? That's more difficult to evaluate, because SecureAnywhere AntiVirus focuses its efforts on blocking malware which is running, or about to run, then reversing its actions. This works well, too, but unfortunately it's not so good at just detecting malware tucked away in a random file somewhere, which means it doesn't get good ratings with the independent testing labs. (They're reportedly working on new tests to provide a more realistic measure of SecureAnywhere's abilities, though, so this might change soon.)
On balance SecureAnywhere AntiVirus does a good job of blocking and removing even brand new malware, and can often undo its changes. Browsing protection is good, too (sites are evaluated in real time, no need for outdated URL databases), and the program is easy to use. If you're looking for a super-lightweight tool then download the trial build, and prepare to be impressed.
11. Avast Pro Antivirus 2014
£29.99 1 PC 1 year, £59.99 3 PCs 2 years
Avast Pro Antivirus 2014 makes an excellent first impression, thanks to a redesigned interface which looks great, is easy to use, and doesn't get in your way. All the program's core functions are easy to find, and accessible with the absolute minimum of clicks.
There are plenty of bonus features here, too. "Rescue Disk" creates a bootable CD or USB to help remove stubborn threats; "Sandbox" runs programs in an isolated environment where they can't harm your PC; "Browser Cleanup" highlights dubious browser toolbars and helps to remove them; "AccessAnywhere" allows you to remotely access a PC across the web; and most useful of all, "Software Updater" highlights missing updates for commonly exploited software (browsers, Adobe Reader, Java and more).