Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 is Bitdefender's baseline Windows antivirus package which delivers all the usual malware hunting essentials, and throws in plenty of interesting extras, too - and, right now, it tops our list of the best antivirus software.
NOTE: Bitdefender is currently running a massive 60% discount on Antivirus Plus. That means the price comes down to just $23.99 (around £18.20) for the year for one device - so the equivalent of just shy of $2 a month!
Antivirus Plus gives you antivirus (unsurprisingly), real-time behavior monitoring and multi-layered ransomware protection, for instance. But there's also malicious website blocking, online banking protection, a password manager and secure file deletion.
The package even includes a Hotspot Shield-powered VPN, although the basic edition doesn't allow you to choose your location and restricts you to a tiny 200MB data transfer allowance per day, barely enough for email and very light browsing. Upgrading is good value, though, with the unlimited Premium VPN costing from £29.99 ($39) to cover up to five devices. For comparison, buying a one-year Elite license direct from Hotspot Shield costs £71.58 ($93).
New features in this release include Ransomware Remediation, an extra layer of protection which looks for ransomware-like behavior and backs up targeted files until the malicious processes can be closed. Even if the regular antivirus engine takes a few seconds to kill the ransomware, it's unlikely to matter, because Bitdefender should be able to restore anything which has been encrypted.
Elsewhere, the new Network Threat Prevention technology tries to prevent malware exploiting vulnerabilities on your device to launch more widespread attacks.
Bitdefender's Autopilot system delivers intelligent recommendations on how to optimize protection to match the way you use your device, and a new-look dashboard for the Windows build makes it even easier to use.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 is priced at a fairly average £29.99 ($39) for a one device, one-year license, but adding Windows devices and years can really improve value. A one-year, 10 device license costs only £54.99 ($71.50), for instance, and covering 10 devices for three years only lifts the price to £124.99 (£162.50), just £4.16 ($5.41) per device-year.
If you're looking for something more powerful, Bitdefender Total Security 2019 adds a firewall, spam filter, webcam protection, parental controls and more, and has versions for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. A one-year, five device license costs £34.99 ($45.50) in year one, £69.99 ($91) on renewal.
Better still, there are 30-day no-strings-attached free trial builds for all the major Bitdefender packages, so it's easy to try all their features for yourself.
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You must create a free Bitdefender account before you're able to download the trial of Antivirus Plus 2019, which essentially means handing over your email address. Many companies do something similar, though, and having an account does bring some genuine advantages, including the ability to view your device security status from Bitdefender's web console.
We registered with our email address, downloaded Antivirus Plus and started the installation. The setup process ran smoothly, scanning our computer to confirm it was clean, installing browser extensions and generally sorting itself out with minimal hassle.
On first launch, Antivirus Plus displays a simple tour, walking you through the key areas of the interface. Experienced users won't need this at all, but it's good to have the help available for novices.
Close the tour window and you're able to explore the polished Antivirus Plus console, a nicely designed interface which gives you speedy access to the features you need.
Quick scans are just a click away, while a left-hand sidebar organizes the suite's other tools into Protection, Privacy and Utilities areas. Expanding these displays the various options available within and most users will quickly be able to find their way around.
The main console can be customized to replace its default options with anything you're more likely to use. If you're not interested in the VPN, for instance, in a few clicks you could swap it with a button to launch the system scan, the password manager, file shredder or whatever else you like.
Overall, the Antivirus Plus interface works very well. Beginners get easy access to the most important features, but there are also plenty of configuration options and low-level tweaks for experts to enjoy.
Bitdefender Antivirus Plus 2019 supports multiple scan modes: Quick Scan checks the most likely infected areas, System Scan examines everything, Explorer integration enables scanning objects from Explorer's right-click menu, and there's a bootable rescue environment to help you remove the most stubborn threats.
A Manage Scans option lets you create new scan types to check specific files and folders. You're able to redefine how the scan works – look for rootkits but don't bother with 'potentially unwanted applications', maybe – and there are options to schedule scans to run automatically. This can't compete with the configurability of Avast, but there's easily enough power here for most users.
Scanning speeds are reasonable. Quick Scans took around 15-30 seconds on our test computer, while full system scans started at 135 minutes to check 335GB of files, but this fell to 43 minutes by the second scan, 30 minutes for the third, and we would expect it to drop further over time.
Bitdefender's password manager, Wallet, is able to store website credentials, credit card details, wireless network passwords, application logins and license keys, email server credentials and details (server names, ports and so on), and personal details for any number of individuals (name, date of birth, address, email, phone number(s), and more besides).
Antivirus Plus automatically installed the Wallet extension on our Chrome browser (Firefox and IE are also supported.) This just about handled the website login basics for us, but couldn't always fill in more complex forms correctly, or automatically submit forms once they were completed. It's not going to replace big-name competitors like Dashlane, but if you don't have a password manager already, you should find it useful.
Bitdefender's Safepay is a secure browser which protects online banking and other sensitive transactions from snoopers and malware. We tested it with screenshot tools and keyloggers and found they weren't able to record any trace of what we were doing.
The Vulnerability Scanner runs some basic checks for missing application updates and Windows patches, weak passwords and some network issues. It didn't do anything special for us, but again, it could be worth running occasionally.
A bonus File Shredder securely wipes selected files and folders to ensure there's no chance they can be recovered. It works, and may be very handy for wiping sensitive documents, but it doesn't allow you to choose a shredding algorithm or tweak any other settings. That's fine for novice users, but experts will get more control by using best-of-breed file-shredding freeware.
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Bitdefender is loved by the big testing labs, and its products almost always appear around the top of every chart.
AV-Comparatives' February to June 2018 Real-World Protection report summarized the results of five individual tests, and once again, Bitdefender performed very well. The engine blocked 99.8% of threats, putting it third out of 18 for protection, just fractionally behind Trend Micro and F-Secure.
AV-Test's Windows 10 tests for April 2018 went even further, showing Bitdefender blocking 100% of test threats.
We carried out further tests of our own, starting by checking Bitdefender's malicious website filtering against a list of brand new dangerous links. Antivirus Plus blocked 84%, better than most, although this is a difficult area to assess reliably and results can change significantly from day to day.
Finally, as Bitdefender prides itself on anti-ransomware functionality, we put the suite through a couple of strenuous tests.
To begin, we pitted Bitdefender against a real-world ransomware sample. It wasn't a fair fight, with Antivirus Plus killing the infection immediately, before it could touch our system.
We ramped up the difficulty level by creating a custom ransomware simulator of our own, something Bitdefender would never have seen before. Antivirus Plus 2019 allowed it to run for a while as it watched what was happening, but eventually it also killed the process and restored all the files our software had managed to encrypt.
Bitdefender didn't fully clean up the system afterwards, though. The ransomware executable wasn't deleted, for instance, and the encrypted files were left alongside the originals (if you started with Important.PDF, you would be left with Important.PDF and Important.Ext). But Antivirus Plus 2019 had successfully blocked both a known and brand-new threat without us losing a single file, and that's what really matters.
A superb all-round antivirus tool which does a great job of keeping even brand new, undiscovered threats at bay. An absolute must for your PC security shortlist.