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Trend Micro 2020 Antivirus solutions review

Easy-to-use, accurate antivirus and top-notch browsing protection

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(Image: © Trend Micro)

Our Verdict

There's quality protection here, but experienced users might wish for more ways to fine-tune their security (and to be able to cover several systems on one license, too).

For

  • Above-average protection
  • Capable URL blocking
  • Multiple anti-ransomware layers
  • Configurable spam filter

Against

  • Limited configurability
  • License covers one PC only
Please note

This is our all-in-one roundup reviewing every Trend Micro consumer security solution for 2020. On this page, after our brief intro, you’ll find

(a) a full evaluation of the entry-level Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security, along with our reviews of the additional features incorporated with the rest of the range: 

(b) Trend Micro Internet Security, and

(c) the top-end package Trend Micro Maximum Security

You can jump to the reviews of those individual products by clicking on the links in the bar at the top of this page, but bear in mind that this article is really designed to be read all the way through, as the features of Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security are also present in the higher-level security suites, of course.

Trend Micro's consumer security range follows a very familiar pattern, with a single Windows-only antivirus product, a more powerful internet security suite, and a top-of-the-range product with extra functionality and support for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.

The baseline Antivirus+ Security offers simple antivirus protection, antiphishing and malicious URL blocking, while Trend Micro's Pay Guard aims to keep your banking transactions safe from snoopers.

A one year, one PC license costs $30 for year one, $40 on renewal. Paying for two years up-front extends the introductory discount, costing $60, and renewing at $65. That's decent value, but you'll get more billing flexibility with some of the competition. 

Bitdefender Antivirus Plus is fractionally more expensive at $40 for a one-year license, $70 for two, for instance. But its licenses can cover up to ten devices for three years, and that may save you big money (a ten device, three-year license costs $180, or $6 per device per year.)

Trend Micro Internet Security protects up to three PCs and throws in parental controls, optimization for your social media privacy settings, and PC cleanup and maintenance. 

The package is priced at $40 for year one, $80 on renewal, or you can pay $60 up-front for a two-year license, then $125 when you renew.

Again, this isn't particularly expensive, but if you're looking to protect more devices, you'll find much better deals elsewhere.

Trend Micro Maximum Security covers up to five devices, which can now include Macs, Android and iOS devices, as well as PCs. Oh, and it adds a password manager, too.

Pricing is reasonable at $40 for the first year, $90 on renewal. The two-year subscription is better value than the rest of the range, too, at $60 for the first term (the same as Internet Security), $140 on renewal.

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security

Trial

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Getting started with Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security is generally easy. There's a trial build available, installation is largely automatic, and you don't even have to provide your email address to try it out. (You're prompted to enter your email address at the end of the process to get product news and updates, but this is optional. We left the box blank and the installer didn't complain.)

Installation Checks

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One potential issue we noticed is the installer's sensitivity to 'incompatible' software. Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security refused to install until we removed Kaspersky's Secure Connection VPN, for instance. It's hard to see why, because although it's a Kaspersky product, it has nothing to do with antivirus, and it really shouldn't conflict with other security tools. 

Chrome Extension Installation

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There's another minor hassle with Trend Micro's browser extensions. Antivirus+ Security didn't install these for us, instead raising occasional pop-up alerts asking us to install the Chrome extension manually. The package could do more to help users out (the 'install our Chrome addon' alerts don't even include a link.)

Installation

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Once setup is complete, the package added an icon to our system tray but otherwise stayed mostly in the background. This is an antivirus which doesn’t get in your way, and most of the time you can forget it's there.

The Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security installation grabbed more system resources than most, with more than 1GB of data and executable files, a further 2.65GB in an Installer folder, eight background processes and assorted other drivers.

The package had only an average performance impact on our review system, though, and other testing shows similar results.

For example, PassMark's Consumer Security Products Performance Benchmarks for 2020 (Edition 2) checked 15 popular antivirus packages for their PC performance impact across 23 metrics. Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security wasn't on the list, but PassMark did check Trend Micro Internet Security, and that managed only 10th place (1st place had the least impact on speed, 15th the most.)

We completed our initial checks by simulating the type of attacks malware might use to try and disable Trend Micro's protection. We tried to delete files, kill processes, stop services, tweak settings, unload drivers and silently uninstall the package, but Trend Micro's capable self-protection blocked even the sneakiest of tricks, and we remained fully protected at all times.

Settings

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Interface

The interface has a friendly and appealing look. There are large animated icons, a big scan button, a clear description of your security status, along with text captions and tooltips to make it clear how everything works. You can even customize the console with a new background image.

Checking the Settings dialog revealed the same focus on clarity, with nothing too intimidating present. Instead of the usual technical jargon, options are spelled out in plain English, like "Prevent programs on portable drives from launching automatically" or "Check if programs try to make unauthorized changes to system settings which could threaten your security".

Experts might wish for more low-level control, but if you're normally left baffled by at least some antivirus settings, Trend Micro's simplified approach could be a refreshing change.

Scanning

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Antivirus

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security's Scanning options are straightforward. You're able to run quick, full or custom scans, where you can specify particular drives or folders to check. There's very little control over any of this, and no Avast-like ability to add other scan types and define precisely how they work. But it's easy to use, and if you're not the type who normally delves deep into antivirus settings, you'll probably be happy enough.

You're able to scan files from their right-click Explorer menu, too, although with some restrictions. We noticed that Antivirus+ Security doesn't support simultaneous scans, and the Explorer 'Scan with Trend Micro' option is greyed out when you're running a scan from the main console.

That's probably not something you'll notice often, but it's still a potential nuisance, and not an issue you'll get with the best engineered antivirus (Kaspersky products are able to run multiple scans simultaneously, each in their own window.)

Scan times were a little below average in our tests, and we didn't notice any 'scan only new and changed files'-type optimization to improve performance. No matter how many times we scanned our 51MB of test data, it still took around 14 minutes.

Folder Shield

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Trend Micro's protection doesn't stop with real-time behavior monitoring and on-demand scanning. Folder Shield, an anti-ransomware layer, watches your Documents, OneDrive and Pictures folders, as well as any connected USB drives, and alerts you about any attempt to modify files by trusted processes. You can add more folders as necessary.

Folder Shield isn't a new idea – Windows 10 now does something similar with its Controlled Folders feature – but it's a welcome extra layer of protection which could block even brand-new undiscovered ransomware.

Protection

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Protection

AV-Comparatives' real-world protection test is a tough benchmark which pits 18 top antivirus engines against some of the very latest malware. Trend Micro's results in the latest July-October 2019 summary report were very positive, with its test product blocking 99.9% of test threats, placing it third out of 16 contenders.

The package typically raised more false alarms than most of the competition, though, something we've also seen ourselves. Avira topped the AV-Comparatives list with just one false positive across all tests, for instance; Trend Micro had 19. That could translate into a lot of extra hassles during real-world use.

Checking the results from other labs revealed a mixed picture. AV-Test's September-October Home Windows report showed Trend Micro blocking 100% of all test threats and raising only one false positive, against an industry average of four. But SE Labs October to December 2019 Home Anti-Malware Protection report placed Trend Micro ninth out of 15 with a protection rate of 98%.

Ransomware Test

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To get a more complete idea of the program's abilities, we tested the program with our own custom ransomware simulator. As we've written this ourselves, Trend Micro wouldn't be able to detect the threat from its file signature, and could only rely on behavior monitoring. Many antivirus products have failed this test, but Trend Micro managed another big success. Not only did it kill the process after only a handful of files had been encrypted, but it also recovered those documents in full, ensuring we didn't lose any data at all. 

That puts Trend Micro alongside Bitdefender and Kaspersky as the only vendors with products that have both blocked our test threat and recovered any lost files. That isn't necessarily the best result - some products have blocked our simulator before it can touch a single file - but the ability to restore damaged files does give us a little more confidence in an antivirus' abilities.

Social Network Protection

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URL filtering

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security includes several levels of browsing protection. 

Trend Micro's Social Networking Protection uses browser extensions to display a 'risk rating' of links on popular social networks, for instance (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Weibo and more.) But there's also automatic checking of URLs before they're accessed, and even if a page passes that test, its content is scanned by the core Trend Micro engine.

URL Filtering

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URL filtering was better than most, blocking almost all our test malicious URLs. It's unusually configurable, too – while other antivirus programs typically only allow you to turn URL blocking on or off, this one has a 'protection strength' slider which you can turn up to more aggressively block sites, or turn down to reduce false alarms.

AV-Comparatives' 2019 Anti-Phishing Certification test confirmed our positive results, with Trend Micro's excellent 97% detection rate placing it second out of the six contenders. Bitdefender did fractionally better at 98%, and the companies lagging behind were Avast (94%), Kaspersky (94%), Avira (88%) and F-Secure (85%).

Pay Guard

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Trend Micro's Pay Guard aims to provide a more secure environment for carrying out online banking, shopping and other sensitive transactions, making it more difficult for malware to monitor or log what you're doing. This is also a familiar idea, but Trend Micro implements it a little differently.

While Bitdefender SafePay and similar packages create their secure environment within a custom hardened browser, Antivirus+ Security uses your default browser (as long as it's Chrome, Firefox or IE) with its most secure settings. This makes it easier to operate, as you're using a familiar interface, but is it as secure? Probably not, because Trend Micro has much less control over how the browser works, but it's difficult to say for sure.

Spam filter

Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security has a surprise bonus tool in its spam filter, a feature normally reserved for security suites. It's not easy to find, though - it's disabled by default and not highlighted on the main dashboard - and you may not even realize it exists unless you find the right area of the Settings dialog and click the appropriate checkbox.

After enabling the feature, we began to realize why Trend Micro wasn't shouting about it. It's not a network level, system-wide filter, for instance; it only works with Outlook, scanning POP3, SMTP and Exchange messages

Performance wasn't great for us, either, with the filter regularly flagging a large number of legitimate emails as junk. You can address this by adding trusted addresses to an Approved Senders whitelist, though, or maybe reducing the filter strength. It's also possible you'll see better results, as these depend very much on the type of email you get. Take the trial, see how it does.

Final verdict

Trend Micro has produced a user-friendly antivirus with some valuable extras including anti-ransomware measures and a spam filter, but experts might be frustrated by the lack of advanced features and configuration options.

Trend Micro Internet Security

Main

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Trend Micro Internet Security extends the Antivirus+ product with parental controls, social media privacy tools and a handful of PC maintenance and speedup features.

That looks a little underpowered, to us. Competing suites might have a configurable firewall, password manager, webcam protection, maybe a limited VPN and support for mobile devices, but there's none of that here.

The relatively short feature list doesn't get you a significant discount, either. Bitdefender Internet Security 2020 is crammed with extras, but its three device, one-year license is priced identically to Trend Micro Internet Security: $40 in year one, then $80 a year afterwards.

Still, there's a significant bonus in the extended license. Trend Micro Antivirus+ Security protects one PC for $30 in year one, $60 after that; Internet Security protects three devices for $40 initially, rising to $80 on renewal. If you're several PCs to look after, that could justify the upgrade all on its own.

And although there's not a lot of functionality here, if Trend Micro Internet Security has everything you're after, that may not matter very much. What's really important is exactly what its new features can do, and that's what we wanted to find out.

Parental Controls

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Parental Controls

Trend Micro's Family feature is an interesting parental controls tool which tries to offer a little more functionality than you'll get with many other suites.

Content filtering enables blocking websites by their content type, for instance. A long list of well-chosen categories gives you plenty of control over how the system should work. You don't just get a single checkbox to block or allow all websites classed as 'Adult', for instance - you can opt to block pornography and erotic links, but allow sites covering sex education or with swimsuit pictures.

More general tools include options to prevent users accessed sites which Trend Micro hasn't rated. You can have unsuitable images filtered out from search engine results, or even block access to search engines entirely. 

A Time Limit section enables choosing when internet access is allowed for this device, and your chosen user account. (Every family member can have their own user account on the same PC, and you're able to set different restrictions for each, or maybe no restrictions at all.)

Parental Controls Time Limit

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The Scheduling screen is a grid covering every hour of the day, and every day of the week, and you're able to block internet access for whatever hour-long slot you like. 

A separate option allows limiting device use to a set number of hours per day. 

Interestingly, you can also block access to specific applications by schedule. Add an app and initially it's blocked at all times, but you can freely tweak that to, say, only allow it to be launched at weekends.

There's a significant limitation here, in that Trend Micro Internet Security doesn't cover mobile devices. If your child has access to a phone, or a tablet, they can switch to that whenever they hit any enforced limits on the PC.

But if you can live with that, Trend Micro's parental controls tools give you fractionally more features than you'll see with some competitors, and are a worthwhile addition to the suite.

PC Health Report

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PC Health

Trend Micro claims its PC Health feature can 'fix common problems and get everything running at top speed', but it doesn't take long to realize that might be a little, well, unrealistic.

Trend Micro Internet Security automatically checks your PC Health when you run a regular antivirus scan, or you can choose to run a separate scan. Either way, the process doesn't take long, and within seconds we were looking at our results in five categories.

A 'Security Vulnerabilities' section lists missing Microsoft and Adobe updates, and poorly configured Windows firewall and user account settings. There's no harm in that, but it's a little limited, and all it displayed on our system was a very vague 'unsecure Internet Explorer security settings' alert. We wouldn't allow any app to change our security settings without more detail on what it was planning to do.

A 'Potentially Incompatible Programs' section warns you of apps which might interfere with Internet Security or 'affect the performance of your computer.' Our Antivirus+ Security installation experience (where it demanded we uninstall Kaspersky's VPN before continuing) suggests this is more sensitive than it should be, and we wouldn't be surprised if it generated some problems.

PC Health Faster Startup

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The 'Reduce Computer Startup Time' section displays startup programs which Trend Micro thinks could be disabled (or launched later) to reduce boot time. That's a fair idea, but it only listed four possibilities for us, and these didn't look well chosen. They included the Adobe Acrobat Update Service, for instance - risking updates going astray by turning this off is hardly a good idea.

The 'Regain Disk Space' section handles basic disk cleanup tasks, including emptying the Recycle bin, and deleting Windows Update history and your temporary files. That might be handy, but we found that Windows' own Disk Cleanup tool cleared more, while the freeware CCleaner did even better, and gave you vastly more control over the cleanup process.

Finally, a 'Clean Privacy Data' feature can apparently remove personal data from 'web browsers, instant messaging applications, media players and Windows.' Sounds great, but as it found nothing at all on our review system, we're left wondering how thorough it is.

PC Health looks like it covers a lot of ground, but from our first look, none of its features stood out in any positive way. You'll get better results with the best-of-breed PC maintenance freeware, such as CCleaner. Or, if you're an experienced user and you'd like your security suite to have some real speedup power, check out Avira Prime. Its system cleaner is one of the few we've seen that can stand up to the stand-alone competition.

 Privacy Menu

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Privacy Scanner

Trend Micro Internet Security enhances your privacy with three new tools.

Privacy Scanner includes options to check the privacy settings of your web browsers, and your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. These are available from the main Trend Micro interface, but annoyingly they launched Internet Explorer rather than Chrome, our default browser.

Privacy Scanner

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The Scanner made a couple of recommendations for changes to privacy-related Internet Explorer and Firefox settings (what to do with Do Not Track requests, whether the browser should remember passwords, and so on.) We were able to choose any new options directly from the interface.

Privacy Scanner requires logging in to your Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts before it can check out your settings. That's easy enough if you know your passwords, but more of a hassle if, like us, you're using a password manager which doesn't have an IE extension installed.

Fortunately, Trend Micro has a separate Chrome extension which can also run the Privacy Scanner. We ran this and received 10 recommendations for Facebook (changing who could see our posts, who could see posts we'd tagged, and so on) and 4 for Twitter. The LinkedIn page only contained a message telling us Trend Micro was sorry, but was making a 'few improvements here to keep up with recent changes to this social network.'

The Chrome extension also displayed Privacy Scanner's recommendations for IE and Firefox, but again, had no advice for our Chrome setup.

If you haven't already locked your social media accounts down, there's some value here. But even then, Privacy Scanner isn't doing much, and it's not a tool you'll need or use very often.

Social Networking Protection 1

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Social Networking Protection

Trend Micro's Social Networking Protection is a simple feature which highlights the risks of any links in various social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Mixi, MySpace and Weibo.

This feature is enabled by default in Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome, as long as you install Trend Micro's extensions.

Social Networking Protection 2

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This worked well when we tried it, highlighting safe URLs in reassuring green, and dangerous links in alarming red. Although we didn't test this feature in depth, Trend Micro does a good job of blocking URLs, so we expect it will be accurate. There's a welcome side-effect, too, in that it makes links easier to see in blocks of text, helping you find URLs when you need them, and avoid accidentally clicking something when you don't.

Data Theft Protection

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Data Theft Prevention

Trend Micro's final privacy feature, Data Theft Prevention, aims to stop confidential information from ever leaving your PC.

The idea is that you create a list of information you don't want to share without permission: credit card or bank account details, addresses, telephone numbers, whatever they might be. Trend Micro then monitors outgoing connections and alerts you to any attempt to send those details.

We found this works at a very simple level. If the first 8 digits of your credit card number are 12345678, and you protect those characters with Data Theft Prevention, Trend Micro raises an alert when they're sent over a network connection. (That's a hassle in itself if you're using them legitimately, maybe to buy something with your credit card, but you can temporarily disable the feature if necessary.)

But as usual with this type of feature, it can be bypassed with minimal effort. In our last example, Internet Security would detect an attempt to send the text string '12345678', but it wouldn't catch '1234 5678', and there's no way for it to spot malware which encodes and sends a binary file, such as an archive.

Final verdict

Trend Micro Internet Security doesn't make any huge mistakes, but it doesn't provide any compelling reasons to buy it, either. The feature set is small, and although there are a few original touches, most tools are average at best.

If you've already decided you're buying a Trend Micro product, and Internet Security's feature set suits your needs, check out the trial anyway. It will make you a little safer, and it's fair value if you're covering more than one device.

But if you're not already committed to the company, there's probably nothing in Trend Micro Internet Security that will change your mind, and you'll be better off with something else.

Trend Micro Maximum Security

Main

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If Trend Micro hasn't satisfied your security needs so far, maybe the top of the range Trend Micro Maximum Security will do the trick.

The big new feature is multi-platform support, with apps available for Android, iOS and Mac.

There's another welcome touch in a password manager, while a small Vault tool enables using password-protected folders to prevent others viewing your most confidential files.

This doesn't have quite the power you might expect from a high-end suite. There's no configurable firewall, for instance, and no webcam or microphone protection.

Trend Micro Maximum Security isn't significantly cheaper than the competition, either. A one year, five device license costs $40 for the first term, $90 on renewal; Bitdefender Total Security 2020 is $45 for year one, and an identical $90 afterwards.

Is Maximum Security really worth the extra? We installed it to find out.

Multi-platform

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Multi-platform

With the ability to cover five devices with a single Maximum Security license, its multi-platform support could be the highlight of the package.

The Mac build covers all the core features you need, and more: antivirus, browsing protection, a spam filter, parental controls, social networking protection, the Privacy Scanner to check your social network account settings, and the ransomware-blocking Folder Shield.

It doesn't have some of the Windows extras - Pay Guard banking protection, any equivalent to PC Health's cleanup tools - but is a decent package overall.

The Android app is probably the highlight here, with equivalents to most of the features in the Windows edition, and a number of mobile specific tools (a Privacy Scanner highlighting apps which can access your personal data, an app locker, a Secret Snap feature to capture a picture of unauthorized users trying to access your device.)

You're only interested in antivirus? That's impressive, too. AV-Comparatives' Mobile Security Review 2019 placed it first in a field of 11, the only app to detect 100% of threats, and with no false positives.

Trend Micro's iOS app can't match the Android edition, but it still outperforms many competitors, with malicious website blocking, parental controls, and tools to block ads and trackers and alert you to unsafe wireless networks. Works for us.

Vault

Trend Micro's Vault is a very simple tool which enables creating password-protected encrypted containers for storing sensitive files.

Choose your preferred password, open the vault and it displays a widget on your desktop. Drag and drop your most confidential files onto the widget and they're moved there. Close the vault and they're inaccessible to anyone who doesn't know the password.

Reopen the vault later and you can access it from Explorer, then open, edit and save documents more or less as usual. (The process is slower than usual, thanks to the encryption overhead, but there's nothing unacceptable.)

So far, so very similar to a lot of other encryption tools. But Vault does have one surprising extra. If your computer is lost or stolen, report this on the Trend Micro website and it'll be sealed. Even if the thief knows the password, they won't be able to open the vault until the computer is reported found.

Import Passwords

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Password Manager

Trend Micro's Password Manager got off to a good start on our review system, scanning and offering to import any stored logins for Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox. (There are separate options to import credentials from LastPass and Kaspersky Password Manager.)

A couple of clicks took us to the Trend Micro Password Manager extension page in the Chrome store. The 2.5/5 star rating didn't impress, but we installed it anyway.

Password Manager

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The product can complete login pages and assorted other forms, with data types including your name, birth date, email address, phone number, physical address and credit card details, and secure notes.

Basic password health checks include alerts for weak and duplicated passwords, potentially very useful information.

Browser Extension

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All this is easily accessed from the browser extension, too. Enter a new login and the extension asks you if you'd like to save it. It can save multiple logins for the same site, if necessary, and you're prompted to choose your preferred account whenever you visit the page.

Overall, this is a good mid-range password manager. It may not have secure password sharing, two-factor authentication or the more advanced tweaks you'll see with the market leaders, but it's better than the password managers you'll usually get with a security suite.

Factor in the multi-platform support, too, and Trend Micro Maximum Security is our pick of the range. It may not be as powerful as some of the competition, but it's easy to use, with an accurate engine, quality URL blocking and some capable mobile apps. If its feature set matches your needs, take the 30-day trial for a spin, see how it works for you.