Some of Avira Prime is more useful than other parts, but the core technology is robust, and the VPN alone might be worth the asking price. Curious users should be careful about the 30-day trial, and the stealth installation of Opera.
Unlimited use VPN with forty global servers
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Avira originated more than thirty years ago, started by an electrical engineer Tjark Auerback and his business partner who formed an IT company called H+BEDV Datentechnik.
Its HQ is located on the German shores of Lake Constance along with other offices in San Jose in the USA, Bucharest in Romania and another German site in Munich.
It launched its first antivirus product within two years for MS-DOS systems, and also branched into business security.
Now it employs some 500 staff and has an enviable reputation for delivering reliable and secure solutions for both home and business deployment.
Today we’ll be looking at Avira Prime, a holistic solution for home security which offers a suite of functionality that includes antivirus scanning, web security, a VPN and computer performance enhancements.
But before we cover the mechanics of this tool, you might want to know what sort of investment is required to install and use Avira Prime.
Avira Prime: Plans and pricing
Avira security comes in three distinct flavours; Avira Free Security, Avira Internet Security and the focus of this review, Avira Prime.
As the name implies, Avira Free Security is free to download and use. The Internet Security option is the first paid level, offering licenses for one, three or five devices.
Prime, reviewed here, offers licensing for five or twenty-five devices, VIP customer support, and free upgrades. It includes Avira's Antivirus Pro, Password Manager Pro, Phantom VPN Pro and Software Updater Pro.
Tools like these previously were available for download individually, but as of December 2021 Avira retired support for these and other Avira Business products, pointing out that these features were incorporated into Avira Prime subscriptions. The company also promises to provide at least one year's notice before discontinuing supports for products or operating systems. This is an important heads up, as Avira Prime isn't compatible with Windows Server, whereas previous products were.
While we're talking operating systems, if you want to run the version of Avira Prime for Microsoft Users, you'll need Windows 7 SP1 or higher. If you're an Apple user, any version of MacOS from 10.15 (Catalina) is compatible.
Avira Prime is more flexible when it comes to mobile devices : Android users only need to have version 6.0 installed, meaning any Android smartphone or tablet released since 2015 should support the software. Avira Prime will also work with portable Apple devices running iOS 11 or later, meaning any device released since 2018 should be compatible.
Avira Internet security costs $34.99 per annum for one device, $70.99 for three devices and $83.99 for five devices.
Avira Prime is currently offered for up to 5 devices at $9.99 per month. Annual subscriptions are currently being offered at a special discount of $59.99 for the first year (down from $99.99). There's also a 2-year license for $189.99.
If your organization's a little larger, a 25 device license for Avira Prime costs $12.99 per month or $129.99 for the year. A 2-year license at this tier costs $249.99.
At those prices and with all the functionality included, Avira Prime looks like a bargain. But are all the features of this product equally useful, and how does it compare to the other security suites available?
Avira Prime: Design
For Windows users, Avira tries to look like a single solution with a single master interface, but the functionality is split into modules that you can ignore or embrace at will.
They are grouped under three sub-sections labelled Security, Privacy and Performance.
Security includes the antivirus solution, software updater and firewall controls. Privacy is all about browser safety and includes the VPN, and Performance has all the system optimising elements that make sure your system is the best it can be.
Rather than having to navigate around these to find trouble, Avira has a top-level status screen that alerts you to potential problems, and also allows a smart scan to be run that will seek out all security, privacy and performance issues.
The Apple Mac version only contains the Antivirus and VPN technology and leaves out the maintenance, password manager and software updating features of the Windows installation.
These ommissions are also true of the Android and iOS installs, although they both contain the VPN and Password Manager.
The password manager isn’t part of the main software bundle on PC but instead operates through a browser extension. If you don’t like extensions, you can decline to have these placed on your system.
While password managers are useful, as most browsers have this functionality inbuilt, it isn’t something that is a necessity.
But these extensions aren’t the only things that come along with Avira. During our initial tests in 2020, once we’d completed the installation and ran our first ‘smart scan’, we noticed that it found a few things it wanted to fix, including issues with Opera browser.
As we'd never installed Opera, this seemed odd. It turns out that Avira installs it for you, and we didn’t notice it doing that.
Our most recent tests in 2023 were much more promising. Although scans still reveal issues relating to outdated apps and cookies which can leak personal information, Opera was noticeably absent from our Windows 11 device.
However, Avira Prime does include its very own secure browser, which you can install via the 'Privacy' section. The program is based on the open source 'Chromium' browser but contains a number of security features such as 'Privacy Guard' for blocking unwanted ads and trackers, as well as 'Web Shield' for detecting malicious URLs. There's also a built-in browser password manager but users can choose to use Avira's instead.
Avira Prime: Antivirus
Undoubtedly one of the strongest parts of this offering is the antivirus tool. This module allows for basic quick, full, and scheduled scans in addition to having live file scanning. But if you want you can set it to scan just for rootkits or removable drives, there are lots of options.
Compared with the Windows Defender tools, Avira is quicker and less obtrusive.
Any files it doesn’t like can be quarantined or deleted, and logs of all scanning are automatically created.
We also noticed that a full Defender scan looked at about 52,000 files on our tests system, where Avira examined a whopping 3.8 million using full scan setting. And, even while it performed the full scan that took a couple of hours, we could use the system without noticing any significant performance impact.
Avira Prime can also run 'Quick Scans', which focus on areas more likely to contain malware like the 'Downloads' folder. By default these are set to run weekly. You can also specifically exclude folders from scans through configuring Avira's settings.
In order to put Avira Prime through its paces, we tried to download a test computer virus from the good people of EICAR. The good news is that when we tried to download the virus itself directly via Microsoft Edge, Avira detected and blocked the download.
We were able to download the virus inside a 'ZIP' file however. After doing this we ran a virus scan but Avira failed to detect any threat. When we tried to extract the compressed virus however, Avira Prime immediately spotted and quarantined the file.
The 'Quarantine' page is well laid out and allows users to select and delete/restore suspicious files.
In our previous review in 2020, we had reservations about the ‘Security’ part of this product, as it had a dedicated firewall section, which seemed to suggest that Avira Prime included a dedicated firewall.
But when we went into the advanced settings, it took us to the Windows controls for the built-in Windows Defender Firewall.
The program did allow us to disable the firewall and switch between Public and Private network modes, but this was simply a glorified frontend for settings that are built into every copy of Windows.
We were much more impressed for our more recent review in 2023. Avira Prime boasts a 'new' firewall, which is indeed an actual part of the security suite. Should you choose to enable it, the 'App Rules' section contains a very clearly laid out list of internet programs, which you can choose to 'Block' or 'Allow' via individual drop down menus. We were especially impressed to see a 'Remove All' option to allow users to block all internet apps in case they're overwhelmed.
The 'Intruder Protection' section allows you to set up 'Allow' or 'Block' rules for specific IP addresses or ranges of IP addresses. This means Avira's firewall still doesn't offer much above and beyond Windows Defender but at least users can now manage all their security tools from one app.
What impressed us more was that all email is scanned, both outgoing and incoming. All this is done through the network, handling both installed desktop clients and web interfaces.
This feature is fully configurable, allowing whitelists for email addresses and custom handling of alerts. The only disappointment is that it doesn’t include any spam elimination, but it does catch more dangerous attachments, critically.
Avira Prime: VPN
For many reasons have access to a VPN can be an especially useful tool, in both protecting your laptop on public Wi-Fi networks, or enabling access to regionalised content.
We often use them to see the pricing of products in different countries, as websites usually show only those currencies that are local to the surfer.
Phantom VPN Pro is a deceptively simple but effective VNP that masks your location quite effectively and allows you to choose one of forty different global locations that your traffic appears to originate. Admittedly, thirteen of these are different cities in the USA and two in the UK, but with the exceptions of Africa, China, Korea (North or South), Taiwan, Vietnam, and some smaller South American countries, you can still be in plenty of European and Asian locations.
Being able to redirect out of Russia, Brazil, Japan or Australia is useful, but the lack of any servers on the Africa continent needs addressing.
In our original tests, we tested the VPN using DNS Leak it announced that we are Parsippany, USA, when the author was based at least 3,442 miles away.
And, we went to a range of geo-locked sites, including HBO Go, and they worked fine from our computer in Europe.
For our most recent tests, we allowed Avira Prime to select the nearest server, which happened to be in Seattle and tested it for DNS leak once again, where it passed with flying colors. We had some trouble signing in to Netflix though, which may be because they had a record of the VPN server we were using.
The 'Advanced Settings' for the VPN are well thought out. You can choose to automatically connect to Phantom VPN if you're connected to WiFi networks. We were pleased to see there's also a built-in VPN kill switch, which you can activate to block all internet activity if the connection drops for any reason. The VPN connection can also be programmed to launch when the system starts.
Avira Prime includes the 'pro' version of the VPN, so data traffic is unlimited. If you’d like to read an in-depth review of Phantom VPN product in isolation, we’ve covered that here.
Avira Prime: Performance
Windows isn’t a solution with a sterling record of accomplishment for maintaining itself. Failed installs, cookie abuse and a myriad of other dynamic changes can easily reduce performance over time, and some intervention is often needed.
Avira Prime has six built-in performance-enhancing functions designed to help the PC run optimally. These include discarding temporary files, optimising storage, saving battery life, installing the latest drivers, and finding duplicate files.
The one that we’d recommend everyone using is the 'Optimizer', as it frees up resources and tunes the PC. Getting rid of junk files is just the start, as it can also adjust those applications that slow the system when booting.
During our original review in 2020, we were surprised to see a 'Disk Defragmenter' option, as this isn't necessary for modern SSDs.
Some new additions include the 'game booster', which is enabled by default. This feature faithfully promises to automatically optimize 'detected games' but provides no information on how exactly this will be done.
If you click on 'Advanced Tools', the program will launch 'Avira System Speedup Pro'. This lists startup apps which may slow down performance, allowing you to choose to stop them launching automatically or only once the OS has fully booted.
You're also offered the option of a 'Standard' or 'Hyper' boost, the latter of which can apparently hugely reduce system startup times but should only be used once every 3 months. We were relieved to see the program creates a restore point before trying to apply any 'boosts'.
Our problem with optimisation routines is that occasionally it might look inefficient to the code, but duplicate files and other junk are genuinely required for the system to function correctly. Luckily with most of these features, you can create exclusions, so that the system ignores various apps, folders and files from being ‘fixed’ when you’d like them left alone.
This ability is especially useful for those that edit videos and have large temporary files that are created to speed up the editing process, and it would be inconvenient to regenerate them each editing session.
There are many optimisation tools available, but the ones included in Prime appear to do a predictable job and remind you regularly if the system needs a tune.
Avira Prime: Final verdict
Many people just rely on the antivirus tools that come with Windows, but products like Avira Prime demonstrate that spending a modest amount on security products is a wise investment.
If you only want Antivirus, then Avira has that as an independent product, and except for support, the free version is mostly identical to the one in the Prime suite. And, if you only want the Phantom VPN, you can get that as a slightly cheaper standalone solution.
But, and this is the critical point, the price of the Pro versions of either Antivirus or Phantom VPN costs almost as much for an annual license as Prime, and you get both, plus lots of other tools in the price. The difference is so small that you might as well have Prime, and have access to everything.
We found that the Phantom VPN is as good, if not better than some better-known brand solutions that cost more and do less. And, the Antivirus solution is also a far superior solution to that included by default by Microsoft, and comparable with those from other significant brands.
The other features are useful if you are the sort of person that just clicks on anything bright and animated on a web page and end up installing all manner of junk and malware as a result. For those who pay more attention, they’re probably less useful.
As a solution, we like Avira. However, we’re less keen on some of the tactics employed to sell it.
Previously it was possible to download a trial version of Avira Prime directly from the main website. Trials lasted for 30 days, provided you signed up using your credit card information. After 30 days your card was billed for an entire year's subscription.
The current trial is for 60 days but we were only able to access this in a roundabout fashion by installing Avira Free Security and then signing up using a credit card, where once again we were told we'd be billed the price of an annual subscription at the end of that time.
Call us cynical, but this looks designed to catch people who want to try out this product, and then forget they signed up, and end up with a bill for the next year of service they weren’t expecting. During our original review the amount of the first bill didn’t reflect the offer that Avira was currently making if you sign up from the website, but the undiscounted amount. For our most recent tests though, the amount was shown with the current discount of $59.99 from $99.99.
For monthly payers, this is a no-obligation system where you can cancel any time, and for more extended periods you can cancel and get a refund in the first thirty days.
But for those using the trial be sure that you test it and then cancel promptly, or you might receive a bill that you weren’t expecting.
This issue aside, Avira Prime is an elegant and effective security solution that’s worth considering for home users with five devices that need to be kept safe. With all the protection and optimisation code included, it represents excellent value for money for anyone with more than one device.
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Nate Drake is a tech journalist specializing in cybersecurity and retro tech. He broke out from his cubicle at Apple 6 years ago and now spends his days sipping Earl Grey tea & writing elegant copy.