ESET Smart Security 8 review
OS Support: Windows XP SP3, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, Home Server, Minimum CPU: 400MHz (XP) or 1GHz, Minimum GPU: N/A, Minimum RAM: 128MB (XP), 1GB (Vista), 512 MB (others), Hard disk space: 320MB
ESET has typically maintained focus on core malware protection features and hasn't followed the crowd with secondary PC cleaning tools. This makes it a lightweight piece of software, but may deter more demanding consumers who want to feel like they're getting lots of tools for the price of one.
Still, in terms of protection, there’s little to complain about here. Our tests were performed in version 7, and since our studies version 8 has been released, bringing with it additional features including botnet detection and "enhanced" protection against Java-based exploit attacks. Aside from that, ESET Smart Security is largely the same product, which is no bad thing.
^ ESET looks old-fashioned, and the mildly scary robot doesn't help
ESET was the only product we’ve tested that wasn't compromised at any point during the testing, although this figure does rather hold a fig leaf up to a disappointingly high 11 threats that were able to run on the system before being neutralised. The rest of the threats, all 89 of them, were neutralised before they could do damage. It notched up the third-highest protection rating of all the home AV suites on test, scoring 285 out of 300, just behind Norton and Kaspersky.
It's also a well behaved program that doesn't interrupt when you're going about your normal business: it scored 828.5 out of a possible 846 in our false positive tests, only occasionally throwing up messages to check whether we really wanted to install a piece of software.
While its protection scores are admirable, ESET Smart Security is starting to look a little dated, with hyperlink-style buttons and a cluttered Tools menu.
^ ESET SysInspector is a really useful diagnostic tool both for you and anyone who's helping troubleshoot your issues
There's plenty to customise within the various settings menus, and it's easy to pause the various features of the software if it's causing compatibility issues. Pausing the firewall for 10 minutes, for example, is a great way of troubleshooting network issues without putting your computer at risk by forgetting to turn it back on. The Advanced setup menu is a complex tree structure with lots of branches and sub-branches. Luckily, there's a search box, which makes it easy to find the setting you're looking for, bypassing the menus entirely.
ESET bundles its SysInspector tool with Smart Security 8. It collects data about your PC in its current state, taking a look at all sorts of variables including drivers, the registry, the local network and scheduled system tasks. It evaluates each one and rates it between 1 (safe) and 9 (risky). It can't solve your problems for you, but that's not what it's designed for. Instead, you're supposed to present this data to your IT technician or post the information online for helpful forum posters to assist you with. You can even remove personal information from the report so it's safe to post publicly.
ESET also has a live process evaluation tool that takes a look at the processes currently running on your PC, letting you know how common the process is, when it was first seen and how risky it is. It also tells you the full name of the software that's running the process so you no longer have to Google every process you don't recognise.
^ESET shows all the processes running on your system and their origin
With excellent protection scores and not a huge amount of additional tools, ESET Smart Security 8 is a great no-frills product for those who just want to be protected from malware and don't need other tools to help increase PC performance. It's quite expensive when compared to the other top scorers, though, so you will probably get a better deal if you shop around for Kaspersky or Norton licences instead.