ESET Smart Security 9 review

Lightweight and reliable, but you pay a premium

Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT (one PC, one year)


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 Smart Security has ranked consistently high in our tests over the last few years. The firm takes a no-nonsense approach to its software, keeping fear-mongering and family protection horror stories to a minimum. You could say it was the rational consumer's choice, at least from its branding.

The best anti-virus software of 2015: revealed

On test here is ESET Smart Security 9. There are other ESET products available with slightly different tools, such as the lightweight ESET NOD32 Antivirus software and a mobile app (see box, below). ESET Smart Security is fairly expensive when compared with its big-name rivals; £40 per year for one device is a fair whack of cash.

Protection and Performance

In our testing, ESET excelled, managing an overall Protection Score of 290 out of 300. It was able to completely defend against 97 of the 100 attacks we sent its way, neutralising two more after allowing them to run, but stopping them from doing any damage to our test system. ESET allowed one piece of malware to run unhindered, however. ESET was the third-best protector of our test PCs behind Kaspersky and Norton. It also managed a perfect Legitimate Software Rating of 720, allowing us to run and install software without throwing up warnings or blocking us from doing so.

This unobtrusive behaviour continued on to our performance tests. It barely affected the boot time of our system, taking it from 17s to 18s with ESET installed. It was rather more leisurely when it came to its first system scan, taking over 14 minutes on our relatively empty test system. Subsequent scans were similarly slow at 12m16s; ESET is nothing if not thorough.

Overall, though ESET had a very small system footprint. With all things considered, ESET Smart Security 9 was rated as having a performance impact of 5%, which is the second-smallest footprint, beaten only by the svelte Microsoft Security Essentials.

Extra features

Despite focusing mostly on virus swatting, ESET also has a roster of other tools for monitoring your system, including a list of running processes and their security reputation. There's also a link to ESET's free recovery software that you can put onto a bootable USB stick and scan your hard disk before Windows boots.

ESET's anti-theft tools can be insightful, assuming the thief is stupid enough to use the laptop and not sell it immediately

ESET also provides a sandboxed version of the Chrome browser, which is a safer way of entering sensitive data such as financial information. Finally, the software also offers an anti-theft tool, which you can activate on all the PCs and handhelds that are licensed to run ESET. Simply log in to your Anti-Theft account on each device and you can track them through a web-based interface. GPS info, screenshots webcam snapshots are available, and the tool will also let you know what programs are currently running on your missing device. Depending on the device that's missing, the results will vary in usefulness. Laptops don't typically have GPS sensors, for example, so you'll be left with fairly hazy location information if your device is stolen in a built-up area where there are many potential locations.

ESET Smart Security 9 is an effective anti-virus tool that sits quietly in your notification area and won't get in your way unless it really needs to. It's expensive for a single licence and it gets very steep if you opt for the Multi-Device Security plan instead: you'll pay £90 a year for six devices in this case. Still, if your priority is a sleek and reliable piece of anti-virus software, ESET Smart Security is a top choice, but Kaspersky Internet Security had perfect protection in our tests.

OS details
Desktop OS Support Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10
Mobile app Android 2.3-5.x
Anti-virus Yes
Firewall Yes
Parental controls Yes
PC cleaning No
Email protection Yes
Gaming mode Yes
Remote management Yes
Buying information
Free version One month free trial
Price including VAT £40-105
Devices protected 1-10
Product code Smart Security 9