If you want a fuss-free security suite that just does the job for a low price, McAfee is worth a look
- Improved performance
- Straightforward parental controls
- Little impact on web browsing speed
- Fiddly and sluggish interface
Founded way back in 1987, McAfee is one of the best-known names in computer security. Its reputation hasn’t always been enviable, though – our review of McAfee Total Protection labelled it “bottom of the league”.
This time around, though, things are different. Around 18 months ago, McAfee was officially spun off into an independent company by former owner Intel – and the change appears to have had a salutary effect on the company. Believe it or not, in just a year, it’s rocketed from the bottom of the malware-detection league to the top.
So remarkable is McAfee’s rise that we’d be tempted to put it down to a statistical blip, but the results were confirmed across several months by two independent testing labs, with both AV-Comparatives and AV-Test reporting 100% protection rates against threats both old and new.
This isn’t a case of an excessively strict engine catching all types of malware through sheer trigger-happiness, either: with an overall false-positive rate of 0.4%, McAfee confidently outshone the likes of F-Secure, Norton and Trend Micro.
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McAfee Internet Security 2019 review: Features and performance
The good news doesn’t stop there, as performance has been enhanced, too. Last year, AV-Comparatives ranked McAfee Internet Security as “mediocre” for launching apps, and merely “fast” for web browsing; in the latest test, those ratings have been upgraded to “fast” and “very fast” respectively.
AV-Test confirmed that, of all the suites in its most recent report, McAfee had one of the lowest impacts on web browsing speed, and across all tests, it ended up with a fast performance score of 92%.
It’s a drastic turnaround – yet once you start interacting with the suite, what’s surprising is how familiar it all feels, and I don’t necessarily mean that as a compliment. For one thing, McAfee was never a product that aspired to match every feature of its rivals, and it clearly still doesn’t.
You’ll look in vain for things such as a secure browser, a recovery environment or configurable webcam protection. There’s also no built-in ransomware protection, although to be fair McAfee does offer a free standalone anti-ransomware tool.
Still, the basics are covered. Naturally, you get real-time and on-demand malware scanning, plus web protection with McAfee’s WebAdvisor browser plugin, and a custom firewall. The suite can also regularly check whether Windows and your installed applications need updating, and if you’re playing a game in full-screen mode then the software will automatically detect that and keep out of the way.
There’s a straightforward parental controls module too, which can enforce online time limits and safe surfing based on WebAdvisor site categories.
McAfee Internet Security 2019 review: Cross-platform support
McAfee also wins points for cross-platform support, as your licence allows you to use the software on Windows, macOS, Android or iOS.
Predictably, those last three platforms don’t get the full feature set – on iOS you just get some mostly redundant anti-theft and data backup tools – but if you’re operating a mixed home network, as many of us are, it’s nice to have everything under one roof.
There’s also a cross-platform password manager plugin that works with most major desktop and mobile browsers, but if you want it to store more than 15 passwords you’ll need to cough up £20 a year. That sticks in the throat, especially since there are plenty of unlimited free systems out there.
McAfee Internet Security 2019 review: Drawbacks
It’s disappointing that the interface hasn’t had the same type of performance boost as the malware engine. I’ve grumbled in the past about how unnecessarily slow the McAfee front end is, and while the main dashboard looks much cleaner and more attractive than previous releases, it feels just as sluggish: every time you click a link or button there’s a little delay before anything happens.
It’s fiddly, too. If you want to browse through the settings, you’ll have to click your way through opening 14 separate windows, with the settings further concealed within a series of collapsed panes on each one. It really discourages you from fully exploring what the software has to offer, and somewhat cheapens the excellent work that’s clearly gone into the back end.
McAfee Internet Security 2019 review: Verdict
Even so, if you don’t require clever features, and don’t want to tinker with custom settings, there’s no denying that McAfee has become a surprisingly attractive offering. The cherry on top is the price: you can pay £35 for a three-user package at the company’s own store, but follow the link below and you’ll find the exact same licence available for just £10.
In the past, we’ve recommended you steer clear of McAfee, but on present form and at such a low price, it definitely deserves another look.