A highly protective security suite that has minimal system performance impact
- Flawless protection
- User-friendly interface
- Impressively nimble
- Lacks a few bells and whistles
Some people want an all-encompassing security suite with dozens of configurable modules; others are just looking for an unfussy tool that will keep them safe, stay out of their way and preferably not cost too much.
F-Secure SAFE is aimed squarely at the latter group, offering faultless protection in a simple and deliciously affordable package.
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F-Secure SAFE review: What do you get for the money?
Before we dig in, let’s be clear about the pricing. The F-Secure website will charge you a steep £60 per annum for SAFE but, if you hop over to Amazon instead, you can get a year-long, single-device SAFE licence for a mere £12. Once your year is up, the application will invite you to renew at the standard RRP, but if you’re smart you’ll simply let the licence expire and buy another new copy from Amazon instead.
Using F-Secure SAFE could hardly be simpler. The front page presents merely a few statistics about your protection and a single blue button to launch an immediate virus scan. Even this is a tad superfluous, since on-access scanning is enabled by default, as is protection from suspicious websites and downloads, courtesy of a plugin for Chrome, Edge and Firefox.
On that note, F-Secure doesn’t offer a standalone hardened browser for sensitive transactions, instead taking a clever, dynamic approach. When the software detects you’re visiting a banking site, it draws a green border around your browser window and temporarily blocks internet access for any untrusted apps and scripts running in the background, as well as preventing them from reading any data on the clipboard. Close the tab, or navigate away, and normal service is instantly resumed; it’s a nicely seamless way to add an extra layer of security when it’s needed.
The front page of the SAFE console also provides a shortcut to the app-wide settings window, although there’s not much to be gained by tinkering. Developers might find it useful to disable individual aspects of file and web protection, and it’s nice that you can customise the list of folders that are monitored by F-Secure’s anti-ransomware module, but most people will get along just fine with the default settings.
In addition to its antivirus components, F-Secure SAFE incorporates a parental control module called Family Rules. Clicking the second tab down in the console lets you check how this is set up, although the actual management is handled at the My F-Secure website.
You can block or time-limit the use of specific apps on specific machines, restrict overall screen time, filter web content and even track the location of Android or iOS phones you’ve installed the F-Secure software on. Since a five-device licence can be had from Amazon for an absurdly reasonable £22.50, it’s a good all-round deal for families.
The last two tabs add very little to the mix. The Tools tab merely provides shortcuts to tasks such as launching scans and blocking specific files or websites. There’s also a convenient link to the Windows Firewall management interface – F-Secure SAFE doesn’t have a firewall of its own – and a button to temporarily disable all security features. The My F-Secure tab, meanwhile, is nothing more than a shortcut to the website.
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F-Secure SAFE review: How good is protection and performance?
It all adds up to a conspicuously short feature list. Still, F-Secure SAFE ranks highly in the protection and performance stakes. F-Secure SAFE wasn’t part of AV-Comparatives’ latest antivirus tests, so our numbers reflect AV-Test’s findings alone.
That’s no reason to doubt them, though. In fact, when AV-Comparatives previously tested SAFE in September 2020, they gave it an excellent online protection rating of 99.99%, confirming its top-notch antivirus capabilities.
As for speed, the figures speak for themselves. F-Secure incurs an impressively low 6.1% drag on overall system performance. That’s less than half the burden of Windows’ own antivirus protections, which weigh in at 12.5%, so if you’re switching from Windows Security to F-Secure SAFE, you can expect a small but measurable performance boost.
We were also impressed by how quickly F-Secure scanned our removable hard disk, whizzing through more than 3,000 files and plucking out our malware sample in less than half a minute.
F-Secure SAFE (2020) review: Should you buy it?
F-Secure isn’t the most fully-featured security package you can buy. There’s no password manager, no backup module, no software updater, no network scanner and no encryption tool.
For me, though, the great appeal of F-Secure SAFE is the way it sticks to its core task and does it very well, with minimal system impact and at a price that’s hard to beat. If you appreciate those things too, it’s an excellent choice.