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McAfee+ review: A bold new suite with a smart focus on today’s online threats

Our Rating :
£109.99 from
Price when reviewed : 50
first year, inc. VAT

The price could be a sticking point, but McAfee+ takes a refreshingly broad and effective approach to security

Pros

  • Excellent malware protection
  • Helps safeguard your identity and privacy
  • Extensive cross-platform support

Cons

  • Costly, even for unlimited devices

McAfee has been making security software since 1987 – but there’s nothing retro about its latest release. McAfee+ is a new evolution of the McAfee Total Protection suite, updated for a modern world where leaked information and stolen credentials are at least as much of a threat as traditional viruses.

To that end, it includes some novel features aimed at cleaning up your personal data from places you don’t want it to be, and recovering from identity-based attacks. At the same time, it remains highly effective at blocking malware and doesn’t have a major impact on the performance of your system.

All of this comes at a steep price, however. Even though the licence covers an unlimited number of devices, for most people it’ll work out much more expensive than competing security solutions. It’s worth shopping around to see whether you can get a better deal.

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McAfee+ review: What do you get for the money?

McAfee+ is available at different tiers, dubbed Ultimate, Premium and Advanced. Though frankly, this isn’t great marketing as the names Premium and Advanced don’t really make it clear which is better (it’s Advanced). The water is further muddied by the fact that the older McAfee Total Protection suite is still offered alongside the two McAfee+ products, though it appears to have been rebranded as McAfee+ Essential.

Right now, the McAfee+ packages are only available directly from the publisher’s website, and they’re not cheap. A Premium subscription costs £50 for the first year, after which the renewal price more than doubles to £110/yr. Advanced starts at £75 and then skyrockets to £160. And finally, Ultimate, which starts at £110 before renewing at £195. The Family Plan option – which adds access to McAfee’s parental controls – costs an additional tenner for the Premium option, rising to £130 on renewal; £115 for Advanced, doubling to £230 on renewal; and a whopping £150 for Ultimate, renewing at an eye-watering £265.

In fairness, the McAfee+ licence covers an unlimited number of installations on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and ChromeOS, so it could work out to be fair value for homes with lots of devices. And lower prices are hopefully on their way: McAfee+ subscriptions will soon be available from third-party resellers, which normally means healthy discounts. It looks as though Premium+ is already available on Amazon.

Whichever McAfee+ package you choose, you get real-time malware detection, McAfee’s custom firewall, “dark web” monitoring for leaked credentials and web protection that works with the free WebAdvisor plugin for Chrome, Edge and Firefox. To protect your online activity, an unlimited VPN can be used on up to five devices at once – this offers access to servers in 48 countries, and a reasonable set of options including a kill-switch and automatic connections. Split tunnelling is currently only available on Android, but it’s promised that this will come to Windows and macOS in a future update.

READ NEXT: AVG internet security review

The suite also introduces a new gamification feature, awarding you a personal protection score out of 1,000 and encouraging you to activate various protection features across all of your devices to gain extra points.

On the privacy front, a simple tracker remover tool wipes old files that could contain personal information, but much more interesting is McAfee’s new Personal Data Cleanup service, which scours online data broker sites for your information, so you can monitor and manage what’s out there. The Advanced suite offers the full service, which adds the ability to send automatic take-down requests for anything you want removed.

The main selling point of McAfee+ Advanced over the Premium tier is in its identity restoration service, which can help you recover control of your accounts after an identity-theft incident, and even cancel your credit cards if they’re stolen or cloned.

McAfee+ Ultimate then gives you everything the Advanced tier offers and includes a one-time, live protection setup session with a McAfee expert. This might be overkill for most users, but it’s nice to have the option of one-on-one assistance. It also includes the full service for online account cleanup, giving you monthly scans of your accounts and their risk level, with automated data removal requests only a click away.


McAfee+ review: Will it keep you safe?

German security specialist AV-Test.org trialled McAfee’s antivirus capabilities in its February 2023 roundup of consumer security software. The lab used McAfee Total Protection for its testing, but the newer suite uses the same anti-malware engine, so its performance should be comparable.

That’s a good thing. In the test, the software was faced with more than 11,000 real-world threats – including widespread exploits and new “zero-day” attacks – during the first two months of 2023 and, to McAfee’s credit, it successfully blocked every threat.

AV-Test.org protection results, Jan/Feb 2023 (%)0-day Jan0-day FebWidespread JanWidespread Feb
Avast One100100100100
AVG Internet Security100100100100
Avira Internet Security100100100100
Bitdefender Internet Security100100100100
Eset Internet Security98.998.3100100
F-Secure SAFE99.5100100100
G Data Total Security100100100100
Kaspersky Premium100100100100
Malwarebytes Premium98.997.8100100
McAfee Total Protection100100100100
Microsoft Windows Defender100100100100
Norton 360 Deluxe100100100100
Trend Micro Internet Security100100100100

 AV-Comparatives.org also tested McAfee in its March 2023 malware protection test. This used a set of 10,015 items of real malware, and also tested whether security products were able to detect passive threats before they were activated. McAfee put in a strong showing again:

AV-Comparatives protection results, March 2023 (%)Offline detectionOnline detectionOnline protectionFalse positives
Avast One96.90%99.50%99.97%2
AVG Internet Security96.90%99.50%99.97%2
Avira Internet Security97.00%99.10%99.96%2
Bitdefender Internet Security98.10%98.10%99.94%6
ESET Internet Security97.40%97.40%99.94%0
F-Secure SAFE96.90%98.70%99.96%14
G Data Total Security98.80%98.80%99.95%2
Kaspersky Premium90.00%97.90%99.96%2
McAfee Total Protection89.60%99.70%99.99%9
Microsoft Windows Defender83.10%99.30%99.98%32
Norton 360 Deluxe91.10%99.70%99.99%3
Panda Dome72.20%95.50%99.97%102
Trend Micro Internet Security60.90%91.80%97.19%10

It’s notable that McAfee’s software didn’t do brilliantly at offline threat detection, but we’re not too concerned about that. Much more important is how the software deals with actual attacks and here McAfee achieved a magnificent score, equalled only by Norton 360 Deluxe, and unbeaten by any other security product.

The only real stumble was a slightly higher count of false positives than we would have liked to see – nine items, including four mistakes that the lab estimated could affect “several thousands of users” in the real world. That’s still a very low error rate overall though, and not enough to diminish McAfee’s overall performance.

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McAfee+ review: Will it slow your computer down?

McAfee+ is very simple to use. The interface is a little idiosyncratic, with a pane of links that slides in from the left, but you’ll quickly get the hang of it, and there’s very little to configure – the General Settings page just offers a couple of tickboxes for managing alerts and general program behaviour.

As for system performance, we tested McAfee+’s impact on web browsing using our custom benchmark, which uses Google Chrome running on a Windows 11 laptop to download and open various filesets from a local web server.

However, McAfee+ didn’t take the crown in every task. Downloading 10 JPEG files took 0.4 seconds, and while that’s faster than the 0.87 seconds we measured with Windows Defender, several other suites managed the same feat in under 0.2 seconds, including Avast One, Avira, Bitdefender Total Security and Kaspersky Internet Security.

McAfee+ also proved a little slow when it came to opening files in the browser. Our ten PDFs and JPEGs each took a total of 1.1 seconds to open and while that’s only a touch behind Windows Defender (0.84 and 0.96 seconds respectively), Eset Internet Security, Kaspersky Internet Security and Norton 360 Deluxe were all at least half a second faster. On balance, McAfee+ shouldn’t slow down your online experience too noticeably.

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McAfee+ review: Should you buy it?

McAfee+ does a lot of things right. Malware protection is absolutely top-notch, and we can’t really complain about system performance either.

The feature set is quite smart too, with an up-to-date focus on privacy and identity threats. The protection score is a simple but fun encouragement to sharpen up your security, and the unlimited VPN is a welcome addition.

For now, the main catch is the price. At its RRP, McAfee+ is expensive – especially after the first year – so unless you have a whole fleet of computers and phones to protect, it’s hard to justify the cost. However, we’re hopeful that things will change once the software hits third-party resellers, and if you can find McAfee+ for a good price then we’ve no hesitation in recommending it as a strong solution for all-round, all-device protection.


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