This remarkably effective security suite will keep you safe in numerous ways – just watch out for sneaky price rises after the first year
- Excellent security and performance
- Superb value for the first year
- Decent VPN included in the price
- Auto-renewal is a rip-off
Norton is one of the best-known brands in the security business, although not always for positive reasons. In its early days, it acquired a reputation for slow, intrusive performance. Thankfully, those problems were fixed many years ago.
In fact, Norton is today one of the fastest, slickest security suites on the market. Even this Deluxe package, with its broad feature set, is faster than Windows’ built-in protections.
It’s effective too, racking up top marks in multiple independent malware protection tests. And, best of all, it’s terrific value – at least, it is if you buy a one-year subscription online. To avoid big price rises in the second year, you’ll need to cancel and resubscribe every 12 months, but that’s not a huge imposition. In our view, Norton remains one of the best all-round choices for internet security.
Norton 360 Deluxe review: What do you get for the money?
Norton security comes in four tiers: as usual, the more you pay, the more features you get. Even the entry-level Antivirus Plus package goes beyond basic protection, adding a custom firewall and a cloud backup module for Windows with 2GB of online storage. That’s not much but it’s enough to protect critical documents from ransomware or hardware failure. Officially, it costs £20 for the first year but you can find a single-device licence on Amazon as cheaply as £9.99.
The package also includes Norton’s Password Manager but this isn’t muchof a bonus. You can download it on its own for free and, frankly, it’s too limited to recommend anyway. You’ll be better off with something from our pick of the best password managers.
If Antivirus Plus won’t do you, you can move up to one of the three Norton 360 packages. These all add webcam protection, plus Norton’s own-brand VPN, which can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. This doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the best VPNs but it’s fine for getting around access restrictions and defeating snoopers. You get unlimited access to servers in 29 countries, a kill switch for added security and a split tunnelling option that sends only specified applications over the VPN. If that’s all you need, a one-PC licence for Norton 360 Standard can be had online for £10, with an increased 10GB of cloud storage. Note that if you go for a three- or five-user pack, that space has to be shared by everyone.
The next step up is Norton 360 Deluxe, which brings in dark web monitoring, to warn you whether your personal information has leaked online, plus parental controls to manage kids’ internet access, on phones and tablets as well as PCs. Cloud storage is upped again to a much more useful 50GB and you can currently get a five-user licence for £14 or a ten-device Premium pack for £19.
Finally, for the big spenders, Norton 360 Advanced adds some distinctive features focusing on managing your online identity: credit reports and alerts keep you abreast of anything that could affect your digital reputation, while the social media monitoring tool checks for possible hijacking or risky activity on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Cloud storage increases to 100GB too – not an awful deal at £35 for ten devices.
The catch is that all these prices come with a sting in the tail. If you continue using the product beyond your first year, you’ll be automatically re-enrolled at a hugely inflated price. Norton 360 Standard renews at £65/yr, while the Deluxe package costs £90 and a second year of Norton 360 Advanced will set you back a massive £150.
Norton doesn’t try to conceal this information – it’s clearly set out at the point of purchase but it still feels like a scam, especially since the terms and conditions allow Norton to bill you for the second year up to 35 days before the first expires.
Norton 360 Deluxe review: Will it keep you safe?
Norton has been fighting viruses for more than 30 years – it actually predates the world-wide web – so it’s learnt a thing or two about threats. Independent security lab AV-Comparatives.org included Norton 360 Deluxe in its March 2023 malware protection test and reported excellent results. Against an onslaught of more than 10,000 different malware attacks, Norton’s antivirus engine achieved a fantastic protection rate of 99.99% – sharing first place with Kaspersky and beating all other rivals:
|AV-Comparatives protection results, March 2023 (%)||Offline detection||Online detection||Online protection||False positives|
|AVG Internet Security||96.90%||99.50%||99.97%||2|
|Avira Internet Security||97.00%||99.10%||99.96%||2|
|Bitdefender Internet Security||98.10%||98.10%||99.94%||6|
|ESET Internet Security||97.40%||97.40%||99.94%||0|
|G Data Total Security||98.80%||98.80%||99.95%||2|
|McAfee Total Protection||89.60%||99.70%||99.99%||9|
|Microsoft Windows Defender||83.10%||99.30%||99.98%||32|
|Norton 360 Deluxe||91.10%||99.70%||99.99%||3|
|Trend Micro Internet Security||60.90%||91.80%||97.19%||10|
Impressively, while achieving this very high level of protection, Norton flagged very few false positives – not quite the fewest on test, but close.
This stellar performance was echoed by AV-Test.org, which also tested Norton against more than 11,000 prevalent items of malware, plus 363 zero-day threats. Again, the software didn’t falter, in this case providing perfect protection against all attacks, without a single false positive:
|AV-Test.org protection results, Jan/Feb 2023 (%)||0-day Jan||0-day Feb||Widespread Jan||Widespread Feb|
|AVG Internet Security||100||100||100||100|
|Avira Internet Security||100||100||100||100|
|Bitdefender Internet Security||100||100||100||100|
|Eset Internet Security||98.9||98.3||100||100|
|G Data Total Security||100||100||100||100|
|McAfee Total Protection||100||100||100||100|
|Microsoft Windows Defender||100||100||100||100|
|Norton 360 Deluxe||100||100||100||100|
|Trend Micro Internet Security||100||100||100||100|
Make no mistake, if you’re looking for best-in-class protection, Norton is the real deal.
Norton 360 Deluxe review: Will it slow your computer down?
If you want to get hands-on with Norton, it can take a while to learn your way around. Confusingly, the software offers two different front-ends – the classic antivirus view and the more modern “My Norton” window – and, once you start digging into the settings, you’ll find an awful lot of hidden controls and options.For the most part, though, you can leave Norton 360 running in the background and not even know it’s there. Not only is it admirably low-key, it’s speedy: we tested its impact by downloading several sets of files of various types in Google Chrome, and found that Norton had the lightest overall impact of any security suite we’ve tested. With Norton 360 Deluxe installed, our sets of executable files, PDFs and ZIP archives came down the line in a total of 3.4, 0.9 and 1.6 seconds; with Windows’ built-in Defender component, the same operations took 6, 2.9 and 3.4 seconds respectively.
Even installing the optional Safe Web browser extension barely slows Norton down. This plugs into Chrome, Edge and Firefox and provides advance warning if you’re about to visit a potentially dangerous site; inevitably, it adds a small performance overhead but we found the delay was no more than two tenths of a second when downloading files, and less than 0.6 seconds when opening a PDF or JPEG in the browser. It’s still way faster than Windows Defender, and than almost all competing security suites.
AV-Comparatives reported similar findings. In its October 2022 performance tests, the Austria-based lab gave Norton 360 a “very fast” rating – the best possible – for a wide range of desktop operations, including copying files and running applications. The only exception was installing applications, where it was rated merely “fast”.
AV-Test also found that Norton had minimal impact on web download speeds, although testers did note some impact on application launch speed – an average slowdown of around 8% – and again a considerable slowdown when installing applications, of around 33%.
Norton 360 Deluxe review: Should you buy it?
Norton 360 Deluxe gets almost everything right: we’re talking first-rate protection against online threats, speedy performance and a couple of add-ons that could be genuinely useful – particularly the VPN and cloud backup modules.
Our only reservation is about the pricing structure. The 12-month packages you can buy through third-party resellers are superb value and, after that first year, you’re free to cancel and buy a fresh licence for the same knockdown price. However, if you fail to unsubscribe in time, there’s a stiff penalty to pay. That leaves a sour taste in the mouth: Norton is supposed to be protecting its customers, not exploiting them.
Notwithstanding, the package works so well that it still warrants a place on anyone’s shortlist. Just take our advice and make a diary note for eleven months after your initial registration, so you can be sure to cancel before you get stung for an extortionate renewal fee.
It may be a little trigger-happy, but for the price Norton 360 is a terrific deal