Written by: Lucca RF
Last updated on
Feb 24th 2021
Norton Overview March 2021
Norton is an established player on the antivirus market, so I wanted to see if Norton 360 is really the best in 2021 or if it’s just relying on the brand name.
To determine whether Norton could live up to its reputation, my team and I ran extensive tests on its virus scan, real-time protection, and other antivirus features. All tests were conducted on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS devices, so I could see how well Norton performed across different operating systems.
I’m impressed to say that Norton deserves its spot as the #1 antivirus software (beating out top competitors TotalAV and McAfee). Norton 360 blocked 100% of malware with very little impact on speed or system performance. It even offers a bonus password manager, parental controls, VPN, and cloud backup.
Norton has few equals in the market and none that currently do better (although TotalAV comes in at a very close second). Based on my tests, Norton 360 has proven to be a highly secure antivirus with an excellent malware detection rate, strong anti-phishing protection, and a powerful firewall.
Virus Scan — 3 Scan Options Available
My team and I set up a test machine and downloaded malicious files only discovered in the past 2 weeks — and Norton’s full system scan flagged every single cyberattack.
Norton 360 offers 3 scan options depending on how in-depth you want to be. The quick scan focuses on the most at-risk parts of your computer, the full scan inspects every part of your drive and even external drives, and the custom scan lets you only scan the files and folders you want. This gives you a lot of flexibility in keeping your device safe. For example, I run a full scan every few days and a quick scan every morning on bootup.
I could easily set Norton to quick scan my system every time it boots up
The Quick Scan scanned about 11,400 files in 2 minutes, while the Full Scan needed just 12 minutes to scan 778,000 files. This is impressively fast — especially since I didn’t notice any performance impact on my Windows computer! Bear in mind that my 1TB hard drive was half full while running these scans, and I have quite a powerful processor in my PC. Your experience may differ depending on your device.
I’m even more impressed by Norton’s accuracy in detecting malware. A pitfall that antiviruses sometimes run into is being overaggressive and flagging normal websites or programs as malicious. However, when a full system scan was performed, Norton didn’t falsely flag any websites or software as malware. To give you a point of reference, the industry average is 16 false detections. Unlike other antivirus programs, you won’t need to spend unnecessary time trying to determine which files are actually malware (or completely safe) with Norton.
You can also use Norton Insight for faster virus scans in the future. This feature scans your whole system and flags known files as trusted, which are then excluded from future scans. I ran Insight and was glad to see that almost 90% of my files were trusted. As a result, Norton Insight reduced my full scan time from 12 minutes to around 3 minutes!
I also like Norton’s Power Eraser tool for removing deeply-rooted viruses and malware. It’s specifically designed to perform more thorough scans of your device. However, it’s only available on Windows, so Android, Mac, and iOS users won’t have access to this feature.
Real-Time Protection — Successfully Blocks 100% of All Cyber Threats
My team and I tested Norton’s real-time protection by setting up a test machine and opening malware-infected links discovered in the past 24 hours — and Norton blocked the links 100% of the time. This is especially impressive when compared to the industry average detection rate of 98%.
When I encountered a website or file with a malware infection, Norton displayed a warning message to deter me from downloading or interacting any further. Once a malicious file was detected, Norton immediately moved it to the quarantine zone. You don’t need to take any action after this point, although you can decide to fully delete these files by returning to the quarantine zone in the future.
Many competitors rely heavily on their database of known malware — that’s why not all antiviruses can detect emerging threats that aren’t yet in any databases. Norton is an industry leader in this due to its sophisticated SONAR analysis. This both matches known threats against sites or files you interact with, but also examines the behaviour of applications to determine whether they’re a risk before they’re officially known.
Safe Web Browser Extension — For Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge
Safe Web is a browser extension that constantly scans websites to make sure it’s safe for you to visit. If Safe Web detects a dangerous website, you’ll see a warning pop up on the screen:
With Norton Safe Web you add another layer of protection to your browsing
To really put it to the test, I wanted to measure Safe Web’s performance in comparison to Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge’s in-built security system. I collected a list of phishing websites and opened the links on each browser. I compared these results with Safe Web, which I had installed onto a separate Chrome browser. Impressively, Safe Web detected nearly 99% of threats in comparison to Chrome (97%) in second place.
You can also download Norton’s Safe Search extension, which changes your homepage to a dedicated Norton search engine for safer browsing.
Sophisticated Firewall — Great for Beginners and Advanced Users
I like Norton’s firewall as it’s strong enough to immediately use without any further configuration. It’s also highly flexible, so I could manually control the programs with access to my internet network if I wanted more customization.
I was happy with Norton’s firewall’s default settings, giving you good overall security
Norton has its own “whitelist” (a known and trusted list) of popular known programs, such as Microsoft Word and Skype, so none of these apps will be blocked by the firewall. While I could manually configure Norton with a list of trusted programs, I was glad to see that it also learns by itself. The firewall monitors new applications and blocks them if it notices any malicious actions, keeping your device safe even when you might be unaware of dangers.
System Performance — Minimal Impact on Device With No Observable Slowdown
Every antivirus software will slow down your device, but I’m pleased to report that I didn’t experience any noticeable slowdown with Norton. In my tests, I kept Norton antivirus running in the background while I launched 10 programs at once, loaded a website 50 times, and transferred a 5GB between my device and external hard drive 5 times.
I had little to no disruption to any of my activities with only a 4 to 9% slowdown. This is a negligible drop and what I’d expect from a premium antivirus product.
Features - 9
Alongside its core antivirus features, Norton offers a host of useful protective measures. While I’ve come to expect such add-ons from antivirus software, I’m often disappointed by the performance. However, Norton surpassed my expectations with its generous cloud backup, parental controls, and password manager. The VPN still needs work in order to compete with standalone VPN services, but it’s one of the best you’ll find inside an antivirus package.
Cloud Backup — Encrypted Storage for up to 50GB of Data
With Norton’s Cloud Backup, you get encrypted storage so that you can safely backup your important and sensitive important files. This means that you won’t need to worry if you ever have your device stolen or locked by ransomware — you’ll always have access to your files on Norton’s cloud.
Norton’s encrypted cloud storage is useful protection against ransomware
It’s easy to schedule regular backups so Norton can set you automatic reminders. When I tested the backup feature, I could choose between backing up my files weekly, monthly, manually, or automatically.
The most popular Standard and Deluxe plans include 10GB and 50GB respectively, which is significantly more data compared to the competition. For example, Kaspersky only offers 2GB on its most expensive plan!
Parental Controls — Remotely Monitor Your Child’s Internet Activity
Norton’s parental control software allows you to limit what your children can do and see online. It does this by blocking specific websites and apps, and restricting their time spent online. This feature is only available with the Deluxe, Premium, and LifeLock plans, but I believe it’s well worth the investment if you have kids.
There are many online threats that specifically target children — from websites with explicit content to dangerous strangers lurking in chat rooms. Fortunately, setting up the parental control feature is quick and simple. You create a profile for your child (up to 15 profiles!), install the Norton Family app on your child’s device, log in with your own account, and select your child’s profile. Once the initial setup is complete, you can manage everything else remotely.
I was impressed by the range of parental control options in Norton 360
You can remotely limit screen time, block specific websites, filter content in search engines, and even completely lock the device. However, location tracking and app blocking are only available for mobile devices.
When I tested this feature, I created a parental account and a child’s profile (“Wiz Kid”). I linked the child’s profile with an Android smartphone. I then used the parental account to remotely block the Netflix app on the Wiz Kid profile. The restrictions were immediately active on the Android phone, and the Netflix app was blocked until I deactivated the restrictions from the parental account.
Mobile setup requires granting several permissions, but once it’s done you have all-round control
If your child struggles to be productive, Norton Family is a great way of removing access to streaming sites, social media, and other online distractions.
Secure VPN — Unblocks Restricted Sites and Apps (Like Netflix)
A VPN is an essential tool for staying safe online, which is why I’m happy to see that Norton offers its free Secure VPN in every plan (aside from the basic Norton 360 Standard plan). Secure VPN even has unlimited data and bandwidth, which makes it stand out among competitors. Most antivirus products with a VPN only provide a small monthly data allowance.
However, Secure VPN allows you to stream videos and browse the internet with no restrictions. During my tests, I could even unblock US Netflix, HBO Max, and local streaming platforms like UKTV and ProSieben.
I was happy to have reliable access to Netflix US with Norton Secure VPN
Most importantly, Secure VPN hides your browsing history from your Internet Service Provider (ISP), hackers, and even law enforcement. This ensures that your online activity remains secure and private, even on public WiFi networks.
While Secure VPN is good for a free service, I was a little dissatisfied by its overall performance. Secure VPN only has 30 server locations worldwide, which often results in server overcrowding and slower speeds. In comparison, NordVPN has excellent speeds with 5,400+ servers in 59 countries. I was further disappointed to learn that Secure VPN actively blocks all torrenting traffic. I wouldn’t recommend it for torrenting anyway, since it does keep some non-identifying logs.
Password Manager — Store an Unlimited Number of Passwords
The days of using variations of the same password should be long behind everyone, but I know how difficult it can be to remember strong passwords. With Norton’s password manager, you just have to remember 1 master password and Norton will store all the rest for you.
When you visit a site for which you’ve saved your credentials, Norton auto-fills your login information and password for you. Even better, your passwords will be automatically synced between devices, so you’ll never have to go through the hassle of resetting your password.
Improve the security of your online accounts with Norton’s integrated password manager
I’m especially impressed with Norton’s Autochange Password feature, which I haven’t seen in other dedicated password managers. This gives Norton permission to create new strong passwords, change it for you, and then store it securely — all in a single click. You won’t have to manually update your passwords on individual websites. While this doesn’t work with all websites, it’s compatible with many major sites like Reddit, Facebook, and Netflix.
However, unlike other password managers, you can’t share credentials with others and there’s no two-factor authentication. Regardless, I like the password manager and it’s a great feature within the total Norton 360 package. It’s also available for free as a standalone app.
Norton’s installation and apps are intuitive and simple to use. I’m a particular fan of the desktop app for Windows and Mac, which offers a host of advanced features but makes them easily understandable (even for beginner users). Once I’d signed up, I followed Norton’s on-screen installation instructions and the whole process took me just 4 minutes.
Desktop App for Windows and Mac — Clear and Easy to Use
I find Norton’s desktop apps are extremely user-friendly. On the homepage, you have quick access to the most important tasks (scans, backup, performance optimization) and some general information (last scanned, how many backups, resource usage). For more powerful and advanced options, you can find the firewall, custom scan configurations, and backup settings with just a few more clicks.
I particularly like that you can configure Norton to automatically conduct scans on your preferred schedule. It’s the same for backups — simply choose a time and the specific folders you want to be stored in the cloud, and Norton will take care of it for you.
The only issue I had with Norton’s interface was locating the firewall. Strangely, it’s hidden in the settings section. As a primary feature, I was expecting it to be located on the homepage alongside the scans.
You can easily configure Norton’s powerful antivirus features on Windows and Mac
Norton Mobile — Highly-Secure Custom Apps for Android and iOS
Norton Mobile is a fantastic antivirus and security app for Android and iOS, and it offers the same advanced features for both operating systems. When you launch the app, you’ll find the virus scan and web protection features displayed on the homepage. You’ll also see a percentage rating telling you how well each device is protected. When you click into this section, the app will show you instructions on how to achieve a full score of 100%.
When I conducted a scan on my Android phone, Norton immediately flagged a few issues. It warned me that Adobe Acrobat was using too much battery (which I was able to stop), and removed an unused root certificate that could be a potential security issue. I’m impressed because I would never have noticed these issues otherwise.