ZoneAlarm has built its reputation over the last decade by providing a firewall for free that has been both secure and easy to use. Since then, it has tried to develop its name by expanding the ZoneAlarm name into a full-blown security suite.

For the most part this approach works well, albeit it takes Kapersky’s anti-virus engine and bolts this into its own interface. It isn’t as smooth or as intuitive as the original and we found it only offered the basics of scanning options.

The interface has a standard appearance, with the different control settings, such as Firewall, Program Controls and Anti-virus/Anti-spyware, down the left-hand side. Along the top of the page you’ll find firewall status outlined and whether your system is secure.

However, there are fundamental problems with this suite depending on your OS. In order to make the suite fully Windows-compatible, it has had to strip out a number of core tools. For instance, Vista users will find the parental controls have been stripped away, as have cache cleaning and spysite and ad blocking, which should be a primary part of any internet suite. Windows XP users also lose a number of features, while anti-phishing tools are lacking in both editions.

The biggest problem for this release is how resource heavy it actually is. We tested it on a dual-core notebook and found our boot times seriously reduced. The suite also takes a considerable time to train, with a large number of popups appearing asking you how you won’t to respond. True, training your security suite makes it more intuitive but it can be tiresome.

On the plus side, ZoneAlarms core competency, the firewall, is as good as ever. So much so, there are two that run side-by-side, making it the most appealing aspect of this suite. It has more features than most rivals and we found it incredibly intuitive to set-up. The installation wizard is simple and the walkthrough tutorial teaches you about the programs you have on your system. Even on the highest settings, we found the firewall checking all connections.

Price when reviewed:

Compared to many of the current crop of internet security suites, ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite 7.1 seems the most resource heavy and lacks some of the features we’ve come to expect from such suites. The asking price – especially for three licenses – is tempting but you’d be better off looking elsewhere.