There are a ton of very capable security suites around these days and some offer extremely good value for money when you consider additional features such as backup and tune-up tools that are becoming more common. It almost makes you wonder how much longer companies like Symantec will continue releasing dedicated antivirus software, but as long as people are happy to use Windows’ built-in firewall or are particularly precious about a solution from a specific vendor we suppose there will always be a market.

At least in Symantec’s case it is clearly listening to feedback from its customers as the 2009 version of its antivirus software has been updated to address a number of key issues.

The software is nicely streamlined and after a short install you’re taken to a clean interface that splits tools at their most basic level into “Computer” and “Internet” security. The former contains the bulk of the features and control, and includes a status bar that reports the time since the last update. This is being highlighted because of a new feature called Rapid Pulse, which promises to check for updates periodically at intervals no longer than 15 minutes. It works like it says on the tin and in fact we rarely had to wait longer than about 5 minutes for it to have a root around the Symantec site for new definitions. It does this quickly and quietly while offering reassurance that you’re only a few minutes away from the very latest protection at all times.

Scan times are pretty impressive and there’s some more new technology here to both improve the effectiveness of deep scans and the speed and efficiency of quick scans using Norton Insight. This allegedly prioritises and identifies high-risk files to cut down on scan times and CPU usage, and while this hasn’t exactly revolutionised a traditionally resource-hungry package there is a distinct improvement.

Each of the other components, which include real-time protection, browser, email and IM guards, wireless network and remote monitoring are easily accessed and controlled through the settings menu, which is well organised and straightforward enough to be approachable for beginners.

Custom scans can now be configured to run when a computer is idle, there’s a silent mode to keep things quiet when you’re watching movies or gaming and we were very impressed by the depth of information on offer in terms of scan and activity history and quarantined files.

As you’d expect from Norton software its antivirus components have been certified by a range of independents including VB100% and ICSA and when you consider that Symantec has maintained the high level of quality you’d expect while adding a number of genuinely useful features there’s little doubt that this is the best version yet.

Unfortunately you’re paying around the same amount of money as some of the aforementioned internet security suites for NAV2009, which does put things in context. While there can be little doubt of the effectiveness and usability of the software, it starts to become a little more difficult to recommend when you take this rather high price point into account.

Price when reviewed:
£39.99 (1 user, 3 computers)

There are a range of extremely capable security suites around at the moment so NAV2009 is going to appeal to a bit of a niche market of users who for one reason or another don’t need features like a firewall, identity protection, backup and tune-up. Considering rival antivirus-only products are available for as little as half the price, Symantec is really pushing its luck with the high price tag, even if it does have one of the most effective solutions of this type on the market.