We’ve seen a few new arrivals in the security software market for 2010 so far but are yet to experience any dramatic improvements, certainly in terms of new features and innovations. Rarely one to rest on its laurels, Symantec has been busy putting an end to all that and the new version of Norton Antivirus has a series of new features that complement more predictable enhancements to performance and usability.

Typically fast to install, the software was up and running in around a minute and what’s immediately obvious is that Symantec has revamped the interface with a snazzy new look. This is for both aesthetic and practical reasons and despite many of the new features being oriented more towards advanced users, things are still kept simple here with straightforward scan control, simple "on/off" switches for related components and direct access to scan history and quarantine. There’s also details of network protection here, which offers similar control, and access to more detailed settings in these areas is still accessible to allow for fine tuning.

NAV2010 successfully scanned our test system in around a minute, which by means of comparison is only around 10% faster than the previous version of Norton 360, but significantly quicker than most other rivals. As Norton gets used to your system however, these times are reduced, and in fact we very impressed to see this drop to just 10 seconds during subsequent scans.

Part of the reason for this and one of the biggest improvements to this new version comes in the form of Quorum and the Norton Insight tools. The former represents a major breakthrough in reputation-based security and helps the software adopt a more cautious approach to managing "unknown" files, as well as offering the sort of scan-time improvements illustrated above.

Quorum uses reputation information to help guard against new and unknown threats and by building a database of Norton Community users it can help predict how safe a file is and therefore anticipate the arrival of potentially harmful data. It’s also possible to view the trust level, resource usage and discovery date of everything running on your system, and by selecting a file you’re provided with more details on its origins and activity.

System Insight is another useful tool and provides an overview of recent activity including downloads, scans, installed programs and threat detections to help more advanced users view and interpret recent activity and the correlation between this information, impact on performance and the emergence of threats. It’s also possible to view CPU and memory performance graphs and identify which programs are responsible for highest usage, allowing users to detect and diagnose resource-hogs and potential reasons for reduced performance.

Admittedly these tools may not appeal to all users but Norton does a great job of making this wealth of information as accessible and easy to interpret as possible, and those who do appreciate having the tools available to do a bit of detective work will find them invaluable.

Norton AntiVirus 2010 is an excellent progression for the series, offering performance improvements, peace of mind and being very easy to use. The only thing that has prevented it from getting a higher score here is the price. At £39.99 it costs around the same as more comprehensive security suites on offer from rivals, and most would consider this a lot to pay for an "antivirus-only" product.

In comparison to Norton Internet Security 2010, which is only £10 more, NAV omits a firewall, identity protection, anti-spam and security for home and wireless networking, so in this light we’d be inclined to recommend spending a bit extra on the more comprehensive suite, which also offers the benefits of all of these new features.

Price when reviewed:

Norton AntiVirus 2010 represents a significant step forward for home security, offering users an unprecedented amount of information and diagnostic tools to make it easier than ever to detect and manage threats and impact on system performance. Fast scan times, low system overheads and an intuitive and approachable new interface offer extra appeal and as such it’s difficult to think of a more capable "antivirus" product on the market.