AVG has been one of the most popular free antivirus tools for many a year, and updates its software for 2010 with the new AVG 9. We’ll kick off by summarising the different versions of the software, which still includes a free version for those who already have a firewall or other security on their system. This includes all the basic tools you need but omits a web shield, anti-rootkit protection, a game mode and technical support, which is all found on the £27.99 standard edition. This version is also available with a firewall for £35.99, though stepping up to the most comprehensive "Internet Security" option would be sensible at this stage, as for £39.99 you get system tune-up tools, anti-spam and identity protection thrown in.

The first thing users of previous versions will notice is that there aren’t a lot of obvious changes here, and though the interface is slightly cleaner, it retains the multi-component layout and stripped down menus that has become synonymous with the software. Most improvements have come in the form of tweaks and enhancements, improving the firewall, phishing protection, anti-spam and in speeding up scans.

This area has seen a distinct improvement in recent times, but it’s worth highlighting that AVG has never been the quickest so it still lags quite seriously behind some of the competition. During our tests it achieved a standard scan time of around 4 minutes, and this doesn’t speed up much during subsequent repeats. By contrast, the excellent Norton AntiVirus 2010 initially took 1 minute to scan the same test system, with subsequent scans dropping to just 10 seconds.

AVG is fairly light on resources and a straightforward approach does make it easy to get to grips with, which should appeal to less experienced users. The firewall has also been improved to allow the software to better make decisions automatically, so you’re not often bugged for confirmation of actions during operation.

AVG has also done pretty well in terms of independent certification recently and though the results aren’t in yet on version 9, we’re confident it is capable of maintaining this standard.

Official Windows 7 compatibility just about rounds off the improvements here, so it seem as though AVG is happy to offer some fairly standard tweaks and enhancements to placate existing users and upgraders rather than attempt to drag in any new business. The free version still has obvious appeal and it’s still one of the best around in this light, but none of "pay" packages are cheap or revolutionary enough to compete against faster, sleeker and more comprehensive software from rivals such as Norton and BitDefender.

Price when reviewed:
from free to £39.99

AVG has tweaked its software to bring it in line with new threats and improve efficiency, but it still lags behind many rivals in terms of scan times and doesn’t really bring enough to the table to encourage new users to ditch their existing internet security in its favour.