BullGuard Internet Security has been a worthy rival to more established names in the security arena for the last couple of years, and though what is already a feature-packed collection of tools hasn't been significantly updated during this time, it has now given the software a shot in the arm in the form of a gaming mode and visual makeover.
It's initially disappointing not to see any new tools or improvements to the existing collection here, though it is worth noting that the already comprehensive suite includes antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing, antispam, IM protection, a firewall and backup with 5GB of online storage supplied, so for most it will still tick all the boxes.
The new interface is a rather radical change as well, and initially at least, existing users may take some time to get used to this rather different approach. Instead of summarising the general state of your system and highlighting any areas that need attention on the main screen, BullGuard 9 uses a series of icons to provide shortcuts to common tasks such as scanning for viruses, backing up data, controlling the firewall and viewing the online drive. You are still notified if something needs attention in a more subtle way, and can view "system status" for a more detailed list, but we're yet to be convinced that the new interface improves user-friendliness; its primary purpose, to a significant degree.
BullGuard provides what may be best described as a "safety net" at the bottom of the main display, which basically offers access to the main collections of tools in a more traditional manner. This is quite a nice touch as the categories available offer quick summaries and access to the most important or commonly used tasks, with detailed settings available for advanced users who require more control.
It's also pleasing to note that you're very rarely bugged by the firewall or other aspects of the software while it's running in the background, so there's a decent level of automation here. The game mode also works well in this light and there are a series of profiles available for some modern titles, along with the ability to add custom profiles of your own.
Visual tweaks aside, each of the components works as you'd expect and there's very little difference to core functionality since version 8.0. Unfortunately we did see a bit of a drop in performance - scans took longer and used more resources than previous versions and while we only noticed an impact during deep scans, we're surprised not to see progress in this area.
While there's nothing inherently wrong with BullGuard 9, which is still an impressively comprehensive collection of tools, the new approach and interface may not be to everyone's taste. Users of previous versions will need a bedding-in period to get to grips with the layout but the fact that it doesn't offer anything particularly new, has taken an apparent step backwards in terms of performance and in light of innovative new approaches taken by some rivals, it's difficult not to think that we were expecting a bit more.