Symantec came up with some interesting new developments in system security last year, with the well publicised Quorum and System Insight tools offering faster, more efficient scans and an unprecedented amount of information for users who would benefit from a more detailed analysis of performance and system activity.

See our review of Norton Antivirus 2010 for a summary of these advancements, which have now been introduced into the new version of Norton 360, updating the already comprehensive, award-winning suite of tools for the modern age.

This alone would be a significant enough reason for owners of previous versions to upgrade, provided of course the rest of the package has enough appeal, and thankfully there have been some notable improvements elsewhere.

Norton 360 retains the same straightforward approach to access and operation as previous versions, splitting the range of tools available into PC Security, Identity Protection, Backup and Tuneup on a clean and intuitive interface. Being designed more for those who appreciate a no-nonsense approach to system security, we were typically impressed by the effective layout and presentation of the most common tasks, with advanced configuration still available through a detailed settings menu that offers an excellent degree of customisation.

Scan times were impressive enough on version 3 and have been improved even further here with the benefit of Quorum’s new community-based approach, being roughly twice as fast on the same test system. By means of example, it took 10 seconds to perform a quick scan and 5 minutes for a comprehensive scan, though the latter includes disk optimisation and cleanup. There is an increase in memory usage when these are running, but we didn’t notice any impact on performance during this time.

Symantec is one of few companies that appears to pay a great deal of attention to customer feedback with its software, and as such has improved some other aspects of the suite that have let it down somewhat in recent times.

It still offers 2GB of online backup storage as standard, but it is now possible to access these files from any computer simply by logging into your Norton account. In addition, large files can be collated into packages and a download links sent to a third party, bypassing inherent issues with emailing large attachments.

Parental controls, one of the most frequently criticised aspects of the previous version, now come in the form of Symantec’s OnlineFamily.Norton software - an online service that offers excellent control and monitoring of web usage in the home.

Otherwise the suite offers a similar set of tools to the previous version and it’s fair to say that it has done more than enough with version 4.0 to reinforce its position at the top of the pile. Its capabilities as a fast, comprehensive and effective security solution are beyond question and even though it’s more expensive than rival suites such as BitDefender, for most these benefits will more than justify the extra cost.

Price when reviewed:
£59.99 (three-PC license)

Norton has done a great job of revitalising 360 for 2010, introducing the new security measures that proved so effective in the rest of its range while tweaking the weaker elements of the 360 suite to address some well publicised drawbacks. While it’s among the more expensive on the market, it’s difficult to argue that this superbly rounded set of tools isn’t worth the extra outlay.