Norton isn’t just the most popular name in antivirus services, it’s also one that deserves most of the attention it receives.
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Norton is the household name when it comes to antivirus. While it’s not cheap and has somewhat confusing plan options, Norton is a fully featured antivirus suite that offers robust protection. Even the cheapest options offer great extended features and, minor quirks aside, this is an antivirus software solution that gets the job done.
Norton follows the McAfee trend of offering a handful of antivirus plans. The cheapest is Norton AntiVirus Plus, which is for one Mac or PC and costs $39.99 for the first year ($69.99 normally). From here, there’s a trio of Norton 360 products. Norton 360 Standard protects one device for an initial $79.99 annual fee ($99.99 later) and Norton 360 Deluxe protects three devices for a first-year $89.99 fee ($149.99 normally).
Finally, there’s Norton 360 Premium for a $99.99 first-year fee ($194.99 typically), which protects five devices. Norton also offers two-year plans for its Norton 360 products which, strangely, cost more than opting for an annual plan. Norton doesn’t tend to compete on pricing, losing out to the likes of Bitdefenderand Kaspersky on the value front.
There is a short seven-day trial for any of these Norton plans, but you have to input payment details first, which was also my experience when I bought a one-year digital download code from an Australian retailer. Norton accepts Visa, Mastercard, and American Express credit card payments; alternatively, you can pay via PayPal or Google Pay.
There are four version of Norton’s antivirus, and all of them come with the following features:
- Real-time threat protection
- Password manager
- Smart firewall (PC or Mac)
- 100% virus protection promise
- 24/7 support
- PC cloud backup
The data included in the PC cloud backup increases based on the Norton antivirus plan: 2GB for AntiVirus Plus, 10GB for 360 Standard, 50GB for 360 Deluxe, and 100GB for 360 Premium. The Norton 360 products also include a secure virtual private network (VPN) and SafeCam for PC features. Paying for Norton 360 Deluxe or Premium includes these additional features:
- Parental control
- School Time
- Dark web monitoring
- SMS security
Norton sign-up and setup process
The Norton installation process is more convoluted than McAfee. Where McAfee lets you download the app or computer software and then create a basic account, Norton makes you jump through the hoops of inputting payment details (again, even for the short trial).
It’s not an overly complex process, but it does feel like there are unnecessary steps, and there’s even more clicking to install the Windows software. Mercifully, the Android app is a lot more straightforward, particularly if you already have an account, though I did have to reinstall it to get past an initial Norton login bug.
Like McAfee, the Windows download for Norton is a smaller file that starts an installation wizard, which downloads additional data before installing the antivirus software. Be sure to have any other non-Microsoft Defender antivirus uninstalled to avoid potential compatibility clashes (you should only have one antivirus software installed at a time).
The Windows installer does its thing with some simplified information titbits relating to basic ‘did you know?’ phishing and ransomware descriptions. Once installed, you’ll be guided through setting up your My Norton features, which you can skip but I’d advise following the helpful (and short) features tour.
Norton user experience
I used the Norton 360 Deluxe plan for my recent tests but I’ve had extensive experience with Norton 360 Premium in the past. That’s how I know Norton asks you to input payment details after you’ve purchased a digital download code. Everything you need from Norton antivirus is accessible on the My Norton dashboard, with at-a-glance info for which features are activated and which ones require additional configuration.
Norton lets you run a quick scan or force a live update if you want the absolute newest threat signatures. Here’s where you can also run a single-click quick scan, which analyses startup files and commonly infected areas. It took under two minutes to complete in my tests. Alternatively, tap the drop-down arrow next to ‘Open’ to configure the type of scan.
Checking for dark web information takes you to your Norton account via browser, which is where you’ll see any alerts. It’s a similar story for Norton’s parental controls, which opens a browser window offering a 30-day trial for Norton Family. It’s a shame this isn’t included in more versions of Norton antivirus by default.
The included PC cloud backup storage and password manager require additional straightforward configuration, plus there’s also a secure VPN. Norton’s VPN automatically connects to the nearest server, with some great advanced security features like a kill switch, ad-tracker blocking, and split tunnelling for specifying the apps you want excluded from the VPN. Just avoid that Norton Crypto feature, mercifully off by default, which will greatly impact compatible devices when it’s in use.
Norton virus and malware protection
The real reason you buy antivirus software is for protection from viruses and malware. Because it’s not a straightforward process to test viruses and malware on devices without compromising them, we rely on the extensive ongoing tests provided by authorities in the antivirus space.
Norton scored incredibly well in the recent real-world protection tests from AV-Comparatives, on par with Bitdefender but ahead of McAfee. In fact, Norton earned a perfect scorecard, with 100% of threats blocked. The only outlier was a disproportionate number of false positives caught by Norton: 35, compared to the next highest six from Bitdefender.
You’ll take those extra false positives, though, because the trade-off is 100% peace of mind, which is something Norton stands behind via its 100% virus protection promise. Norton also had a perfect scorecard for the March 2022 AV-Test results, which grade antivirus scores between 0 and 6 across Android, MacOS and PC devices. Here’s how Norton fared in comparison to its closest peers:
|Norton 360 5.29 (Android)||6||6||6|
|Norton 360 8.7 (MacOS)||6||6||6|
|Norton 360 22.1 (Windows)||6||6||6|
|Bitdefender Mobile Security 3.3 (Android)||6||6||6|
|Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac 9.0||6||6||6|
|Bitdefender Internet Security 26.0 (Windows)||6||6||5.5|
|McAfee Mobile Security 6.6 (Android)||5.5||6||6|
|McAfee Total Protection 25.4 (Windows)||6||6||6|
As you can see from the table above, that’s a perfect score for Norton, which edges out Bitdefender on Windows usability and McAfee for Android protection. All of these results mean you can trust Norton to protect your devices in an easy-to-use way with minimal impact on overall device performance.
Norton vs other antivirus services
Check out the table below for the key differences between Norton and its most popular antivirus peers.
Initial annual price
Number of devices
|Best antivirus software overall||$79.99||10||99.9%||View on Bitdefender||Read review|
|Best cheap antivirus software||From $30.99||1, 3, 5, or 10||99.6%||View on Kaspersky||Read review|
|Best antivirus for families||From $41.99||5 or 30||99.6%||View on Avast||Read review|
|Best antivirus for enhanced security||$89.99||3||100%||View on Norton||Read review|
|Best antivirus for first-timers||From $46.40||1 or 10||99.6%||View on AVG||Read review|
|Best runner-up||From $84.95||5||97.4%||View on McAfee||Read review|
|Best for infected devices||From $44.99||1 or 5||99.9%||View on Malwarebytes||Read review|
|Best for device diversity||From $69||2, 4, or 6||100%||View on Trend Micro||Read review|
|Best for fewest false positives||From $59.95||1 to 10||98.4%||View on ESET||Read review|
Prices are accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.
Norton is the antivirus service by which all others are measured. It’s packed with features and incredibly easy to use once you get past the elongated installation process (at least on Windows). Ultimately, it just works, whether you keep it perpetually in the background or want to tinker.
That said, you’ll pay for the privilege and it’s a shame you have to exchange payment details for a short seven-day trial. In terms of costs, Norton isn’t cheap, but the results more than justify the cost if you’re after ultimate peace of mind.
How we review antivirus software
Our antivirus testing starts with basic feature comparisons, including pricing and whether there’s a free version or easily accessible free trial. Letting people try before they buy scores well with us. Then we check to ensure antivirus software includes critical features like real-time protection and speedy scanning tools, ideally without a massive performance impact on compatible devices.
The ease of installation is then evaluated as well as how well an antivirus service guides the user and encourages them to explore additional security settings (where available). Antivirus software that also includes extended features—like a VPN, password manager, digital file shredder or other bolt-ons—scores points for versatility.
Ultimately, though, we always go back to how well an antivirus service performs on key metrics: namely, threat protection and performance impact. For these factors, we defer to the extensive ongoing testing data that’s readily available from antivirus authorities AV-Comparatives and AV-Test. If antivirus software scores well in those external tests, it has a great chance of scoring well with us, too.
Below are the answers to some of the most pressing Norton questions.
For us, Norton is the better pick. McAfee is a great starting point for user-friendly antivirus software with some advanced features, but Norton does a better job of protecting devices against threats.