German security guru Avira doesn't have a high profile in Australia: if you know the name at all, it's probably for the company's free AntiVir package. But as our tests showed, Avira's Premium Security Suite is an undiscovered gem, putting in strong performances across the board.
Admittedly, it didn't quite come first in any individual test this time around. But it was one of very few suites to score consistently highly in every area.
In our malware detection test, its score of 89% outshone big names like Norton and Kaspersky, picking up numerous generic threats that other scanners overlooked. And it backed up this performance with a very strong showing against our web threats, coming second only to AVG.
We were particularly pleased with Avira's response to our network vulnerability scan. Several security packages managed to repulse every attack, but Avira simply dropped the offensive packets, causing the attack to time out rather than fail immediately. A port scan ended up taking over an hour, wasting the attacker's time and resources.
Though effective, the package is also pleasingly lightweight, adding just a few seconds to Windows' boot time and settling down to one of the lower RAM footprints.
The interface is simple and pleasingly logical - it suffers from just a few cryptic icons, and they're thankfully equipped with tooltips to explain their purpose.
Email integration is unobtrusive too: Avira adds a ‘spam' tag to the subject line of suspected spam, and pops up when you receive an infected email, but otherwise it's invisible.
Given this emphasis on simplicity, it's no surprise that features such as system tuneup and parental controls are absent. If you're after bells and whistles, look elsewhere. Avira's most exotic features are a backup module (though there's no online storage provided) and a bootable rescue CD.
But for our money this unassuming approach is just what the doctor ordered, and the price is equally modest.
A three-PC Avira package will cost you the same as a one-user licence for many other packages, and for a single machine it's around 30% cheaper than the competition. For the protection you get, it's an unbeatable proposition.