Last year, Symantec set out to make Norton Internet Security one of the most lightweight suites on the market - and it did a good job.
This year, the big change is a new reputation engine, named Quorum. It works by crosschecking downloads and files against usage data collected from millions of Norton users. If it finds a program not in common circulation - or one hosted on a suspiciously new or remote server - it advises you to steer clear. A reassuring addition.
When it came to more traditional malware detection methods, however, Norton disappointed. It achieved a 90% detection rate when faced with this month's malware collection - creditable, perhaps, but some way off Avira's 98%.
The firewall module made sensible decisions and deflected attacks without nagging. But it did permit our attacking PC to confirm the existence of the test machine, leaving it more at risk than with F-Secure.
Also new is Safe Web, a browser-based system that gives trust ratings to websites based on user reports and third-party business intelligence. Its ratings reflect concerns such as a site's privacy and security policies.
A performance log maintains a calendar of events such as installations and malware scans. A log of CPU usage helps track down greedy processes, while parental controls and a network security map round off the new toys.
Pleasingly, the new features haven't ruined Norton's footprint: installing the software added just two seconds to boot time, plus 12 seconds of subsequent CPU activity. And a Vista system footprint of 613MB isn't too hard to swallow.
The general layout is still a little confusing, the three-PC licence costs more than Avira's, and, as we've seen, the scanning engine doesn't detect as much as its rival. All the same, it's a packed suite whose new features offer the best way we've seen to intercept online threats - even brand-new ones - before they ever reach your machine.