With the release of NIS 2011, it’s apparent Symantec is still trying to shed its lingering image in power-user circles as a resource pig, perhaps a little too hard at times. The new user interface is sleek and sexy with plenty of configuration options to drill into, but it’s also a little daunting for less savvy PC users. It’s the polar opposite of Microsoft Security Essentials, and if you’re experienced with computers, that’s great. Your Aunt Agnes, however, probably won’t make heads or tails out of it all.
Norton’s redesigned UI wins on sex appeal but suffers from a case of information overload.
The main window provides on/off switches for a variety of modules, and if you dive into the Settings menu, you’ll find a whole bunch of additional tools. It’s sheer overload for Aunt Agnes, who won’t understand the difference between Browser Protection, Safe Surfing, and Download Intelligence, all of which appear on the main interface. Hover over any of these, however, and Norton does a serviceable job explaining what they are.
Unlike last year’s version, trying to trip up NIS with our malware samples proved futile. Symantec upgraded its SONAR technology, which pays close attention to how a program behaves rather than relying solely on virus definitions. The idea is to catch zero-day threats that slip into the wild, and it worked beautifully with our contaminated archive. NIS also shields against potentially harmful websites, though you can still truck through if you suspect it’s a false positive.
Installing Norton had no impact on our test bed’s boot time, and system scans were among the fastest of the bunch. We’re beating what’s left of a dead horse at this point, but this isn’t the same Norton from three-plus years ago. Our only real complaint is that Symantec perhaps caters a little too much to enthusiasts and risks alienating some mainstream users.