Panda shredded every threat we threw at it with the ferocity of, well, anything but a panda bear. Spyware, Trojans, potentially unwanted programs (PUPs)—you name it, Panda pounced on it like a hungry dog that had been thrown a meaty bone.
This particular Panda can also be a little bit needy. By default, Panda alerts you to every activity under the sun, even benign attempts by your home network to connect to your PC. Over time, the pop-ups settle down considerably, and for the ones of a more serious nature—like those alerting you to a real threat or virus attack—Panda makes it easy to adjust both the transparency and longevity of the pop-ups. Still, we wish Panda would take more initiative and not bother us with so many alerts.
Ever been blindsided by what you thought was love at first sight, but turned out to be just another pretty face? Eventually you find yourself at a crossroads having to decide whether to break things off, or stick around for the fast ride and ignore the flaws.
Such is the position BitDefender puts you in, and you’ll ultimately have to make the same decision. Right off the bat we encountered a couple red flags of things to come, including a somewhat lengthy install time requiring a restart, and mandatory registration in order to activate the license.
Once we got past the initial awkwardness, BitDefender proceeded to sweep us off our feet by tailoring itself to our needs. BitDefender’s configuration wizard asks you to select from four different layouts based on what type of user you are, including Typical, Parent, Gamer, or Custom. Should you later change your mind, you can rerun the wizard with a click of the mouse.
When McAfee told us it completely re-engineered its security suite from top to bottom, we agreed to include it in this roundup knowing full well we had probably been duped like the guy who drives off the used-car lot without a warranty. We were wrong.
To our eyes, this is a completely revamped McAfee. MIS 2010 rolls off the lot with a much-improved UI over previous versions, and manages to balance ease of use with a high level of customization. For those who care to do so, McAfee makes it easy to dig deeper into each of the main menu’s modules, but you’ll never feel lost or overwhelmed.
Underneath the hood sits a more performance-oriented engine than what you would expect from a McAfee product. Where last year’s version felt like a dilapidated Pinto, the 2010 model has all the makings of a sporty sedan. To reduce the time it takes to scan a system, McAfee caches files and puts together a white list of files it can safely skip. Depending on how clogged your hard drive is, McAfee claims this can result in up to eight-times-faster scans (we saw a 50 percent improvement).
We took some heat after awarding last year’s version of Norton Internet Security our coveted Kick Ass award. Some of you were baffled at how Norton, a notorious resource hog and semi-effective scanner, could turn things around in such dramatic fashion. Others questioned our geek cred, while a few of you even accused us of being on the take—ouch. But the truth is, Symantec deserved every accolade it received. Could this be the dawn of a new AV dynasty in the Norton camp?
We’re not yet ready to anoint Norton the savior of security software, and we’ll tell you why in a moment. First, let’s focus on what NIS 2010 does right. This year’s update continues NIS’s reborn legacy as a lean and fast scanner. We remain particularly impressed with Norton Insight, which dramatically reduces system scans. The first time NIS sweeps through your system, it examines every file. Each time thereafter, the scanner skips files that have been validated by Symantec and deemed trustworthy. The result? After an initial scan time of 16 minutes, 18 seconds, NIS then scurried through our data in just four minutes, 47 seconds, finishing long before our coffee break did.
Every year, tech pundits take stabs at predicting what hot new trends or gear will consume our interest in the coming year. I want to take a somewhat different tack, and talk about what I’m genuinely looking forward to checking out. Some of what follows is trends and industry happenings; I love this stuff, after all. Some of this represents tech that I’m really curious to personally check out. So without any more fanfare, here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2010, in no particular order.
So much in life is unknowable. Will the economy rebound? Hard to say. Will oil prices skyrocket? Maybe, maybe not. Will Brangelina add to their brood? Frankly, we don’t care. But one thing’s for sure: Technology is ever-changing and each year guarantees new advances for the PC user.
As we do every year around this time, we got on the horn with our industry contacts—experts in their respective fields—and pressed them for details about what new and exciting hardware power users can look forward to in 2010. Some of what we learned was expected (SATA speeds will double), some came from out of left field (six 30-inch panels on a single videocard?!), and some just plain make sense (like a Nehalem chip for the masses).
Read on to find out how your personal computing landscape stands to be altered in the year ahead.