ESET is a cybersecurity company based out of Bratislava, Slovakia. With plenty of fans and monthly users, ESET's antivirus software tends to punch far above its weight, competing well with top-rated firms like Norton or Kaspersky.
Nod32 is the free version of ESET's software, while Internet Security is the mid-tier paid version. Finally, Smart Security Premium is the top-tier package and will be our focus on this page.
One license for ESET Smart Security Premium will cost you $59.99 per year. Unlike other antivirus suites, which usually have a flat payment for 5 or 10 licenses, with ESET you'll pay per license (in other words, per device).
Each additional license will add $10 to your annual cost. This has the potential to save you money but also lose you money if you have many devices.
One other way to save money with ESET is by paying for 2 or 3 years of coverage instead of just one year.
ESET Smart Security Premium is available for Windows versions 7 through 10, Mac versions 10.12 through 11, Android starting at version 4.1, and Linux computers.
But enough about costs and functionality - how does the software actually stack up against its competitors? Will it protect your computer or other devices? Let's dive in.
As you'd expect with a top-tier security suite, you'll get a lot of features with Smart Security Premium. These include:
- Webcam protection
- Two-way firewall
- Wi-Fi Network protection
- Webcam protection can be modified to block suspicious access attempts or even all access attempts
- Password Manager so you don't have to remember all your passwords
- Secure browser for making payments
- Parental Controls
- Heavy encryption - AES-256 encryption - can be applied to important files
- "Gamer mode" keeps the program from distracting you while you're playing a game or watching a movie
- Examines your Windows Management Instrumentation repository for hidden threats, a feature unique among antivirus software
- Anti-theft protection that will help you locate a stolen computer
Installation and setup
First, decide whether you want to buy one or more licenses (which you can do here - be sure to specify how many devices you want to protect) or opt for the free trial.
Either way, you'll download the executable file for Windows at this link (for other versions, click on the appropriate link underneath the "Looking to Protect your Mac, Android, or Linux devices?" collapsible).
You'll be taken to an activation screen, where you can either input your activation code or opt for the free trial.
Next, you'll have to put in your e-mail address and country of residence. On this screen, be sure to uncheck the box about receiving special offers if you don't want to receive those.
From here, you will either activate the software with your product key (it'll be in your purchase confirmation e-mail) or click on Start Free Trial - whichever applies to you.
You should see this screen:
Go ahead and activate each feature as you wish, then press Continue.
Finally, you can volunteer to improve customer experience by allowing ESET to collect anonymous information about the software on your system.
Once you press Continue, the installation will finalize.
You'll see an "Installation Successful" screen. Press done, and the program will launch.
A window will enable you to activate certain features like anti-theft or parental control using your ESET Account.
ESET's UI is pretty standard for antivirus software - it won't be too tough to navigate. The white-black-and-green color scheme is soft and easy on the eyes, not too eye-popping as some other programs can be.
You go from one page to the next by clicking the pictures on the left-hand side of the window. There, you can access your default Home page, your Computer Scan page, Updates, Tools, Setup, and Help & Support page (here you can access ESET's large knowledge base or write a support ticket if you have an issue).
Under Setup, you'll be able to activate or deactivate certain features like the firewall, gamer mode, or web protections (though why would you!?).
Under Tools, you'll find ESET Smart Security Premium's special features like the Password Manager and anti-theft protection.
Overall, ESET's UI is very intuitive and easy to use - no complaints here!
What ESET Smart Security Premium offers
Like other antivirus programs, ESET has access to a large database of malware signatures so that it can recognize them if they pop up on your system.
Their software also has access to a central cloud - your computer or device will be monitored for irregularities and so discover new forms of malware, supplying these signatures to all users.
You'll get solid protection from phishing attempts and Ransomware.
With parental controls, you can limit the amount of time your kids spend on the computer and keep them from accessing certain programs.
The anti-theft feature is quite cool - if your laptop is stolen and the thief connects to Wi-Fi, you'll be able to pinpoint their location. Additionally, it will snap a picture of the thief that you can share with law enforcement.
Encryption lets you protect specific files on your computer so that, even if it was stolen, thieves won't be able to access them. You enable this feature in the Tools section, under "Secure Data"
In short, most of the bells and whistles you'd want from a paid antivirus program are included in ESET Smart Security Premium
What ESET Smart Security Premium does not offer
That being said, this paid software doesn't include a VPN or a file shredder. Many other paid antivirus suites do offer one or both of these features - in fact, even some free ones do!
There also isn't a quick scan option, which seems strange. ESET's regular scan does run pretty fast, however.
You can customize the scans, too, so if you suspect a particular area of your computer is contaminated you can save time.
In November and December of 2020, independent German testing firm AV-Test showed ESET detected 100 % of known and new ("zero-day") threats.
AV-Comparatives, on the other hand, found it had a 99.3 % detection rate, while SE Labs gave it a 97 % detection rate. This does put it behind most other antivirus programs tested.
Tests have also shown ESET to have a very minor impact on system performance, both while running in the background or actively performing scans. This is always nice if you're constantly using your computer for other tasks.
- Most of the features you would want in a top-tier security suite
- Very small impact on system performance
- One payment per license means you won't be paying for unused capacity
- Nice and clean UI
- Possible lower detection rate than other antivirus software
- Lacks some features other paid antivirus suites would have, like a VPN or file shredder
- There's no unlimited device plan that'll save you money if you have to pay for many devices
- The high amount of false positives, which is more of a nuisance than anything
- Perhaps a bit petty, but the installation process seems long and overly complicated
Overall, we feel that ESET Smart Security Premium is a top-of-the-line antivirus suite that can "play with the big boys" like Norton and Kaspersky. For what it offers it's not too expensive and is a bit cheaper than either of those developers' top-tier plans.
However, both Norton and Kaspersky do have marginally superior malware detection rates, so keep that in mind.
If you just want to pay for one or two devices, get good protection, and don't mind using another developer's VPN, ESET Smart Security Premium should be a good fit.
That being said, ESET should consider offering a reasonably-priced unlimited device plan, so that it can attract users with few devices who want to save money by not having to pay for multiple unused licenses, but also those who do have a lot of devices and don't want to run up costs.