Norton and Avast are among the most popular antivirus products available today. Both boast large numbers of users reaching into the millions. The big question is, which is better?
We all have different requirements when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Perhaps you want the latest and greatest features; maybe you’re looking to protect multiple devices with one subscription, or are you simply looking for the best bang for your buck?
This review will put both antivirus products to the test. I’ll not only explain how effective they are at neutralizing threats, but I’ll also look at other important considerations like performance, features and price.
For this comparison, we will use Avast Premium Security Multi-device and Norton 360 Deluxe. I’ll give you my verdict on each program’s protection against malware, ease of use, value for money, and additional security features.
If you’re in a rush and would like to skip to the end, I can tell you that the winner is Norton. It boasts superior malware protection results from independent labs and better additional security features such as a VPN, cloud backup and webcam protection. Norton’s 360 Standard plan represents the best mix of value for money, protection and performance, particularly with the promotional discount available at the time of writing.
Norton vs Avast: Quick summary
|Antivirus and Antispyware|
|Web protection/anti phishing|
|PC Cloud Backup|
|Banking and Payment Protection|
|Network Attack Protection|
|Secure data encryption|
|Automatically update apps|
|Identity Theft Protection|
Norton has been around for 28 years and since 2001, it has been owned by Symantec Corporation in California.
Avast is an antivirus brand from the Czech Republic and one of the largest user bases on the market.
Symantec acquired LifeLock identity protection in 2017, which led to its name change of NortonLifeLock. In December 2020, it announced the acquisition of Avira antivirus, and in August 2021, it announced that it would acquire Avast, which itself acquired AVG a few years prior.
Confused? Essentially, both Norton and Avast are owned by the same parent company but the technologies remain different.
Over time, Symantec may begin to fuse the offerings, providing users with the best of both worlds. For now, Avast and AVG offer a similar technology stack and levels of protection, but the Norton remains a standalone solution.
Pricing and compatibility
As the tables below show, our comparable products Norton 360 Deluxe and Avast Premium Security weigh in at a similar price point, with Norton costing $15 more per year. It’s also worth noting that Norton offers several other higher-priced packages that include LifeLock identity theft protection.
Avast has a simple pricing structure, offering a free basic antivirus and then Avast Premium Security for one or 10 devices. In the US, Avast launched a new product called Avast Omni. This product is designed as a total solution that protects all IoT devices.
|No value||Norton Antivirus Plus||Norton 360 Standard||Norton 360 Deluxe||Norton 360 with LifeLock Select|
|First year price||$19.99||$39.99||$49.99||$99.48|
|No value||Avast One Free Antivirus||Avast Antivirus||Avast Premium Security||Avast One Individual||Avast One Family|
|First year price||Free||$39.99||$50.28||$50.28||$69.48|
At the time of writing, I was offered a very generous 52 percent discount for the first year’s subscription with Norton directly on their antivirus website. Avast, on the other hand, offered me no discount on their website for the first year, but cheaper prices are available if you sign up for the two- and three-year subscriptions.
Norton offers a 60-day money-back guarantee allowing you to try out the product and make sure it works for you. Avast offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you will need to purchase the product and request a refund if you’re not happy with it.
I have used both the money-back guarantee from Norton and the 30-day offer from Avast, and can confirm that my subscription fee was refunded in full with no problems.
Effectiveness against malware
I wanted to establish which antivirus would do the best job at protecting my PC against malware, so I ran some tests to see how each program performed.
The first test I performed checked for malware threats in real-time, instead of waiting until a scheduled scan time to check the PC files.
I also ran a second malware test where I downloaded harmless sample malware files from EICAR (the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research) which simulate malware attacks and allow us to see how antiviruses respond to different types of threats coming from different vectors. I turned off real-time detection and ran a full system scan and a quick scan to see how well the malware was detected and quarantined.
To add to my own tests, I checked out some of the most recent antivirus tests managed by the major independent antivirus test labs. The table below compares the test results from both Norton and Avast on my PC when tested with three different live samples and four EICAR samples.
|Eicar Sample 1||Blocked||Allowed|
|Eicar Sample 2||Blocked||Allowed|
|Eicar Sample 3||Blocked||Allowed|
|Eicar Sample 4||Blocked||Allowed|
|Live Sample 1 (Adware)||Blocked||Blocked|
|Live Sample 2 (Trojan)||Blocked||Blocked|
|Live Sample 3 (Trojan)||Blocked||Blocked|
The results show Norton blocked one of the EICAR samples but allowed three, compared with Avast which failed to block any of the four EICAR samples. Avast allowed the EICAR samples when downloaded over HTTPS, but blocked them on HTTP.
Norton blocked the .txt file and the download from Eicar.com on HTTP but allowed Zip files. On HTTPS the .zip files and the .text files were allowed while the Eicar.com file was blocked.
For the live samples, Norton and Avast both blocked all three.
Next, I wanted to test the quick scan version of the antivirus to see how it performed. I again used the EICAR samples.
Norton failed to detect the EICAR and live samples in quick scan mode while Avast’s Smart Scan also found no threats.
To add more depth to my own analysis, I visited a couple of the best known independent AV testing labs and looked up the latest results. For this comparison, I looked at the tests from AV-Test and AV-Comparatives.
During July and August 2021 AV-Test tested the top antivirus brands. Let’s compare the scores for Norton and Avast.
Norton scored 100 percent protection rates against 0-day malware attacks, inclusive of web and email threats (Real-World Testing) in both July and August. Avast also scored a perfect six for protection against PC against malware threats.
I also looked at AV-Comparatives’ latest Malware Protection Test from July-October 2021 to check if their results were similar to those recorded by AV-Test. Norton scored a perfect 100 percent online protection rate, putting it at the top of the results. Avast scored very slightly lower, with an almost perfect score of 99.9 percent protection, placing it in the top cluster of performers.
AV-Comparatives False Alarm test is another useful method of comparing the two products and how accurately a file or app is identified as safe or as a threat. The lower the number of false alarms, the better.
False positives occur when the antivirus flags a non-malware file as malware and can be an annoyance.
The test results from July-October 2021 show thirty-seven false alarms from Norton, and two from Avast.
Impact on PC performance
How much impact an antivirus has on PC performance is an area I like to look at, and is something most users should be aware of. To find out which of the two antivirus programs had the best performance numbers, I captured some data while running both a full scan and a quick scan. To help me verify my findings I also looked at the performance scores for both Avast and Norton from some recent independent tests.
The table below shows the results of my test and how long it took to complete, plus the number of items that were scanned.
The time it takes to complete an antivirus scan is affected by a number of factors such as the speed of the PC, the number of files that need to be scanned and the antivirus program that you are using.
|Full Scan Time (minutes)||121||60|
|Full Scan # Items Scanned||1,420,276||1870000|
|Full Scan CPU Utilization %||84||72|
|Full Scan Memory Utilization %||75||300|
|Full Scan Disk Utilization (seconds)||381||19|
|Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)||14||72|
|Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)||72||28|
|Control Disk Utilization (seconds) (no scan)||13||32|
|Quick Scan Time (seconds)||171||64|
|Quick Scan CPU Utilization %||37||42|
|Quick Scan Memory Utilization %||76||73|
|Quick Scan Disk Utilization %||41||5801|
A full scan with Avast was completed in 60 minutes and scanned 1,870,000 items, compared to Norton which took double that time at 121 minutes and scanned 970,000 items.
Next, I tried running a quick scan with each antivirus. Norton completed the task in 171 seconds while Avast was a fraction quicker, completing the quick scan in 146 seconds.
I also recorded some data to see how my PC’s resources were affected by both antivirus programs.
Avast recorded a higher Control CPU Utilization while Control Memory Utilization was the same when running both programs. Avast also recorded a higher Control Disk utilization when not performing a scan. During a full scan, Avast scored lower CPU utilization, while memory utilization was almost the same. Full scan disk utilization showed a big difference between Avast and Norton, with Avast recording 5,801 seconds compared to Norton’s 381.
Next, I analyzed the results from some other independent tests. The tests run by independent labs show how each antivirus impacts PC performance during eight common tasks:
- Downloading files
- Browsing websites
- File copying: first and subsequent run
- Installing/uninstalling applications
- Launching applications: first and subsequent run
Each task is given a rating between very fast and slow.
In the AV-Comparatives Performance Test from October 2021, both Norton and Avast scored the same, with seven out of eight very fast ratings, and one fast rating.
When it comes to performance, Avast performs slightly better in benchmarking tests, although it is very close. This matches my own tests and experience using both products. There was only a minor impact on speed and performance while I ran a number of tasks on my PC.
The antivirus scanner itself is the main reason to buy the product, but most providers now bundle in a lot of extra features to try and make them stand out. I’ve looked at what is included in each package to see which offers the best value.
Both Norton and Avast work with all the major operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
The headline features for Avast Premium are:
- Secure passwords
- Block malware
- Block spam and phishing emails
- Safer shopping
- Webcam protection
- Lock out hackers with an advanced firewall
- Scan for wi-fi security weaknesses
- Get an extra layer of ransomware security
- Safely run suspicious apps
- Permanently shred sensitive files
- Automatically update apps
- Install on all your devices
And for Norton 360 Deluxe:
- Malware and Ransomware Protection
- Parental Controls
- Secure VPN
- Online Threat Protection
- PC Cloud Backup 50 GB
- Smart Firewall
- Password Manager
- PC SafeCam (webcam protection)
Both Norton and Avast offer some of the same features like webcam protection, a password manager, and advanced firewalls. Below, I’ve highlighted a few of the unique features each product has that I find the most interesting and useful.
Norton 360 Deluxe
PC Cloud Backup 50 GB – This feature allows you to back up your files and photos to the cloud so even if a ransomware attack got through on your system, you would never lose all your data.
Secure VPN – Not many antivirus products include VPN access, so this is a nice bonus. A VPN is most often used to provide privacy online and protect your personal information, making this a good extra layer of safety.
Automatically update apps – Out-of-date software and apps are often a weak point that hackers use to get into your machine. This tool is a great feature that automatically updates your apps and searches for the latest updated releases online.
Safer shopping – This tool stops hackers from hijacking your router’s DNS to send you to fake sites. This feature lessens the chance of criminals stealing your passwords and banking info online.
Sandbox – Opening a file that may seem suspicious is dangerous, but if insist on downloading it, the sandboxing tool lets you open files in a safe environment before you let them run on your PC.
Overall, I like many of the extra features from Avast, but feel Norton delivers more value by including a VPN and cloud backup.
Sign up and installation
The thing I like most about the Norton sign-up process was its simple layout and how clear they made the pricing. The first year discount and the regular renewal price are clearly shown, whereas some companies try to hide renewal info in small print.
It was a simple case of entering a few personal details like my name and address and setting up payment. Next, I got the download link to the installer file. Installing the program on my PC was easy. Less than 10 minutes after first launching the website to sign up, I was underway running the full antivirus check on my PC.
Avast Premium offered a similar simple sign-up and installation. Pricing again was clear but Avast does not offer an automatic discount in the first year.
How easy is the interface to use?
Of course, when it comes to antivirus software, the most important thing is always going to be performance. That being said user experience should be considered to. If software is difficult to use or overly complex, most people simply won’t use it.
Before installing either program, I got the sense from the websites that Avast may have a more modern look and feel.
My gut instinct was right. Avast has obviously put a lot of time and energy into making its user interface look and feel modern. This slick and minimal design is what most users expect in a world of phone apps and cloud software.
Norton, on the other hand, is still holding onto some of its proud 28 year history and feels a little more dated. It would be unfair to call it clunky; it works well and the features and data are laid out clearly.
Avast’s support channels include live chat and email. There is a technician phone support option available at an extra cost. Avast also lets users find solutions via self-service, providing a detailed FAQ on its support website.
Norton offers a FAQ, community forum, and live chat support, plus phone support. In addition, social media support is available via the Facebook and Twitter channels. Norton gives customers 24/7/365 support on all of its product tiers.
Overall I am impressed with aspects of both the antivirus products tested here but give the edge to Norton 360 Deluxe.
Norton is slightly more expensive, but not by much and delivers great performance, excellent malware detection rates, plus very useful features such as a VPN.