With so many antivirus brands available today, it is difficult to narrow down the choices to the one that best matches your needs. Many providers offer multiple features so determining which offers the best value for money can be complicated.
In this comparison, I will look at what to consider before making a purchase. This includes evaluating the pricing, protection, performance, features, and overall useability of the software.
I have conducted my own tests to work out which program offers the best protection, and looked at independent results from leading antivirus testing labs to deliver a balanced verdict.
Want the short version? Who wins between Norton and Sophos?
Norton is my winner. It’s a renowned leader in its field and offers superb protection for businesses and home users. Norton offers a number of flexible packages to choose from compared to Sophos’ limited range. I do recommend reading the full comparison below to find out for yourself. Let’s get started.
Summary: Norton vs Sophos
- Strong malware protection results
- Webcam protection
- Privacy protection
- Safe browsing
- Real-time protection
|Feature||Norton 360 Deluxe||Sophos Home Premium|
|Antivirus and antispyware||✔||✔|
|Banking and payment protection||✖||✔|
|Network attack protection||✔||✔|
|Automatically update apps||✖||✖|
|PC cloud backup||✔ ( 50 GB)||✖|
|Identity theft protection||✖||✔|
|Run suspicious apps in sandbox||✖||✖|
Norton has been a major player in the antivirus world since 1991. Its software is developed and distributed by Symantec Corporation in California. Norton Antivirus and Norton Internet Security held a 61 percent US retail market share for security as of the first half of 2007. Norton has a total of 50 million customers around the world, showing that users have trust in the company’s products.
Sophos’ focus is protecting large businesses, particularly 100–5,000 seat organizations. It provides the same level of protection for its home users as it does for corporate clients. Originally founded in 1985 with its headquarters in Abingdon, England, Sophos currently protects over 400,000 organizations in 150 countries worldwide. The company website offers no mention of how many home users it currently protects.
Pricing and compatibility
The first thing I will compare is the pricing of Norton and Sophos. Good value for money is an important consideration and if you opt for the premium version, then it’s worth comparing the number of added tools you’ll get. The table below outlines the different packages on offer and the price of the subscription per year.
|Norton 360 Standard||Norton 360 Deluxe||Norton 360 and LifeLock Select||Norton 360 and LifeLock Advantage||Norton360 and LifeLock Ultimate Plus|
|$79.99 per year||$99.99 per year||$149.99 per year||$249.99 per year||$349.99 per year|
As the tables above show, Norton offers far more variety in its packages. Prices start at $79.99 per year for Norton 360 Standard and go up to $349.99 per year for the premium option of Norton 360 and Lifelock Ultimate Plus. Norton also offers some affordable yet robust mid-range products.
In comparison, Sophos offers just two packages: a free version and Sophos Home Premium (which costs $60 per year). Although the free version can be appealing, it only provides a basic level of malware protection compared to the premium version. I would always opt for paying for a greater level of protection.
At the time of writing, both Norton and Sophos are offering discounts. Norton 360 Deluxe is offering a 50 percent discount, bringing the price of your first year down to $49.99. Sophos Home Premium offers a 25 percent saving, so the first annual payment is just $45. If you want to subscribe for more than one year, there are further discounts available.
If you’re not ready to commit just yet, Norton offers a 60-day money-back guarantee in case you’re not completely happy with your product. Likewise, Sophos offers a 30-day free trial of Home Premium, then it reverts back to the free version. This aspect is appealing as you get peace of mind that you’ll have some protection on your device even if you don’t upgrade after the trial.
Compatibility is key, especially when protecting different devices on various platforms. Both Norton and Sophos work across Windows, Android, and MacOS devices.
Effectiveness against malware
Malware is an umbrella term used to describe all types of malicious software including adware, trojans, worms, and other nasty things that are used to threaten your device. To see which antivirus software offers the best protection, I downloaded four sample malware files from the European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research (EICAR) and turned off real-time detection. The next test I performed used live samples, to see how well both performed in detecting the threats. The results are displayed in the table below.
|Test File||EICAR Sample 1||EICAR Sample 2||EICAR Sample 3||EICAR Sample 4||Live Sample 1 (Adware)||Live Sample 2 (Trojan)||Live Sample 3|
As the table shows above, Sophos outperformed Norton in my own tests. Sophos managed to block all EICAR Samples and Live Samples.
Norton only blocked one EICAR sample and allowed the three others, though it did block the zip files at the point of the extraction attempt. Norton did also block all live samples.
If you don’t want to take my own tests as the final word, I also looked at leading websites, AV-Test and AV-Comparatives to see if my results matched up.
AV-Test results from May 2020 and June 2020 gave Norton a perfect score of 100 percent protection for both months. Sophos scored 96.3 percent in May and 100 percent in June, so didn’t perform quite as well as Norton.
I also looked at AV-Comparatives’ real-world protection test summary from February 2020 to May 2020. Norton scored a perfect 100 percent, but Sophos was not included in this test.
The false alarm test conducted by AV-Comparatives gives insight into how often a safe file is mistakenly detected as a threat. Throughout the month of March 2020, Norton picked up 25 false alarms. The average among all antivirus software tested was nine, so Norton scored above the norm. What this essentially means is that Norton’s software can be overly cautious at times. Again, Sophos wasn’t included in this testing so there are no results for comparison.
Both Norton and Sophos provide an outstanding level of protection against malware.
Impact on PC performance
Most people tend not to think about the effects antivirus programs have on your PC performance, but it’s important to consider whether your software will slow your PC down. In these tests, I ran a full scan for both Norton and Sophos and looked at the effects they had on performance.
|Test Type||Full Scan Time (minutes)||Full Scan Items Scanned||Quick Scan CPU Utilization %||Quick Scan Memory Utilization %||Quick Scan Disk Utilization %||Quick Scan Time (seconds)|
Norton took 121 minutes to do a full scan, in comparison to Sophos’ 15 minutes. Sophos does not have an option to do a quick scan, but the full scan is fairly fast anyway.
The table below highlights the effects both Norton and Sophos had on my PC whilst performing a full scan and when no scan was present.
|Test Type||Control CPU Utilization % (no scan)||Control Memory Utilization % (no scan)||Control Disk Utilization (MB/s) (no scan)||Full Scan CPU Utilization %||Full Scan Memory Utilization %||Full Scan Disk Utilization (MB/s)|
As you can see, Norton had a very minimal impact on my PC at just 14 percent CPU utilization when not running a scan, compared to Sophos’ 79 percent. The full scan was similar, with Norton coming out on top with less impact.
Similar to the malware tests, I have taken a look at AV-Comparative performance tests from April 2020. The test shows the impact antivirus has on PC performance when carrying out eight common tasks:
- Downloading files
- Browsing websites
- File copying: first and subsequent run
- Installing and uninstalling applications
- Archiving and unarchiving
- Launching applications: first and subsequent run
Norton scored a very fast rating for all, with the exception of archiving and unarchiving applications and launching applications on its first run where it was still rated as fast. Sophos didn’t take part in the April 2020 performance test; independent labs limit the number of software programs tested as it is a time-consuming and costly process.
See also: How to speed up a slow laptop or PC
While antivirus software performance is important, I also consider the additional features included in each program. I have picked out a few of the standout features from both Norton and Sophos to give you an idea of which one offers the most to the user.
- Cloud Backup 50GB
- Real-time Threat Protection
- Password Manager
- Secure VPN offering
- Dark Web Monitoring
- PC SafeCam
- Parental Control
- Malware Remover
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Real-Time Antivirus
- Ransomware Security
- Banking Protection
- Privacy Protection
- Identity Protection
- Advanced Web Security
- Parental Web Filtering
- Remote Management
- Premium Support
Password Manager – The password manager tool offers an easy way to generate, store, and manage your passwords, credit card information, and more.
Secure VPN – With the secure VPN, you’ll be able to browse safely and anonymously, ensuring information such as your passwords and bank details are kept secure and private.
PC Cloud Backup – You’ll be able to store important files and documents as a preventative measure against data loss due to stolen devices, hard drive failure, or ransomware.
Parental Web Filtering – This is an important feature for anyone with children using their devices. You can apply category filters to control the content they view online and prevent them from visiting inappropriate websites.
Web Security – This feature allows for safe browsing when banking or shopping, and blocks websites that are compromised.
Identity Protection – Identity protection is important for preventing malware from stealing usernames or passwords stored in your device’s memory.
As discussed, both Norton and Sophos provide useful additional features that protect you online. Norton, however, does provide some particularly helpful features like a secure VPN and PC Cloud Backup that makes it a winner in this round.
Signup and installation
Norton and Sophos’ installation is quick and easy from signup to installation, both only taking a matter of minutes.
Norton clearly outlines the price, discount, and renewal price for the following year. The renewal cost is sometimes hidden or written in very small print so it is encouraging that Norton is clear and upfront about this when signing up. You will also be able to add options such as Norton Computer Tune Up if you need help with your device.
Sophos’ signup process immediately takes you to the payment screen where you have the option to extend to multiyear plans at discounted prices. It doesn’t mention anything about renewal, so I would advise you to be cautious and look out for automatic payment enrollments.
How easy is the interface to use?
An intuitive software with a simple and clear layout makes it easier to access the different features and protect your device.
You’ll find that Norton’s dashboard is in its signature color scheme and the interface clearly displays the current status of your device. It’s easy to navigate from here to common features such as performance, identity, and security. Norton 360 Deluxe includes a web portal where you can manage the protection for your five devices. The bold color scheme makes for easy reading and navigation.
Sophos Home Premium is a lot simpler (perhaps too much so) in comparison.
That said, it’s easy to navigate and does clearly state that you are protected. You are able to manage your devices effectively, but the white and grey color scheme makes the text difficult to read, so navigating quickly is an issue.
Customer support is essential for any software, and it’s important to have someone on hand to help you with any issues. The good thing about Norton is that it offers 24/7/365 support on all of its product tiers. You will find FAQs and forums on its website to help with common problems. In addition, there’s a live chat support function as well as help on social networking channels.
Sophos Home Premium support doesn’t quite match up to Norton’s service. You can only contact them between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm through online chat and phone. This can cause concern for users if any problems arise outside of support hours, especially if you are new to antivirus software. That said, many issues can be resolved using the online support hub.
To conclude, this comparison showcases the strengths and weaknesses of both Norton and Sophos. My overall winner is Norton. This is due to its impressive performance against malware and superb additional features including a VPN and cloud backup. Norton offers a variety of price plans and packages, so you will be sure to find the best option for your needs.