Norton vs Avast

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?

When protecting your PC and internet-enabled devices against malware and other online threats, it’s worth investigating which antivirus product does the best job.

You might also want to know which one is the best value, and which of the two providers gives you extra features that can help you build a better all-round defense.

This review will put both antivirus products to the test with my own malware detection and protection tests plus a look at some independent research from leading independent antivirus labs. I’ll not only check out the products for how effective they are at neutralizing threats, but I’ll also look at other important considerations like performance and how much scans slow down your machine.

For this comparison, I am comparing similar products from both Norton and Avast. I’ll test out Avast Premium Security Multi-device – 10 devices and Norton 360 Deluxe. Once I’ve carried out tests and looked at the available research I’ll give you my verdict on each program’s protection against malware, ease of use, value for money, and additional security features.

Here’s what I found out on Norton vs Avast:

Summary: Norton vs Avast

Norton

  • Strong malware protection results
  • Webcam protection
  • Good VPN

Avast

  • Ransomware protection
  • Sandbox tool
  • Password manager
FeatureAvast Premium Security - Multi deviceNorton
Antivirus and Antispyware
Firewall
Webcam Protection
Password Manager
Anti-Phishing
Ransomware protection
Banking and Payment Protection
Parental Control
Network Attack Protection
Encrypted storage
Automatically update apps
VPN
PC Cloud backup✔ ( 50 GB)
File Shredder
Performance optimization
Identity theft protection
Run suspicious apps in sandbox

Background

Norton has been around for 28 years and since 2001, it has been produced by Symantec Corporation in California. Norton had become a global leader in consumer cybersecurity, helping secure the devices and online privacy of nearly 50 million consumers.

Avast is an antivirus brand from the Czech Republic with over 1,700 employees. Avast currently has 425 million active users, making it one of the most popular antivirus programs on the market.  However, the company is not without controversy after a recent news story highlighted that Avast collected and sold user data.  

Pricing & Compatibility

As the tables below show, our comparable products Norton 360 Deluxe and Avast Premium Security Multi-device weigh in at a similar price point, with Norton costing $10 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.

At the time of writing, I was offered a very generous 62 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 were available if you commit and are willing to 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.

Both Norton and Avast work with all the major operating systems including Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.

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 sample malware files from EICAR (The European Institute for Computer Antivirus Research). 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.

Test FileEicar Sample 1Eicar Sample 2Eicar Sample 3Eicar Sample 4Live Sample 1 (Adware)Live Sample 2 (Trojan)Live Sample 3 (Trojan)
AvastAllowedAllowedAllowedAllowedBlockedBlockedBlocked
NortonBlockedAllowedAllowedAllowedBlockedBlockedBlocked

The results show Norton blocked 1 of the Eicar samples but allowed 3, compared with Avast which failed to block any of the 4 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 September and October 2019 AV-Test tested the top antivirus brands. Let’s compare the scores for Norton and Avast.

Norton scored 100% protection rates against 0-day malware attacks, inclusive of web and email threats (Real-World Testing) in both September and October.  Avast also scored a perfect six for protection against PC against malware threats.

I also looked at AV-Comparatives’ latest Malware Protection Test from September 2019 to check if their results were similar to those recorded by AV-Test. Norton scored a 99.99% online protection rate, putting it in the top cluster of results. Avast scored slightly better, with a perfect score of 100% protection, also 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 September show seven false alarms from Norton, and Avast also recorded seven false alarms.

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 whilst 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.

Test TypeFull Scan Time (minutes)Full Scan # Items ScannedQuick Scan CPU Utilization %Quick Scan Memory Utilization %Quick Scan Disk Utilization %Quick Scan Time (seconds)
Avast6018700009072300146
Norton121970000377641171

A full scan with Avast 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.

Test TypeControl 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)
Avast32722842735801
Norton1472138475381

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 & subsequent run
  • Installing / uninstalling applications
  • Archiving / unarchiving
  • 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 2019, Norton scored slightly lower than Avast, with six ratings of very fast and two of fast, while Avast scores a rating of very fast in seven of eight tasks.

Norton got top scores in AV-Test’s performance scores from September – October 2019. Norton outperformed many industry averages when run on standard and high-end PCs. Avast also got the same top rating of 6.0 / 6.0.

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.

Features

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.

Avast Premium 

  • 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

Norton 360 Deluxe 

  • Malware & Ransomware Protection
  • Anti-Spyware
  • 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.

Avast Premium  

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 & 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 similarly 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?

Before using both programs I got the impression from the branding and websites that perhaps Avast would have a more modern look and feel to the interface compared to Norton.

Overall I found this to be true. Avast uses a clean and minimal design with some bright colors and modern graphics. You are welcomed with the home screen and from here you can run a virus scan, scan for vulnerable software, and see your PC status among other things.

I found Norton’s interface a bit more muted and traditional with it’s grey, black and yellow color scheme, but also very functional. One main panel with four different tabs provides easy access to common tasks. The top panel lets you know the current protection status.

Customer Support

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.

Conclusion

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.

While Avast performs well and offers some extra features worth noting, the news on Avast selling private data pushes me even further in favor of Norton.

See also: