After 18 years in the security business (and nine versions of its software), AVG has finally bought into the annual cycle, moving from version 9 to the new 2011 edition. The actual software doesn’t appear to have changed much, but that’s not a bad sign: its predecessor was our favourite free security package, balancing decent protection with good features and a comparatively nag-free experience.
On the detection front, 2011 keeps up the good work. It picked up 91 percent of our test threats straight away, and when we executed samples it picked up a further 2 percent, for an overall score of 93 percent. That’s exactly the same as version 9, and though it’s not quite up there with the 96 percent score of the A-Listed Norton Internet Security 2011, it’s on a par with plenty of commercial packages.
You still get the free LinkScanner module, which adds warnings (or reassuring ticks) to search results, plus an automatic gaming mode and email integration, which now includes IMAP support as well as POP.
The few new features are nothing to get excited about. The AVG Windows 7 gadget is a pointless gimmick, and the rest of the updates are very minor: for example, a “fix” button in the main interface, and a feature that automatically verifies links you post to Facebook or MySpace. There’s a “PC Analyser” module that scans for Registry errors and the like, but don’t be fooled: when you actually click to tune up your PC, you’re sent off to a web page to buy the module.
Oddly, despite the lack of significant additions, AVG’s RAM footprint has ballooned. Where version 9 tipped the scales at 49MB, the new edition (with default installation options) more than triples that. Its impact on startup and initialisation time has grown too, from 4 seconds to 11 – still fairly average for a security suite, but some way from last year’s top-of-the-class performance.
We’re also disappointed to note that AVG has become a little pushier when it comes to upselling you to the commercial package. Now, when you run the free edition installer, the default option is to install a limited trial of the paid-for suite. Needless to say, the big slide-out advert for the commercial package at the bottom of the main interface remains as well.
In all, though AVG’s new name looks to the future, the changes are retrograde. In fairness, though, once you’re up and running it still does a decent and unobtrusive job of detecting malware, and its feature set makes the likes of Microsoft Security Essentials look bare. For that reason AVG remains our preferred free security package, but with a warning: this is a step in the wrong direction. Fingers crossed for AVG 2012.