The suite includes a smart firewall, parental control, a system rescue disk and a diagnostic suite, which analyses running modules, registry content, startup items and network connections. It installs fairly simply, and you can easily move from the free trial version to a full account, simply by buying a licence.

Once installed, the program offers a simple six option menu down the left of its main screen, though there’s very little to surprise in the options offered. Home is a status page, showing the security level, Computer Scan performs smart and custom scans, while Update checks for program and signature updates, though this happens automatically anyway. Setup enables tailoring of the active program elements and Help and Support explains how to use the program.

Tools in most IS programs offer extras, such as secure disk wipes and, these days, often backup services, as well. Here it’s less varied stuff, which may account for the comparatively modest asking price. You get options to prevent external drives or USB sticks from connecting to the PC and there’s a ‘gamer’ mode, which stops ESET alerts when it detects an application running full-screen such as a game, presentation or video.

The ESET interface doesn’t shout or cause you to panic. This is what you want in internet security software, something that gets on with its work in the background and opens the door gently like a Downton valet, should anything untoward need communicating, “Excuse me M’lud , but the staff downstairs believe your PC may have been infiltrated by a rogue footman. We’ve already locked the fellow in the coldroom and called for the groom to bring a pitchfork.”

The antivirus evaluation site, AV-Test.org, has yet to complete its tests on Smart Security 5, though when it ran them on version 4.2, the earlier product scored only 11/18 overall, with 3.5 for Protection, 2.5 for Repair and 5.0 for Usability. We would expect the new version to be slightly better on protection, and hopefully better on repair, too. As a comparison, AVG Free scored 14 and BitDefender, 16.5 on the same tests.

Our own tests on performance hit saw very little speed reduction when the ESET monitor was running in the background, but there was a noticeable reduction of around 65 percent when a scan was running. Since the program took around two hours to scan our test PC, with a total of 180GB of disk space, it’s probably best to schedule regular scans for periods when you won’t be working on your machine.

ESET makes much of giving you ‘free’ protection for virtual machines running other operating systems on a protected PC, but since a VM is just another application running under the host OS, we would hope it does.

OUR VERDICT

If you want a simple, but solid IS product with few bells and whistles, but one which can handle the core functions properly, ESET Smart security 5 is a sound choice. It’s unlikely to be as high scoring as the AVGs and BitDefenders of this world in overall performance, though. It’s quite sluggish when it comes to scanning and puts a noticeable burden on the host PC, but at other times does the opposite and makes only a light hit.