Although Microsoft Windows 10 includes basic anti-malware protection, it hasn’t stopped security companies from continuing development of premium security products. ESET has been a long-standing name in the industry, producing a full range of computer security products for home, education, and business. We’re reviewing their new Smart Security 9, a consumer-focused product for Windows with premium features, including a personal firewall, parental controls, and anti-theft protection.
Download & Installation
ESET Smart Security 9’s installation takes a few minutes over a high-speed Internet connection. It can be downloaded from ESET’s product page. The initial 3MB download is a live installer, which retrieves the latest installation files from the Internet. (In other words, you’ll need to be online to complete the installation.) The installation takes but a few clicks. No restart is required to finish the installation.
The ESET interface
ESET’s interface is squared-off and friendly. There’s an ample amount of whitespace, which makes looking at it easy on the eyes. A simple green banner stating You are protected goes across the upper middle. A different message will display, shaded in orange if attention is required. User notifications are shown immediately below the banner.
The left-side navigation is split into multiple parts. The scanning section allows you to start or schedule a scan. There are options to scan the entire computer, or set a custom scan. The update section shows when the virus signature database was last updated, and gives you the option to manually update. The latter is almost redundant with this product, as ESET automatically updates itself on a regular basis.
The Setup section is organized by category, and each is summarized with a status. We found it unnecessary to make changes in this section. Smart Security 9 was configured with all of its major security features enabled by default.
Going into one of the categories provides basic on/off switches for standard features. For example, the network protection category allows you to toggle on and off the personal firewall. Clicking the gear icon on the personal firewall category (or any other category) allows you to open the advanced settings.
It’s possible to configure the application down to the smallest detail here.
The Help and Support section naturally provides access to the help, but also allows you to submit a customer support request. It furthermore displays your license information, and how long the license is valid.
ESET Banking Protection
The interface’s Tools section provides you with access to the extras included with Smart Security 9. The first of these is Banking & Payment Protection. Clicking this will open up a special secured browser window, which encrypts data sent between your computer and the remote servers.
The second major feature is ESET Anti-Theft. This is especially useful for notebooks. You need to create an online ESET account to use anti-theft, which allows you to enroll your devices. Through the online account, you can report a device as missing. Assuming the missing device isn’t offline, it will be remotely triggered to lock out all user accounts, monitor system activity, and then track the laptop’s location. This information could potentially be used to help recover the device.
Also in the Tools section, you can click More Tools to access a series of small utilities. These include:
- Log files: displays logs from common events, such as scans and parental control activity.
- Running processes: almost like the Windows Task Manager, except it displays threat information for each process running on your system, as well as the processes popularity amongst ESET’s userbase.
- Protection statistics: aggregated details on security-related events, such as scans.
- Watch activity: shows a graph of network or file system activity over a specific interval.
- Network connections: shows all processes using a network connection, and how much network bandwidth it’s taken (and is currently taking).
ESET SysInspectoris a free tool on its own, but is integrated with Smart Security 9. Creating a log file with this software takes a couple of minutes, and is essentially a snapshot of your computer and its running processes, startup items, and more. Personal information is excluded from the log file. This can be used for low-level diagnostics on a troubled computer.
Lastly, ESET SysRescue Live is a freeware tool. It’s not actually integrated with Smart Security 9; clicking the icon takes you to ESET’s website where the utility can be downloaded. This tool allows you to create a rescue disc to independently scan your computer for malware.
Parental controls are a major draw for families with children who wish to restrict their online content. In ESET Smart Security 9, this is accessed in the Security tools section, under the Setup category. Parental controls are enabled on a per-Windows user account basis. Therefore, you should make a separate Windows account for each person using the computer.
At its most basic, you can set the child’s age, and ESET will take care of filtering content. You can, of course, put in exceptions to allow or block specific sites. You can password-protect the settings, as well, so crafty children can’t turn off or alter the parental controls.
The parental controls are rather basic. We’d like to see the ability to restrict applications, and the ability to control when Internet access is allowed (such as only during specific times of the day). Online management would be useful as well, so parents can see their children’s browsing and activity history.
(The parental controls in Smart Security 9 shouldn’t be confused with ESET’s Parental Control for Android, which helps control your child’s smartphone.)
ESET Alert Settings
The only user notifications we noticed during our review period were a splash screen on startup, and a system tray pop-up telling us the virus database was updated. The latter occurred a few times throughout the course of the day.
ESET’s advanced settings allow you to customize or turn off notifications. The startup splash screen can be disabled, along with all desktop notifications. The software is configured by default to not display any notifications when a full-screen app is running, such as when you’re playing back a video. If you’re configuring Smart Security 9 for someone, it can be set to essentially not show itself at all. That’s a definite plus.
We tested ESET’s scanning performance against a dedicated folder with 354 folders, 4,847 files, and 42.4GB of used space. The folder was located on an external hard drive connected via USB 3.0. It took 8 minutes, 49 secondsto finish the scan. That was a bit faster than AVG Internet Security Business Edition(2023), which took 9 minutes, 54 seconds to complete the same scan.
While running only the scan, our computer’s processor usage was typically 25 percent or below, according to the Windows Task Manager. In other words, it there was plenty of processor usage available for other tasks. Modern home and office computers generally have an excess of computing power, so relinquishing a quarter of that capacity for a brief period while a scan is running is insignificant.
ESET Smart Security 9 added two background processes to our test computer. Their combined memory (RAM) usage seemed to hover around 165MB, a reasonably small footprint. AVG’s Internet Security Business Edition (2023) had roughly half the footprint in terms of memory usage, though added at least half a dozen processes, as opposed to just two for ESET.
Overall, ESET’s footprint is light enough for a modern computer, which will typically have 4GB or more of memory.
Price & Value
When we wrote this in late 2023, ESET priced Smart Security 9 starting at $60 per year, per computer for a single license. A two-year subscription was a better value at $90. The real value was in protecting multiple computers, however. A five-computer, two-year subscription was $150, making the per-device, per-year cost only $15. Naturally, you’ll have to find a use for five licenses, but the multi-computer, multi-year discount hardly makes it worthwhile to go the one year, one device route. Should you need to protect more than five devices, ESET offers Smart Security 9 bundled into its Multi-Device Security subscription. Up to 10 devices can be covered for two years at $150, or only $7.50 per device, per year. (That makes us question the pricing on ESET Smart Security 9 – it makes more sense to just get the Multi-Device Security subscription.)
Norton charges $180 for a two-year subscription to its Internet Security Premium suite, though it covers up to 10 devices. That’s $9 per device, per year.
We also researched McAfee’s offerings; their Internet Security suite was $80 per year, and covered all of the devices you own. Assuming you had five devices, that’d bring the per-device cost down to $16, or right in line with what ESET charges for Smart Security 9. At 10 devices, it’d be $8 per device. All told, ESET’s pricing model is very competitive once multi-device licenses are taken into consideration.
Although this isn’t a comparative article, we are obligated to point out there are feature differences between the offerings from ESET, Norton, and McAfee. It’s therefore not always a measure of the economics. Anti-theft protection, for example, is included with ESET Smart Security 9, but not with Norton Internet Security Premium. Norton, however, has much more robust parental controls. If there’s a particular feature you’re after, verify it’s included before making assumptions.
ESET Smart Security 9 is a fully-featured consumer security suite. It has all of the expected functionality, including anti-malware/virus protection, anti-spam, and a personal firewall. It also included several extras over ESET’s basic anti-virus suite, such as anti-theft and parental controls. ESET anti-theft was fairly robust, though the parental controls were on the basic side, more or less only allowing online category content restrictions.
We otherwise gave Smart Security 9 high marks for its fast scanning performance and relatively small system footprint. Moreover, its interface was easy to navigate, and there were plenty of advanced settings, should the need arise. The software updated itself frequently, and we found we could easily disable desktop notifications so the software would essentially run as if it weren’t there.
The Smart Security 9 suite is a good value with the multi-year, multi-license pack. A two-year subscription covering five devices was $150, making the per-year, per-device cost only $15. Covering 10 devices under ESET’s Multi-Device subscription would bring the per-year, per-device cost down to $7.50. Those prices are very competitive with McAfee and Norton, for their equivalent products.
Overall, ESET Smart Security 9 checked all the right boxes to earn a full recommendation.
- Competitive pricing with multi-year, multi-device licenses
- Easy-to-use interface
- Anti-theft included
- Uses more system resources than competing AVG suites
- Parental controls are basic
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