Norton 360 (2014) is Symantec's top-of-the-line Internet security suite. PCMag.com likes it well enough to make it an Editors' Choice, and most users at Amazon.com say it's solid. But in expert tests (even PCMag's), Norton 360 can't match the top-rated Bitdefender Total Security (Est. $60 for 3 PCs) . For the same price, Bitdefender blocks malware more ferociously and packs more features.
Installation may take extra work. Like Bitdefender, Norton 360 installs just fine on clean systems -- but if you've already got malware, expect to do some fiddling. "Getting Norton installed [on infected systems] required help from Norton Power Eraser, the Norton Bootable Recovery Tool, as well as a multi-hour remote-control session with tech support," says Neil J. Rubenking at PCMag.com.
You'll have to download some of the extras separately (including parental controls and Facebook check). You'll control everything through the main screen, which has four big buttons: Security, Identity, Backup and Tuneup. They're yellow-on-white -- "not the easiest of colour schemes to work with," says Simon Williams at PC Advisor.
Useful extras -- just not as many as Bitdefender. Norton 360 isn't quite as feature packed as Bitdefender. Parental controls aren't as robust (unless you upgrade for $50 extra), for example, and there's no device anti-theft feature. A network mapping-and-managing feature carries over from Norton's step-down Internet Security suite, so you can see every device on your network and shut down non-essentials -- or catch wireless thieves.
Norton 360 adds a sophisticated backup tool that "should handle any backup need," PCMag's Rubenking says, either to a local drive or to the cloud (like Bitdefender, 2 GB of online storage is included for free). PC Tuneup can defrag and clean your system, but -- importantly -- its Registry cleanup tool won't let you recover data if Norton mistakenly erases something vital, unlike Bitdefender.
Not as strong -- or speedy -- as Bitdefender. In lab tests, Norton doesn't block malware as well as Bitdefender. It runs pretty close behind Bitdefender at AV-Test.org -- but in AV-Comparatives.org's latest test, Norton lets one out of every 10 malware samples slip through (Bitdefender misses only 0.5 percent). Norton also raises nearly five times as many false alarms in that test.
The folks at Norton "don't approve of static tests" like AV-Comparatives.org's, Rubenking says. But Rubenking's malware-cleanup test is "as real-world as they come" -- and Bitdefender still does better. Norton bogs down the system more than Bitdefender in AV-Test.org's speed test (web surfing, running programs, etc.). At PCMag, both lengthen boot time by about 25 percent.
Norton 360 (2014) is co-Editors' Choice at PCMag.com, alongside Bitdefender Total Security (2014). It performs well, but Neil J. Rubenking points out that Bitdefender detects malware better in independent lab tests as well as his own. Bitdefender also packs more features.
Review: Norton 360 (2014), Neil J. Rubenking, Sept. 26, 2013
Norton doesn't fare as well in lab anti-malware tests as Bitdefender. Here, Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2014 (the same anti-malware as Norton 360, only with fewer extra features) is tested on Windows XP. It earns high scores for protection and usability, but only 3.5 out of 6 for performance, or not slowing down the computer.
Review: Detailed Test Reports, Editors of AV-Test.org, As of January 2014
By popular demand, this independent lab has included Symantec's Norton in some of its latest antivirus tests (Norton doesn't apply for AV-Comparatives.org certification, saying the static tests here don't accurately judge real-world performance). Performance is fine; Norton doesn't bog down the computer. But Norton lets more malware slip through the cracks than any other brand in an October 2013 file-detection test, and it gives more false alarms.
Review: Independent Tests of Anti-Virus Software, Editors of AV-Comparatives.org, As of January 2014
4. PC Advisor
Norton 360 earns a solid 4 out of 5 stars at this British site -- not quite as good as Bitdefender Total Security. Ease of use is a sore spot, and Norton gets only 3 stars out of 5 in that category: data backup "isn't that intuitive to set up," and you have to download a lot of the extras separately.
Review: Symantec Norton 360 2014 Review: A New and Impressive Internet Security Suite, Simon Williams, Oct. 29, 2013
After a quick review, CNET's Download.com rates Norton 360 (2014) Excellent, awarding it 4 out of 5 stars. Dan Russell says he used it to scan his PC, but he doesn't say how well it works. The current version of Norton 360 is yet to be rated by users, but previous versions have earned mixed feedback; it's not a Download Pick.
Review: Norton 360, Dan Russell, Sept. 17, 2013
More than 150 users have reviewed Norton 360 (2014), and most are very satisfied. However, about one in 10 downgrades it to 1 star, saying it's buggy or couldn't clean their system.
Review: Norton 360 2014 - 1 User/3 Licenses [Download], Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2014