ESET NOD32 Antivirus Software Review: Fit for Power Users

Bratislava, Slovakia-based ESET wrote its first antivirus code, NOD, in 1987. Things have significantly grown, with ESET now encompassing a wide selection of software covering all the major platforms and used by 100 million users worldwide.

At the low end is ESET NOD32 Antivirus, their starter tier antivirus product. It is specifically designed for the critical task of antivirus, and even more so than its competition, as it does not include extraneous software, like a file shredder or password manager. But don’t start thinking NOD32 is skimpy. In reality, it contains more features than other antivirus suites.

The central piece is NOD32’s real-time malware protection, which detects malware through a cloud-based file reputation service, with anti-phishing capability to detect and block websites with poor reputations.

Price

NOD32 costs $39.99 (£31) to cover 1 PC for 1 year. This is average for antivirus, with Norton AntiVirus and Bitdefender Antivirus Plus are priced the same. But note there are more wallet-friendly options, such as Kaspersky Antivirus for currently $29.25 (£22.53) for the first year.

Signing up for a license for multiple devices and/or multiple years can make ESET more more affordable.

Number of Devices1 Year2 Years3 Years
1$39.99 $59.99 $79.98
2$49.99 ($24.99/device)$74.99 ($18.75 /device/year)$99.98 ($16.67/device/year)
3$59.99 ($19.99/device)$89.99 ($15/device/year)$119.98 ($13.33/device/year)
4$69.99 ($17.50/device)$104.99 ($13/device/year)$139.98 ($11.67/device/year)
5$79.99 ($15.99/device)$119.99 ($12/device/year)$159.98 ($10.67/device/year)

Those seeking a multi-system license, may also consider going up a tier to ESET Internet Security software. It has tons of additional security suite features, including a firewall, antispam, parental controls, webcam protection and others, but the price is only a little higher, starting at $49.90 (1 device, 1 one year) to $289.98 (10 devices, 3 years).

There’s also ESET’s most advanced antivirus package, ESET Smart Security Premium, starting at $59.99 (1 device, 1 year) and going up to $319.98 (10 devices, 3 years).

Setup and User Interface

To start NOD32’s free trial, you have to click on an activation link in the email sent to your provided address. Installation is a streamlined affair. You start with a download and then installation of the main ESET NOD32 package, which next automatically performs an update, before starting a scan.

The installation files were expected: neatly organized, digitally signed and taking up 650MB of hard drive space (quite average). The software added just a few processes to our PC, using a total of 100MB of RAM with the system otherwise idle.

Power users will rejoice to see the options available for fine tuning the software’s settings, which provide numerous possibilities for controlling the settings.

With competing antivirus solutions,email scanning control is limited to on or off, but NOD32 lets you choose which email clients to control, which emails to scan, (such as incoming or outgoing), the protocols to monitor and what to do if a threat is detected (ignore, delete, or move to a folder you designate). Not all users will want this level of control, but options are always a good thing. For example, if there’s potential malware causing an issue with your PC, the option to ability to do some system tweaks could be an important step to remediation.

The NOD32 interface features a decent amount of information: your current status, side menu options and various links, including a prominent one for referring a friend and more (and extending your trial license). There’s a learning curve, even just to master the basics. For example, clicking on Computer Scan takes you to the Scan page, where the software awaits further instruction.

However, clicking on the similarly titled Scan Your Computer goes right into the scan without any delay.

The Tools menu makes it simple to view logs of what has been blocked by this software. Here, you can also watch any processes running or also access the software’s additional tool, like SysRescue, a bootable cleaning tool.

We were made fans of the SysInspector tool. It takes a snapshot of your system and highlights important elements, including the running processes, network connections, critical files (HOSTS) and registry entries. This advanced tool is certainly not intended for newbies, but those with skills in things like the Sysinternals' Process Explorer will know how this works right away.

If this sounds like plenty of power, you’re correct, but there is even more available with control of over 150 profile settings to tweak until a power user’s heart 's content.

Antivirus Scans

Once you get used to the interface, it’ll take just a click to launch a scan. The same can fire up a quick or removable drive scan. We also like the option to create a custom scan type, such as scrubbing a specific location, and using specified scanning rules.

With NOD32, right-clicking on a file opens to the options for various types of antivirus scans:

  • regular scan
  • examining the file’s reputation for additional information
  • scanning the file but not sanitizing it, for instant feedback on safety,
  • completely quarantine a file without identifying it as malware - a useful option for archiving a suspicious file.

Antivirus Testing and Performance

Whatever the choice of scanning method, our system’s scan times were quite quick, especially beyond the initial run, as ESET's Smart Scan then only examines modified and new files.

The rates of detection were also high, with the program finding any and all of the sample malware presented to it and without any false alarms.

For our quick malware detection tests, ESET exhibited had a high degree of accuracy.

Other Security Features

NOD32 has additional layers of protection, like anti-ransomware and being a sentry for PowerShell and for malicious JavaScripts.

A Device Control module lowers the chance of infection from external devices by offering control over access to peripheral storage, including USB thumb drives, printers, scanners, flash card readers, external hard drives, optical storage discs, modems and any Bluetooth and FireWire devices that connect to your PC. You can make it so that these devices are read-only, prompt a warning, or are fully blocked.

You can also set up global rules for external devices or get more specific (‘block all USB storage except from x or on certain user accounts,’ for example), with the system logging the device connections for later review.

The Device Control module does require some work to get properly set up, but the results are incredibly powerful. The downside is there is no simple library with preset rules, and it lacks an easy-to-use visual rule creator. Instead, you must press through lists and lists of technical options and hope you can correctly comprehend them to accomplish what you want (a hint is to check the feature’s Help section). This is certainly an expert-only area.

There’s also a UEFI scanner to search out malware buried in the PC's firmware and a tool to manage your ESET licenses. Meanwhile, the URL filtering is of good capability. It successfully detected malicious URLs without any false alarms.

Bottom Line

Overall, ESET NOD32 more than exceeded our expectations on what an antivirus app should do. Newer users will appreciate the option to streamline the program’s work and skip the many advanced options that more advanced users will be excited to see.

If you’re looking for something with a simpler and smoother interface, there’s F-Secure Anti-Virus, which starts at a lower price than NOD32 ($35.99) but lacks features like URL filtering, or Norton Antivirus Plus ($29.99), although we had some concerns about its ransomware protection.

But power users will make good use of NOD32’s advanced features, like the Device Control module and ESET's high level of configurability.

Image Credits: ESET

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