/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Norton Internet Security 2005 review: Norton Internet Security 2005


Our NIS 2005 installation proved pain-free but tedious. Even with a 3GHz Pentium, NIS 2005 took 10 minutes to configure and nearly as long to download updates. After installation on our Windows XP SP2 test system, NIS 2005 recommended we use its firewall instead of Windows Firewall. Our problem isn't with the recommendation--it's a good one--but with the lack of an explanation, a process that is repeated throughout NIS 2005. We'd prefer to see the advantages of each choice, then make our own decisions.

7.0

Norton Internet Security 2005

The Good

Easy-to-use interface; includes Norton antivirus, firewall, and antispam apps.

The Bad

Hard-to-read manual; suite loads and runs slowly; ad-blocker and parental control apps are poor; expensive live tech support.

The Bottom Line

Compared to McAfee and ZoneAlarm, Norton Internet Security 2005 isn't as comprehensive. Worse, it may even slow down your PC.
Intro
Norton Internet Security 2005 (NIS 2005) is a suite of four utilities designed to keep your PC safe from criminal hackers. While components Norton AntiVirus 2005 and Norton Personal Firewall 2005 both lived up to our expectations, we found Norton AntiSpam 2005 to be sluggish, and we're particularly disappointed with Norton Parental Control because of its reactive rather than proactive behavior. This suite of tools also dramatically slowed our test system. If you're going to pay $70 for a security suite, all the components of the suite should work smoothly, get the job done, and work together. In our opinion, the new tools are not compelling enough for existing users to upgrade. If you're new to Internet security suites, in our opinion, nothing beats ZoneAlarm Internet Security for comprehensive PC security--not even Norton. The downloadable and boxed CD versions of Norton Internet Security 2005 are the same, and the installed program ultimately requires a rather greedy 200MB of hard drive space, which is larger than McAfee's or ZoneAlarm's footprint. If you already have other Norton titles on your machine (such as Norton AntiVirus, which is included with Norton SystemWorks 2005), you can customize the NIS installation to include only new products.


The Norton interface is logically designed and easy to follow.

The NIS 2005 interface will be familiar to longtime Norton users, with four main content tabs for Internet Security, AntiVirus, AntiSpam, and Parental Control located along the left. Click the tabs to expand them into secondary subjects and configuration settings. For example, click AntiSpam to see Status & Settings and Statistics. Along the right side are reports and additional options. While all this is self-explanatory, it's sluggish to operate. For instance, some menu options took as long as 15 seconds before opening a new screen.

Norton Internet Security 2005's closest competition comes from Zone Labs ZoneAlarm Internet Security and McAfee Internet Security 2005. All three suites offer first-class antivirus solutions, firewalls, and antispam protection. The main differences lie in integration and extras: NIS 2005, like McAfee, essentially bundles Symantec's standalone programs for antivirus, firewall, and antispam. The ZoneAlarm suite tools are much better integrated and therefore much easier to use.

Symantec didn't add any earth-shattering content within NIS 2005. The least-impressive new feature is Outbreak Alert, which informs you of rapidly spreading virus threats and recommends download updates. However, Norton AntiVirus already offered automatic downloads of new signature files through its LiveUpdate feature, so the new Outbreak Alert, it seems, is merely for show.

Unfortunately, in NIS 2005, not everything works well. The Norton pop-up ad blocker, for one, is poor. Like McAfee's ad blocker, Norton's doesn't block all advertising file formats or will sometimes block content crucial to a Web site; again, the pop-up blocker within the ZoneAlarm Internet Security works much better. Also, we were disappointed with the Norton Parental Control module. While it permits or blocks selected sites, programs, and newsgroups, it won't block sites proactively with user-defined words. For instance, you can keep your kids out of pornographic or hate sites that you know about, but you can't prevent access to new sites your kids might discover on their own.

Symantec provides a modest, digest-size printed manual that duplicates most of the contents of the program's in-program help files, but it's printed in a tiny, gray font that could be used to test for perfect sight in airline pilots. The language is terse and often missing important detail information that would allow users to make intelligent program choices other than what Symantec recommends. Symantec provides a free, searchable online knowledge base, but Symantec's e-mail support link is hard to locate.


The in-program help file is frequently sparse and duplicates the contents of the printed manual.

Symantec's live tech support remains hideously expensive--$29.95 per incident, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday--but is in line with what McAfee and Zone Labs charge for phone support.

7.0

Norton Internet Security 2005

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 7Support 7