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If you're looking for a robust feature set from your security suite, and you're looking for an affordable price, you could do worse than Trend Micro's 2010 Internet Security and Internet Security Pro. However, this basic version offers the bare minimum of protection, even with decent performance benchmarks. This is problematic because the feature set is Trend Micro strength, but to get it you've got to pay for the Pro version.
Trend Micro claims that boot times are 20 percent faster, that the programs use 40 percent less RAM, that the download itself is 25 percent smaller, and that the quick scan on Windows Vista and Windows XP is 20 percent faster.
The Trend Micro installation process is about as smooth and pain-free as one can expect for a program that will have such deep hooks into your system. It will detect and ask for approval to remove other antivirus programs that are installed on your machine, but it doesn't require a reboot after it's done--something most of its competitors do.
One thing that Trend Micro fails to do effectively is call out its behavioral engine. There is a box you can check at installation to opt out of the behavioral program, but there's no detailed or clear explanation of what it is or what it does. On the one hand, the technology that allows the publisher to leverage supposedly anonymous data from its customers to catch surreptitiously-running threats faster isn't brand new. It's been around for a few years, although this year more security suites are adopting it. On the other hand, companies like Trend Micro must consider whether users will panic if it is mentioned clearly and then disable their computers from contributing data to the cloud.
As long as the data is truly kept anonymous, then it can be an exceptional tool for preventing malware. But in Trend Micro's installation process, it looks like nothing more than another box and line item to read before installing, and perhaps could benefit from a more detailed explanation.
A customized installation process is available for users who wish to configure program location and tweak components. Trend Micro will also run a virus check once it's done installing, and will automatically update its definition files.
Interface and features
Trend Micro's 2010 interface has been further refined from the previous year's version, with less dead space and more emphasis on both your security status and ease of access to security tools. The program launches into its Overview tab, which highlights your security status with a large colored icon: green for protected, and red for unprotected. Below that, there are links to your protection status, your license information, and a security report.
Each of these links drills down to essential information, exposing them in an elegant and uncluttered manner on the main page. The Protection Status link opens a window that details the status of your virus definition files, updates, firewall, unauthorized change prevention, spam filter, parental controls, and data theft prevention. Each of these has a green "on" or red "off" status icon, with a hidden explanation of each that can be exposed by clicking on it. Unfortunately, there's no way to get from the list to the deeper actual controls for each--it's simply for toggling the status.
Also on the Overview tab are two buttons, one for activating a scan and one for manually updating your definition files. The scan button defaults to a Quick Scan, although it has a drop-down menu on the right side that lets you choose a Full Scan or a Custom Scan. Scanning opens the scan window, which details which threats it's looking for, which files it's scanning, live results, and options to run in the background or shut down the computer after the scan is finished. Depending on how you set up the program, it will either automatically fix any threats found or ask for your input. If you choose to autofix, it will still show you a window after the scan is complete, detailing what action was taken, and the threat links to more detailed information on Trend Micro's site.
The Virus and Spyware Controls tab offers four drop-down menus. The first checks for real-time viruses and spyware when you download files, leveraging the aforementioned behavioral heuristics. It can be toggled with an on/off button, and it offers a configuration menu with a secondary, advanced features window, and a whitelist/blacklist link that also allows for cookie control. Despite what sounds like a confusing series of submenus, in practice it was easy to navigate.
The Prevent Unauthorized Changes drop-down menu offers more granular control of installations. This is where you would manage program that Trend Micro doesn't recognize, with the same on/off toggle and links to settings and exceptions. The next tab is for configuring scheduled scans and custom scans. It's frustrating that such a key feature is buried deep in the interface, especially since most users are still wary of holes in real-time protection. This scheduler only controls scan schedules; it doesn't offer update scheduling. There's another scheduler for that, in another part of the program. Below the scheduler is the Quarantine, which helpfully categorizes the quarantined files as viruses, spyware, and Trojans.
The Other Settings tab offers more information on your Trend Micro subscription, Automatic Updates and a definition file scheduler, toggling the Trend Micro Smart Protection Network, which controls the behavioral information your computer submits, security warning pop-up controls, password protection to keep Trend Micro from being used by others, and logs access. The interface scheme, with a drop-down simple sentence explaining what a feature does and links to dig down for more settings, sort of backfires here. Most of the options in this tab only contain one settings link, meaning that what should take one click takes two.
Frustratingly, the update scheduler can't be set to check for updates more often than once an hour.
Features included only in the pro version are protection for mobile phones; the Trend Micro toolbar, which installs on Internet Explorer and Firefox; a system tuner for recovering disk space and defragmenting your drives; and a password-protected vault that seals if your computer is stolen and accessed. The mobile protection is available only for Symbian and Windows Mobile phones, and, because of the variation of models, requires configuring a download for your specific model. Mobile threats are growing, so being able to prevent browser-based attacks on your mobile for the same cost of protecting your PC might appeal to some users.
Trend Micro has published a comparison chart so you can see which features made it into which products.
Although there were no problems navigating within Trend Micro and there were no noticeable slowdowns to the naked eye, certain Trend Micro performance hang-ups did appear. For one, the suite had a difficult time respecting the default browser setting on my Windows 7 laptop. Sometimes it would open internal program links into Firefox, my set default, but more often it would open them into Internet Explorer. These links, opening in either browser, took much longer to load. It wasn't clear whether this lag was because of the main suite or the Trend Micro toolbar scanning them before launching.
CNET Labs' benchmarks reveal that all three of Trend Micro's 2010 products had an uneven impact on computer performance. Trend Micro Internet Security Pro and Trend Micro AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware slowed boot time by 4 seconds, while Trend Micro Internet Security only affected boot time by 1.5 seconds. The Pro version also dramatically slowed down shutdown performance, by nearly 8 seconds, while the basic AntiVirus dragged on the shutdown cycle by less than a second, and Internet Security added 1.65 seconds.
The benchmark of Trend Micro's full scan was quite slow, with the Internet Security Pro and AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware products taking 19 minutes, and the standard Internet Security taking 20 minutes. The nonbenchmarked quick scan compared favorably with industry standards, coming in at 53 seconds. The full scan took an average amount of time, at 1 hour and 28 minutes. Besides potential hardware conflicts, keep in mind that these differences can often be attributed to the generally clean state of the benchmarking computer's hard drive, versus the number of programs and files that reside on a real-world machine.
Trend Micro's results were also uneven on processor-intensive tests. On MS Office tests, the Pro suite was again the slowest, followed by the stripped-down AntiVirus. The basic suite, Trend Micro Internet Security, was the fastest of the three, running an average of 18 seconds slower than an unprotected computer. This pattern repeated with our Cinebench tests. However, in iTunes decoding tests all three notched nearly identical scores, and in the multimedia test the basic AntiVirus was faster than its two siblings by 20 seconds.
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Unfortunately, Trend Micro's efficacy is up for debate. It no longer participates in the trials run by AV-Comparatives.org, and the most recent data from AV-Test.org is for the 2008 version. Keeping in mind that the data is for a test from September 2008, but the 2008 release is actually from fall 2007 because of the security industry's naming conventions, Trend Micro had lukewarm results. It was able to detect between 90 percent and 95 percent of malware on demand, between 85 percent and 90 percent of adware and spyware on demand, but only notched one to two false positives.
Trend Micro offers free customer support, although if you're looking for help through the program, it will merely shove you, via hot-linked FAQs, toward the Trend Micro Web site. The Product Help link will keep you on your computer, but the rest jump you online. Once there, Trend Micro offers prerecorded video help, manuals, online chat service, and phone service. The phone number is only listed on the Web site behind several links, and is not particularly easy to get to.
Trend Micro AntiVirus plus AntiSpyware 2010 is adequate for security, but the lack of independent test results combined with the cost and the bare-bones features makes it hard to recommend this program to any but the most die-hard of Trend Micro fans. It's hard to say what's different here from what many of the free antivirus vendors offer. If you're set on buying Trend Micro's protection, we strongly recommend you look at the more full-featured packages.