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Hands-on with Sunbelt Vipre anti-virus: Is it slow? Is it heck

We've got a new player in the glamorous world of anti-virus, and its name is Vipre. Does it have what it takes to stand up to the big boys?

Some guys from Sunbelt Software visited the Crave offices not so long ago. They were like, "Hi, we're from Sunbelt," and we were like, "Whom?" and they were all, "We make Vipre anti-virus," and we were like, "Never heard of it. Did you bring cake?" And so the conversation continued until they became frustrated and left. That'll teach them to come to a meeting without confectionery.

Our reticence stems not from a lack of sugar, but from the fact that most new anti-virus applications are rubbish -- just look at Windows Live OneCare. It's hard to take new players seriously, particularly in an area as crucial as computer security. Fast-forward a couple of months, however, and our usual anti-virus, McAfee, has deleted our Spotify installations while AVG Free Edition seems to be batting for the other team. Maybe giving this Vipre thing a go isn't such a bad idea after all.

The software combines anti-virus, anti-spyware and anti-rootkit protection, but has one very clear focus: to minimise impact on your PC's resources. Yup, we were pretty sceptical too, which is why we immediately put it through its paces on our Asus UX50 -- a machine that isn't particularly fast and whose single-core CPU is prone to slowdown when running multiple applications.

Running a full Vipre system scan, we fired up a few Web browsers to see if that affected its progress and our enjoyment of surfing the Web. It didn't, so we threw on some full-screen YouTube video. That ran perfectly too, so we got a little mean and decided to watch some high-definition video, courtesy of Microsoft's WMV HD Content Showcase site. Surprisingly, the humble 1.4GHz Core Solo and Nvidia GeForce G105M in our UX50 coped just fine and playback remained stable throughout.

Vipre's solid performance might have been understandable if the software wasn't actually doing anything, but it managed to find malware too, which is always a bonus. We also like the fact it lets you list all the processes running on your PC at any given time and identifies which are safe, which are unknown and which are busy doing nasty things.

Vipre's not perfect. The installation procedure isn't very user-friendly (all that talk of proxy servers is totally unnecessary) and there's no way of creating a bootable recovery disk in case your system does become compromised, but so far we're pretty impressed and will continue to use it -- particularly on netbooks, which don't have much power to spare.

To get your own copy, head over to the Vipre Web site, or to our Downloads channel, where you can get a trial version, which is free for 15 days.