ESET has been protecting users for over 30 years with its NOD32 technology. In its time, the powerful antivirus attracted the likes of Canon, Honda, T-Mobile and more. Its secure business protection has moved into the consumer market, though, meaning there are different opponents to face.
In this ESET NOD32 review, we’ll test the home antivirus and compare our findings with lab results to see how well it performs. We’ll talk features, pricing, user-friendliness, protection and support before giving our verdict.
NOD32 is decent across the board. There’s a heavy focus on security features justifying its hefty price. Lab results are good, though not top tier, and usability isn’t as powerful as other antiviruses. Even so, it can ride alongside the best antivirus software, falling just short in a few categories.
Alternatives for ESET NOD32
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Strong lab results
- Easy to use
- Excellent video tutorials
- Scans light on resources
- Lots of protection features
- File level scans
- Confusing knowledgebase
NOD32 is the basis for the other packages ESET offers. As such, most features are centered around building a secure platform, not adding bells and whistles. Bundled virtual private networks and password managers that come with premium antivirus packages usually aren’t good, so we’re not upset at their omission.
ESET attacks malware from a few angles. There’s a basic antivirus that protects against known threats and files behaving suspiciously. In addition, it has an exploit blocker designed to fight attacks made to get past antiviruses, ransomware protection and script-based attack protection for browser security.
Our favorite feature is the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface scanner, which can sweep your system before it boots into Windows. If an attack manages to take over the UEFI, meaning the virus doesn’t live on the desktop, then rebooting and reformatting will not remove it. This boot scan looks for issues before Windows loads, so you can catch the most deep-seated malware.
You get a device manager if you’re using a multi-user plan. For NOD32, it’s simply used to manage your devices and view licenses. Premium plans have more functionality.
ESET’s Premium Features
Internet Security and Smart Security users can access Anti-Theft and parental controls in the device manager, as well. Anti-Theft tracks your devices in case they get lost. You can see their location, send a message to whoever has one and monitor foreign activity.
Internet Security has many other protection features, building on the solid base that NOD32 establishes. The first is a secure banking browser the segregates your normal desktop from your banking one. If you’re using your normal browser, ESET still protects your payments passively.
Other protection features include a personal firewall, network attack protection and botnet monitoring. Of the lot, we like botnet protection the most as those beasts are among the largest cyber security threats today.
Smart Security brings two additional features: a password manager and file encrypter. You can encrypt any file, folder or removable media, adding another layer of ransomware protection.
The password manager is better than most bundled with antiviruses, but it still doesn’t meet the criteria set in our best password manager list. We recommend that you move past this option and use a manager such as Dashlane (read our Dashlane review).
ESET NOD32 Features Overview
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ESET builds its lineup on the NOD32 infrastructure. Because of that, you’ll get the same antivirus, ransomware protection and cloud-powered scanning on any plan you choose. There are additional protection features on Internet Security and Smart Security, but the core tenets remain the same.
- Basic Antivirus, UEFI scanner, Ransomware protection, Windows only
- Banking protection, Network protection, Botnet scan, Parental control, Windows only
- Password manager, Encrypted data, Multi-platform
NOD32 is the cheapest point on entry. You get the core antivirus for one to five Windows machines. ESET charges $10 per device on top of the initial rate, instead of increasing the device count in increments as we’ve seen with other antiviruses. You can pay for the exact number of devices you need to protect.
NOD32 vs the Rest
Unfortunately, you’ll be paying more for those devices. Norton Basic, a single Windows plan, comes in $10 cheaper for a year (read our Norton Security review). Norton doesn’t have the UEFI scanner, though.
Internet Security is the best value, coming in at the same rate as NOD32 for the first term. You get a more extensive list of features including banking protection, botnet monitoring and parental control.
Kaspersky Internet Security is the same price for the initial term for three devices (read our Kaspersky Antivirus review). Three devices for ESET Internet Security is $20 more for the first term, but both are the same price upon renewal.
Smart Security Premium is the only multi-platform plan ESET offers and that’s its biggest draw. You get a password manager and the ability to encrypt data, which isn’t worth it for the $20 premium.
It’s offered for one to 10 devices, but we don’t recommend it for a single user. Smart Security is best when used on multiple devices with different operating systems. That comes at a large premium, though. Ten devices will run you $50 more than the same with McAfee Total Protection (read our McAfee Total Protection review).
It’s hard to recommend Smart Security given the price. There are multi-platform options with similar features at a lower price. Internet Security and NOD32, while expensive, justify their costs.
The main detraction from ESET is that plans are priced for a single device. When a single user can easily have three devices or more, the cost of an ESET plan can add up. While the feature set is worth it, the price is still higher than other antiviruses.
ESET has a lightweight installer at 4MB, but installation took longer than normal. At around three minutes, it’s not horrible, but it’s not the fastest install we’ve seen, either. There aren’t many installation settings like AVG offers (read our AVG review), but you still get control over LiveGrid and potentially unwanted applications handling at the install level.
If you’re using Smart Security or Internet Security, you’ll see a window for enabling additional features. You need to enable each manually, adding more time to a lengthy install process.
After that, an initial scan will run. This scan runs for a long time, going through each of your files to set a baseline for your system. You can set it so your computer shuts down after the scan, though.
Resource usage was light during the scan, peaking at 10 percent CPU utilization over idle. When we ran a scan separately, performance slowed by an additional five percent. Oddly, it didn’t start until a few minutes after we loaded it.
You can run a scan by clicking on “computer scan” in the left side menu. ESET offers different ways to access each, but there are four main scan modes: full, targeted, UEFI and removable media.
Targeted scans can be carried out by clicking on “advanced scans” and using the folder hierarchy to select the areas you want to sweep. You can also drag files or folders into the interface to start the scan.
You can also set a UEFI scan from the folder hierarchy. This will shut down your machine and begin a scan when it starts again. A UEFI scan doesn’t boot to your operating system. Instead, it scans files before they have the chance to interact on your live machine.
The main interface shows your current machine status with a menu on the left for navigation. There’s also a large image of the ESET robot that makes us think about Asimov’s Laws more than we’d like.
It’s a simple interface that hides its power. Going to the “tools” tab and clicking on “more tools” shows off the options. You’ll find controls for malware submission, network connection and banking protection.
Overall, the interface is clean with a decent amount of power. Our favorite interfaces, from AVG and Bitdefender, are better and give you more control over your protection. Even so, there’s nothing to complain about with ESET.
We use hands-on testing and lab results to gauge how well an antivirus performs. Our testing uses established industry tools that most antiviruses should block, malware samples from the wild. Because of that, we lean more on labs when making our score.
ESET did well in our hands-on testing. It passed all six tests from Anti-Malware Testing Standards Organization’s feature settings check for desktop antiviruses, displaying a small indication that a download or webpage was blocked from loading each time. Not all antiviruses notify you that they’re working, so we appreciate that ESET does.
We especially like how it handles downloads of PUAs, though. During installation, you can tell ESET if it should notify you of a PUA download and, sure enough, when we downloaded one, ESET pulled up a small window asking if we wanted to proceed.
The three labs we reference in our reviews all tested ESET Internet Security, a more expensive plan that comes with a few additional protection measures, but those protections shouldn’t affect the core antivirus that the labs test. Expect similar results for whichever plan you choose.
AV-Test, which is normally forgiving, gave ESET poor scores in its last assessment in November and December 2017. Internet Security blocked 100 percent of of the samples from the wild, but had problems with zero-day attacks.
It only blocked 97.9 percent of zero-day attacks in November and 98.9 percent in December, which is less than the 99.5 percent industry average for the time. It wasn’t a great performance, but not a horrible one, either. ESET only lost a half point in the protection assessment.
Overall, it got 15 out of 18 points, with its worst score coming from the performance assessment. ESET caused massive slowdowns when performing daily tasks. Launching standard applications slowed the machine by 66 percent, over 50 percent more than the industry average.
AV-Comparatives found similar protection rates, but not the same performance degradation. ESET had an average 99.1 percent blockage rate between February and June and minimal false positives. The worst month, April, had a protection rate of 98.2 percent.
There is variation, though, as Panda Security (read our Panda Security review) had 100 percent blockage that same month and 94.3 percent the next.
Performance tests that AV-Comparatives ran on ESET in April showed excellent results. It was awarded three out of three stars and an advanced+ rating, the highest possible. Of the tests ran, the only one with performance degradation was installing and uninstalling applications, according to the lab.
MRG Effitas awarded it a Level 2 certification in its Q1 2018 full spectrum analysis, meaning ESET blocked at least 98 percent of threats. It’s in the same tier as Webroot, an antivirus we like a lot because of its minimal performance impact and high protection scores. You can read more about it in our Webroot SecureAnywhere review.
Of the 18 applications MRG Effitas tested, only four were awarded a Level 1 certification. Among them is one of our favorite antiviruses, Bitdefender. Learn more about its user-friendly interface in our full Bitdefender review.
ESET has phone, live chat and email support, along with a knowledgebase and video tutorials. The only thing missing from the support lineup is a forum, though that doesn’t hurt the experience much.
The knowledgbase is oddly organized. ESET splits it by product with links to installation and activation articles. There are a few other quick links, as well, but no way to browse the list of topics. For that, you’ll have to use the search bar.
The problem with that approach is that if your issue falls outside the few categories ESET shows, you’re at the mercy of search results. Assuming your keywords line up with theirs, you’ll find the article you’re looking for. If they don’t, there’ll be headaches finding support.
The video library, or rather the YouTube channel, is large. ESET has uploaded well over 200 videos in its eight years on the platform. Many of the videos are version-specific, though, so only the most recent will be relevant.
Live chat and phone support are available but only during business hours — Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST. Email support runs the same hours and ESET promises a reply within one business day. When we reached out, a support agent got back in just over 12 hours.
Support isn’t bad, but it’s not impressing us. The lackluster navigation system in the knowledgebase and limited hours of support are the worst offenders. Out of the options, the YouTube channel shines most.
NOD32 is an antivirus that offers good security and an excellent protection package. The price is high, especially if you’re looking for multi-user plan, but the features included for an individual user justify it.
It’s best suited for use on a single device. If you’re in the market for security across all your devices, we recommend a plan with AVG, one of the only antiviruses that offers unlimited devices.
Let us know your thoughts on ESET, whether it be NOD32, Internet Security or Smart Security, in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading.