Sophos Home Review
Sophos Home looks like a good deal at first, but rigorous testing sheds some doubts about its efficacy as a antivirus solution. Check our full Sophos Home review to see how it did when we took it through its paces.
Free plan available
Sophos Home is an affordable antivirus that prioritizes value over protection. Our hands-on testing produced poor results and, while labs disagree, Sophos hasn’t participated in a study in over two years.
In this Sophos Home review, we’ll scrape what lab results are available together and put them against our own testing. We’ll talk features, pricing, user-friendliness, protection and support before giving our verdict.
Overall, Sophos Home is best suited for families as you get a high device count at a low price point. Support for multiple operating systems, along with a robust number of parental settings are features that point toward that. For a higher level of protection, though, make sure you check out our list of the best antivirus software.
- McAfee Total Protection
- Visit McAfee Total ProtectionMcAfee Total Protection Review
- Easy to use
- Lots of parental control
- High device count
- Browser control panel
- Poor protection scores
- Dodgy support
- Lack of settings
Sophos Home is feature-rich, but most of those features are only provided to Premium users. We’ll talk more in the next section about why we think an upgrade to Premium is worth it, but, for now, you need to know that it offers the best experience.
Free comes with a few benefits, though. You get basic antivirus and web monitoring, along with parental filtering and remote management. The filtering is surprisingly dense and, while not all subscribers will have a use for it, it’s a nice inclusion on the free plan.
We like that you can have up to three devices on a free plan, as well. Even a basic antivirus package for three devices from Kaspersky (read our Kaspersky Antivirus review) will run you a few bones per month.
Despite those inclusions, the exciting features are on Premium. You get privacy protection, meaning Sophos will watch your webcam, keyboard and screen to make sure there’s no software monitoring it. When we first installed the software, we had to declare all USB devices as safe before they would function.
You also get banking protection where Sophos will block and disconnect suspicious applications from your network while the transaction is taking place. The protection is provided in your normal browser, though, so there’s no secure browser variant here.
Our favorite, and the most forward-thinking feature, is ransomware protection. Ransomware takes your files hostage, encrypting them and asking you to pay a ransom before getting the key to unlock them. Sophos blocks those programs from accessing key folders, such as your documents, so nothing can be encrypted.
We would’ve liked some sort of password manager included with Premium. These total antivirus bundles usually include one and, while they don’t get to the level of our best password managers, they’re nice to have. Still, you can pick up a cheap one such as Dashlane (read our Dashlane review).
Sophos Features Overview
1-year plan $ 4.17/ month
$50.00 billed every year
Picking a plan for Sophos Home is simple. Either you pay for it or you don’t. The free offering has almost as many features as Avast Free (read our Avast Pro review). Premium looks more expensive than other antiviruses at first, but lines up more with McAfee Total Protection (read our McAfee Total Protection review) than Norton Basic (read our Norton Antivirus review).
Sophos Home Free is your basic antivirus. It protects against known malware, in real time, on your desktop. It also uses the blacklist of malicious URLs to keep you protected while browsing. The distinction is that Free checks against known malware. It’s not looking for files or URLs that are suspicious, but those that it has already encountered.
You can protect up to three devices with a free plan and manage all of them through a browser interface. We haven’t seen multi-device management from any free antivirus and we like Sophos’s inclusion of it.
The last notable feature for free users is parental control. It’s web-based, meaning you can’t set limits for when the machine shuts off, but it is still a feature that most antiviruses hide behind a paywall.
As generous as the free offering is, we recommend a Premium upgrade. For $50 per year, you get 10 devices, managed from the same web interface, along with advanced real-time protection for your desktop and browser.
Unlike Free, Premium will look for suspicious files and URLs and warn you before accessing them. Naturally, the level of protection increases as new malware floods the internet every day.
You also get ransomware protection, a banking mode, privacy protection and support. Between the number of devices and features, Sophos Home Premium is a steal at $50.
Most comparable antivirus packages come in at closer to $100.
Sophos has a simple, lightweight desktop application. There are two buttons in the main window, one for running a scan and another for managing your security. Outside of that, interactions with Sophos take place in your browser.
There are no scan settings in the application or browser interface. Sophos can only perform a full system scan, at least, from what we read. When we ran a scan, it only went through our C drive on Windows.
It performed well, though. Each of the five scans we ran completed in a few minutes with CPU utilization raising to no more than 5 percent most of the time, but the last part of a scan, when Sophos checks for malware remnants, saw a 35 percent increase in CPU utilization.
The problem is that you can’t customize your scan from the interface. While we appreciate the approach to simplicity, the UI provides no clear option for targeted scans. Even with a full sweep of the system, targeted scans are needed when downloading suspicious files (read our best VPN for torrenting if you take part in that action frequently).
Sophos isn’t clear about this feature, but you can target scans in Windows, just not from the interface. You’ll have to navigate to the folder or drive you want to scan, right click and select “scan with Sophos Home.” It’s beyond us why you can only set up a scan like that in Windows File Explorer and not in the Home UI.
You’ll find all other settings in the browser UI. You can manage your exceptions, whether it be for scanning purposes or browser protection, configure privacy settings and set your web filters if you have horny teenagers roaming around.
You can also add new devices to your plan and manage them from the interface. Sophos will show you a full history of what it has been doing on your machines, as well as notifications for detected malware.
We like the cloud-based approach Sophos takes to antivirus software. It cleans up an additional window on your desktop and allows you to control your protection from any of your devices. Navigating through the browser UI is simple, as well, with five tabs and toggle switches for your settings.
From a user-friendliness standpoint, the system is sound. There is a severe lack of settings and information about how the system runs, though. Sophos gives no indication that different scan options are available, hiding its power for the sake of user-friendliness.
Consequently, it weakens its user-friendliness as a competent PC user must stumble around for features that are clearly shown in other antiviruses.
Sophos hasn’t participated in the three labs we frequent in a few years. MRG Effitas and AV-Comparatives show no results for Sophos Home throughout 2017 and 2018. There are results for the business-focused Sophos Endpoint Protection, but we’re going to rely more on our hands-on testing since lab results are so scarce.
The most recent test from AV-Comparatives was in November 2016, testing the Mac variant. It was 100 percent effective against 50 Mac samples and 98 percent effective against 250 Windows samples. In this same test, AVG (read our AVG review) received similar results.
AV-Test has more recent results, testing the Mac variant once again in December 2017. It was 100 percent effective against Mac exploits compared to the 92.4 percent industry average. At that time, it scored a perfect 18 points.
The Anti-Malware Testing Standard Organization’s feature setting check for desktop antiviruses showed a different side of Sophos Home. It only blocked two of the six tests, failing drive-by download, compressed malware, a phishing page and download of a potentially unwanted application.
All downloads were completed, then Sophos removed the files, except in the case of compressed malware. Only the extracted file was removed for it, not the compressed package.
Note that the file was simply removed. There was a notification, but no question asking whether you wanted to quarantine the file. In the event of a false positive, Sophos will delete your data without asking if you want it to first.
We wanted to dive deeper on phishing protection, so we tested 10 suspected phishing URLs submitted to PhishTank the day of writing. Sophos Home only blocked two of the 10 websites, many loading without issue. Tests were ran across Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer, with the built-in protection on each being more reassuring than Sophos.
Sophos offers good protection against desktop malware, as seen through our testing and lab results. Phishing protection puts up poor performance, though, with Sophos struggling to block even a couple of websites. Blocking suspicious downloads was bad, as well, even though Sophos removed the files once the download completed.
Premium users are the only ones with access to support. There’s a basic knowledgebase that all users can look at, but direct contact is reserved for paying customers. At least, Sophos claims that’s the case. Free users can still submit a request through the knowledgebase and, when we sent an email, Sophos got back to us in only a couple of hours.
Rather, Premium users have live email and chat support available. The channels run Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST. Sophos isn’t clear about it, but it appears these support channels are English only.
The knowledgebase functions mainly as an FAQ for installing, configuring and using Sophos Home. Some advanced articles, such as manual malware removal, find their way into the pile, as well.
Articles cover a lot of ground. They’re clearly written with plenty of screenshots and, on more technical pieces, Sophos covers all niche situations.
We want a cleaner layout for the knowledgebase, though. The current version isn’t dated or offensive looking, but we found it difficult to browse the list of topics without first committing to one of only three categories. Like other aspects of Sophos Home, the knowledgebase looks good, but isn’t as useful as options seen from other antiviruses.
Overall, though, support is good. Response times are quick, articles are well-written and Sophos gives you a clean, but awkward, interface to get through it all. The only thing missing from this area is a 24/7 form of contact that few other antiviruses provide.
Sophos is an okay antivirus that has a lot of features at a low price. We can’t overlook the poor performance in our hands-on testing, though, and, with no recent lab results to compare it to, that’s the best we have to go on.
It’s best suited for families. The low price and high device count are enough to point toward that, along with an integrated web interface and comprehensive parental control. It makes more sense logistically than it does for security.
Let us know your thoughts on Sophos Home in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.