Avast products need no introduction, as reaching the 190 million registered users mark, touted in a press release at the end of January, speaks volumes of its popularity. Out of these, 149 million are active. The same document shows that last year the user base grew by 49 million registrants.
The new version, though a public beta at the moment, boasts impressive progress both in terms of functionality as well as performance and versatility. Also, despite the fact that this is the free edition of the product, and components like firewall, anti-spam or process virtualization are left out, it continues to remain one of the most feature-rich anti-malware solutions on the market.
With this release comes a new installer, but the procedure is not much different from what we’ve seen in the previous builds. However, the new elements are noticeable right from the start, as this time around you can choose to install the application as a second line of defense by choosing “Compatible Install.”
The interface has been modified, but there is nothing too radical about the new looks, as they preserve the same layout as in the previous version. However, the recommendations to upgrade to Internet Security edition are now more obvious than ever.
On the same note, avast! Market is close by, offering avast!-branded products for backing up your data (25GB/1 year), crashed PC restoration (rescue disk) or for safekeeping passwords. Most of these are available with a $/€8.40 discount, but for Internet Security you get a $/€33.61 price cut.
As far as features are concerned, new on the list are cloud-based services FileRep and streamed updates. Thanks to reputation services, avast! 7 should make more intelligent decisions and reduce false positives.
The reason for adopting a streamed update process is that the developer plans to deliver more information to the users in order to increase security against new malware. As AVAST Virus Lab adds about 25,000 signatures daily, two or three updates a day doesn’t cut it anymore and they plan to deliver approximately 20 updates/day and keep increasing this number as soon as infrastructure allows it.
Cloud Services are available in the Summary menu of the application and configuration allows you to turn them on or off.
Scanning has remained untouched as far as options are concerned. You can create a custom profile as well as modify sensitivity, actions and performance options for the default scan types: Quick, Full system, On-Demand or Removable media.
We tried out the improved detection on a database of over 300 hand-picked malware samples and it did not do too shabby, but we’ve seen better results in other products. It managed to get rid of 231 of them. However, our tests were pretty superficial and included only on-demand scanning.
Under Real-Time Shields, although there is no addition as far as protection components are concerned, there is a new entry, “Protection status” that lets you check the current state of all shields. Their activity is also available, through statistics showing the amount of items scanned and blocked.
The current state of each of the shield (file system, network, web, mail, peer to peer, IM, behavior and script) is not too obvious, unless you move your mouse over them and wait for the tool tip to pop up. When activity is recorded, they light up.
Remote assistance is also new in the feature list. It allows you to connect remotely to other computers running avast! 7 and share desktops with each other. The main purpose of this feature is to help out friends with computer problems.
Sharing the desktop is code-based and you have to provide a remote party an access code that allows them to connect. Check this video
to see how easy it is to work with it.
The web reputation system maintained by avast! community is still available in this version of the product, but in our case the feature was not functional in Google Chrome, although avast! showed the extension as installed in the browser, but this is part of the known issues list, just like the problem with sounds on Vista and Windows 7.
However, during our tests it worked fine with the latest version of Firefox and with Internet Explorer 32-bit and 64-bit. The plugin for Safari will be ready for the stable release and the development team is also working on a plugin for Opera, which might become available in the next six months.
Another fresh addition is the possibility to backup and restore your settings. The option is available in the configuration panel of the application, under Maintenance. That is also the place for enabling credit alerts, which are triggered by changes on your credit report. The feature is currently available only for US residents.
As the product is currently in beta stage of developing, plenty of glitches are likely to occur. For instance, in our case scanning would hang when dealing with SVC: .NET CLR Networking on Windows 7 64-bit. This is not a new problem, since the same issue was also present back in version 5 of the antivirus.
Full system scan did not do much, either. The operation seemed to have halted after testing 14.5GB of data, since progress was still at 0% and the processed file remain the same even after 50 minutes.
Other problems reported include a delay in the user interface to show that cloud connection is established, but various other issues have also been voiced by the testing community. The Good
Although the previous look was quite far from withering out, the new one makes the application even more attractive.
Protection should be improved thanks to the newly adopted approach, which pushes updates from the cloud for the client to fend the latest security threats.
Remote assistance feature is a great addition, especially helpful for offering technical support or administrative purposes. The Bad
The application is currently in beta stage of development and glitches and issues are likely to occur and even more likely to get fixed until the release of the stable version. The Truth
avast! 7 Free looks quite good and feels sturdy. The new features add to the versatility of the product and once all the quirks are eliminated, it should be able to provide better protection for your computer. NOTE:
Since this is a beta release,our rating is the default one, set at three stars. Check this link for the review of the stable version