The new Avira Free Antivirus version 12 (the old ‘Antivir’ name has been dropped) has just been released – is it an improvement and how does it compare to free rivals Avast and AVG? Our first look at the new Avira Free Antivirus 12.
Download Size – We hoped for a similar download size to the previous Avira Antivir 10 (there was no version 11…) which weighed in at a lightweight 66MB and we were not too disappointed. Avira 12 has bulked up slightly to 79MB but this is minor compared to the bloated 150MB+ of AVG. However, it is still beaten by the svelte Avast 6 which is only a 53MB download.
RANKING: 1. Avast 2. Avira 3. AVG
Ease Of Download – Like Avast and AVG, Avira’s website points you to a download at the Cnet website – download it here. Like Avast, this is a full download rather than the limited online installer of AVG.
RANKING: 1= Avast and Avira 3. AVG
Effect On Computer Performance – According to Cnet’s latest test: Avira Free 12 added an astonishing 59 seconds to the computer boot (start) up time compared to AVG Free 2012 which added just 26 seconds. Avira was more acceptable on shutdown times, adding just 6 seconds – the same as AVG. The boot time impact of Avira is appalling – adding half a minute extra compared to AVG – which is itself slower than Avast…
RANKING: 1. Avast 2. AVG 3. Avira
Other Issues – Avira 12 has a couple of drawbacks:
- During installation you are asked to install the dreaded Ask.com toolbar and search engine re-direct. Avira alienated many users in version 10 when it introduced these as mandatory but here they are presented as an opt-in which is some improvement. However, the option is called Avira SearchFree Toolbar which glosses over the small print (revealing that it includes the Ask.com search engine toolbar) – we find this misleading and an attempt to lull people into installing Ask.com by mistake.
For safe searches we recommend using the excellent Web Of Trust (WOT, covered in our review here) instead.
- The other issue is that after the virus definitions are updated each day, Avira displays a full screen pop-up asking you to upgrade to the paid version. This gets in the way of whatever you were doing and has to be clicked to close it – highly annoying after just a few days. By contrast, Avast and AVG free versions include a ‘gaming mode’ which stops updates and messages appearing whilst you are in full screen mode (e.g. when gaming).
How Good Is The Security? Avira Free 12 is too new to have been tested yet but our latest comparison of antivirus software revealed that even Avira Premium 10 (the commercial paid product with higher security than Avira Free) provided worse protection than the free versions of AVG and Avast – having less protection than the commercial product, Avira 10 Free would clearly have been a long way off its rivals.
It’s too soon to tell whether Avira 12 has closed the gap yet but early signs are that it is a decent improvement on Avira 10 at least – “results shared by AV-Test.org with CNET indicate that the suite has made some significant improvements in the level of protection offered”.
RANKING: 1. AVG 2. Avast 3. Avira (for version 10)
Avira 12 Free is an improvement on the Antivir 10 version – if you are currently using the older version and want to stay with Avira then it is well worth upgrading. However, it has traditionally been some way off the pace of its free rivals – it remains to be seen if the latest version can catch up in the protection stakes.
However, we still hate the daily ‘upgrade’ pop-up and the Ask.com toolbar add-on. Combined with the extra half minute that Avira 12 added to computer start up times (compared to its rivals) and we can’t recommend it as a free antivirus solution – so that leaves AVG and Avast.
Our previous review of AVG 2012 concluded that “even if the security of AVG 2012 has improved, the effect on computer performance is too great for us to recommend it in preference to the Free version of Avast”. So we still recommend the free version of Avast as the best free antivirus software.