ESET NOD32 is an entry-level premium antivirus program that earns high marks from the Windows community. Core functions include live malware scanning, web protection (including social media), and a gamer mode to make sure ESET doesn't slow down any high-demand applications. A particularly interesting feature aims to educate users in online security.
Our initial antivirus scan took about 20 minutes on a Windows 8.1 laptop. A cloud-based whitelist speeds up scanning considerably by skipping files that meet a certain reputation threshold. Web scanning protects against phishing attempts to get sensitive information like usernames and passwords. Unfortunately anti-spam, parental controls, firewall, and theft protection are served for the upper tier of ESET, called Smart Security, available for $59.99/year. A full feature breakdown is available here.
ESET NOD32 provides clean, glanceable stats that include system activity, scanning logs, and network usage. ESET has a section called SysInspector where you can grab a snapshot of your system's current state in a detailed log. In AV-Comparatives lab tests for real-world protection, ESET is in sixth place, behind Bitdefender, Kaspersky, and Avira, but ahead of Panda, AVG, Avast, and McAfee. ESET takes a hit in the performance department for load times in AV-Test's experiments, but otherwise scores 5.5 / 6.0 for protection and usability. Virus Bulletin puts ESET ahead of Kaspersky and Avast in proactive and reactive protection, but behind Avira, Bitdefender, and AVG.
While the primary window is a breeze to get around and functionally labelled, the advanced settings menu is detailed to the point of being cluttered. At the very least you won't be lacking for minor tweaks, like allowing background scans when your screen saver kicks in, or bumping pop-up notifications to only show for 2 seconds instead of 10, and at a 10% opacity.
One thing we don't see much of in antivirus applications is cybersecurity education. This is as important (and some would say more important) than an automated antivirus solution. Malware relies on users allowing applications to be installed, and phishing relies on users being uninformed. To that end, ESET's education suite included in both versions of its antivirus software help users create strong passwords, be aware of e-mail-borne threats, and learn best practices when browsing the web. Tech veterans will have internalized much of this wisdom already, but this education is sorely needed for everyday users.
ESET performs admirably as an antivirus suite, and its educational features stand out, particularly for less tech-savvy users. Even those that know what they're doing have come to rely on ESET for some time. There are a bunch of features that we would like to see included in the basic NOD32 version of ESET Antivirus, like firewall and parenting tools.