Avast Premium Security for Mac 2022 review

Avast Premium Security makes it easy to protect a Mac but scans take quite a while

Avast Security Premium logo
(Image: © Avast)

Tom's Guide Verdict

With very good protection, a VPN and almost no effect on system performance, Avast Premium Security Ultimate can protect a Mac from the dangers of an online world gone mad, but it lacks integration and its scanner is slow.

Pros

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    Very good protection

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    Simple interface

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    Negligible system impact

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    Doesn’t require online account

Cons

  • -

    Slow scanning

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    Lacks parental controls and firewall

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    VPN is separate app

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Avast Premium Security for Mac: Specs

Malware protection: Very good
System impact, background: Slight
System impact, scans:  Moderate
macOS compatibility: 10.11
Browser extensions: No
Firewall: No
Hardened/secure browser: No
Blocks Potentially Unwanted Apps: Yes
Parental controls: No
Ransomware rollback of encrypted files: Yes
Password manager: No
Scan scheduling: Yes
Webcam protection: No
System Optimizer: No
VPN: No
Backup: No
Support options: 24/7 email, phone and live chat

With the ability to keep the bad guys out, Avast Premium Security can help protect your Mac. Besides good malware defenses, the security suite only has a modest impact on system performance when scanning and while idle. Happily, it doesn’t require an online account to get and manage its defenses and Avast has one of the easiest interfaces to use. 

All is not perfect because the security software is slow to scan an entire system and its VPN isn’t integrated into the main app. It also misses a feature or two, although Avast Premium Security Ultimate is a simple way to safeguard your Macs (and other computers). Our Avast Premium Security Ultimate review will help you decide if this is the best Mac antivirus software you can get today or if you’d be better off using one of the best internet security suites instead.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Costs and what’s covered

In addition to Avast’s free Security program, the company has several paid packages that can help improve a Mac’s security. The Premium Security package can block malware and help you avoid fake or dangerous websites but it also checks incoming emails for threats. The plan is surprisingly robust and costs $76 for a single Mac or $99 for 10 systems that span Windows, Macs, Androids and iOS mobile platforms.

By contrast, the Ultimate package is Avast’s flagship security suite. It sells for an expensive $108 for a single system or $128 for 10 and adds unlimited use of the company’s SecureLine VPN (for encrypted communications), AntiTrack Premium (to hide your web journeys) and Cleanup Premium (to get rid of junk and duplicate files). The extras add up to over $200 worth of software, making the Ultimate package a bargain if you want all its components, although there’s neither a password manager nor parental controls. The company doesn’t have any unlimited packages.  

That adds up to a mid-range price tag of about $13 per system. That’s in between Intego’s $29.40 per user and Sophos’ $6 per system. Look for discounts as high as 50 percent on the first year. After that, the price tag rises.

The Avast software for Mac supports any Mac running macOS 10.11 or newer, while Windows systems require version 7 (with Service Pack 1) through 11. Android devices need to use version 6 or higher while iPhones and iPads need iOS 12 or higher, but because of Apple restrictions can’t scan the system.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Antivirus protection

Like its competition, Avast Premium Security for Mac relies on three levels of security, starting with signature-based scanning with a deep database of known threats. The list is continually updated with the latest attacks based on data from millions of systems.  

This protection is supplemented by real-time behavioral monitoring. Here, the app looks for the early signs of an attack, like files inexplicably being moved or encrypted. If the system stumbles on a potential threat, its specs are uploaded to Avast’s online malware lab and dissected for dangerous traits. Once its vector and operations are understood, a fix is created that’s sent out to the company’s 110 million users.

(Image credit: Avast)

As is the case with Intego’s and Bitdefender’s Mac protection, Avast can find Windows as well as Mac centric viruses. Its Email Shield scans incoming messages for dangers while the program blocks phishing attempts.

A big step forward is the Ransomware Shield that protects files from damage. By default, the program saves copies of key files in protected folders that are locked and secured from being scrambled by malware.

(Image credit: Avast)

If this becomes too onerous, apps and file types can be excluded. It’s easy to pick and choose what types of files are protected against damage.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Antivirus performance

Over the past several years, Avast’s security products have provided excellent protection against zero day and widespread threats. The current evaluations by third party malware testing labs, AV-Test and AV Comparatives, show a slight drop in effectiveness lately but it continues to be among the best with very good defenses.

To start, Avast Security Premium scored a perfect run in the AV-Test March 2022 Malware Protection Test. It not only caught every potential virus the group threw at it, but the Avast software had no false positives. 

This tied the results from Bitdefender and Norton on the most recent AV-Test survey. They were all ahead of Trend Micro which slipped with a 99 percent score on one test. By contrast, the latest data we have for Intego products is a year older, although it showed excellent response to malware. Malwarebytes, McAfee and Sophos didn’t participate in recent AV-Test examinations.

In the AV Comparatives May-June 2022 report, Avast was one step away from perfect results. It scored 100 percent on the antivirus test but fell short with a 99 percent on blocking potentially unwanted apps (PUA). This is on a par with Bitdefender’s and Trend Micro’s results in a round of testing where no vendor achieved perfect scores. Intego’s 96.8- and 97-percent scores on the same tests showed it to be off the protective pace set by others.

Meanwhile, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Norton and Sophos didn’t participate in current AV Comparatives testing. Over my two-week evaluation period, Avast Premium Security protected my Mac Mini with no malware showing up.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Security and privacy features

Unlike many of the others, Avast Premium Security lacks browser extensions to protect against rogue websites. Its approach is more universal and built into the main program. The Web Shield not only contains a database of questionable and dangerous sites, but it has the ability to help avoid malicious duplicate websites that use DNS spoofing. It works with any web browser and displays site warnings when needed.  

Meanwhile the AntiTrack Premium app that comes with the Ultimate collection can make the web a lot safer by blocking ads and tracking cookies. It can’t fully disguise your online identity but goes a long way toward safeguarding how you use the web and purchases. It works with Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera, but not Safari.

Avast has privacy on its mind and covers things like targeted ads, third-party sharing of personal data and offers help securing your online accounts. You also have the choice of sharing your browsing data with the company.

(Image credit: Avast)

On the downside, Avast Ultimate lacks Avast One’s Safety Score that can help show where improvements to online hygiene can be made. The suite does have several individual shields, each with a specific purpose. While the Email Shield can prevent potentially hazardous attachments from being loaded, the File Shield automatically scans new files and the Web Shield can thwart attacks and keep unwanted apps from being loaded. Meanwhile, the Real Site feature prevents the system from going to a dangerous Web site based on a typo.

(Image credit: Avast)

Premium Security currently does without a firewall, but Avast is working on adding one. Meanwhile, the Network Inspector replaces the Wi-Fi Inspector from older Avast software. It takes a thorough look at your LAN — both wired and Wi-Fi — to find potential backdoors and weaknesses that might be the prelude to an attack. Oddly, the VPN can’t be active during these LAN scans. It took 24 seconds to examine my Mac Mini and network, finding no major problems or breaches.

(Image credit: Avast)

For those who like to fly under the radar, a big bonus for Avast Ultimate is the inclusion of unlimited access to its SecureLine VPN, which costs $100 a year for 10 users. It works with up to five users and has, unfortunately, not been integrated into the Premium Security framework. It requires installing a separate app and there’s no crossover between it and the security suite. The interface not only shows your current IP address but where the data stream will emerge. The service covers three dozen major countries, which are arranged by geographic region with 16 connection points in the U.S. alone.

(Image credit: Avast)

Using a server in New York City, it took 2.4 seconds to get online with the VPN. It yielded a speed of 219Mbps, about a percent less than the speed with the VPN turned off. This makes SecureLine VPN among the most efficient VPNs available.

(Image credit: Avast)

Dig into the program’s Menu in the upper right and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent Statistics section. Unlike any other malware program, Avast keeps tabs on itself with items like scans run, malicious emails blocked and attacks prevented.

(Image credit: Avast)

Finally, the Cleanup Premium app seeks to tidy up your Mac by getting rid of duplicate and unneeded files, liberating lost disk capacity.

(Image credit: Avast)

It took five seconds to scan my system and recover nearly 1.5GB of storage space, and I love that the app can be set to periodically clean out junk files.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Performance and system impact

To measure the performance impact of Avast Premium Security Ultimate and compare it to other Mac malware programs, we used the GeekBench 5 Compute benchmark to assess its performance potential at critical points. This software gauges the overall performance of a system with an emphasis on gaming, video editing and other high-end operations. Our test system was a Mac Mini with a 3.2GHz M1 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, of which 223GB was unused. 

To start, the Mac Mini registered a GeekBench 5 Compute baseline score of 19,829. After loading the software but before any scanning took place, the Compute benchmark score fell by 0.4 percent to 19,743. This is not noticeable and better than Norton’s 3.8 percent fall in performance potential. 

Avast uses its own terminology, preferring Deep Scan and Smart Scan to full and quick scans, although the analytical effect is similar. Regardless, its Deep Scan lowered the system’s performance level by another 3.2 percent on the performance scale. That’s better than either Intego (down 6.3%) or McAfee (down 4.8%). I give it a gold star for being among the most efficient at finding threats without disrupting the computer’s operations. A Smart Scan lowered the performance potential by 1.1 percent.

It took 1 hour, 31 minutes and 53 seconds to run a Deep Scan, about half the time it took Trend Micro’s software to run a full scan. It’s best to set it for nightly scans when your Mac isn’t in use. While it looked at a somewhat complete 1,593,933 files – three-times that of Intego’s scanner, Trend Micro scanned over four million items for dangers. Plus, the amount of time doesn’t improve with subsequent examinations since it continues to look at everything. Its Smart scan looked at 6,697 files and took a reasonable 50.9 seconds.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Interface 

While others are adding dark mode options, Avast continues with its signature dark look. Nearly all the windows are dark purple with white type and green accents. All the screens occupy about one-third of the desktop and can be moved around but they can’t run full screen.

(Image credit: Avast)

Overall, Avast’s software is simple, streamlined and it’s easy to see the system’s status at a glance. Its main screen has a prominent checkmark surrounded by a green circle, showing that everything is safe and protected. Below is a place to start a Smart Scan of the system directly.

(Image credit: Avast)

To pick the scanning parameters, click on the magnifying glass to the right and open what Avast calls Scan Central. Here, the major scan types are two clicks away from the program’s surface. Nearby are places to create a Targeted Scan or a look at external storage.

(Image credit: Avast)

Scans can be scheduled for execution daily, weekly or monthly. It’s easy to set the time and parameters of the scan, like whether compressed files should be monitored or whether the system should be awoken from sleep mode for the scan.

(Image credit: Avast)

Underneath all this are some of the details for many of the program’s main components. Core Shields reveals on/off switches for the File Shield, Web Shield, Email Shield as well as the Real Site component.

(Image credit: Avast)

The Preferences section is where changes can be made to the app’s protective elements. I was able to do things like add exceptions and get a weekly summary of anti-malware activity. However, the Preferences section can adjust general operational details, but not change the overall security stance with a single click.

(Image credit: Avast)

There are tabs for Privacy, Core Shields, Scans, Network Inspector and Ransomware Shield. The category also has a place to fine-tune the notifications and check on your subscriptions to see components and add new ones.

(Image credit: Avast)

There’s one more thing that separates Avast from the crowd, the company doesn’t require an online account.

(Image credit: Avast)

Make no mistake, getting an Avast account can help with the ability to check on other protected computers but it isn’t mandatory.

Avast Premium Security for Mac: Installation and support

Protecting a system with Avast Premium Security started with going to the company’s website and selecting “Buy Now”. After paying (with a credit card or PayPal), I downloaded the 49.2MB installer program. It ran a quick scan of the system to make sure there weren’t any conflicts and I agreed to the program’s license.

(Image credit: Avast)

With the preliminaries out of the way, the installer downloaded the 124MB program. At this point, I needed to log-in to the Mac to adjust the system’s settings to allow Avast to access the system’s disk and filter network requests.

(Image credit: Avast)

Finally, I needed to install and activate the Secure Line VPN and Cleanup Premium add-on apps. Start to finish, it took 7 minutes and 50 seconds.

(Image credit: Avast)

Avast provides 24/7 support for its paying customers. The choices include email, phone and online chat. There are also lots of self-serve options, including local help files, a deep database of fixes and a bunch of tips and tricks.

(Image credit: Avast)

Avast Premium Security for Mac review: Bottom line

By offering very good malware protection in a format that doesn’t require a computer science degree to figure out, Avast has created a security suite for the rest of us. Premium Security Ultimate has a lot to offer, including low system overhead, an unlimited VPN and no requirement to sign up for an online account. The price to pay for this convenience is that it lacks mainstays in security software, like a firewall and parental controls. Furthermore, the VPN continues to operate as a separate app that has not been integrated into the main program, making for potential confusion. 

A double-edged sword, Avast Premium Security is one of the most thorough to fully scan a computer but also one of the slowest to sift through it looking for threats. It’s a great choice for those who want the ability to customize their protection but don’t want to know every single detail about it.

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.