Trend Micro Premium Security scores perfectly in finding and removing malware, was the fastest of the premium antivirus products we reviewed at performing a quick scan and had nearly the lowest system impact.
Yet Trend Micro's malware engine, effective as it is, registered the most false positives of any of the six, and Premium Security omits some useful features that competing products offer. Still, it's good enough to make our list of the best antivirus software.
At the time of this writing, Premium Security, normally $100 per year, was being sold for half off on the Trend Micro website. Fifty dollars for a year's worth of protection for up to five PCs, Macs or mobile devices is a great deal, but to get the discount, you need to sign up for automatic yearly license renewal.
(The fine print says that you might not get the $50 deal in following years, but also that you can cancel auto-renewal at any time.) The company also charges an extra $20 a year for 24/7 telephone tech support, something that most other antivirus makers include at no additional cost.
Note that Trend Micro Premium Security is a rebranded version of Trend Micro Maximum Security, a similar product that has less cloud-storage space, covers three devices instead of five and costs 10 percent less.
Otherwise, the two programs are identical, and Premium Security's desktop interface, as you'll see in our screenshots, proudly proclaims "Trend Micro Maximum Security" throughout.
How We Tested
We installed Trend Micro Premium Security 2015 on a two-year-old Dell Inspiron 7537 with a Core i5 4200 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 700GB hard drive, of which 114GB was filled with an assortment of data and programs. The system had 64-bit Windows 8.1 running.
Once everything was loaded, we recorded how long it took to install Trend Micro Premium Security, and examined its interface as well as which security features and useful extras it offered. To determine the product's performance impact, we ran our OpenOffice benchmarks before the antivirus software was installed, and then again while the program was scanning for malware.
To assess Trend Micro's ability to protect against malware, we used evaluations performed on Windows 8.1 in January and February 2015 by Germany's AV-TEST lab. Each of about two dozen malware engines was given a good workout by being subjected to thousands of real and simulated pieces of malware.
In addition to checking stored files for malware, Trend Micro Premium Security keeps an eye on all code running on the computer for indications that it may be harmful. Its database of malware signatures is updated daily.
Besides the Premium Security product, Trend Micro sells the less expensive Maximum Security, Internet Security, and Antivirus + Security. Despite the market segmentation, all of the Windows products use the same malware scanner, signature database and real-time detection engine. (It also makes some of the best Mac antivirus software and the best Android antivirus apps.)
During January and February of 2015, AV-TEST examined Trend Micro Internet Security's ability to find and eradicate zero-day (previously unseen) and well-known malware. The software rated a perfect 6-out-of-6 detection score, finding 100 percent of the items AV-TEST threw at it, a feat unmatched of the five other brands we recently reviewed.
This airtight protection came at a cost, though. Trend Micro's malware engine reported eight false positives over the two-month test period, much more than any of the other five brands we reviewed, and above the industry average of six. By contrast, Kaspersky Total Security had zero false positives, Bitdefender had one and Avast three, despite being just a hair less effective than Trend Micro at blocking malware.
Trend Micro Premium Security provides many bells and whistles on top of its core antivirus abilities, but it's missing a few features we found useful in other products. There's no way to scan a home network for security risks, a feature that Avast, Kaspersky and McAfee provide. (Trend Micro's antivirus software is featured on some newer Asus Wi-Fi routers, such as the Asus RT-AC87U.) Nor is there any system vulnerability scanner, software firewall, virtual keyboard, webcam protection or backup software, as some (but not all) other products we reviewed had.
On the other hand, Premium Security has something its biggest competitors lack: 25GB of space on Trend Micro's cloud servers that can replace a Dropbox or GoogleDrive account for those with large storage needs. (Bitdefender Total Security and Kaspersky Total Security offer 2 GB of online storage; McAfee LiveSafe offers 1 GB.)
The main screen's Privacy heading is very powerful and includes add-ons for the Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers that can help protect you while you nose around in the Web's dark corners. In addition, Trend Micro Premium Security includes an extra extension that will turn any of those three into a secure "hardened" browser that encrypts keystrokes and runs in a sandbox.
A hardened browser is ideal for checking on your bank balance or buying items online, but you probably don't want to set up all your browsers this way, because hardening will disable all other add-ons. Avast Premier, Bitdefender Total Security and Kaspersky Total Security offer hardened browsers that run as stand-alone programs.
If you spend your life staring at Facebook, Premium Security can add code specifically made for blocking attacks delivered via social-networking sites, It works on the Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn websites in IE, Firefox and Chrome (and in Safari on OS X).
The Data section includes Secure Erase, a file shredder that has a lot to offer to those who want to keep sensitive or embarrassing files private. You can choose Quick Erase, in which the deleted file is simply overwritten, or use the program's Permanent Erase, which uses the U.S. Defense Department's 7-pass erase algorithm.
There's also a Password Manager to bring together all your log-in details, and a Data Vault that uses 256-bit AES encryption. It's a mixed blessing, but the same password for either feature can also be used for the program's parental controls, which is convenient but riskier than using separate passwords. If you forget the passwords, Trend Micro can recover them for you.
Premium Security's parental controls are in the Family category. In addition to setting an access schedule so that homework gets done and dinners are not interrupted, the software can block inappropriate websites by category. You can also lock out select applications, such as games or music-streaming services.
Finally, Trend Micro offers a free Windows Rescue Disk to clean up otherwise unfixable infections, but instead of integrating the disk into the rest of the program, the company makes you go to its website (opens in new tab) and download the software. If you need the Rescue Disk to save your own machine, it might be best to download it to a different computer.
Don't let its name fool you — PC Health Check, accessible from the Device screen, is a comprehensive performance and privacy optimizer that examines the entire system and suggests ways in which the computer can run better. PC Health Check starts with a single click, can reduce startup time and can recover lost disk space from places such as the Recycle Bin and temp files.
Our favorite feature is Clean Privacy Data, which appears after PC Health Checkup is done with a scan. This utility goes through the saved data for each active browser, wiping things such the History list and temporary cookies.
While PC Health Check is useful and can help a system run more smoothly, it isn't perfect. The feature lacks best-of-breed features, such as those found in Bitdefender's AutoPilot, which silently tunes the computer for the tasks at hand, or Kaspersky's Windows troubleshooting section.
Performance and System Impact
Trend Micro's scanning engine was one of the fastest of the five products we evaluated, with the ability to do a Quick Scan in just 3 minutes and 12 seconds, beating all the others except Bitdefender (which took 26 seconds).
Trend Micro did a Full Scan in 1 hour and 10 minutes, beaten only by AVG, which took half the time. (AVG's malware engine skips files that haven't changed since the previous scan; no other company does this.) The Trend Micro malware scanner didn't find anything worrisome on our system in several days of use.
As is the case with many of its peers, Trend Micro's malware scanner had a mixed effect on our computer's performance. During a full scan, Premium Security slowed the completion time of our custom OpenOffice benchmark test, which matches 20,000 names with their corresponding addresses, by only 18 seconds, or about 3 percent. You probably won't notice the difference. (Only McAfee LiveSafe, which is owned by Intel and has a home-team advantage on that company's processors, did better.)
Trend Micro's Quick Scan actually slowed down the OpenOffice test a bit more, with it completing in 17:22. All the competing products' Quick Scans improved the OpenOffice time.
Setup and Installation
If you have a variety of computers at home, Trend Micro Premium Security supports all versions of Windows from XP to 8.1, as well as OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and up, although the Mac version lacks some extras. The Premium Security license also covers the premium versions of the Trend Micro Mobile Security apps for Android and iOS. (The sole Trend Micro app for Windows Phone is for enterprises only.)
The package's license allows you to mix and match up to five devices for $100, but you can cut that price in half by agreeing to automatically renew the annual license. If you're sure you want to keep buying Trend Micro Premium Security, this is a bargain; otherwise, it may be a burden.
At 241 MB, Trend Micro Premium Security's installer package is the largest among the five antivirus products we've reviewed in this round, but it completed our installation in a relatively speedy 12 minute and 30 seconds. As it was setting up, Trend Micro Premium Security removed 11 browser cookies and suggested changing the User Account Settings to improve security.
Trend Micro's soft blue-and-gray interface is not as bold as Avast's striking color palette, but it has something most of the other products lack: a central Scan button right on the home screen. When everything is safe, the button has a green circle around it, accompanied by a check mark and the word "Protected."
The main screen's large Scan button allows quick access to a Full, Quick or Custom scan that includes the ability to look at removable drives. In other packages, the ability to begin a scan is buried a level or two down, and this convenience is welcome. However, Maximum Security lacks anything as quick as Bitdefender's optional 60-second scan.
Along the top of the home screen are the program's four main areas: Device, Privacy, Data and Family. To the right of the central scan circle, there are spots to bring up Scan Options, Settings and a Security Report. Trend Micro presents the cleanest and tidiest of the six interfaces we've seen in this category; many of the others have a dozen or more individual elements cluttering the main screen.
As you might expect, clicking Device takes you to a page from which you can modify the security settings. There's a large Configure button that lets you adjust everything from whether the scanner should examine compressed files to whether it should automatically delete a suspicious file.
For newbies, the three-tiered Protection Level options page will make quick work of getting the right balance of security and paranoia. There are settings for Normal, Hypersensitive and letting the program adjust the protection level automatically. The main Device page also offers ways to extend protection to other devices, as well as the one-click PC Health Checkup optimizer.
Trend Micro Premium Security can deliver a report on computer threats as well as give you a detailed log of the program's antiviral activities. However, it lacks a geographical overview along the lines of McAfee's Threat Map.
It caught and killed every piece of malware thrown at it, but Trend Micro Premium Security may be a little too zealous, generating more false positives than average. It comes with a generous amount of online storage and has a nice performance and privacy optimizer, but the program lacks a network scanner and several other useful features.
On the other hand, Premium Security was one of the fastest at scanning for malware and comes with a large amount of secure storage. At $50, if you choose to auto-renew the license, Trend Micro Premium Security is a genuine bargain for protecting five PCs, Macs or mobile devices — at least for the first year.