7 all-in-one security suites: Anti-malware for all your devices

We examine how the major security suites compare in terms of features, ease of use and which devices they actually protect.

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Norton 360 Multi-Device

Symantec

Price: $39.99/6 mo., $69.99/yr., $134.99/2 yrs. or $199.99/3 yrs.

Number of devices: 5

It's this simple: If you want a suite with the greatest number of options -- not just for Windows security, but for optimization, startup and troubleshooting -- this is the one to get. It doesn't stint on protection for other devices, either, but Windows is where it really shines.

Windows

The range of tools you get with Norton is astonishing. As a start, it has all the security features you want, and they're eminently customizable. But it goes beyond that and offers a powerful suite of system tools as well.

Norton
Norton 360 Multi-Device (Windows version)

It's all organized on the main screen via four main icons: Security, Identity, Backup and Tuneup. Underneath each icon you'll find a wealth of options and tools.

Tuneup, for example, includes a disk optimizer, file cleanup, startup manager and a comprehensive diagnostic report. Startup manager is an example of balancing ease of use with power -- it presents each application installed on the system, shows you community usage (how many Norton users have installed it) and rates the resource usage on your system, so you can decide whether to shut down those applications that use too many resources. And besides just turning them on or off, you can delay their start so that your system boots up quickly and then the applications load afterwards.

Admittedly, when you dig down, the wealth of options can be confusing. Firewall has five sets of settings: General, Program Rules, Traffic Rules, Intrusion and Browser Protection, and Advanced Settings. And each of those has many settings to turn on and off. It's a techie's dream and a newbie's nightmare.

There's also a Windows 8 app called Norton Studio that lets you see the status of each of your devices, including a snapshot of the most recent Norton activity -- the results of scans, any malware found, phishing sites encountered and blocked and so on. That's nice, but even nicer would be a single, integrated Windows app for Windows 8 devices. Instead, there's a desktop-based app that does all the work -- the same app that you install on other versions of Windows -- and then there's Norton Studio, which gives you an overview of your devices.

OS X

Norton's OS X protection, like those of every other suite reviewed here, doesn't match up to its Windows protection -- in this case, because it doesn't include tune-up tools, or nearly the depth of features you'll find on the Windows version. But it offers a solid suite of Mac protection tools, including antivirus, firewall, phishing-blocking, email and instant messenger protection, and identity protection.

In fact, you'll find a surprisingly deep level of features. For example, the firewall includes location awareness, meaning that you can configure different blocking settings for the different networks to which a Mac connects.

The interface is a bit un-Mac-like. It's got three big, oversized icons for Antivirus, Firewall and Identity that mimic the look of the software's PC icons and aren't quite as elegant-looking as you'd expect from a Mac. But it does the job.

iOS

Norton's iOS protection offers more features than the other suites covered here, including anti-theft components and the ability to back up your contacts. Like the others, though, it doesn't offer malware scanning, although it will check for malicious websites.

Android

Although Norton falls down when it comes to iOS protection, its protection on Android devices is stellar. There's anti-malware, a module for scanning apps for potential privacy problems and one for locating, locking and wiping your device remotely. The tools for blocking spam phone calls and text messages are exemplary, using the Norton Spot ad detector, which you'll have to download as a separate free app (It's available whether you buy the suite or not.)

Norton
Norton (Android version)

The interface itself, at least on a tablet, is done quite well, with a scrollable panel on the left-hand side for all the app's features, and a larger panel to the right, which gives you the options and notifications for the feature you're working with.

The privacy scanner includes a feature that many others should emulate. When it finds an app with potential privacy issues, it displays those issues, as do other similar apps. But you can also tap a "Trust" button to say that you trust the app, something that similar privacy scanners don't do. That way, any apps that you trust won't show up as privacy risks, making it easier to see new risks at a glance.

Dashboard

The good news: Norton has a Web-based dashboard. The bad news: It's not overly useful -- certainly not nearly as useful as Webroot's. Yes, it lists the devices you have installed the software on, and lets you add new devices and install software on them. And it also lets you see files you've backed up. But that's about the extent of it, apart from being able to manage the anti-theft features of your Android device.

Bottom Line

Norton protects Macs, Android devices and iOS devices, which makes it one of the few comprehensive suites that lives up to its promise to protect all your devices.

Norton's Windows component stands out for its wide range of features -- there's simply no other application that offers such a plethora of tools. It's slightly marred by an occasionally complex interface, but to a great extent that's because of how deep the product is. OS X and mobile protection is as good or, at least, nearly as good as any competitor. It falls short only in its Web dashboard.

If you don't care about a dashboard, it's the best of the bunch.

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