Norton 360 Standard review: Superb virus protection with VPN and cloud backup thrown in

As the name implies, Norton 360 is designed to provide all-round protection against malware and other threats. The message is slightly muddied by the existence of multiple editions of the software but the major protection features are the same across all of them.

The Standard suite, reviewed here, covers a single PC, while the Deluxe and Premium packages cover five and ten devices respectively and add parental controls and dark web monitoring to alert you if your personal information has been compromised online.

All of these can be bought online at competitive prices. A Standard licence costs £13 on Amazon while the Deluxe edition is £19. Is the venerable Norton brand still a good choice for your online security?

Norton 360 review: What do you get for the money?

Norton 360 has two standout features that set it apart from most rivals. The first is an integrated backup module which, in the Standard edition, comes with 10GB of bundled cloud storage.

Opt for the Deluxe edition and that goes up to 50GB, while the Premium edition ups that to 75GB. It’s a bit of a shame that this only backs up files and folders – it can’t make an image of your entire system for disaster recovery – but it’s still a great plus point for the price.

On top of that, Norton 360 includes a fully functional VPN. It isn’t a terrifically advanced service. It won’t automatically turn on when you connect to a particular network, nor suspend your connection if the VPN link fails. Even so, with no data limits and servers in 31 countries to choose from, it’s a great benefit.

Aside from that, all the expected features are covered. The software scans local files and websites on access to ensure nothing nasty can get onto your PC, while a separate webcam protection module keeps you in control of which programs get to access your camera hardware.

There’s a custom firewall, too – although it’s buried in the settings where busy users may never find it – and an integrated version of Norton’s free password manager, allowing you to retrieve unlimited credentials on Chrome, Firefox or Edge, as well as Android and iOS.

In all, it’s a solid feature set. We’d be happier if it included some sort of active folder protection, just in case a ransomware threat manages to slip past Norton’s scanners but, as discussed below, that’s a very unlikely eventuality.

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Norton 360 review: Does it keep you safe?

Norton 360 is regularly tested by two independent security specialists – AV-Comparatives.org in Innsbruck and AV-Test.org in Magdeburg. We’re happy to report that Norton romped through the most recent series of tests, carried out in the first half of 2021, with a perfect 100% protection score from both labs against both widespread and brand new “zero-day” threats.

The news isn’t all good, though. While Norton blocked every threat that was thrown at it, it also racked up an embarrassing tally of 22 false positives. That’s worse than almost any other security suite we’ve tested. F-Secure SAFE and Eset Internet Security both achieved a perfect zero here and even Windows Defender only raised a false alarm on five occasions. It’s not hard to unblock wrongly flagged items, but you shouldn’t have to second-guess your security software.

Norton 360 review: What’s it like to use?

Norton 360 is split across two completely different interfaces – the “My Norton” overview page, which offers one-click access to the various 360 modules, and the main Device Security control panel, from which your local protection settings are managed. This arrangement feels unnecessarily complicated but you won’t have to deal with it often once you’re past the initial setup.

Like all security software, Norton also has a certain impact on the performance of your PC. Across a range of different tests, the two independent labs reported an average slowdown of 9%. 

That’s not brilliant but it’s better than Windows 10’s built-in antivirus service, which came out at 12.5%. If top speed is your priority, however, F-Secure SAFE and McAfee Total Protection both nosed ahead, with impact ratings below 7%.

Norton 360 review: Should I buy it?

Norton 360 provides unbeatable protection and some truly worthwhile extra features for a price that’s very hard to quibble with. Before you invest, just be sure you’re comfortable with that high false-positive rate.

You should be aware too that, after your first year of protection is up, the renewal fee rockets to £65 – so be sure to cancel and buy a new licence, rather than letting your subscription roll over.