Reviews

Bitdefender Internet Security 2019 review: Still one of the best

We miss the Autopilot mode, but otherwise this 2019 update sticks to Bitdefender’s core strengths

Price
£21
  • Improved interface; Great protection; Packed with additional features
  • Autopilot is no longer entirely autonomous

The new 2019 release of Bitdefender Internet Security ditches the old grey-on-black interface in favour of a smarter, brighter look and the layout has been rejigged too. Previously, many of the suite's options and settings were hidden away behind layers of tabs and links. Now everything is much flatter, with many more buttons right at the front of the interface. I personally rather like the way this puts the full potential of the program at your fingertips, but less technical users might find it a bit overwhelming.

Still, there's little need to regularly engage with the interface, because Bitdefender retains its beginner-friendly "Autopilot" feature. Yet this isn't quite what it used to be: in older versions of the software, this setting instructed the suite to detect and block threats without any user intervention whatsoever. Now, instead of acting on your behalf, it merely prompts you with recommendations. I can see the logic of this when files are blocked or deleted without the user's knowledge it can lead to problems and confusion but it means that Bitdefender is no longer the perfectly unobtrusive security suite it once was.

Another disappointment is the VPN that's now bundled into the suite. This might sound like a positive addition, but in use it feels like trialware rather than a bona fide feature: you don't get to choose your exit node, and you're limited to a pretty mean 200MB of data transfer per day, which you'll likely burn through in a matter of minutes. To unlock the full, unlimited product costs an additional 30 a year which, to be fair, is competitive with buying an annual subscription to a standalone VPN.

Beyond that, Bitdefender's core functions are largely the same as last year and we can hardly complain about that, because the software was already loaded with great features. We particularly like the "Safe files" feature, which blocks unknown applications from altering files without your explicit authorisation a simple measure that should completely defeat ransomware. The software can even roll back files that appear to have been maliciously encrypted, automatically restoring the previous version.

Then there's Bitdefender's flexible profile system. Many security products feature a "game mode", which suspends interruptions and CPU-heavy processes when you're playing a game; Bitdefender goes four better, with a set of profiles tailored to working, movie-watching, gaming, working over a public Wi-Fi network and running on battery power respectively. Different performance and security settings can be configured for each, and you can let Bitdefender intelligently guess when to switch profiles, or configure it to apply a particular one whenever you're using a specific app.

You also get webcam protection, which lets you individually block apps that try to access your camera, plus browser extensions that put green ticks (or red crosses) next to search results from Google, Bing and Yahoo!, so you don't even need to put the software's web-based threat detection to the test. Throw in a vulnerability scanner, anti-spam and anti-phishing modules, a file encryption tool, a secure browser for banking and online shopping and a simple parental control system (which also works on Android) and you've got one of the richest feature sets on the market.

In truth, there's so much here that it makes the pricier Bitdefender Total Security package wholly redundant. The premium suite adds system optimisation, anti-theft, startup booster and disk clean-up tools, but frankly all of these jobs can be done very satisfactorily with free tools. On a related note, we're also not delighted about the way the program shows you in-app adverts for other Bitdefender products, but thankfully you can turn this off from the Settings pane.

Despite its broad set of features, Bitdefender Internet Security is impressively nimble. AV-Comparatives rated it "very fast" in all but one of its performance tests (for website browsing it was merely "fast"). AV-Test agreed that browsing was Bitdefender's weakest suit, recording a slowdown of 25% on a standard PC, but across all of that lab's tests the suite averaged a very creditable performance score of 90.2% less than 2% behind first-place Avira.

And effective? Forget about it. Bitdefender romped through all of AV-Comparatives and AV-Test's malware tests with perfect scores of 100% across the board, against both zero-day and known threats. Better yet, it did so while maintaining this month's best false-positive rate, equivalent to one mistaken alert in 40,000.

When it comes to long-term trust, it's reassuring to note that these scores are very similar to last year's. Indeed, functionally, Bitdefender 2019 has changed very little from last year's outstanding release and we're happy to recommend it once more. Be warned though: with its new interface the package feels quite different, and the loss of a "true" Autopilot mode will make it a little less appealing to those who prefer their security software to operate entirely under the radar.

Verdict

Functionally, Bitdefender 2019 has changed very little from last year’s outstanding release and we’re happy to recommend it once more, with phenomenal results across the board.

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