IT should be common knowledge at this point that you shouldn’t be surfing the internet without some sort of anti-virus/anti-malware protection on your PC.
There are plenty out there to choose from, but the focus of this piece is on Avast One Individual, developed by Avast Software. It’s available on a number of platforms (including Android), but the review version is for PC.
As an anti-malware programme, Avast One is very well regarded – rather than regurgitate a long list of statistics and specs, I’ll direct you to AV Test.org’s excellent summary of the software’s detection capabilities with a note that in their October/November 2021 testing, Avast One received perfect scores for protection, performance and usability.
Of course, there’s a free version of Avast One out there but the version being reviewed here is Avast One Individual; ie the one that costs money (RRP is AUD$139.00/year, but there are frequent deals throughout the year; right now it’s AUD$40 for the year as part of a Cyber Monday sale).
So, why get the paid version?
The big attraction for Avast One Individual is that it comes with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with unlimited data (the free version only gives you 5GB a week, which is not enough to do much with) and your choice of hundreds of servers in 35 countries around the world, including some optimised for peer-to-peer file sharing or streaming.
A VPN works, in a nutshell, by encrypting all your information and transmitting it via a sort of digital ‘tunnel through the internet’ straight from your computer wherever it is going; bypassing your own ISP’s servers and going directly to the VPN provider’s servers instead.
In years past, VPNs had a slightly shady reputation, being associated with piracy or dark web shenanigans, but nowadays there are countless perfectly legitimate reasons to use a VPN, ranging from data protection and privacy to accessing geoblocked content to buying games for reduced prices from overseas retailers
Other legitimate and everyday uses for a VPN include when you’re visiting sensitive websites – for example, you don’t want your ISP knowing what sort of consensual-adults-involved porn you enjoy watching, or perhaps you’re looking for medical advice on a health issue, or seeking out mental health support strategies, or (depending what country you live in) looking up news websites with information on them the government doesn’t like.
Ever tried to watch a video on the internet and received a “Sorry, this video is not available in your country” message? Fire up the VPN, tell it to connect to a server in a country with access, and hey presto, the website thinks you’re actually in America or wherever and lets you watch the thing.
VPNs are also critical for data privacy when connecting to unknown Wi-Fi networks (or networks generally) – the last thing you want is third party data snoopers compromising your social media or e-mail accounts while you’re at a café or something.
According to Avast, the list of data they don’t send to their VPN servers, at all, full stop, includes:
- Originating IP address
- Any DNS queries while connected. (“We rely on our own secure DNS servers, so your queries are also protected from exposure to 3rd parties.”)
- Browsing history
- Transferred data meaning files such as emails, pictures or other data which you download/upload from the internet.
In a nutshell, that means Avast aren’t keeping records of what sites you visit or what you’re accessing via their VPN. That’s not a greenlight to start looking up obviously illegal stuff, but it should provide peace of mind for people avoiding geoblocks to stream entertainment/live sports etc, access foreign games prices from online retailers, or worried about someone knowing what sort of porn they like.
It’s a very easy to use VPN – you can even set it to automatically activate when you turn the PC on – and I recorded some very good speeds on the Avast One VPN during my testing of a selection of its server locations too.
Connecting to the streaming optimised US server in “Gotham City” (actually New York), I returned speedtest.net results of 105.7MB/s download and 15.78MB/s upload, with a ping of 234ms.
Closer to home, the Melbourne server returned results of 105.41MB/s download, 18.21MB/s upload and a ping of 31ms.
The slowest of the download speeds was from Singapore, with 26.71MB/s, while the highest ping recorded was from Prague in the Czech Republic, at 321ms.
From a gaming perspective, only the Australian and NZ servers returned results which would enable effective online gaming (34ms from Melbourne, 51ms from Auckland), but the ping isn’t usually an issue for general internetting unless it’s really slow.
The download speeds from the Australian, NZ, American and UK servers were all comparable to my regular internet (only the Prague and Singapore servers were notably slower); upload speeds were pretty uniform across the board at around 15-18MB/s.
Internet grognards out there will doubtless harrumph and say that they’ve been surfing the internet since it was called ARPANET and they’ve never had any trouble (because they’re IT wizards), but it’s a very real concern for most people and it’s not longer a matter which can be dealt with by simply not visiting disreputable websites or torrenting stuff.
Average people (and gamers) need decent internet protection too, and an accessible, all-in-one solution like Avast One is absolutely worth considering as a result; and the fact you’ve got good anti-virus/anti-malware protection bundled with a VPN and optimisation software which can clear out junk files and broken computer registries entries etc is so easy to use only adds to that usefulness for “regular” gamers and computer users.
The bottom line is: Is Avast One Individual worth paying money for? I believe the answer is “Yes”, chiefly because of its user-friendly VPN as well as its system optimisation tools and general ease of use.
Yes, there are “better” VPNs out there, and yes, there are free system optimisation tools, but if you know this and know how to use them you’re also not in the market for a product like this either – which is fine.
For everyone else, the pub test here is: “Would I suggest my parents buy/use this product?” and again, the answer (for me, at least) is “yes”. It does what it promises, it’s easy to use, doesn’t bog the system down, and doesn’t get in the way.
From my use with it, Avast One has done everything it promised it would, it’s easy to use, has enough features to be versatile without being confusing or overwhelming, and offers security and peace of mind while you go about your internet activities.