Bitdefender Sphere Review
A Bitdefender Sphere subscription lets you install Bitdefender security software on every PC, Mac, or Android device in your household. PCs get the full Bitdefender suite, Android devices get antivirus and antitheft, and Macs just get antivirus.
(4 out of 5)
- Protects all PCs, Macs, and Android devices in a household
- Full security suite protection for PCs
- Antivirus, antitheft, and app audit for Android.
- No full-scale online management console
- Mac protection is antivirus only.
More and more vendors are recognizing that the old three-PC security suite subscription model is fast becoming obsolete. Modern users have more than three PCs, or a mix of PC, Mac, and mobile devices. When first released, Bitdefender Sphere ($99.95, direct) offered protection for three PCs, three Macs, and three Android devices. I’m pleased to say that last month the company upgraded the product to cover all the devices you own. Specifically, it covers all devices owned by up to three individuals in a household.
Bitdefender’s protection is similar to that of McAfee All Access ($99.95 direct for licenses, 4.5 stars), which protects all devices owned by an individual or, for $50 more, by a household of up to five individuals. McAfee does offer more choices for protection as well as an online console to manage all components of the subscription.
Norton One, now in pre-release pilot testing, protects five devices for $149.95, with an as-yet-unspecified incremental cost to add more devices. Like McAfee it features a comprehensive online console; premium-level tech support for all security problems is also included.
Kaspersky ONE Universal Security ($79.95 direct for three licenses, 3.5 stars) comes in three-, five-, and ten-license editions and lets the user allocate licenses to any combination of device types. Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security Premium Edition ($99.95 direct for licenses, 3 stars) is a bundle of three licenses apiece for PC, Mac, and Android. If your devices don’t come in threes, you might need two subscriptions.
Bitdefender and McAfee, with protection for any number and any type of devices, are clearly the most flexible of this crowd. Norton comes close with the option to add more devices for a fee, especially if the fee turns out to be small.
Full-Scale PC Protection
On each of your PCs, Bitdefender Sphere installs Bitdefender Total Security 2012 ($79.95 direct for three licenses, 4 stars). This full-featured suite takes a bigger chunk of disk space than most, but if you run it in Auto Pilot mode it takes care of security with no hassle. The independent test labs love Bitdefender, though its performance in my own antimalware tests was just average. Its phishing protection, on the other hand, is the best I’ve seen, even better than Norton 360 Version 6.0 ($79.99 direct for three licenses, 4.5 stars).
This suite’s firewall handles security issues itself, without posing confusing conundrums for the untrained user. It accurately filters out spam while leaving good mail alone. An app for Facebook and Twitter identifies dangerous links and even offers to notify friends whose posts contain those inks. Online backup, file encryption and shredding, and system tune-up round out this impressive suite.
Antivirus Protection for Mac
Norton One and McAfee All Access can install a full protective suite for Macs; McAfee All Access will optionally install antivirus alone. Like Kaspersky One and Trend Micro Premium, Bitdefender Sphere offers straight antivirus protection for Macs. Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac will scan for threats on demand, on schedule, and in real time. It also detects and eliminates PC viruses. True, these can’t harm your Mac, but you wouldn’t want to pass them around to PCs on the network.
Mobile Security for Android
Like Norton One and Trend Micro Premium, Bitdefender’s mobile protection is Android-specific. Given Android’s market share and its popularity with malware writers, focusing on Android does make sense. Kaspersky and McAfee do extend varying degrees of protection to Blackberry and Symbian devices; Kaspersky adds support for Windows Phone 7. None of the current multi-platform subscription products have managed to incorporate iPhone protection, not even those that have an iPhone mobile security product.
Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android offers a full set of protective features. It scans new files for malware and can scan the entire device on demand. An application audit feature checks all installed apps and reports on those that connect to the Internet, access sensitive data, or have the potential to incur extra costs.
From the My Bitdefender online console you can view the location of a lost or stolen phone, lock the phone, or wipe its data. You can also send an alert message to whoever has the phone, with an optional loud alarm.
My Bitdefender Online
The MyBitdefender console isn’t specific to Bitdefender Sphere; any Bitdefender customer can use it. For a Sphere user it offers easy access to installed products and services. As noted, you can track and lock/wipe your mobile device from the console. It also provides remote configuration for the PC suite’s parental control component and online access to files backed up by the suite’s online backup component.
With Bitdefender Sphere, as with most Bitdefender products, you get basic identity theft protection through partner IDWatchDog. This service will alert you to many kinds of identity-related events, not just credit problems. Access to configure this service goes through My Bitdefender.
You can also use the online console to install the Bitdefender Safego app for Facebook and Twitter. This tool is actually free for anyone to download and use. Safego fends off social networking spam and flags malicious links. You can even use it to send a warning to friends whose posts contain problem links.
Kaspersky One protects three, five, or ten devices, depending how much you paid. Trend Micro Premium very specifically protects three PCs, three Macs, and three Android devices. While Bitdefender Sphere doesn’t have the full online management system found in Norton One or McAfee All Access, it does let you protect every single device in your household. For true tech-heads that’s a huge boon.
You definitely get more bang for your Bitdefender buck on PCs—a full suite, compared to just antivirus for Macs. For a PC-focused household that may not be an issue. Still, with its greater flexibility and comprehensive online management McAfee All Access remains our Editors’ Choice.
By Neil J. Rubenking, PCMag