The rivalry between Bitdefender vs. Norton dates back almost two decades. So, if you’ve narrowed down all potential antiviruses to these two options, it can be a head-scratcher. Both of them are dominating top lists and are always shooting for the #1 spot. It doesn’t seem that this rivalry is going to end anytime soon, especially with Norton recently buying Avira.
Naturally, both products have many fans, which means finding an unbiased review can be somewhat tricky. With this comparison, I’ll make it easier to separate fact from fiction. I’ll look into their security suites, pricing, apps, and customer support experience. Let’s find out which one is ultimately the best.
Winner of each category
Sometimes the only feature that you need to knock out the competition is a free version. There, Bitdefender strikes a major blow. To try the latter, your best bet is a 30-day free trial.
When we venture beyond the paywall, Norton takes a slim lead. It’s slim because they offer different features and pricing plans based on location. So, although you’re paying the same price, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get the same features all over the globe.
Bitdefender’s main downside is that it lacks macOS, iOS, and Android support on their cheaper versions. So, which service is better in terms of features will significantly depend on your platform and location. For example, if you’re a US citizen that uses Mac, you’ll have a better time with Norton. If you’re using Windows and are not based in the US, the better option for you is Bitdefender. Ultimately, both services offer a fair amount of unique features.
Usually, free editions feel like an extremely limited trial. Bitdefender turns this model on its head by offering the same malware databases across all editions. This means that whether you’re paying for Bitdefender or not, you get the same package when it comes to core antivirus functionalities.
This isn’t even the most revolutionary bit. What’s even more amazing is that Bitdefender’s definition of what should be considered part of the core package is significantly larger than the competition. It includes real-time protection that uses behavior-based patterns, Internet security that cross-checks each accessed URL to filter out phishing websites, and safeguards against ransomware. The major caveat is that you get support for only one Windows device. If you’re Mac, iOS, or Android user, you can forget about this edition altogether.
On the paid version, support for non-Windows devices isn’t great either. It’s only available with the most expensive version, but there are exclusive features. For example, Bitdefender has Time Machine Protection that helps protect against sophisticated ransomware attacks. For Android, there’s WearOn smartwatch protection and an Anti-Theft suite.
These aside, you also get protection against unauthorized file changes and an adware blocker. Desktop users also get things like AntiSpam email filters, the SafePay browser for secure payments, file shredders, webcam protection, a password manager, and a VPN service. So, if you commit to Bitdefender, the benefits are numerous.
One of Norton’s most significant drawbacks is that the offers aren’t uniform from country to country. Certain features will be available to customers in one country, but they may not be available to others paying the same amount. For example, you may need to change your Google Play region to download the Android version of the Norton 360 app. Norton has to sort these issues out to become more inclusive.
When it comes to the software itself. It offers device security, a VPN service, Cloud Backup, and a Password Manager. So, you can look at it as four distinct services, among which antivirus protection is just one part of the equation.
Device security includes real-time protection, an advanced firewall, AntiSpam filters, SafeCam filter, and exploit prevention measures. On top of that, you can tweak every one of the settings to tailor the software to your specific needs. Although there’s no free version, Norton can still win back the customers by the sheer amount of features and wide support for the most popular platforms.
Bitdefender vs. Norton: which offers better protection?
Good protection against various cyber threats is a core antivirus functionality. It determines whether the malware that gets to your device will get detected and removed or not. According to the test results from the AV-TEST Institute, on Windows and Android, both Norton and Bitdefender score the maximum – 6 points. Meanwhile, on Mac, Norton takes the lead, while Bitdefender performs a little worse and gets only a 5.5 score. Still, a very impressive result.
In short, both services have near-perfect scores. Bitdefender had half a point deducted for some false-positives. However, Norton 360 seems like a better-adjusted service no matter which OS you’re running.
Winner: Norton 360
Whichever service you pick, you’ll have reliable means to prevent it from even landing on your device. That is because, with both Norton 360 and Bitdefender, you’ll have comprehensive Internet security suites. Both providers use online threat databases that are kept up to date and react to dangerous threats in real-time.
For example, Bitdefender Shield uses this data in conjunction with behavioral learning tools to identify the threats that haven’t yet been added into the database. It’s one of the most advanced methods for malware detection, and it’s expected that most leading antiviruses in a short while will turn even more for AI to detect malware.
The only area where Norton 360 has incorporated AI is their LifeLock service that you can buy separately. Otherwise, when it comes to malware removal, they rely on pre-established malware databases. Perhaps that’s why Norton gives fewer false-positives than Bitdefender.
If you regularly perform manual system scans, you’ll be delighted with both service providers. Norton 360 provides a lot of customization options, while Bitdefender provides several scanning types. You can even scan for potential vulnerabilities with suggestions on how you could make your system safer. Of course, there are also informative scanning screens updating you on how many threats were found and resolved.
Although Norton 360 provides fewer scanning options at first sight, it seems that they’re a bit deeper. Suppose you suspect that a particular malware type got through your firewall. In that case, you may customize the scanner to search for specific kinds of threats. This is a feature that few services offer, and more advanced users should really appreciate it. Plus, the narrower your search, the faster it is because you’re not checking every file for all potential malware types.
One of the best features that Norton 360 has is the Smart Firewall. It includes their unique Intrusion Prevention System that incepts the incoming data packages, blocking online attacks in their tracks. There are also additional benefits like uncommon protocols filtering and various customization options for your network protection. When connected to an unfamiliar network, you can toggle content tampering, DNS spoofing, and other detections.
Bitdefender is equally as impressive, although, has fewer customization sliders. You can configure application access, rules, and network adapter settings. One of the most notable additions is port scan protection that blocks port scan attempts on the network. Many hackers on public wifi can use easy to use software to check which devices on LAN have open ports and use them as an attack vector. With Bitdefender, you can stay safe even against those threats.
During startup, Bitdefender was on average 2.5 times faster than Norton 360. So, if you have a slower or older device, you might want to consider this when purchasing. Although Norton isn’t guilty of such frequent background scans as Avast. The scans can be disabled, the performance drop during bootup is noticeable. It may be even worse on older devices that are still using hard disk drives.
When it comes to scanning, the situation is somewhat even. However, Bitdefender is noticeably lighter and doesn’t hurt your performance even if you’re working while a scan is in progress. If you have any other program opened, Bitdefender allocates a sufficient amount of processing power, so if you’re a multitasker, it will be a better option.
Since Norton 360 doesn’t have a free version, it’s pretty obvious which option you should pick if you’re on a budget. Bitdefender’s free edition is one of the best antivirus solutions. Plus, you’re not making severe compromises. Some antivirus services offer about the same amount of features and charge a subscription fee. It’s practically a steal in this case.
However, when we’re talking about the paid options. The first tier of Norton 360 and Bitdefender costs the same – $29.99 but only for the first year. Then, the price bumps up to $59.99 a year for Bitdefender Plus and $84.99 a year for Norton 360 Standard. If you should be cautious when selecting your provider, you’re thinking about a longer commitment.
Bitdefender is just overall more flexible with their pricing plans. Its cheaper plans include support for 3 devices. At the same time, Norton 360 is quite restrictive: it’s either 1 or 5, that is, if you avoid plans with LifeLock. If you’re looking for the best monetary value option, Bitdefender is the one to choose.
Norton 360 plans
If you’re concentrating solely on the antivirus service and skipping LifeLock, there are really only two options. It’s either Norton 360 Standard or Norton 360 Deluxe.
Norton 360 Standard starts from $29.99, but the first year will have a discount. So after a year, the price will almost triple to $84.99. Considering that Standard is available for only one device, the price truly seems blown out of proportion. You get all the features like malware and ransomware protection, a Smart Firewall, a password manager, VPN, Dark Web monitoring, and SafeCam. There’s also 10 GB of Cloud backup for important files.
With that said, this price is only justified with a first-year discount. After a year, you can definitely get a similar package for a lot less.
Norton 360 Deluxe starts from $39.99, but as you would expect, this is only for a year. Then, it’s $104.99 a year. You’ll be able to install the tool on 5 devices, get the same features as the Standard version with some additional parental controls. The price for the first year seems reasonable enough, considering the number of features and simultaneous devices. However, without the discount, it’s just too expensive.
Bitdefender is unique in that your price will depend on the device OS. This means that there are plans that are even cheaper than Antivirus Plus.
For example, Mobile Security for Android costs only $14.99 a year. iOS doesn’t have a paid option at all, the innate security of Apple’s closed model is the best antivirus there is.
When it comes to typical desktop editions. There are quite a few plans to choose from –Antivirus Plus, Internet Security, Total Security, and Premium Security. All of them have discounts for the first year.
Antivirus Plus costs $29.99 for the first year and $59.99 after. It includes a file shredder, password manager, and many other privacy and security features for up to 3 devices. Internet Security is a bit more expensive – $34.99 for the first year and $79.99 after that. It adds features like better adaptation to your device’s hardware and webcam protection. It’s also good for up to 3 devices.
Then, there’s Total Security, which will cost you $39.98 a year and $89.99 after. It adds SafePay online banking, anti-theft tools, and various performance optimizers for up to 5 devices. Finally, for those who want to go all-in, there’s Premium Security, for a premium $59.99 a year and $149.99 for a year after. Includes privacy firewall, antispam, and web attack prevention measures for up to 10 devices.
So, no matter how high or how low you want to go, you’ll have options.
It’s easy to sign up for both services. With Bitdefender, the payment gets processed immediately, so you can install the client. Its size is one of the biggest that I’ve seen among antivirus software providers – almost 500 MB. So, if you’re using a smaller Optane module for your OS, you should plan ahead to have enough space. Otherwise, Bitdefender has neither a steep learning curve nor is it unintelligible for new users.
Norton 360’s setup is much more convoluted. First of all, you may run into issues when trying to pay for the service. They have several website versions, for example, uk.norton.com and us.norton.com. However, suppose you’re googling the Norton 360 US version. In that case, it ranks better, and if you click it you don’t get redirected to a country-specific website. The thing is, the UK version includes all the available countries and the US. While the US version only has the US with nearby territories. This may add up to confusion and increase your frustration quite a bit. Even when you register, you have to wait for a while to get your confirmation letter that the payment went through with download links for your clients.
Bitdefender’s desktop app is aiming for simplicity. Their UI isn’t cluttered, there are no strange design choices, and it’s pretty easy to navigate. There’s a customizable dashboard where you can add some quick access shortcuts. Everything else is then grouped into 5 categories: Protection, Privacy, Utilities, Notifications, Settings, and a separate tab for customer support.
When you click on a category, you’re greeted with the available features. From there you can toggle them on or off or tinker with the settings. It’s a good decision, and it will be easy to figure out for many users, even if they’re just starting on their first antivirus service.
Norton 360’s client is less intuitive. When you install the app, you’re greeted with a strange screen of which only half is usable: the other side is reserved for their stock image. There’s a settings icon that allows you to switch between default or classic view. However, after pressing the button, it does nothing. So, you’re stuck with the main screen that functions as a launchpad for other Norton apps like a password manager.
To get into the antivirus screen, you’ll have to go into device security. There, Norton also has 5 categories: Security, Internet Security, Backup, Performance, and My Norton. Similarly, as with Bitdefender, you can tweak your settings here. It’s also possible to do it through the separate settings tab, so there are a few ways to do the same thing. Otherwise, when you get used to it, Norton’s app is slick and easy to use, albeit more cluttered than Bitdefender.
Norton 360 can be a pain to download on Android because it may be geo-blocked in some Google Play Store versions. So, even though you’ve paid a subscription fee, you’ll be left with the desktop version only. A possible solution would be including a separate web page to download .apk files, which would take long to implement, especially for Norton’s scope. Bitdefender is much more widely available, so you shouldn’t run into such issues.
The iOS apps are quite useless whether you’re using Bitdefender or Norton 360. There are fewer opportunities for malware to ever land on your device in the first place. So, with Norton, you can scan your local network, check the vulnerability assessment, enable web protection that protects against phishing websites, add identity monitoring on the dark web, and set up a VPN. There’s nothing about malware removal. Bitdefender has only web protection, a VPN (which is very limited), and data leak checker.
Android versions have more functionalities. Norton adds Smart Scan, ransomware recovery, and even has App advisor to prevent you from installing sketchy apps in the Google Play store. Bitdefender’s Android app is just as impressive with Anti-Theft solutions, App lock, malware scanners, and other web protection measures.
If you run into some issues, you can contact Norton’s customer support via online forums, live chat, and over the phone. So, the customer who prefers to text and the talkative ones will have options to solve all your issues in a way that you prefer. Since Norton is a paid-only service, the queue times aren’t long, so you’ll be able to reach out to a customer support agent quickly.
Bitdefender is unique in the regard that it offers customer support options even to free users. You can contact their customer support team via live chat, phone, or email. There are also FAQs and other guides that you can find on their support website. Waiting times are quite similar to Norton, so with either option, you won’t be left on your own if something doesn’t work as it should.
Ultimately, Norton is a fantastic service with great protection measures. However, the lack of a free version, differing levels of service based on location, and higher prices are valid reasons to look for alternatives. Considering that there’s a lack of pricing tiers, it may also mean that you will end up with less while paying more.
In contrast, Bitdefender shines even when compared to one of the market leaders. It could be argued that Mac and iOS versions lack features, but as a whole, it’s an extremely well-rounded service. There are just no deal-breaking flaws that could steal a win from Bitdefender. It’s truly the best antivirus in the market, and it rightfully occupies the #1 spot on our top antivirus list.