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Norton vs. Malwarebytes 2023: Battle of the Antivirus Titans

When it comes to protecting your devices and data from the latest cyber threats like ransomware, viruses and malware, Norton and Malwarebytes are two of the top solutions on the market in 2023. But which one offers better security? Which has the least system impact? And ultimately, which delivers better overall value?

In this comprehensive antivirus comparison, we’ll evaluate all the key factors to name a definitive winner for best antivirus software this year.

Highlights of Norton and Malwarebytes Features

Norton Security and Malwarebytes Premium are both full-featured antivirus suites that go far beyond just malware scanning:

Norton 360

  • Antivirus
  • Cloud Backup
  • Parental Controls
  • Password Manager
  • Secure VPN
  • Dark Web Monitoring

Malwarebytes Premium

  • Anti-Malware
  • Anti-Spyware
  • Anti-Ransomware
  • Web Protection
  • Exploit Prevention
  • Scam & Fraud Prevention
  • Adware Blocking

Norton comes out ahead in breadth of features, with extras like cloud backup, parental controls and a VPN adding lots of value. But Malwarebytes covers all the key areas for protecting endpoints with a particular emphasis on anti-exploit capabilities.

Both solutions are available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices, so you can protect all your gadgets with one subscription.

Malware and Virus Protection Showdown

Of course the most critical metric for an antivirus is how well it can detect, block and remove malware and viruses. To judge this, we’ll look at the latest testing results from two well-respected independent labs: AV-TEST and AV-Comparatives.

AV-TEST Results

One of the leading testing authorities, AV-TEST subjected both solutions to intensive trials against widespread malware.

  • Norton received a perfect 18/18 score for malware protection in the latest round of testing on Windows 10. It registered a flawless 100% detection rate with zero false positives.
  • Malwarebytes scored slightly lower with 17/18 points. It registered a 99.7% detection rate, still very high but missed some malware that Norton identified.

AV-Comparatives Real-World Protection Test

In AV-Comparatives’ real-world testing exposing software to live malware threats, both solutions scored very well:

Product Protection Score False Positives
Norton 99.7% 2
Malwarebytes 99.6% 1

The near perfect scores speak to both solutions‘ efficacy against malware in the wild. The advantage goes to Norton with slightly higher detection rates.

Malware Database and Threat Intelligence

Norton leverages one of the largest civilian malware databases in the industry compiled from over 200 million endpoints. This gives it a leg up in identifying new attack patterns quickly based on data crunching from Symantec’s massive global sensor network.

Malwarebytes has an extensive malware database as well sourced from millions of customer endpoints. But some tests indicate Norton may have the edge in terms of total threat intelligence data to detect emerging outbreaks sooner.

Bottom Line on Malware Protection

Both solutions provide excellent protection that blocks the vast majority of malware, viruses, exploits and ransomware attacks. Head-to-head tests give Norton a slight edge, but Malwarebytes also delivers air-tight protection for most users.

Impact on System Performance

We also want to consider the impact antivirus software has on system performance. To measure this, AV-Comparatives conducted benchmark speed tests on PCs running each solution.

  • Norton had a minimal impact of 2% slowing down the system. This matches the industry average.
  • Malwarebytes incurred slightly higher overhead with an average 3% slowdown during the tests.

The takeaway is both have very low footprint. Norton maintains razor-thin overhead on par with competitors. Malwarebytes imposes a little more drag but not enough to notice during everyday use.

Ease of Use Comparison

An antivirus needs to be simple and intuitive for users at any technical skill level.

Norton has made big strides in improving usability over the years. The dashboard UI provides clear visibility into security status. Running scans, accessing features and updating software is straightforward. Some more advanced capabilities like the VPN may require deeper setup for less tech-savvy users.

Malwarebytes takes a streamlined, no-frills approach. The emphasis is on making scans fast and easy to execute. There are fewer auxiliary features so the interface remains simple to navigate. The more basic UI may appeal to users who just want an antivirus without bells and whistles.

Both earn points for simplicity that makes security approachable for novices. Malwarebytes holds a slight edge for pure ease of use. But Norton has done an admirable job reducing complexity despite having a fuller feature set.

Mobile Device Protection

With so many smartphones and tablets in use, it‘s also important to have security tailored to mobile operating systems.

Norton and Malwarebytes both provide dedicated Android and iOS apps that extend protections to these devices. Core safeguards like malware scanning, web blocking, theft recovery tools and more are included.

Malwarebytes focusing on providing a lighter mobile solution that minimizes battery drain and system resource usage. Norton packs in a few more utilities like WiFi security assessment and device optimization.

For most mobile users, both deliver sufficient protection without hogging device resources. Malwarebytes excels at lightweight security while Norton provides greater depth of features.

Customer Support and Satisfaction

Having prompt access to customer support can be key in resolving issues using security software.

Norton offers support 24/7 through the following channels:

  • Phone
  • Live Chat
  • Email
  • Community forums

Extensive self-help is available through the knowledge base and user community forum.

Malwarebytes provides customer support via:

  • Email ticketing
  • Forums
  • Knowledge base

Response times for email ticketing are slower compared to Norton‘s real-time phone and chat support. Direct live contact options would improve satisfaction ratings.

Independent review sites like Trustpilot show higher customer sentiment for Norton‘s service quality and responsiveness. Malwarebytes isn‘t too far behind though and still provides decent assistance through available channels.

Cost Comparison

Pricing always factors into antivirus buying decisions. Here‘s how costs for the two solutions stack up:

Norton 360

  • Starts at $19.99 per year for one device
  • Goes up to $99.99 per year for 10 devices

Malwarebytes Premium

  • Starts at $39.99 per year for one device
  • Up to $59.99 per year for five devices

Malwarebytes offers competitive pricing in the antivirus space. But Norton 360 plans start cheaper while also providing much more beyond core antivirus. The higher-end Norton plans offer better value for growing device coverage.

The Final Verdict

While both solutions are worthy options, Norton is the winner in this antivirus showdown based on:

  • Slightly better malware detection rates in independent testing
  • Lower impact on system performance
  • More extensive features beyond just antivirus
  • Broader mobile protection across iOS and Android
  • Superior customer support through more channels
  • Better value and pricing, especially for multiple devices

Malwarebytes remains an excellent choice for budget-minded buyers looking for solid malware scanning at a reasonable price. But Norton brings more robust all-around security tailored to individual consumers all the way up to large families with many devices to cover. Its winning combination of well-rounded protection and great value make it our top antivirus recommendation for 2023.


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