Very well, at least in our experience. The suite offers very good PC security and anti-virus protection, identity protection for online transactions where personal information may be required, online backup on Symantec's servers to protect from data loss and lastly PC tuning, to optimise your computer.
Installation was simple and easy to use '” and to please advanced power users, there's plenty of customisation options available if you so please to choose them throughout the process. It took a total of 10 minutes to go from start to finish but frustratingly there was a fairly large download of updates (75MB) before installation could even occur, adding an extra 5 or so minutes to the process on our ADSL 2+ connection.
Once you get through the installation though, you're met with the re-designed dashboard, which presents you with a neat horizontal list of tasks you can undertake. Hover over the icons, and you're presented with a number of actions you can undertake in that section.
If there's one qualm we had with this dashboard-style layout, it's that steps to do things can at times be a little too longer than they need to be. For example, to check the current internet threat levels, you've got to open the 'Identity Protection' window, then select the option from the bottom of the popup.
Granted most of the time the options you need are displayed and you won't need to undertake the extra few steps, but it's the odd few that eventually become a little frustrating.
Moving on, and the time it takes for the virus scanner to do a complete quick scan has been radically improved in the upgraded Norton 360. It took on our test machine just over 2 minutes to undertake a quick scan, which searches for viruses, spyware, temporary internet files and windows temporary files, compared to well over 5 minutes with an older edition which we used a few years ago.
Installing updates for Norton's anti-virus database is fast and efficient '” dubbed 'LiveUpdate', it'll download everything and install it automatically at times set by you or when you choose to manually do so. It also gives you the handy option of automatically turning off your computer once the updates have installed, allowing you to run the updater at the end of each day.
Norton's identity protection offering is alright, although we found it doesn't work with Google's Chrome web browser. It also malfunctions when using Microsoft's newest web browser, Internet Explorer 9, although this can be forgiven since it's still in testing stages.
If you have a browser that does support it, such as Internet Explorer 8 or Firefox 3, essentially when you enter personal information which you add in the app, it'll warn you of insecure websites and even prevent users from entering some information that you choose not to allow them to enter, such as a phone number or address, while it'll also check for fraudulent websites from Norton's database and display warnings if the page you visit isn't thought to be accurate or reliable.
Backup works as expected, with Norton providing a small amount of complimentary space in which you can backup files and folders you choose on their servers in case a disaster strikes your computer. If such an event does occur, you can just as easily re-download the information from their servers, while if you run out of room, you can purchase more space online from Norton for a small fee (or just use a free alternative such as DropBox or SkyDrive.
And lastly the PC tune-up tool allows you to boost the performance of ailing computers, by optimising disks, cleaning up unwanted or not needed files, view diagnostic reports and manage what applications run at start-up. In our experience it made a small improvement to our computer's performance '” but that was on a fresh installation of Windows 7. To experience the true power of the tool, you'd need to trial the tune-up tool on an older, more used installation of Windows.
So is it worth acquiring Norton 360? Absolutely, if you're looking for an all-in-one package to protect both you and your computer. If you're a power user, you can probably combine a number of packages from a number of other companies, but Norton 360 also allows for many customisations and changes. Whatever you decide, remember there's now a new version, number 5, available for 2011.