Sunbelt Software, known best for its award-winning CounterSpy antispyware, came very late to the antivirus table, only creating its own antivirus engine from the ground up within the last two years, while its rivals boast more than 20 years of antivirus experience. Arriving late has its advantages, however. Traditional antivirus engines have been slow to adapt to emerging threats, especially the blending of antispyware threats with antivirus threats. To bridge the best of traditional antivirus with new cutting-edge thinking, Sunbelt Software hired veteran antivirus expert Joe Wells for a one-year stint to help design a "hybrid" antivirus antispyware engine.
While other standalone antispyware vendors merely added antivirus to their existing offering, Sunbelt Software created an entirely new product, Vipre. Ordinarily new antivirus products, such as Microsoft's Windows Live OneCare, suffer through a few years of "getting the code right." We don't see that here; in our opinion, Vipre has vaulted to the upper third of the antivirus products on the market today. While it remains to be seen how Vipre holds up against the 2009 antivirus offerings, our initial impressions are very good, and should hold up when more established antivirus vendors start releasing their products later in 2008.
Vipre costs $29.95 for a single user license, $39.95 for a three-user license, and $49.95 to license all the computers in your house. If you are a current CounterSpy v2 customer, you can upgrade for $9.95. There is a 15-day, fully functional, free trial available. Vipre requires Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Windows Vista; it is not compatible with Windows 95, 98, or ME, Macintosh, or Linux.
The Vipre installation took us a few minutes and did not require a reboot. After the files were installed, a wizard asked a few predictable questions on the following topics: Internet and proxy settings, automatic updates (default is every two hours), active protection setting (High, Medium, Low), joining the Sunbelt threat community to report new threats, scan schedule (default is 1 a.m.), adding Vipre to Windows Security Center (default), disabling Windows Defender (default), and activating and registering for technical support (name and e-mail).
The Vipre interface is one of the cleanest we've seen on any antivirus product. It's intuitive and easy to use. Your system status is displayed along the left-hand window, while the right side displays current worldwide threats and the latest local scan results for your machine. Four tabs across the top take you to Scan, Manage, Tools, and the overview page.
Should you want to remove Vipre, you will need to use the Windows Control Panel's Add and Remove Software feature; Sunbelt Software does not provide an uninstall function. After a reboot we found no traces of Vipre in our system registry or file directory on our test system.
Much of what we like about Vipre is beneath the hood--which is where it should be. The scanning engines are fast and, in our limited testing, accurate. What we like most about Vipre, however, is that it packs a lot of extras--extras that other antivirus products should have but often do not.