For just about any other piece of software, “I’ve been using it for three months and I’ve barely even noticed its existence” would hardly be a compliment. But for an antivirus—those tools that are crucial, yet somehow always manage to be intrusive and annoying to the point that you wonder if just risking infection is the better option—it’s about the highest praise you can give. And Norton 360 for Gamers is, well, something I’ve been using for three months now and barely noticed its existence.
Norton 360 for Gamers uses Norton 360 Deluxe, which means it comes with all the same features: a VPN service, 50GB cloud backup capacity, a password manager, protection from unauthorised webcam access, a service to monitor the dark web for compromised data, and, obviously, virus protection. Each of these things does what it says on the tin, striking a good balance between easy, set-and-forget defaults and a good assortment of custom settings. There are plenty of good options out there for each of these things as standalone products, but having everything in one place, easily manageable from a shared dashboard, comes in really handy.
But what sets Norton 360 for Gamers apart, specifically, is its unobtrusiveness. We’ve all had experiences with anti-virus software that hogs resources and sends constant status updates, which are annoying at the best of times, but especially when you’re playing a game—suddenly a scan starts out of nowhere, and your antivirus pulls focus right at a critical moment. It sucks, to the point that a lot of people forgo commercial protection in favour of the much less obtrusive (and, these days, very good) Windows Defender that’s built into Windows 10.
Norton 360 leaves a fairly light footprint anyway, but the For Gamers version comes with the added ability to detect when you’re playing a game and mute all but the most critical notifications. It determines when you’re playing a game based on a combination of factors: high CPU usage combined with software running in full screen; standard game launchers like Steam running; any apps you’ve manually added as flags starting. Once you’re in a game, Norton 360 for Gamers goes into quiet mode.
What exactly that means is up to you, with the ability to tweak what alerts get hidden in this state. But the default settings are robust—that’s what I’ve used almost exclusively, and I’ve never had any sort of interference while gaming. Indeed, I’ve pretty much never noticed Norton 360’s presence at all, except when I’ve actually made a conscious decision to open the dashboard and make use of it. Looking back through my logs, it’s been running daily scans, regularly cleaning out temporary files and optimising disk space, quarantining suspicious files, automatically checking softwares downloads, and running various other security tasks, all in the background without me even noticing.
The other thing that sets the gamer version apart from the rest of the Norton 360 line products is its Game Optimization feature. With this turned on, Norton will help optimise system performance when you’re playing games by dedicating CPU capacity to your game and limiting resource drain from non-critical processes. I can’t say it’s made a drastic difference, but it’s noticeable, especially in more demanding games. It’s a nice addition to a security suite that’s already pretty full-featured to begin with.
At around NZD $150 a year, Norton 360 for Gamers is a little on the pricey side. But you get what you pay for: an extremely reliable, feature rich security suite that still manages to be as unobtrusive as possible.