By Neil J. Rubenking
February 26, 2009 3:44PM EST
Given that it contains components not found in ZoneAlarm 2009, this suite might be expected to affect system performance more. However, Check Point states that it's actually reduced resource usage, at least in some areas. I ran the suite through my usual set of real-world performance tests.
First, I checked how much time the ZoneAlarm Extreme's start-up added at system boot. With no suite installed, I measured the elapsed time from the start of the boot process (as reported by Windows) until the system was ready for use. I defined "ready" to mean the computer went 10 seconds with CPU usage at 5 percent or less. I ran this test over a hundred times and averaged the results, then repeated the process after installing ZoneAlarm Extreme. Booting took more than twice as long. That's twice the impact ZoneAlarm 2009 had, but still just a bit above the average for the current set of suites. Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 and Norton had the lightest touch in this test, adding only 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively.
The new ZoneAlarm version had less of an effect on file move and copy operations than ZoneAlarm 2009, adding just 12 percent to the time required for an extensive file manipulation test. That's lower than the suite average of 15 percent and significantly lower than the 2009 edition's 51 percent. Norton added just 4 percent in this test. ZoneAlarm also bettered its previous score in a test that measured the length of large zip/unzip operations. Where it previously added over 110 percent to the time for this test, it now came in at 86 percent, but that was still above the average of 57 percent. Panda was the winner in this category, adding just 8 percent.
To check the suite's impact on browsing, I ran a test that repeatedly launches dozens of busy Web pages and measures how long it takes for them to fully load. As noted earlier, I had to turn off ForceField's virtualization before I could even run this. The suite's impact rose from 31 percent to 39 percent, but the average suite added 55 percent to the time, so this is still decent. Norton had the least impact on browsing, adding just 13 percent.
A big program installation adds and manipulates a wide variety of files and file types, so I timed a series of automated install and uninstall processes using Windows Installer. Here ZoneAlarm Extreme caused a very significant slowdown, almost doubling the time for this test. That's the most impact any of the current suites has had, and it's significantly more than the 63 percent I measured for ZoneAlarm 2009. On the other hand, users spend less time installing programs than on many of the other tasks evaluated here.
This suite does a lot for you, and it takes its toll in some performance areas. On the plus side, its antispam didn't slow downloading e-mail in any measureable way, and its installation is speedier than that of just about any competing products except Norton. The very first ultra-deep virus/spyware scan is slower than with any other rival I've measured, but subsequent scans ran were a lot speedier. Overall, it's an improvement over ZoneAlarm 2009 in terms of performance—that's impressive, given that ZoneAlarm Extreme Security does more.