Airo Antivirus for Mac full review
Airo is a relatively new company that specialises solely in Mac malware protection. As such it claims to be offer of the best-looking Mac antimalware apps around, and the folks behind it say it also utilises AI in the form of machine learning to stay ahead of new threats.
We put it through its paces and compared it to rival offerings in our best antivirus for Mac round-up to bring you a full review.
Airo costs £47.99/USD$49.99 for the first year. This is for just one Mac. The RRP is £67.19/$69.99 for subsequent years, but you can save by committing to those when you purchase for the first time. You can sign up here.
This price puts it amongst the most expensive of the antimalware apps we’ve tested - and they often come with additional features such as ransomware protection too which we talk about more below.
The Airo app
Airo certainly has a pleasant and polished look and feel, eschewing a full app window in favour of a pop-up window that appears when you click the menu bar icon. This shows everything about the app, including notifications, configuration settings, and so on.
A limitation of this approach is that it can only show one thing at once. For example, while a scan is underway, the pop-up window shows its progress. But until the scan has finished there’s no way to adjust any settings, for example, or view your previous scan results.
The pop-up can be turned into an "ordinary" app window by clicking a menu option, but this looks otherwise identical and is still limited to showing one thing at once.
Full system scan results
The first of our tests was a full scan, which we had to dig into the options to initiate because Airo defaults to quick scans. This took about an hour and a quarter to complete and reported scanning only circa 450,000 files. Most other antimalware apps reported scanning circa 2.5 million files on this particular Mac (a number that’s not unusual on everyday Macs that’ve been in regular use for a few years).
Notably, the app didn’t request full disk permission upon installation, and we suspect Airo is perhaps only scanning certain folders, because of Apple’s sandboxing protection rules that stop even antimalware apps accessing the majority of folders on the system.
Alternatively, Airo might be only scanning certain kinds of files. However, there’s no rulebook that says malware has to use these types of files. A critical bug in a movie playback app could lead to movie files being a vector of attack for malware, for example.
It was a strange result and, if we consider the small amount of files that were scanned, the amount of time taken is disappointing. Running a second full scan a little later wasn’t any faster, indicating Airo doesn’t feature the same technology as some other antimalware apps that detect which files haven’t changed, so therefore doesn’t scan them afresh. This speeds-up scans enormously.
The better news is that the full scan used little CPU power, being seemingly pegged at around 25% (often less) of four CPU cores on our i7 2.8GHz test Mac. This shouldn’t mean the system is bogged down when scanning, and Airo claims this is by design so the app doesn’t disrupt activities such as gaming.
Malware infection clean-up
Unleashing the 26 malware samples on our virtual machine testbed led to Airo delivering a 100% clean-up rate, with some caveats. Remember that our tests are not scientific, however, but aim to give an idea of effectiveness.
No pop-up alert notification appeared about the Bundlore malware when we placed it on the hard disk, and nor did it subsequently appear in the Threats log listing. Yet when we tried to run the installer, we got an error about a corrupted installer. It’s unclear whether Airo had anything to do with this.
Additionally, Airo caught the Dummy malware only when we attempted to use Quickview to view the malware’s script file within Finder. Otherwise it was ignored when we placed the malware on the hard disk, unlike the other malware samples, which Airo deleted near-instantly.
Other security features
Airo comes with a browser plugin that aims to block sites containing malware, adware, scareware, spyware and anything else suspicious. Sites can be whitelisted if they return false positives.
However, that’s about all there is for additional features. There’s no firewall app, or clever ransomware protection for certain folders, as with some other antimalware apps. Airo focusses solely on fighting malware.
The Airo app claims logging in at the Airo website lets you manage your devices, but the reality appears to be that it just lets you view your current subscription to the app. There’s no cloud management and configuration of the app as with Sophos, for example.
Airo is certainly a nice little app that shows promise and there’s no arguing with the near-perfect clean-up rate for our malware sample. But given the questions about full disk scanning and the price, it’s hard to recommend above other antimalware apps we’ve reviewed. We look forward to taking another look further down the road.