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AVG is often recognized as one of the top free antivirus applications, but they also have a paid version available with some more advanced features. For a little while now AVG 8.0 has been in a public Beta stage, and just the other day the first Release Candidate was pushed out the door.

I think one of the big highlights in the new version is the very much needed facelift that the application has received, which can be seen in the screenshot above. There’s also supposed to be some back-end improvements to both performance and the detection abilities, and I’ll trust that they are there although I didn’t see any noticeable performance improvements.

Here’s a list of the notable features that you’ll find in AVG 8.0:

  • Redesigned interface
  • Web shield – web content scanner (HTTP and Instant Messaging)
  • Link scanner – Safe Search and Safe Surf (includes Exploit Prevention Labs scanner)
  • Anti-Rootkit
  • Completely new scanning engine
  • New, much more effective, heuristic analysis
  • Improved performance

The web shield has been needed for awhile considering that most of the competitive products all include such protection. With the web shield you’re protected from malicious websites, which has been becoming a big issue lately. The link scanner, however, was a very interesting addition. As you can see in the screenshot below it’s a lot like McAfee’s Site Advisor, and while it might be useful to some people I find that it clutters my browsing experience more than anything:

 AVG Link Scanner

When you run AVG 8.0 for the first time you’re greeted with a wizard that will walk you through the configuration. Power users probably won’t find much use in this, but I’m sure the novice users will appreciate it:

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AVG First Run 1 AVG First Run 2 AVG First Run 3 AVG First Run 4 AVG Firewall Configuration 1 AVG Firewall Configuration 2 AVG Firewall Configuration 3

Anyone can register to become a tester and download the pre-release version of the next major milestone, but you’ll need to prepare yourself for a whopping 50MB download. Alternatively a download is available from FileForum which doesn’t require any registration, but either way the build is set to expire on April 1st, 2008.

AVG will obviously release version 8 as paid-only initially, and then after some time has passed they will likely upgrade their free edition as well.

Thanks to everyone that sent this tip in over the past few weeks!