perhaps malware authors would target essentials harder than others because it is microsoft,
Definitely. And I believe a layered multi-vendor approach is the most likely to really catch the bad guys and stop zero-day problems too.
Browser protections, a firewall from a company like Online Armor (now owned by EMSI I think) or even Zone Alarm or another, WinPatrol as the security startup guy, a nimble anti-virus, (Eset, Avast, Avira if they dump Uniblue, etc), Zemana I picked up on a sale, plus the great occasional scan by Malwarebytes and SuperAntiSpyware. Granted, some will have double-coverage and your HIPS approach can vary widely (note: I don't get involved in that shadow-boxing stuff).
Very little cost in all that, and a nice sense that even if there is one point of failure or directed attack, there is a strong likelihood of full protection because of the layers.
And a reason to just say no to suites.