TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: Virtualization

Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion

How do VMware Fusion 3 and Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac compare?

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Why Virtualization?

A few years back, Apple switched the Mac platform from PowerPC to Intel processors. This introduced some interesting opportunities for the Mac, including the ability to run operating systems other than Mac OS X on a Mac. This includes not only your everyday Windows XP, but also other Windows OSes, including 64-bit versions, and a wide variety of Linux and other OSes.

You may already understand your options for running Windows on a Mac, but in case you don't, your first choice is to decide between Apple's Boot Camp, and a virtualization product like VMware Fusion, or Parallels Desktop for Mac. With Apple's Boot Camp, you can run Windows natively, but you have to reboot every time you want to switch between Mac OS and Windows. In addition, you can only use one OS at a time. That's not particularly convenient. For that reason, MacTech recommends a virtualization product for most users.

Virtualization gives "switchers" (those switching from Windows to Mac) comfort because they can use their old applications, more easily get to old data, and in many cases, it allows them to use some critical piece of software not available on the Mac. For example, your job may require you to run Internet Explorer, or Outlook, if that's all that your corporate systems support. Of course, you may simply want to play a Windows game not available on the Mac.

With virtualization, like you'll see in Parallels Desktop for Mac or in VMware Fusion, you can run Windows alongside the Mac OS, getting the best of both worlds. For many, this may mean running Windows in a "window" on your Mac. Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop also have the ability to run Windows applications even more transparently, but we'll leave that for another discussion.

The Big Question

So which virtualization product do you go with? Which solution is faster? Should you run Windows XP or 7? 32-bit or 64-bit? One virtual processor or more? In short, there are different answers for different people: it all depends on your needs.

To tackle this problem, MacTech undertook a huge benchmarking project starting a couple months ago. This is similar to the virtualization benchmarking project that MacTech undertook in the past. In both cases, as with other MacTech benchmarks, we tested performance of the types of things that everyday users typically do. In this case, it was not just testing the Windows OS performance, but also commonly used Windows applications. This time, we paid even more attention to 3D graphics and gaming.

The goal was to see how VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop performed, covering both Windows XP and Windows 7. Furthermore, we wanted to see some of the differences with different Mac models, multiple processors and 64-bit versions of Windows.

Sounds simple enough, right? But when you start to realize that there were four different models of Macs, two virtualized environments, XP and Windows 7, some of which were 64-bit and multiprocessor while most were 32-bit and single virtual CPU, along with a whole slew of tests, each needing to be run several times, there were thousands of tests to be completed ... many with a stopwatch.

In fact, the testing took long enough that during the course of preparing these tests, both Parallels and VMware released minor updates, and those are the versions that we tested with.

To be clear, this article is not a product review; it's a benchmarking analysis (although we were morally obligated to comment on some of the 3D graphics and games <g>). The article's purpose is to assess performance (including issues we found if something didn't work right), and not product features, user interface, etc... You should use feature and support information in conjunction with the below benchmarking results to make your product choice.

Before you ask why other solutions and products were not included, let's answer that. In short, my response is "give me a break." This benchmark project is already huge with several thousand collected data points crossing two guest OSes (Windows XP and 7), four models of computers, and over 50 tests each run 3-5 times for most of the environments. And that's before a single word of this article is written!  To add even one more product would increase this huge test matrix by 50%.  As a result, we focused on the two leading commercial virtualization products.  These two products also have free trial versions that you can compare against other solutions ... so you can try them for yourself and compare alongside any other solution you want at any time including before you buy.

One thing to note, however, is that the open source and other products may not be for everyone, especially non-technical users. For many, these offerings can be difficult to understand and install, and they do not have technical or product support behind them. Obviously, users can reach out in forums and the community, but if you don't understand something, you won't be able to pick up the phone and call support the way you can with a commercial product.  If that works for you, great.  If not, as is the case for most users, then a commercial product is likely your solution.

The Test Bench

When we were choosing computer models, we set out to choose the current models of Macs giving a good representation of what most people may have. Certainly, the faster models of these computers will perform even faster.

We chose four Mac models to compare alongside each other: the "White" MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro.

  • 2GB MacBook, Intel Core 2 Duo processor ("White MacBook")
    Specifically: MacBook 2.26GHz 2GB/250GB White/ NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (late-2009)

  • 4GB MacBook Pro, Intel Core 2 Duo processor ("Unibody MacBook Pro")
    Specifically: MacBook Pro 15in 2.66GHz 4GB/320GB/ NVIDIA 9400M + 9600M GT

  • 4GB iMac, Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    Specifically: iMac 21.5in 3.06GHz 4GB/500GB/ NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (late-2009)

  • 3GB Mac Pro, Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors
    Specifically: Mac Pro Quad-Core 2.66GHz 3GB/640GB/ NVIDIA GeForce GT120

Memory for virtual machines can be configured with a wide array of settings. As a general rule, VMware Fusion's default memory for each configuration (of physical RAM and "guest" OS) was the same or lower than Parallels Desktop (although sometimes it was higher). As a result, we let VMware's default guide the way, and set Parallels Desktop to the same as whatever VMware Fusion defaulted to. In most cases, this was 512MB for Windows XP, and 1GB for Windows 7.

Similarly, for disk allocation, we defaulted to the sizes set up by VMware Fusion (40GB) and allowed for expanding disks. We took special care to make sure that the disk location of the virtual hard drive was in a similar physical location as that can make a significant difference in and of itself in disk performance.

The tests compared VMware Fusion 3.0.1, with Parallels Desktop for Mac 5.0 (build 9308), running Mac OS X 10.6.2. All required Windows updates were installed for each version of XP and Windows 7.

Test Types

There are a variety of often referred to, and utilized benchmarking suites in the computer industry including SPEC tests, PCMark, Unixbench and others. Each of these tests uses a series of tests that measure in a consistent way to assess specific types of performances. The key to each of these tests is appropriateness, repeatability, and accuracy.

When testing virtual machines, however, using outside utilities within a virtualized environment often provides strange and incorrect results. For example, there are many issues with internal timers not displaying measurements accurately, and some suites don't work at all in a virtual machine environment. Instead, as we have in the past, MacTech chose to create a suite of tests that would mimic what many users would do in normal use, but stick to those actions that were repeatable, and measurable with a stopwatch. After all, if you couldn't perceive a difference with a stopwatch, the user is not likely to perceive it at all.

There are two exceptions to this: graphics/gaming and CPU utilization. In these two cases, we found that testing utilities not only work well, but also are necessary to give the most repeatable and concrete results.

To that end, there are several kinds of tests that we ran: Virtual Machine Launch/Suspend, CPU tests, File and Network IO, CPU Usage Footprint, Application Performance, and 3D and HD Graphics.

Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

WhatsApp 0.3.416 - Desktop client for Wh...
WhatsApp is the desktop client for WhatsApp Messenger, a cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for... Read more
Skype 8.28.0.41 - Voice-over-internet ph...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
DxO PhotoLab 1.2.1.79 - Image enhancemen...
DxO PhotoLab (was DxO Optics Pro) provides a complete set of smart assisted corrections that you can manually fine-tune at any time. Take control on every aspect of your photos: effectively remove... Read more
ForkLift 3.2.3 - Powerful file manager:...
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed... Read more
Bartender 3.0.47 - Organize your menu-ba...
Bartender lets you organize your menu-bar apps by hiding them, rearranging them, or moving them to Bartender's Bar. You can display the full menu bar, set options to have menu-bar items show in the... Read more
VOX 3.3.1 - Music player that supports m...
VOX just sounds better! The beauty is in its simplicity, yet behind the minimal exterior lies a powerful music player with a ton of features and support for all audio formats you should ever need.... Read more
Microsoft OneNote 16.16 - Free digital n...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
WiFiSpoof 3.3 - Change your WiFi MAC add...
WiFiSpoof quickly and easily allows you to change your WiFi MAC address via hot-key or the system menu bar. Version 3.3: It is now possible to create global rules for unknown networks A new column... Read more
NetShade 7.2 - Browse privately using an...
NetShade is an anonymous proxy and VPN app+service for Mac. Unblock your Internet through NetShade's high-speed proxy and VPN servers spanning seven countries. NetShade masks your IP address as you... Read more
Fantastical 2.5.2 - Create calendar even...
Fantastical is the Mac calendar you'll actually enjoy using. Creating an event with Fantastical is quick, easy, and fun: Open Fantastical with a single click or keystroke Type in your event details... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

It's up to you to decide which of t...
Thursday has slipped up on us once again, and here at 148Apps that means it's time to start the game of the week process all over again. We've picked five of the best games that have come out over the last seven days, and it's up to you which of... | Read more »
REACH classic puzzles its way onto mobil...
Match-3 puzzler REACH classic proved a smash hit during its Canadian soft launch, and now developer B2tGame has brought it to mobile devices worldwide so you can see what all the fuss is about. After topping the App Store charts for the puzzle,... | Read more »
The best female characters in mobile gam...
In the world of mobile gaming, truly well-made games can often be something of a rarity. Well-made games that feature female protagonists are even rarer, and while many games give you the option to choose between a male or female avatar, it's not... | Read more »
Knights Chronicle guide - Everything you...
The latest update to Knights Chronicle brought us some balance changes and interesting new characters, but perhaps the most interesting addition of all is the game’s new mode. Guild Battle allows teams of players to test their collective strength... | Read more »
This week's game of the week is the...
Well it was a tight one this week, but after a count, a recount, and a harried phone call with the game of the week administration in Strasbourg, we can now reveal that the winner of this week's game of the week award is midcore stealth banger,... | Read more »
How to get the highest score in Tomb of...
Tomb of the Mask is a super-quick arcade dasher with remarkably simple swipe controls. It's also fiendishly tough, and if it gets your claws into you there's a very good chance that about every third second of your life is going to be consumed by... | Read more »
Which mobile games let you experience li...
There are plenty of what you might call standard experiences on the App Store. You know the sort of game I'm talking about. A man wanders around hurting people in order to complete some task, quest, or mission. It's the way video games have been... | Read more »
Which of these 5 mobile games deserves t...
Time certainly flies when you're having fun, and if you spend all of your life playing the best mobile games in the world, you best believe that time's flying like a bullet from a really big gun. Basically what I'm saying is that it's Thursday... | Read more »
Knights Chronicle guide - Everything you...
It seems like every two weeks, we can expect some new and exciting things to come to Knights Chronicle. In the last update, there were some nice quality of life features added to the game, but aside from a couple new heroes, not anything huge to... | Read more »
Numbers and monsters RPG Math and Sorcer...
We've counted up all the votes, sent them off to the court of arbitration in Strasbourg and had them vetted by an independent panel of retired judges and this guy we know who said he was real honest. I tell you all of this so when I announce the... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Education customers can save up to $400 on a...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad Pro using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $400 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution with a .edu email address qualify for... Read more
Education customers can save up to $400 on a...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad Pro using Apple’s Education discount, and take up to $400 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution with a .edu email address qualify for... Read more
Apple restocks clearance 2017 15″ MacBook Pro...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2017 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1909. Apple’s refurbished prices are the lowest available for each model from any reseller. An standard Apple... Read more
7.9″ 128GB iPad mini 4 on sale for $100 off M...
Jet.com has Space Gray 128GB iPad mini 4 models on sale for $299.99 or 25% off MSRP: – 128GB iPad mini 4: $299.99, $100 off Shipping is free on all orders over $35. Walmart has all colors of the... Read more
10″ 64GB iPad Pro available for $598 for Sams...
Sams Club has 10.5″ 64GB Apple WiFi iPad Pros on sale for $51 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices for online orders only, in-store prices may vary... Read more
Adorama matches B&H, offers new 2018 Touc...
Adorama is now offering new 2018 MacBook Pros for up to $150 off MSRP. 15″ MacBook Pros are on sale for $150 off Apple’s price and 13″ MacBook Pros for $100 off. Both Space Gray and Silver models are... Read more
Apple offers refurbished 2016 13″ Touch Bar M...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros available today starting at $1349, or up to $480 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Brand New Macs Found Susceptible to Being Hac...
NEWS: 08.13.18- Apple computers are known to be very secure compared to its counterparts and were generally free of viruses and malware until recent years due to its rise in popularity among... Read more
New 2018 MacBook Pro sale! B&H offer 15″...
B&H Photo has new 2018 MacBook Pros on sale this week for $150 off MSRP. They’re offering 15″ MacBook Pros for $150 off Apple’s price and 13″ MacBook Pros for $100 off. Both Space Gray and Silver... Read more
13″ 2.3GHz non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale...
B&H Photo has new 2017 13″ 2.3GHz non-Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for $100-$200 off MSRP this week. B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only, and shipping is free. – 13-inch 2.3GHz/128GB... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**628973BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 001532-Burlington-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master Read more
*Apple* Genius - Technical Customer Service...
Job Description: Job Summary As a Genius at the Apple Store, you maintain customers' trust in Apple as the skilled technical customer service expert, Read more
Senior iCloud Software Engineer - *Apple* P...
Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , new ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring passion and Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**628125BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Location Number:** 002512-Columbus-Store **Job Description:** The Core Apple Computing Master is Read more
*Apple* Genius - Technical Customer Service...
Job Description: Job Summary As a Genius at the Apple Store, you maintain customers' trust in Apple as the skilled technical customer service expert, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.