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

FileZilla 3.51.0 - Fast and reliable FTP...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.51.0: Bugfixes and minor changes: Fixed import of... Read more
KeyCue 9.8 - Displays all menu shortcut...
KeyCue has always been a handy tool for learning and remembering keyboard shortcuts. With a simple keystroke or click, KeyCue displays a table with all available keyboard shortcuts, system-wide... Read more
AppCleaner 3.5.1 - Uninstall your apps e...
AppCleaner allows you to uninstall your apps easily. It searches the files created by the applications and you can delete them quickly. Version 3.5.1: Fixed a code-signing issue causing AppCleaner... Read more
A Better Finder Attributes 7.03 - Change...
A Better Finder Attributes allows you to change JPEG & RAW shooting dates, JPEG EXIF meta-data tags, file creation & modification dates, file flags and deal with invisible files. Correct EXIF... Read more
Postbox 7.0.33 - Powerful and flexible e...
Postbox is a desktop feature-stuffed email client, news application, and feed reader that helps you manage your work life and increase productivity. Now you can organize all your email accounts in... Read more
Adobe InCopy 16.0 - Create streamlined e...
InCopy is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for $52.99/month (or $4.99/month for InCopy app only). Adobe InCopy, ideal for large team projects involving both written copy and design work,... Read more
Steam 2.0 - Multiplayer and communicatio...
Steam is a digital distribution, digital rights management, multiplayer and communications platform developed by Valve Corporation. It is used to distribute a large number of games and related media... Read more
Adobe Lightroom Classic 10.0 - Import, d...
You can download Lightroom for Mac as a part of Creative Cloud for only $9.99/month with Photoshop, included as part of the photography package. The latest version of Lightroom gives you all of the... Read more
Adobe InDesign 16.0 - Professional print...
InDesign is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $20.99/month (or $9.99/month if you're a previous InDesign customer). Adobe InDesign is part of Creative Cloud. That means you... Read more
Adobe After Effects 17.5 - Create profes...
After Effects is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for $52.99/month (or $20.99/month for a single app license). The new, more connected After Effects can make the impossible possible. Get... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Genshin Impact Guide - Gacha Strategy: W...
If you're playing Genshin Impact without spending money, you'll always need to be looking for ways to optimize your play to maximize rewards without getting stuck in a position where you're tempted to spend. The most obvious trap here is the game'... | Read more »
Genshin Impact Adventurer's Guide
Hello and well met, fellow adventurers of Teyvat! Check out our all-in-one resource for all things Genshin Impact. We'll be sure to add more as we keep playing the game, so be sure to come back here to check for updates! [Read more] | Read more »
Genshin Impact Currency Guide - What...
Genshin Impact is great fun, but make no mistake: this is a gacha game. It is designed specifically to suck away time and money from you, and one of the ways the game does this is by offering a drip-feed of currencies you will feel compelled to... | Read more »
XCOM 2 Collection on iOS now available f...
The XCOM 2 Collection, which was recently announced to be coming to iOS in November, is now available to pre-order on the App Store. [Read more] | Read more »
Presidents Run has returned for the 2020...
IKIN's popular endless runner Presidents Run has returned to iOS and Android just in time for the 2020 election season. It will see players choosing their favourite candidate and guiding them on a literal run for presidency to gather as many votes... | Read more »
New update for Cookies Must Die adds new...
A new update for Rebel Twins’ platformer shooter Cookies Must Die is coming out this week. The update adds quite a bit to the game, including new levels and characters to play around with. [Read more] | Read more »
Genshin Impact Guide - How to Beat Pyro...
The end game of Genshin Impact largely revolves around spending resin to take on world bosses and clear domain challenges. These fights grant amazing rewards like rare artifacts and ascension materials for weapons and adventurers, but obviously... | Read more »
Moto Rider GO has received a huge update...
Moto Rider GO: Highway Traffic is a popular free-to-play racing game that initially launched back in 2017 and has since racked up over 100 million downloads. Today it has received a sizeable update that introduces several KTM and Husqvarna... | Read more »
ORDESA is a spooky interactive film that...
French studio Cinétévé Experience and ARTE have released interactive movie ORDESA for iOS and Android today. It arrives at the perfect time of year, telling a story about a mysterious haunted house that the viewer suddenly finds themselves lost in... | Read more »
Genshin Impact Guide - How to Beat Storm...
If you've followed our progression guide for Genshin Impact up to Adventure Rank 25, you have reached the point where you can face off against Stormterror on a weekly basis for some pretty sweet rewards. Beating this deadly dragon isn't as easy as... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

AT&T offers the Apple iPhone 11 for $10/m...
AT&T is offering Apple’s 64GB iPhone 11 for $10 per month, for customers opening a new line of service, no trade-in required. Discount is applied via monthly bill credits over a 30 month period.... Read more
Apple’s 2020 11″ iPad Pros on sale today for...
Apple reseller Expercom has new 2020 11″ Apple iPad Pros on sale for $50-$75 off MSRP, with prices starting at $749. These are the same iPad Pros sold by Apple in their retail and online stores: – 11... Read more
Did Apple Drop The Ball By Not Branding Its C...
EDITORIAL: 10.21.20 – In the branding game, your marketing strategy can either be a hit or a miss and the latter is the case for Apple when it missed out on an opportunity to brand its “SE” series of... Read more
27″ 6-core and 8-core iMacs on sale for up to...
Adorama has Apple’s 2020 27″ 6-core and 8-core iMacs on sale today for $50-$100 off MSRP, with prices starting at $1749. Shipping is free: – 27″ 3.1GHz 6-core iMac: $1749, save $50 – 27″ 3.3GHz 6-... Read more
Apple’s 16″ MacBook Pros are on sale for $300...
B&H Photo has 16″ MacBook Pros on sale today for $300-$350 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at $2099. Expedited shipping is free to many addresses in the US. Their prices are among the lowest available... Read more
Apple has 2020 13″ MacBook Airs available sta...
Apple has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2020 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at only $849 and up to $200 off the cost of new Airs. Each MacBook features a new outer case, comes with a... Read more
These major wireless carriers will give you a...
Apple’s wireless partners are offering several deals on iPhone 12 pre-orders right now. If you’re willing to switch carriers, you can get a free iPhone 12 right now. Here’s where to take advantage of... Read more
4 day sale at Sams Club: Save $24-$29 on Appl...
Sams Club has Apple Watch Series 6 GPS models on sale this week for $24-$29 off Apple’s MSRP, starting at $374. Sale ends this Thursday, October 22nd: – 40mm Apple Watch Series 6 GPS: $374.98, save $... Read more
US Cellular offers Apple iPhone 12 Pro for $8...
US Cellular has the 2020 128GB iPhone 12 Pro available for $829 off MSRP for new customers signing up for an Unlimited data plan, or $5.66 per month. Cost of the phone is spread over a 30 month... Read more
Buy one Apple Watch SE or Series 6 at AT&...
Buy one Apple Watch SE or Series 6 at AT&T, and get $200 off the price of a second Apple Watch. One new line required, and price discounted reflected in bill credits over a 30 month period. The... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Endpoint Engineer - Argonne National...
Apple Endpoint Engineer **Requisition Number:** **408932** **Location:** **Lemont, IL** **Functional Area:** **Information Technology** **Division:** **BIS\-Business Read more
Core *Apple* Computing Pro - Best Buy (Unit...
**786358BR** **Job Title:** Core Apple Computing Pro **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store Number or Department:** 001080-Lake Charles-Store **Job Read more
Department Manager- Tech Shop/ *Apple* Stor...
…their parents want, and our faculty needs. As a Department Manager in our Tech Shop/ Apple Store you will spend the majority of your time on the sales floor engaging Read more
Geek Squad *Apple* Consultation Professiona...
**782284BR** **Job Title:** Geek Squad Apple Consultation Professional **Job Category:** Store Associates **Store Number or Department:** 000140-San Carlos-Store Read more
*Apple* /Mac IT Support - Randstad (United St...
Apple /Mac IT Support **job details:** + location:San Francisco, CA + salary:$45 - $50 per hour + date posted:Thursday, October 8, 2020 + job type:Contract + Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.