08-Issues Running 3D Graphics Under Virtualization
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08-Issues Running 3D Graphics Under Virtualization

Issues Running 3D Graphics Under Virtualization

While we've been able to run previous versions of 3DMark06 on previous MacBook Pros and previous versions of Mac OS X, we were unable to successfully run 3DMark06 version 1.2 under VMware Fusion 3.0, 3.1.0, and 3.1.1 on the 2.53GHz MacBook Pro under Mac OS X 10.6.5. We really wanted to see the comparison, and tried more than one piece of hardware, reformatting hard drives, fresh virtual machines, etc., all with no success.  The test would typically hang the virtual machine and often corrupt the virtual machine.

Right as we were finishing up the testing, VMware released Fusion 3.1.2. We were interested to see if this would solve the MacBook Pro issue, and it in fact did. But, the resulting 3DMark06 results were poor. In our cursory tests on a Mac Pro, it appears that version 3.1.2 may be as much as 40% slower in graphics than 3.1.1 when looking at 3DMark06 results. Since we believe this is something that VMware will likely fix at some point, we didn't want to penalize Fusion by using the 3.1.2 version, and stuck with the 3.1.1 version (which worked as expected for the other Mac models) for all of our testing in this article.

On all Mac models, it was common for us to see a partially rendered scene when running 3DMark06 tests in VMware Fusion. Often, we would see just some of the characters, and not the background, or a partial background. See the screen shots for an example of the same scene rendered in both products.

Parallels Desktop fully renders scene

VMware Fusion only partially renders scene

Based on past experiences, we expected things to run well on the Mac Pro and MacBook Pro. While the MacBook Pro couldn't run 3DMark06 and some of the games, others performed more as we expected. We were very pleased to see how well the new iMacs run graphics, and games—a noticeable difference from just a couple of years ago. That said, if you are trying to run these games under virtualization on a MacBook with its limited memory and horsepower, you may want to think a bit more about what you are asking your machine to do. We don't recommend that at all.

Obviously, the results for 3DMark06 vary greatly by the hardware they are on because of the graphics hardware of each machine. As such, the best way to look at these is in the detailed spreadsheet where you can see results for each model for each OS.

Overall, these result charts will give you an idea of some of the things that VMware Fusion did well in, and the overwhelming winner that Parallels Desktop is in this graphics competition.

Description: 3D-HDRCPUGT
HDR, CPU and GT Tests 3DMark06 Suite

Description: 3D-ShaderFill
Details from 3DMark06 Suite of Tests

On the 3DMark06 Performance chart, you'll see a variety of places where there is no data. This was specifically where VMware Fusion, running on the MacBook Pro, was unable to run part of the tests, and therefore there are no data at that point on the chart. Because of this, when comparing, we removed MacBook Pro from the results. Parallels was able to run all the tests on all the Mac models without a problem.

Where the overall 3D graphics performance win clearly belongs to Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion does beat Parallels in a few of the tests within the 3DMark06 suite such as the triangles test under Windows 7, fill rate single-texturing under both XP/7, and shader particles test under Windows 7.

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