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One of the most frequent questions that we were asked over the past couple of years of virtualization benchmarks was "What about games?" The 3DMark06 testing did give us good insight and excellent consistently measured data, but we also wanted to try some games and see how they worked.

First, the issues that we saw in 3DMark06 were further confirmed when playing actual games. For example, in this screen shot, you'll see that VMware Fusion didn't render the weapon in the soldier's hands, nor the table that the ammunition is supposed to be sitting on (just like in some of the 3DMark06 tests). In addition, some of the textures, such as on the man's gloves, don't render properly (again, like in 3DMark06). We saw VMware Fusion's issues with textures in a variety of games and tests. In addition, VMware Fusion doesn't render the landscapes properly in Empire Total War and other games.

VMware Fusion has issues rendering objects and textures in Call of Duty

Parallels was able to render all the objects, and the textures properly. In the screen shot, you can see the cases, the tables, the soldier's weapon, and even the generator under the table.

Parallels rendered all objects and textures properly in Call of Duty.

Some games, such as Mass Effect 2, didn't run at all in VMware Fusion, but ran fine in Parallels Desktop. There are other games that don't run in either Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion for a variety of reasons, including that they require graphics technologies not yet supported in virtualization. In the end, before you purchase a game to run in virtualization, check around to see what others say about them running.

Gaming Conclusions

Our advice? There's no doubt, Parallels Desktop 6 is another big jump forward in 3D Graphics performance. This builds on top of the gains that Parallels Desktop 5 had already established. Parallels Desktop 6 is the clear winner in graphics and games over VMware Fusion 3.1.

If gaming is your primary reason for a virtual machine, then determine which games you want to play, double check the online discussions about them, and go for it. Furthermore, you may want to use a virtualization setup that allows you to share a Boot Camp volume with your virtual machine so that you can have even greater performance when you want it.

Either way, we continue to be impressed with just how well these games played in Parallels Desktop 6. Maybe we'll just have to go and spend a bunch of time assessing Windows games under virtualization…if nothing else, it's a good excuse, right? <g>

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