TweetFollow Us on Twitter

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

Volume Number: 25 (2009)
Issue Number: 04
Column Tag: Virtualization

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

How do VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop for Mac stack up?

by Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Overview

We won't keep you in suspense. In the majority of overall averages of our tests, Parallels Desktop is the clear winner running 14-20% faster than VMware Fusion. The one exception is for those that need to run Windows XP, 32-bit on 2 virtual processors, VMware Fusion runs about 10% faster than Parallels Desktop.

Here are the overall conclusions, but you should really look at more of the detail to understand what works best for you. (Note: In all cases except battery life, when looking at the graphs in this article, take note that shorter bars are better.)


Figure 1: Overall Results, Parallels Desktop vs. VMware Fusion

For 32-bit Windows OSes, running under a single virtual processor (the default when you create virtual machines in either product, and therefore, the most commonly used configuration), Parallels Desktop runs both XP and Vista 14% faster than VMware Fusion. (Comparing 3 types of VM launch times, compression, transcoding MP3, 7 types of file and network IO, 3 types of application launches, and 3 application performance tests.)

For 32-bit Windows OSes, running under two virtual processors, VMware Fusion runs XP 10% faster than Parallels Desktop, and Parallels Desktop runs Vista 20% faster than VMware Fusion. (Comparing 3 types of VM launch times, compression, transcoding MP3, 3 types of application launches, and 3 application performance tests.)

For 64-bit Windows Vista, running under two virtual processors, Parallels Desktop runs 15% faster than VMware Fusion. (Compares 3 types of VM launch times, compression, and transcoding MP3.)


Another way to look at this is the color-coding on the results matrix. Green cell coloring means Parallels Desktop was faster than VMware Fusion. Blue cell coloring indicates VMware Fusion was faster than Parallels Desktop. Darkest coloring means faster by 10% or more, medium coloring indicates 1-10% difference, and lightest coloring means less than 1% difference. (Note: Not all tests were run on all configurations, hence the empty cells.)


Figure 2: Test Results Matrix with Coloring
(Note: This is not intended to be read, but to give you an overview of results
by coloring. See the ftp site for the spreadsheet.)

One thing to note: VMware Fusion was several times slower than Parallels Desktop in the Internet Explorer tests (across the board), so we removed IE from the overall analysis to avoid skewing the overall results. See more on this in the Internet Explorer section below.

The Test Suite and Results

In the sections below, we'll walk you through what we tested, and the results for each. These tests are designed to arm you with information to help you make the best decision for your type of use.

For each set of results, you can see the analysis for each model of computer for XP, and for Vista. If you want to see more detail for multiple processors, 64-bit, or on an individual Mac model, you can review the spreadsheet for those details.

For the launch tests (launching the VM, Windows, and Applications), we had the option of an "Adam" test, and a "Successive" test. Adam tests are when the computer has been completely restarted (hence avoiding caching). Successive tests are repeated tests without restarting the machine in between tests, and can benefit from caching. Both mimic real use situations.

The tests used were selected specifically to give a real-world view of what VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop are like to run for many users. We eliminated those tests that we ran which were so short in time frame (e.g., fast) that we could not create statistically significant results, or that had imperceivable differences.

For some of the analysis, we "normalized" results by dividing the result by the fastest result for that test across all the machine configurations. We did this specifically so that we could make comparisons across different groups, and to be able to give you overview results combining a series of types of tests, and computer models.

Instead of a plain "average" or "mean", overall conclusions are done using a "geomean", which is a specific type of average that focuses on the central results and minimizes outliers. Geomean is the same averaging methodology used by SPEC tests, PCMark, Unixbench, and others, and it helps prevent against minor result skewing. (If you are interested in how it differs from a mean, instead of adding the set of numbers and then dividing the sum by the count of numbers in the set, n, the numbers are multiplied and then the nth root of the resulting product is taken.)

For those interested in the benchmarking methodologies, see the more detailed testing information in Appendix A. For the detailed results of the tests used for the analysis, see Appendix B. Both appendices are available on the MacTech web site.

Launch and CPU Tests

There are three situations in which users commonly launch a virtual machine:

  • Launch the virtual machine from "off" mode, including a full Windows boot
  • Launch the virtual machine from a suspended state, and resume from suspend (Adam)
  • Launch the virtual machine from a suspended state, and resume from suspend (Successive)

For the first test, we started at the Finder and launched the virtualization application, which then immediately launched the virtual machine. The visual feedback is fairly different between Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion when Windows first starts up. As a result, we focused on timing to the point of actually accomplishing something. In this case, we hovered over the Start button and launched Internet Explorer. The test ended when the home page (a very small locally served page which loaded fast in all environments) was rendered.

The primary difference between the last two types of VM launch test is that the computer is fully rebooted (both the virtual machine as well as Mac OS X) in between the "Adam" tests. The successive tests are launching the virtual machines and restoring them without restarting the Mac in between.

Successive tests benefit from both Mac OS X and possibly virtual machine caching, and are significantly faster. But, you may only see these types of situations if you constantly launching and terminating your virtual machine.

We noticed that while doing these tests, results wildly varied even within the same test machines. To be fair, we did these tests multiple times, and took the best results for each product.

End result for each of these sets of tests (geomean across Mac models) is:

  • Launch the virtual machine including a full Windows boot:

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 11% faster (the actual range was 3-8 seconds faster, fastest test: 44 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 31% faster (range: 9-28 seconds faster, fastest: 32 seconds)

  • Launch the virtual machine, and resume from suspend (Adam)

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 7% faster (range: 1-9 seconds faster, fastest: 23 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 10% faster (range: 1 second slower to 10 seconds faster, fastest: 27 seconds)
  • Launch the virtual machine, and resume from suspend (Successive)

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 22% faster (range: 0-3 seconds faster, fastest: 4 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 17% faster (range: 0-1 seconds faster, fastest: 4 seconds)


Figure 3: Windows OS Launch Performance

Clearly, machines with more memory took far longer to restore, so if you are going in and out of a VM often, you may want to think about using less RAM, not more. In fact, you should just use as little as you need anyway for the best experience under either virtualized environment. (We suggest 1GB for most people.)

There are two CPU performance tests that are commonly run as part of benchmarks, and that we did here as well. These include:

  • Compressing files using the built-in Windows compression tools

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 15% faster (range: 0-3 seconds faster, fastest: 6 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 12% faster (range: 0-2 seconds faster, fastest: 8 seconds)

  • Transcoding an MP3 to a .wav file

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 30% faster (range: 2-6 seconds faster, fastest: 7 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 6% faster (range: 0-1 seconds faster, fastest: 9 seconds)

As a matter of interest, we used compression instead of decompression, because with today's fast computers, decompression is actually much closer to a file copy than it is to CPU work. Compression requires the system to do a good amount of analysis to do the compression, and is therefore a better measurement of CPU.


Figure 4: Virtual Machine CPU Performance

Application Launch Test

Here, we tested two of the most common applications used in virtualized desktop environments: Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook. Most applications, including these, launch very quickly with the worst performance being under Vista for Adam launches.

Similar to the OS launch tests, an Adam launch is one where Windows has been completely rebooted, and then given a few minutes to finish its startup process. A successive launch test is done repeatedly without restarting Windows.

Here are the results:

  • Microsoft Word Adam Launch

    • XP: VMware Fusion 8% faster (range: 2 seconds slower to 1 second faster, fastest: 3 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 33% faster (range: 3-6 seconds faster, fastest: 8 seconds)

  • Microsoft Word Successive Launch

    • XP: VMware Fusion 17% faster (range: 0-0.5 seconds faster, fastest: 1.4 seconds)

    • Vista: VMware Fusion 30% faster (range: 0.2-1 seconds faster, fastest: 1.7 seconds)

  • Microsoft Outlook Successive Launch

    • XP: VMware Fusion 1% faster (range: 0.3 seconds slower to 0.25 seconds faster, fastest: 3.4 seconds)

    • Vista: Parallels Desktop 13% faster (range: 0.15-1.2 seconds faster, fastest: 2 seconds)


Figure 5: Windows Application Launch Performance



Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

CrossOver 14.1.6 - Run Windows apps on y...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more
Printopia 2.1.14 - Share Mac printers wi...
Run Printopia on your Mac to share its printers to any capable iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Printopia will also add virtual printers, allowing you to save print-outs to your Mac and send to apps.... Read more
Google Drive 1.24 - File backup and shar...
Google Drive is a place where you can create, share, collaborate, and keep all of your stuff. Whether you're working with a friend on a joint research project, planning a wedding with your fiancé, or... Read more
Chromium 45.0.2454.85 - Fast and stable...
Chromium is an open-source browser project that aims to build a safer, faster, and more stable way for all Internet users to experience the web. Version 45.0.2454.85: Note: Does not contain the "... Read more
OmniFocus 2.2.5 - GTD task manager with...
OmniFocus helps you manage your tasks the way that you want, freeing you to focus your attention on the things that matter to you most. Capturing tasks and ideas is always a keyboard shortcut away in... Read more
iFFmpeg 5.7.1 - Convert multimedia files...
iFFmpeg is a graphical front-end for FFmpeg, a command-line tool used to convert multimedia files between formats. The command line instructions can be very hard to master/understand, so iFFmpeg does... Read more
VOX 2.6 - Music player that supports man...
VOX is a beautiful music player that supports many filetypes. 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... Read more
Box Sync 4.0.6567 - Online synchronizati...
Box Sync gives you a hard-drive in the Cloud for online storage. Note: You must first sign up to use Box. What if the files you need are on your laptop -- but you're on the road with your iPhone? No... Read more
Carbon Copy Cloner 4.1.4 - Easy-to-use b...
Carbon Copy Cloner backups are better than ordinary backups. Suppose the unthinkable happens while you're under deadline to finish a project: your Mac is unresponsive and all you hear is an ominous,... Read more
OmniGraffle Pro 6.3.1 - Create diagrams,...
OmniGraffle Pro helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. We've had people use... Read more

You Can Play Madfinger Games' Unkil...
Madfinger Games - probably best known for the Dead Trigger series - has officially launched their newest zombie shooter (that isn't called Dead Trigger), named Unkilled. [Read more] | Read more »
Rock(s) Rider - HD Edition (Games)
Rock(s) Rider - HD Edition 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: *** PLEASE NOTE: Compatible with iPhone 4s, iPad 2, iPad mini, iPod touch (5th generation) or newer *** Do you... | Read more »
Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville (Games)
Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: It's been a few years since the zombpocalypse turned the world's cities into graveyards and sent the few... | Read more »
Power Ping Pong (Games)
Power Ping Pong 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Do you wield your bat with zen-like focus or do your balls of fury give you a killer spin? Table tennis goes mobile with a... | Read more »
Z.O.N.A Project X (Games)
Z.O.N.A Project X 1.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.00 (iTunes) Description: Z.O.N.A Project X - shooter in the post-apocalyptic world. | Read more »
Trick Shot (Games)
Trick Shot 1.0.6 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.6 (iTunes) Description: A game where all you have to do is throw a ball into a box, simple? Trick Shot is a minimalist physics puzzler with 90 levels... | Read more »
Goat Simulator MMO Simulator (Games)
Goat Simulator MMO Simulator 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** IMPORTANT - SUPPORTED DEVICESiPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPod Touch 5 or better.** Coffee Stain Studios brings next-gen... | Read more »
Worms™ 4 (Games)
Worms™ 4 1.02 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.02 (iTunes) Description: The latest instalment in the worldwide mega hit franchise! Coming soon to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. When the guys and girls at... | Read more »
The Deer God (Games)
The Deer God 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: 30% off launch sale!!! “It can be a struggle, but it's all worth it when you're shooting fire out your antlers.” Kotaku “The... | Read more »
AppSpy's Patreon campaign kicks off
Occasionally you'll see us use AppSpy's videos here on 148Apps to support an article we've written. That's because we're part of Steel Media, and AppSpy is Steel's video arm, so we're all part of one happy family. [Read more] | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Near-Office Input Functionality Virtually Any...
Today Logitech introduced the Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard and the Logitech M535 Bluetooth Mouse, giving users the freedom to work on any device, most anywhere. According to... Read more
College Student Deals: Additional $100 off Ma...
Take an additional $100 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through September 4, 2015. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take... Read more
Will You Buy An iPad Pro? – The ‘Book Mystiqu...
It looks like we may not have to wait much longer to see what finally materializes as a new, larger-panel iPad (Pro/Plus?) Usually reliable Apple product prognosticator KGI Securities analyst Ming-... Read more
eFileCabinet Announces SMB Document Managemen...
Electronic document management (EDM) eFileCabinet, Inc., a hosted solutions provider for small to medium businesses, has announced that its SecureDrawer and eFileCabinet Online services will be... Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils American-Made, All...
San Francisco’s WaterField Designs today unveiled their all-leather Cozmo 2.0 — an elegant attach laptop bag with carefully-designed features to suit any business environment. The Cozmo 2.0 is... Read more
Apple’s 2015 Back to School promotion: Free B...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
128GB MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP,...
B&H Photo has 11″ & 13″ MacBook Airs with 128GB SSDs on sale for $100 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air: $799.99, $100 off MSRP... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679, save $...
B&H Photo has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1679.99 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more
Apple and Cisco Partner to Deliver Fast-Lane...
Apple and Cisco have announced a partnership to create a “fast lane” for iOS business users by optimizing Cisco networks for iOS devices and apps. The alliance integrates iPhone with Cisco enterprise... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Repair Techn...
Simply Mac is the greatest premier retailer of Apple products expertise in North America. We're looking for dedicated individuals to provide personalized service and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the greatest premier retailer of Apple products expertise in North America. We're looking for dedicated individuals to provide personalized service and Read more
*Apple* Desktop Analyst - KDS Staffing (Unit...
…field and consistent professional recruiting achievement. Job Description: Title: Apple Desktop AnalystPosition Type: Full-time PermanentLocation: White Plains, NYHot Read more
Simply Mac- *Apple* Specialist- Store Manag...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer for Apple products and solutions. We're looking for dedicated individuals with a passion to simplify and enhance the Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.