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
 
AAPL
$119.00
Apple Inc.
+1.40
MSFT
$47.75
Microsoft Corpora
+0.28
GOOG
$540.37
Google Inc.
-0.71

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Skype 7.2.0.412 - 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
HoudahSpot 3.9.6 - Advanced file search...
HoudahSpot is a powerful file search tool built upon MacOS X Spotlight. Spotlight unleashed Create detailed queries to locate the exact file you need Narrow down searches. Zero in on files Save... Read more
RapidWeaver 6.0.3 - Create template-base...
RapidWeaver is a next-generation Web design application to help you easily create professional-looking Web sites in minutes. No knowledge of complex code is required, RapidWeaver will take care of... Read more
iPhoto Library Manager 4.1.10 - Manage m...
iPhoto Library Manager lets you organize your photos into multiple iPhoto libraries. Separate your high school and college photos from your latest summer vacation pictures. Or keep some photo... Read more
iExplorer 3.5.1.9 - View and transfer al...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
MacUpdate Desktop 6.0.3 - Discover and i...
MacUpdate Desktop 6 brings seamless 1-click installs and version updates to your Mac. With a free MacUpdate account and MacUpdate Desktop 6, Mac users can now install almost any Mac app on macupdate.... Read more
SteerMouse 4.2.2 - Powerful third-party...
SteerMouse is an advanced driver for USB and Bluetooth mice. It also supports Apple Mighty Mouse very well. SteerMouse can assign various functions to buttons that Apple's software does not allow,... Read more
iMazing 1.1 - Complete iOS device manage...
iMazing (was DiskAid) is the ultimate iOS device manager with capabilities far beyond what iTunes offers. With iMazing and your iOS device (iPhone, iPad, or iPod), you can: Copy music to and from... Read more
PopChar X 7.0 - Floating window shows av...
PopChar X helps you get the most out of your font collection. With its crystal-clear interface, PopChar X provides a frustration-free way to access any font's special characters. Expanded... Read more
OneNote 15.4 - Free digital notebook fro...
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

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Lucha Amigos (Games)
Lucha Amigos 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Forget Ninja Turtles, and meet Wrestlers Turtles! Crazier, Spicier and…Bouncier! Sling carapaces of 7 Luchadores to knock all... | Read more »
Raby (Games)
Raby 1.0.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.3 (iTunes) Description: ***WARNING - Raby runs on: iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Mini Retina, iPad Mini 3, iPad 4, iPad Air,... | Read more »
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath (Games)
Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: ** PLEASE NOTE: Oddworld Stranger's Wrath requires at least an iPhone 4S, iPad 2, iPad Mini or iPod Touch 5th gen... | Read more »
Bounce On Back (Games)
Bounce On Back 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Dwelp (Games)
Dwelp 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: === 50% off for a limited time, to celebrate release === Dwelp is an elegant little puzzler with a brand new game mechanic. To complete a... | Read more »
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Maker...
Make Way for Fat Chicken, from the Makers of Scrap Squad Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Relevant Games has announced they will be releasing their reverse tower defense game, | Read more »
Tripnary Review
Tripnary Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: TRAVEL BUCKET LISTiPhone App - Designed for the iPhone, compatible with the iPad Want to create a travel bucket list? Tripnary is a fun way to do exactly that... | Read more »
Ossian Studios’ RPG, The Shadow Sun, is...
Ossian Studios’ RPG, The Shadow Sun, is Now Available for $4.99 Posted by Jessica Fisher on November 26th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Mmmm, Tasty – Having the Angry Birds for...
The very first Angry Birds debuted on iOS back in 2009. When you sit back and tally up the number of Angry Birds games out there and the impact they’ve had on pop culture as a whole, you just need to ask yourself: “How would the birds taste... | Read more »
Rescue Quest Review
Rescue Quest Review By Jennifer Allen on November 26th, 2014 Our Rating: :: PATH BASED MATCH-3Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide a wizard to safety by matching gems. Rescue Quest might not be an entirely original... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple Store Black Friday sale for 2014: $100...
BLACK FRIDAY The Apple Store has posted their Black Friday deals for 2014. Receive a $100 PRODUCT(RED) branded iTunes gift card with the purchase of select Macs, $50 with iPads, and $25 with iPods,... Read more
Black Friday: 15% off iTunes Gift Cards
Staples is offering 15% off $50 and $100 iTunes Gift Cards on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Click here for more information. Shipping is free. Best Buy is offering $100... Read more
BEVL Releases Dock Tailored for iPhone 6 and...
Seattle based BEVL has released their first product: an iPhone dock that is divergent in build quality, rock-solid function and visual simplicity to complement the iPhone. BEVL is now accepting... Read more
Black Friday: $150 off 13-inch Retina MacBook...
 Best Buy has 13-inch 2.6GHz Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $150 off MSRP on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available).... Read more
Black Friday: $300 off 15-inch Retina MacBook...
 B&H Photo has the new 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for $300 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.2GHz Retina... Read more
Black Friday: Up to $140 off MacBook Airs, fr...
 B&H Photo has 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $140 off MSRP as part of their Black Friday sale. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 11″ 128GB MacBook Air: $799 $100... Read more
Black Friday: 13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on s...
 Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $899.99 on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their... Read more
Black Friday: 21-inch 1.4GHz iMac on sale for...
 Best Buy has the 21″ 1.4GHz iMac on sale for $899.99 on their online store as part of their Black Friday sale. Their price is $200 off MSRP. Choose free shipping or free local store pick up. Price... Read more
Black Friday iPad Air 2 sale prices, $100 off...
 Best Buy has iPad Air 2s on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store for Black Friday. Choose free shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Sale prices available for online orders... Read more
2014 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449, save $...
 B&H Photo has the new 1.4GHz Mac mini on sale for $449.99 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this new model. Adorama... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.