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

3D and HD Graphics Tests

When we first started out to test 3D and HD Graphics, we were looking for ways to measure in a benchmark setting. What we found were a couple of things. First, in some cases, the performance on both platforms was so good; there was nothing that we could measure. Second, the common metric, frames per second, is a poor method for measuring this. Let's look at each case to explain.

One thing to note about the differences between BootCamp and virtualization products: According to Apple's tech note, when it comes to the new MacBook Pros with multiple graphics processors, there are issues with graphics support when running Apple's BootCamp. Specifically, "You may notice that the built-in NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics subsystem does not appear in the Device Manager and cannot be used with Microsoft Windows XP or Vista." (See http://support.apple.com/kb/TS2457 ). This is not the case for the virtualization products mentioned here, where it works fine.

Play Windows Video High Definition, 720p

To test HD Video, we used the movies on Microsoft's web site at www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/musicandvideo/hdvideo/contentshowcase.aspx. We found that 720p movies played quickly and smoothly in both environments under XP.

For Vista, however, it was entirely differently. Parallels Desktop was unable to play it at all. VMware Fusion stuttered on the MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac, but was able to play it fine on the Mac Pro.

Play Windows Video High Definition, 1080p

The 1080p videos also came from the above Microsoft site. They played well under both Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion running XP. Given the 720p results, we didn't bother attempting them under Vista.

Games

One of the most frequent questions that we were asked after our last virtualization benchmarks was "What about games?" Choosing games to test in virtualized environments is extremely difficult. After all, you'd want to look at games that run on both platforms (even though both virtualization products support slightly different graphics capabilities). And, you'd want to test a game that isn't available on the Mac (otherwise, why wouldn't you just run it there?) And, of course, you want to test games that people are eager to play.

There are very few games that fit all of these parameters, but we were able to find two.

Civilization IV: Colonization

This is a relatively new game built on the well-established Civilization IV engine. Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization is the third offering in the Civilization IV series. It's essentially a modern re-make (Firaxis calls it a re-imagining) of the classic Colonization game Sid Meier created in 1994, Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization is a conversion of the Civilization IV engine into a game experience in which players lead a European nation on their quest to colonize and thrive in the "New World." Players are challenged to guide their people from the oppressive motherland, discover a New World, negotiate, trade and fight as they acquire great power and battle for their freedom and independence. As you can see from the overview screen shot, the graphics provide an amazing experience.


Figure 12: Civilization IV: Colonization, Overview of game running on PC

To benchmark, we loaded the same Civilization IV: Colonization scenario on each machine, and used the built-in tools of the game to measure frames per second. The results showed Parallels Desktop winning the FPS test across the board, but this was not representative of the situation. Yes, Parallels Desktop had a faster FPS (see spreadsheet if you are really interested), but the richness of the VMware Fusion graphics was significantly more detailed and better. For example, instead of just water, VMware Fusion had many more fish jumping out of the water, more realistic textures, really nice reflections, detail on land, etc. At the same time, Parallels Desktop was more fluid (i.e., it worked better) on the slower machines. FPS was clearly not a good test to judge these environments by.

In general, the game ran very well in both environments. VMware Fusion had difficulties showing the startup video (it would often not play the video, just the sound), but if you hit the escape key, and took it full screen, it worked fine after that. Parallels Desktop didn't have those issues, but as we mentioned, the graphics were not as rich. You can get an idea comparing the two screen shots here, but it's even more apparent with the graphics in motion.


Figure 13: Civilization IV: Colonization under Parallels Desktop


Figure 14: Civilization IV: Colonization under VMware Fusion

VMware Fusion had issues running it on the MacBook, presumably because of the lighter graphics capabilities of that model. Under Parallels Desktop on a MacBook, it was playable, but not a great experience.

Either way, if you have an interest in this period of history, they both played well in virtualized environments, and you should check them out. http://www.firaxis.com/

Portal

Portal is an incredibly enticing "action/puzzle" game developed by Valve Software (http://www.valvesoftware.com). As described by Valve, "The game is designed to change the way players approach, manipulate, and surmise the possibilities in a given environment: players must solve physical puzzles and challenges by opening portals to maneuvering objects, and themselves, through space."


Figure 15: Portal under Parallels Desktop

After installing the game through Steam (http://store.steampowered.com/), we tested the game by measuring frames per second while running a consistent demo mode. Here, there were mixed results. When looking at frames per second in Portal, all the machines did fairly well, except we were unable to get the game to run at all on the MacBook running VMware Fusion. No idea what that's about other than possibly, again, the light graphics capabilities of a MacBook. There were some additional comments on the VMware community board on problems with Portal for some running XP SP3. Parallels Desktop was a bit choppier on the MacBook, but it did run, and was completely playable.

For the other Mac models, VMware Fusion was much faster when looking at the frame rate measurements, but we didn't really see a difference in smoothness. One issue, however, with VMware Fusion is that we found that the graphics on all screens was much lighter (it made us feel like we were outside on a bright sunny day without sunglasses). Parallels Desktop felt much more comfortable to look at, and the detail showed better with the proper contrast/brightness. Compare the two figures for yourself to see.


Figure 16: Portal under VMware Fusion

Gaming Conclusions

First, while we were eager to see the frames per second measurements, and we've left them in the spreadsheet for you to see if you want to, we find this measurement a poor way to judge things. Clearly, the graphics for VMware Fusion were much richer in Civilization IV: Colonization, despite a lower FPS. And, similarly, while Parallels Desktop's FPS was lower for Portal, it was a better experience because of the "brightness" of the graphics. [Ed. Note: Parallels has told MacTech that Parallels Desktop is designed to work with vsync enabled in a synchronous mode with the monitor. In other words, they intentionally limit Frames Per Second (FPS) to not exceed the limits of the monitor, and that 60 FPS is standard for the majority of LCD monitors. Apparently, Apple's guidelines recommend this to save battery life and minimize fan operation.]

Our advice? If gaming is your primary reason for a virtual machine, then figure out what games you want to play, and see what the online discussions are about them. If gaming is just an added benefit for you, then choose the games that work best for your VM. Either way, we were pleasantly surprised at how well both these games played in a virtualized environment. And highly recommend both of the games we played with ... er, I mean, looked at, here. :)

Graphics Standards

The graphics standards can get confusing quickly. To clarify, DirectX 9.0 Shader Model 2 standard has two parts: Pixel and Vertex Shaders 2.0.

Both VMware Fusion 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 supports DirectX 9.0 with full Shader Model 2 graphics. That's why reflections in water and such look so good above.

Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac build 3540 (the version tested) supported Pixel Shaders 2.0 only and that made a visible difference as you saw in Civilization IV: Colonization. But, in build 3810 they added support for Vertex Shaders 2.0. This addition means that build 3810 and beyond supports DirectX 9.0 the full Shader Model 2 like VMware Fusion. [Ed. Note: Parallels reports to MacTech that this new version makes a visible difference in the quality of the graphics in Civilization IV: Colonization.]

Overall Conclusions

There are additional conclusions that we can extract from the results as well. Specifically, we looked at the differences between XP and Vista, as well as multiple virtual processors and 64-bit Vista.

XP vs. Vista

In our last virtualization benchmarking article, there was a significant difference between running Microsoft XP vs. Microsoft Vista. Now, the difference is much less significant, in fact, while XP continues to be faster for most things, it's probably not enough to matter. You should make your choice based on which OS you want. That said, anecdotally, we find XP under virtualization to be far more stable, and definitely less annoying to run.


Figure 17: Windows XP vs. Windows Vista Performance

Multiple Virtual Processors and 64-bit

There's a big push right now for multiple virtual processors and 64-bit Windows. And, while there are times that you may need them, most people will not.

Multiple virtual processors are helpful for when you have a computationally intensive application, and you need to split the work. The types of applications that you normally would need this for include video, Photoshop, CAD, etc... Frankly, if speed is that important to you, you should be asking yourself about whether to run the app native on your Mac instead of in a virtual machine. Sometimes, like for CAD, you may not have an option. Take note, however, Microsoft has limitations in their user license on the number of processors you are running. While Parallels Desktop supports multiple cores up to two quad core virtual processors, VMware Fusion supports only multiple virtual processors, not multiple virtual cores. As a result, we could only test both up to two virtual CPUs under Windows.

64-bit is another issue. Primarily, your big benefit here is that you can address a whole lot more memory. For most virtualization users, this is likely not relevant. Many of the Windows applications and drivers still are not 64-bit compatible, and there are all kinds of reports of issues. This is the future of where Windows is going, but it's not necessary for most users.

That said, we wanted to give you a look at what performance looked like for both of these for what most people probably run: Windows, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer. As you can see, while there's some difference, you have to judge if it's enough to be worthwhile. For most, 32-bit XP is likely adequate.


Figure 18: Multiple Virtual Processors, 64-bit Performance



Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4
 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Safari Technology Preview 11.1 - The new...
Safari Technology Preview contains the most recent additions and improvements to WebKit and the latest advances in Safari web technologies. And once installed, you will receive notifications of... Read more
Google Chrome 61.0.3163.91 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Dropbox 35.4.20 - Cloud backup and synch...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
GraphicConverter 10.5 - $39.95
GraphicConverter is an all-purpose image-editing program that can import 200 different graphic-based formats, edit the image, and export it to any of 80 available file formats. The high-end editing... Read more
Chromium 61.0.3163.91 - 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 61.0.3163.91: Release notes were unavailable... Read more
Vitamin-R 2.50 - Personal productivity t...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
XMind 8 Update 4 - Popular mind mapping...
XMind is the most popular mind mapping tool. Millions of people use XMind to clarify thinking, manage complex information, run brainstorming and get work organized. It couldn't be easier to get... Read more
Direct Mail 5.0.1 - Create and send grea...
Direct Mail is an easy-to-use, fully-featured email marketing app purpose-built for macOS. Create, send, and track great looking email campaigns that get results. Start your newsletter by selecting... Read more
Quicken 4.6.3 - Complete personal financ...
Quicken makes managing your money easier than ever. Whether paying bills, upgrading from Windows, enjoying more reliable downloads, or getting expert product help, Quicken's new and improved features... Read more
Smultron 10.0 - Easy-to-use, powerful te...
Smultron 10 is an elegant and powerful text editor that is easy to use. You can use Smultron 10 to create or edit any text document. Everything from a web page, a note or a script to any single piece... Read more

Find out how you can save £35 and win a...
Nothing raises excitement like a good competition, and we’re thrilled to announce our latest contest. We’ll be sending one lucky reader and a friend to the Summoners War World Arena Championship at Le Comedia in Paris on October 7th. It’s the... | Read more »
Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story...
Another Lost Phone: Laura's Story 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Another Lost Phone is a game about exploring the social life of a young woman whose phone you have just... | Read more »
The Witness (Games)
The Witness 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: You wake up, alone, on a strange island full of puzzles that will challenge and surprise you. You don't remember who you are, and... | Read more »
Egg, Inc. guide - how to build your gold...
Egg, Inc.'s been around for some time now, but don't you believe for one second that this quirky clicker game has gone out of style. The game keeps popping up on Reddit and other community forums thanks to the outlandish gameplay (plus, the... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
Good news, everyone! Your favorite day of the week has arrived at last -- it's discount roundup day! This fine Wednesday evening we're gathering up the hottest deals on the App Store. We've got action platformers, we've got puzzle games, we've got... | Read more »
Morphite (Games)
Morphite 1.08 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.08 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Fitness AR (Healthcare & Fitness)
Fitness AR 0.1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Healthcare & Fitness Price: $2.99, Version: 0.1.1 (iTunes) Description: Explore your Strava bike rides and runs in augmented reality. A beautiful 3D terrain map, powered by Mapbox... | Read more »
ARise (Games)
ARise 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: **ARKit only Puzzle game****Chapter 1 available now - More worlds coming soon!** ARise is an experience about perspective. Using the AR... | Read more »
The best games to play while you wait fo...
SteamWorld Dig 2 is out this week on PC and Switch, and people are understandably excited. This clever series by Image and Form combines our favorite metroidvania mechanics with an esquisite universe, excellent storytelling, and true wit. While... | Read more »
Drag'n'Boom beginner's gu...
Have you ever wanted to burn and pillage a village as a bloodthirsty dragon? If you answered yes to that question, Drag'n'Boom offers you the perfect chance to do so, casting you as an adorable little dragon that wants to set humankind aflame. It... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

$100 off new 2017 13-inch MacBook Airs
B&H Photo has 2017 13″ MacBook Airs on sale today for $100 off MSRP including free shipping. B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: – 13″ 1.8GHz/128GB MacBook Air (MQD32LL/A): $899, $100 off... Read more
Apple restocks Certified Refurbished 13-inch...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ MacBook Airs available starting at $719 and 2016 models available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
Is iPhone X Really The Future Of The Smartpho...
Should iPhone X even be called a telephone? It does of course support telephony and texting, but its main feature set is oriented to other things. It is also debatable whether it makes any rational... Read more
OtterBox Announces Full Case Lineup for iPhon...
Apple revolutionized the smartphone industry 10 years ago with the original iPhone, and OtterBox has set the standard of protection from the very beginning by protecting every generation of iPhone.... Read more
LifeProof Introduces What’s NEXT Cases for iP...
LifeProof built its reputation on sleek, ultra-protective iPhone cases. From 360-degree coverage to the first screenless waterproof case, the protection pioneer has always pushed the limits.... Read more
Apple Refurbished 2016 15-inch MacBook Pros a...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ Touch Bar MacBook Pros available starting at $1949. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: – 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar Space... Read more
Wednesday deal: 15-inch MacBook Pros for up t...
B&H Photo has 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for $150-$200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2199, $200 off MSRP... Read more
2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $599, $100 off MS...
B&H Photo has the 2.6GHz Mac mini (MGEN2LL/A) on sale for $599 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Snag a 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, App...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off original MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro currently offered by... Read more
Apple Refurbished 3TB Time Capsule for $279,...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 3TB Time Capsules available for $279 including free shipping plus Apple’s standard one-year warranty. Their price is $120 off MSRP. Read more

Jobs Board

Full time *Apple* Hardware Tech needed - ma...
…high level of attention to detail Ethics, integrity and trust Be a geek & Previous Apple experience a must. Previous Apple Retail or other Apple Specialist Read more
Development Operations and Site Reliability E...
Development Operations and Site Reliability Engineer, Apple Payment Gateway Job Number: 57572631 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jul. 27, 2017 Read more
*Apple* Store - Technical Specialist - Apple...
…customers purchase our products, you're the one who helps them get more out of their new Apple technology. Your day in the Apple Store is filled with a range of Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
Job Summary The Apple News Product Marketing Manager will work closely with a cross-functional group to assist in defining and marketing new features and services. Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.