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

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

by Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

Why Virtualization?

A few years back, Apple switched the Mac platform from PowerPC to Intel processors. This introduced some interesting opportunities for the Mac, including the ability to run operating systems other than Mac OS X on a Mac. This includes not only your everyday Windows XP, but also other Windows OSes, including 64-bit versions, and a wide variety of Linux and other OSes.

You may already understand your options for running Windows on a Mac, but in case you don't, your first choice is to decide between Apple's Boot Camp and a virtualization product like VMware Fusion, or Parallels Desktop for Mac. With Apple's Boot Camp, you can run Windows natively, but you have to reboot every time you want to switch between Mac OS and Windows. In addition, you can only use one or the other OS at a time. That's not particularly convenient. For that reason, MacTech recommends a virtualization product for most users.

Virtualization gives "switchers" (those switching from Windows to Mac) more comfort because they can use their old applications, more easily get to old data, and in many cases, and it allows them to use some critical piece of software not available on the Mac. For example, your job may require you to run Internet Explorer, or Outlook, if that's all that your corporate systems support.

With virtualization, like what you'll see in Parallels Desktop for Mac or in VMware Fusion, you can run not only Windows, but other x86-based OSes alongside the Mac OS, getting the best of both worlds. For many, this may mean running the virtualized OS in a "window" on your Mac. Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop also have the ability to run Windows applications even more transparently, but we'll leave that for another article.

The Big Question

So which virtualization product do you choose? Which solution is faster? Should you run Windows XP or Vista? 32-bit or 64-bit? One virtual processor or more? In short, there are different answers for different people. It all depends on your needs.

To tackle this problem, MacTech undertook a huge benchmarking project starting a couple months ago. This is similar to the project that MacTech undertook over a year ago (See the February 2008 issue of MacTech Magazine). In both cases, as with other MacTech benchmarks, we tested performance of the types of things that everyday users typically do. Due to this, we limited the virtualized OS to Windows. In this case, it was not just testing the Windows OS performance, but also commonly used Windows applications. This time, we also added in something that many readers have requested: games! The goal was to see how VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop performed, covering both Windows XP and Vista. Furthermore, we wanted to see some of the differences with larger memory configurations, as well as multiple processors and 64-bit versions of Windows.

Sounds simple enough, right? But when you start to realize that there were four different models of Macs, two virtualized environments, XP and Vista, some of which were 64-bit and multiprocessor, along with a whole slew of tests, each that had to be runs several times, there were over 2500 tests completed, timed with a stopwatch.

In fact, the testing took long enough that during the course of running these tests, both Parallels and VMware released minor updates, but we continued with one set of versions throughout for consistency.

To be clear, this article is not a product review; it's a benchmarking analysis (although we were morally obligated to comment on some of the games <g>). The article's purpose is to assess performance (including issues we found if something didn't work right), and not product features, graphics standards, user interface, OSes supported, etc. You should use feature and support information in conjunction with the below benchmarking results to make your product choice.

The Test Bench

When we were choosing computer models, we set out to choose the current models of Macs giving a good representation of what most people may have. Certainly, the faster models of these computers will perform faster than the models we used.

We chose four current Mac models to compare alongside each other: the "White" MacBook (Late 2008), MacBook Pro (Unibody), iMac, and Mac Pro.

The "White" MacBook was a 2GB RAM machine, running a 2.1 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. The MacBook Pro was the new "Unibody" model with 4GB RAM machine, running a 2.53 GHz Core 2 Duo processor. The iMac was a 2.66 GHz machine with 2GB of RAM. And, the Mac Pro was a 4GB RAM machine, running an eight-core configuration with 2.8 GHz processors.

For the 2GB machines, the virtual machines were set up with 1GB of RAM. The 4GB machines used 2GB for virtual machines. In all cases, except the File and Network IO tests, we used a fixed size disk to avoid any issues with disk fragmentation or other disk performance variations. File and Network IO tests used a dynamically sizing disk on a completely fresh installation of each product.

The tests compared VMware Fusion 2.0.1, with Parallels Desktop for Mac 4.0 (build 3540), running Mac OS X 10.5.5. (In reading the release notes of both Parallels Desktop 4.0 build 3810, and VMware Fusion 2.0.2, it does not appear that the changes in these versions would significantly alter the performance results we found.) All required Windows updates were installed for each version.

Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop were configured so that the virtual machines optimized performance for the virtual machine (and not Mac OS X). [Ed. Note: VMware told MacTech that due to a bug in Mac OS X 10.5.4, VMware Fusion ignored this setting and only optimized for the virtual machine to avoid crash/data loss. Apple fixed this bug in 10.5.5, so VMware now uses the option in 2.0.2. Bottom line: While none of this affects the testing, if you are running VMware, update your OS and VMware Fusion to the most current version.]

Test Types

There are a variety of often referred to, and utilized benchmarking suites in the computer industry including SPEC tests, PCMark, Unixbench and others. Each of these tests uses a series of tests that measure in a consistent way to assess specific types of performances. The key to each of these tests is appropriateness, repeatability, and accuracy.

When testing virtual machines, however, using outside utilities within a virtualized environment can provide strange and incorrect results. For example, there are many issues with internal timers not displaying measurements accurately, and some suites don't work at all in a virtual machine environment. Instead, MacTech chose to create a suite of tests that would mimic what many users would do in normal use, but stick to those actions that were repeatable, and measurable with a stopwatch. After all, if you couldn't perceive a difference with a stopwatch, the user is not likely to perceive it at all.

To that end, there are several kinds of tests that we ran: "Performance" including launch and CPU tests, File and Network IO, Footprint, Application Launch, Application Performance, and 3D and HD Graphics.



Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Opera 44.0.2510.1449 - High-performance...
Opera is a fast and secure browser trusted by millions of users. With the intuitive interface, Speed Dial and visual bookmarks for organizing favorite sites, news feature with fresh, relevant content... Read more
Skim 1.4.29 - PDF reader and note-taker...
Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X. It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file. Skim includes many features and has a... Read more
FontExplorer X Pro 6.0.2 - Font manageme...
FontExplorer X Pro is optimized for professional use; it's the solution that gives you the power you need to manage all your fonts. Now you can more easily manage, activate and organize your... Read more
1Password 6.7.1 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
Vivaldi 1.9.818.44 - An advanced browser...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
Vivaldi 1.9.818.44 - An advanced browser...
Vivaldi is a browser for our friends. In 1994, two programmers started working on a web browser. Our idea was to make a really fast browser, capable of running on limited hardware, keeping in mind... Read more
Skim 1.4.29 - PDF reader and note-taker...
Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X. It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file. Skim includes many features and has a... Read more
1Password 6.7.1 - Powerful password mana...
1Password is a password manager that uniquely brings you both security and convenience. It is the only program that provides anti-phishing protection and goes beyond password management by adding Web... Read more
FontExplorer X Pro 6.0.2 - Font manageme...
FontExplorer X Pro is optimized for professional use; it's the solution that gives you the power you need to manage all your fonts. Now you can more easily manage, activate and organize your... Read more
VOX 2.8.24 - Music player that supports...
VOX just sounds better! 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 audio formats you should ever need.... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Fire Emblem Heroes event announces new m...
As reported yesterday, Nintendo was gearing up a live press event for their popular mobile game,Fire Emblem Heroes. While the stream revealed a lot of new things, the event was entirely in Japanese. Luckily we have a rundown of what was announced... | Read more »
Best games we played this week
Another week, another slate of new mobile games. Although there weren't as many big name releases as last week, there were plenty of unique video game titles that came out that's sure to keep you interested over the weekend. Everything from classic... | Read more »
Olli by Tinrocket (Photography)
Olli by Tinrocket 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Photography Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Get drawn in with Olli by TinrocketOlli instantly turns your everyday moments into hand-drawn art and animations. • Watch... | Read more »
Penarium (Games)
Penarium 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Fire Emblem Heroes is way more profitabl...
Profits for Nintendo's mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes are apparently impressive enough to beat out other Nintendo titles likeSuper Mario Run, despite having 10 times fewer downloads. [Read more] | Read more »
Classic series Robot Unicorn Attack 3 no...
The classic Adult Swim browser game, Robot Unicorn Attack, branched off into a series of popular mobile games. Now, the latest entry into the series, Robot Unicorn Attack 3, is available for iOS and Android mobile devices. [Read more] | Read more »
Sudoku Sweeper (Games)
Sudoku Sweeper 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A minimalist mashup of Minesweeper and Sudoku. Logic puzzle perfection. Every row, column and zone contains a bomb and one of... | Read more »
Under Leaves (Games)
Under Leaves 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Journey into the forest, the jungle or the depths of the deep blue sea. Find chestnuts for the pigs, a caterpillar for the... | Read more »
Ninja Pizza Girl (Games)
Ninja Pizza Girl 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: In the not-so-distant future, rampart traffic congestion has resulted in only one way to deliver pizzas across town in thirty... | Read more »
SCRAP (Games)
SCRAP 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: That day, for no apparent reason, SCRAP decided to wake up and run. He had to, because his activation was a mistake the "Factory" could... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

15-inch 2.7GHz Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook P...
B&H Photo has the 15″ 2.7GHz Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook Pro in stock today and on sale for $2599…$200 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
13-inch 2.9GHz/256GB Space Gray Touch Bar Mac...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.9GHz/256GB Space Gray Touch Bar MacBook Pro in stock today and on sale for $150 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 13″ 2.9GHz/256GB Touch... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $151 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $151 off MSRP, each including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 3.1GHz iMac 4K: $1348 $151 off MSRP - 21″ 2.8GHz iMac: $1199.99 $100 off MSRP... Read more
Weekend deal: Up to $420 off new MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros available for $230 to $420 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2.6GHz... Read more
Price drop: 15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro...
Amazon has dropped their price on 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros (MJLQ2LL/A) to $1709.99 including free shipping. Their price is $290 off MSRP for this model. Note that stock may sell out quickly at... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $899, save $100
B&H Photo has the 2.8GHz Mac mini (model number MGEQ2LL/A) on sale for $899 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Check Apple prices on any device with the iTr...
MacPrices is proud to offer readers a free iOS app (iPhones, iPads, & iPod touch) and Android app (Google Play and Amazon App Store) called iTracx, which allows you to glance at today’s lowest... Read more
New System Clock for macOS by B-Eng Now Avail...
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based B-Eng has announced the release and immediate availability of System Clock, the company’s new system monitor and information app developed exclusively for macOS. System... Read more
DEVONtechnologies Celebrates 15th Anniversary...
DEVONtechnologies celebrates its 15th company anniversary with a 30% discount on all its software products from May 1st through 5th, 2017. In spring 2002, DEVONtechnologies opened its website and... Read more
WaterField Designs Invites Customers to Help...
San Francisco based WaterField Designs invites customers and air travelers to participate in developing the next generation in-flight travel case, the Air Porter. Frustrated with limited legroom,... Read more

Jobs Board

Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**501846BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Location Number:** 001126-South Bay Center-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Read more
Consultant or Sr. Consultant, *Apple* Allia...
…improve our business and your clients will be heard.Project Manager, Apple AllianceLocation:San Francisco preferred, open to other locationsLevel:Consultant or Sr. Read more
*Apple* Mac Computer Technician - GeekHampto...
…complex computer issues over the phone and in person? GeekHampton, Long Island's Apple Premium Service Provider, is looking for you! Come work with our crew Read more
*Apple* Mobile Master - Best Buy (United Sta...
**501505BR** **Job Title:** Apple Mobile Master **Location Number:** 000849-Gurnee-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Mobile Master do?** At Read more
Best Buy *Apple* Computing Master - Best Bu...
**498428BR** **Job Title:** Best Buy Apple Computing Master **Location Number:** 000293-Rockville-Store **Job Description:** **What does a Best Buy Apple Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.