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

AirPort Utility 6.3.6 - Set up and manag...
Note: Most recent release available only within OS X 10.11 El Capitan update. Use AirPort Utility to set up and manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort... Read more
Quicksilver 1.3.1 - Application launcher...
Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone. Quicksilver allows you to find what you need quickly and easily, then act... Read more
Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
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
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more
Apple iBooks Author 2.4 - Create and pub...
Apple iBooks Author helps you create and publish amazing Multi-Touch books for iPad. Now anyone can create stunning iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, and more for iPad. All... Read more
Web Snapper 3.3.9 - Capture entire Web p...
Web Snapper lets you capture Web pages exactly as they appear in your browser. You can send them to a file as images or vector-based, multi-page PDFs. It captures the whole Web page - eliminating the... Read more
Tunnelblick 3.6beta10 - GUI for OpenVPN...
Tunnelblick is a free, open source graphic user interface for OpenVPN on OS X. It provides easy control of OpenVPN client and/or server connections. It comes as a ready-to-use application with all... Read more
EtreCheck 2.5.1 - For troubleshooting yo...
EtreCheck is a simple little app to display the important details of your system configuration and allow you to copy that information to the Clipboard. It is meant to be used with Apple Support... Read more

Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »
3D Touch could be a game-changer, but it...
Were you one of the lucky/financially secure enough ones to buy a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus over the weekend? Yup, me too (I’m not convinced I was either of those two things, but let’s go with lucky for now), so I thought I’d delve into just... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

Bare Bones Software Releases TextWrangler 5.0...
Bare Bones Software has announced the release and immediate availability of TextWrangler 5.0, a major upgrade to its free, high performance, general purpose text editor for Mac OS X. Built on a new,... Read more
Apple refurbished iPad Air 2s available for u...
Apple has Certified Refurbished iPad Air 2s available for up to $140 off the price of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 128GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2... Read more
Save up to $100 on Mac AppleCare Protection P...
Adorama has 3-Year AppleCare Warranties on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - Mac Laptops 15″ and Above: $249 $100 off MSRP - Mac Laptops 13″ and... Read more
Updated Mac Price Trackers
We’ve updated our Mac Price Trackers with the latest information on prices, bundles, and availability on systems from Apple’s authorized internet/catalog resellers: - 15″ MacBook Pros - 13″ MacBook... Read more
27-inch 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $81 off MS...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale for $2218.99, $81 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan, plus a free external DVD/CD drive, and a copy of Corel... Read more
12-inch MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off,...
Adorama has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock for up to $120 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. For a limited time, Adorama will include a free Apple USB-C to USB Adapter,... Read more
EasyDocScan Turns your iPhone or iPad into a...
Note-Ify Apps has announced the release and immediate availability of EasyDocScan 1.0, their new business app developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices. EasyDocScan is a simple application... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for... has the 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1799 including free shipping. Their price is $200 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model (except for Apple’s $1699... Read more
2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, includes...
Adorama has the 2.8GHz Mac mini available for $988, $11 off MSRP, including a free copy of Apple’s 3-Year AppleCare Protection Plan. Shipping is free, and Adorama charges sales tax in NY & NJ... Read more
iPhone 6s and 6s Plus Feature Improved Durabi...
Upgraded components in the new iPhone 6s Plus cost $16 more than the components in the earlier iPhone 6 Plus according to a preliminary estimate from IHS Inc. The bill of materials (BOM) for an... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Payments Security Manager - *Apple*...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments security manager to join the Apple Pay security team. You will Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Retail Sales...
**Job Summary** As an Apple Solutions Consultant (ASC) you are the link between our customers and our products. Your role is to drive the Apple business in a retail Read more
*Apple* Site Security Manager - Apple (Unite...
**Job Summary** The Site Security Manager is a high-profile security position at Apple . The Site Manager is the face of Apple Global Security (GS) and primary point Read more
*Apple* Fulfillment Operations Execution Ana...
**Job Summary** The AMR Apple Fulfillment Operations Team is seeking a talented team player to drive the Apple Online Store (AOS) fulfillment performance to ensure a Read more
*Apple* Distinguished Educator (ADE) Communi...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) Program team as ADE Community Support Manager. Join a team Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.