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

 
AAPL
$568.24
Apple Inc.
+43.49
MSFT
$39.74
Microsoft Corpora
+0.05
GOOG
$524.60
Google Inc.
-2.34

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Ember 1.5.1 - Versatile digital scrapboo...
Ember (formerly LittleSnapper) is your digital scrapbook of things that inspire you: websites, photos, apps or other things. Just drag in images that you want to keep, organize them into relevant... Read more
Cyberduck 4.4.4 - FTP and SFTP browser....
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
TechTool Pro 7.0.3 - Hard drive and syst...
TechTool Pro is now 7, and this is the most advanced version of the acclaimed Macintosh troubleshooting utility created in its 20-year history. Micromat has redeveloped TechTool Pro 7 to be fully 64... Read more
MacFamilyTree 7.1.6 - Create and explore...
MacFamilyTree gives genealogy a facelift: it's modern, interactive, incredibly fast, and easy to use. We're convinced that generations of chroniclers would have loved to trade in their genealogy... Read more
EtreCheck 1.9.9 - 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
TeamViewer 9.0.28116 - Establish remote...
TeamViewer gives you remote control of any computer or Mac over the Internet within seconds, or can be used for online meetings. Find out why more than 200 million users trust TeamViewer! Free for... Read more
Viber 4.1.0 - Send messages and make cal...
Viber lets you send free messages and make free calls to other Viber users, on any device and network, in any country! Viber syncs your contacts, messages and call history with your mobile device,... Read more
Apple iOS 7.1.1 - The latest version of...
The latest version of iOS can be downloaded through iTunes. Apple iOS 7 brings an all-new design and all-new features. Simplicity Simplicity is often equated with minimalism. Yet true simplicity is... Read more
1Password 4.3 - Powerful password manage...
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
Lens Blur 1.3.0 - True out-of-focus boke...
Let Lens Blur transform your existing photo into true SLR-quality out-of-focus bokeh effect! Everyone needs a gorgeous personalized background for a social profile, blog, Web/UI design, presentation... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Pen & Ink Review
Pen & Ink Review By Jennifer Allen on April 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CONVENIENT ARTISTRYiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Pen & Ink is an ideal way to sketch down some visual ideas or simply spark your imagination.   | Read more »
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed...
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed Now Free, to Add New Iconic Characters and Elements Posted by Tre Lawrence on April 24th, 2014 [ | Read more »
Soccer Rally 2 Review
Soccer Rally 2 Review By Carter Dotson on April 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: GOALKEEPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Soccer Rally 2 is the most serious vehicular soccer game ever created.   | Read more »
Galaxy Conquerors Review
Galaxy Conquerors Review By Jennifer Allen on April 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RETRO SHOOTINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Old school shooting is fun but inaccurate in Galaxy Conquerors.   | Read more »
Yomi Review
Yomi Review By Rob Thomas on April 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: C-C-C-COMBO BREAKERiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Round One – Fight! No quarters required for this iOS adaptation of a tabletop adaptation of the arcade fighting... | Read more »
Injustice: Gods Among Us Updated with Ne...
Injustice: Gods Among Us Updated with New Characters, Leaderboards, Gear, and Online Multiplayer Posted by Rob Rich on April 24th, 2014 [ | Read more »
Spin It Review
Spin It Review By Jordan Minor on April 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: SPIN ME RIGHT ROUNDUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Spin It has a fine puzzle game model, but its execution lacks energy.   | Read more »
Productivity App NoteSuite is Having its...
Productivity App NoteSuite is Having its Biggest Sale Ever, Just for One Week Posted by Rob Rich on April 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Wayward Souls Review
Wayward Souls Review By Carter Dotson on April 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CARRY ON, WAYWARD SONUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Wayward Souls is a roguelike-inspired action-RPG that sets a high bar for other games to... | Read more »
The Sandbox Gets Update, Receives New Ca...
The Sandbox Gets Update, Receives New Campaign and New Elements Posted by Tre Lawrence on April 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Strong iPhone Sales Drive Apple Record March...
Apple on Wednesday announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 second quarter ended March 29, 2014. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $45.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $10.2 billion... Read more
Award-Winning NoteSuite Productivity App is $...
Minneapolis based Theory.io has announced an 80-Percent Markdown NoteSuite for iPad. NoteSuite helps users stay organized by capturing their notes, to-dos and documents in one organized place.... Read more
16GB 1st generation iPad mini available for $...
Radio Shack has a select number of refurbished 1st generation 16GB WiFi iPad minis available for $199.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free ship-to-store. We expect these to sell out... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $100 o...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $1099 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
iPad Sales “Lull” A Reality Correction Of Unm...
I have lots of time for Jean-Louis Gassée, the former Apple Computer executive (1981 to 1990) who succeeded Steve Jobs as head of Macintosh development when the latter was dismissed in 1985. Mr.... Read more
Apple Makes OS X Betas Available To All – Wit...
Apple’s OS X Beta Seed Program, which lets you install the latest pre-release builds, try it out, and submit your feedback, is now open to anyone who wants to sign on rather than to developers and... Read more
Apple Releases iOS 7.1.1 Update
The latest iOS 7.1.1 update contains improvements, bug fixes and security updates, including: • Further improvements to Touch ID fingerprint recognition • Fixes a bug that could impact keyboard... Read more
Logitech Announces Thinner, Lighter, More Fle...
Logitech has announced an update to its Ultrathin for iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad mini with Retina display, improving the flexibility and design of its award-winning predecessor with an even thinner... Read more
Logitech Introduces Hinge, Big Bang and Turna...
Logitech has announced expansion of its tablet product line with three new cases – the Logitech Hinge, the Logitech Big Bang and the Logitech Turnaround – each for the iPad Air, iPad mini and iPad... Read more
WaterField’s Rough Rider Leather Messenger Ba...
WaterField Designs have announced the new 15-inch size of their popular Rough Rider leather messenger bag, a vintage-looking bag that combines Old West charm and ruggedness with distinctly modern... 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
*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
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
…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* 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* Inc. Research Data Specialist - Appl...
…of Worldwide Market Research & Intelligence. The team is responsible for conducting Apple branded consumer market research. It is also responsible for analyzing data Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.