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VMware Fusion 3 vs. 2: Should you upgrade?

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: Virtualization

VMware Fusion 3 vs. 2: Should you upgrade?

MacTech Labs puts the new VMware Fusion to the test to answer this question.

by Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Welcome

One of the most frequent questions we've been getting recently is "Should I upgrade to VMware Fusion 3?" We decided to put VMware Fusion 3 to the test and compare it to VMware Fusion 2, the previous version.

The test was done on the current model MacBook Pro. Specifically, the MacBook Pro 15 inch 2.66GHz, with 4GB of RAM, 320GB 5400RPM hard drive, and the dual graphics processor configuration (NVIDIA 9400M + 9600M GT). The test was performed on Mac OS X "Snow Leopard" 10.6.2 with all the current updates from Apple applied. VMware Fusion 2.0.6, and VMware Fusion 3.0.1.

Storage and Drive Space

One of the things that we were surprised by was how much less disk space the base installation of Windows XP Pro used on v3 vs. v2. v3 uses more than 1/3 less actual drive space on your Mac. (As an aside, and having nothing to do with virtualization, the Windows 7 installations are a lot bigger than XP).


Windows XP Pro Installation Footprint

General Virtual Machine Performance

We wanted to see how the virtual machine performed in several areas. These included: launching the virtual machine with a full Windows boot, suspending the virtual machine, launching from suspend, compressing files, and File IO (in particular with the smaller drive footprint).

In all cases, except compressing files, VMware Fusion 3 was noticeably faster than VMware Fusion 2. Compression was nearly identical between the versions.

  • Launching the virtual machine with a full Windows boot, 42.4% faster
  • Suspending the virtual machine, 7.9% faster
  • Launching the virtual machine from suspend, 8.4% faster
  • Compressing files, 0.6% faster
  • File I/O (in particular with the smaller drive footprint), 16% faster

3DMark06/Graphics Performance

If you've never heard of 3DMark, it's the most popular 3D game performance benchmark. Specifically, "3DMark06 is a PC benchmark suite designed to test the DirectX9 performance of your graphics card. A 3DMark score is an overall measure of your system's 3D gaming capabilities, based on comprehensive real-time 3D graphics and processor tests." Often, PC gamers will use 3DMark06 to tune their gaming platform. See http://www.futuremark.com/

The most important result is the "3DMark Score" which is an aggregate score that judges the overall 3D graphics performance. In short, VMware Fusion 3.0.1 is 15% faster than version 2 in the overall 3DMark Score. See the table for more details.


Both VMware Fusion 3.0 and 3.0.1 had issues with drawing the snow in the HDR2 "Deep Freeze" test, as well as some of the backgrounds in the GT1 Retrun to Proxycon test, demonstrating just how difficult graphics support in virtualization can be. In most cases, the most important action items worked fine, however. And, while most areas of the 3DMark suite performed markedly better, some of the tests had lower performance scores.

Aside from the benchmarks shown, the difference in graphics performance between the already good VMware Fusion 2 and VMware Fusion 3 is noticeable, and welcome.

Conclusion

In answer to the question "Should I upgrade to VMware Fusion 3?" In short, the answer is a resounding yes. If for no other reason than the disk footprint, and the significant speed increases in launching the virtual machine and File IO, you should. That said, the other improvements in the general virtual machine performance, and user interface tweaks are a welcome addition.


The editors of MacTech Magazine are a jolly crew who spend their work time playing with their Macs and their spare time working with their Macs. You can reach them at editorial@mactech.com.

 
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