TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion

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

Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion

How do VMware Fusion 3 and Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac compare?

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

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.

In short, the speed difference in FPS was noticeably faster in Parallels Desktop when compared to VMware Fusion. As expected, both environments took advantage of the extra graphics hardware of the MacBook Pro and Mac Pro, but Parallels took greater advantage of it. See the graph.

Here were the results:

  • Portal, Frames Per Second in demo mode

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 130.4% faster (28.5 frames out of 50.26 average FPS)

    • Windows 7: Parallels Desktop 498.3% faster (94.4 frames out of 113.39 average FPS)

  • Civilization IV: Colonization, FPS in demo mode

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 52.6% faster (18.2 frames out of 52.73 average FPS)

    • Windows 7: Parallels Desktop 45.2% faster (13.7 frames out of 44.12 average FPS)

  • Quake Wars, FPS in demo mode

    • XP: Parallels Desktop 28.1% faster (4.1 frames out of 18.92 average FPS)

    • Windows 7: VMware unable to run. Parallels ran game fine.

Figure 21: Gaming Performance

Gaming Conclusions

Our advice? There's no doubt, Parallels Desktop 5 is a huge leap forward not only from Parallels Desktop 4, but also all versions of VMware Fusion.

If gaming is your primary reason for a virtual machine, then figure out what games you want to play, double check the online discussions about them, and go for it. Furthermore, you may want to use a virtualization setup that allows you to share a Boot Camp volume with your virtual machine so that you can have even greater performance when you want it.

Either way, we were pleasantly surprised at just how well these games played in Parallels Desktop 5. And we highly recommend the games we looked at and tested here.

Overall Conclusions

There are additional conclusions that we can extract from the results as well. Specifically, we looked at the differences between XP and Windows 7, as well as multiple virtual processors and 64-bit Windows 7.

XP vs. Windows 7

In our last virtualization benchmarking article, there was a significant difference between running Microsoft XP vs. 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 or for compatibility reasons. That said, anecdotally, we find XP under virtualization to be snappier … and definitely less annoying to run.

Multiple Virtual Processors and 64-bit

There's a big push right now for multiple virtual processors, and 64-bit Windows. 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.

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

That said, we wanted to give you a look at what performance looked like for both of these for both IO and virtual machine performance. 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 22: Multiple Virtual Processors, 64-bit Performance

Conclusion

Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop for Mac are excellent products, and both allow you to run Windows XP and Windows 7 quite well (except for graphics in VMware Fusion under 7). In the end, your decision as to which product you should take into account what's most important to you: speed, footprint, graphics capabilities, features, user interface, OS you want to run, and more all come into play.

While the Windows Vista "penalty" that we saw in prior tests is now mostly gone (presumably because both Windows 7 made improvements as well as both of these virtualization products), we would advise that you stick with Windows XP given that it runs slightly better overall (not to mention how much less annoying it is).

When it comes to whether you should use multiple processors or 64-bit virtual machines that depends on your use. If you have a real need for either, and can articulate a reason for it, than use them. They do work well. That said, if you don't have a specific need, then don't bother, it's not worth it; just stick with 32-bit Windows XP (or Windows 7) on a single virtual processor.

Many people have the feeling of "more is better," but when it comes to RAM in the virtual machine, that is not necessarily the case. More RAM means longer virtual machine launch times, suspends and resumes. For most users, 512MB to 1GB of virtual machine RAM will work best. Use more than that only if you really know you need it.

Here's how things look in general terms for each of the test suites that we ran:

Figure 23: Chart: Performance Winner in Each Test Suite

In the majority of overall averages of our tests, Parallels Desktop 5 is the clear winner running 30% faster than VMware Fusion 3.0.1 with Windows XP, and 43% faster with Windows 7. And, the difference is even more apparent when looking at graphics. If gaming, graphics, and 3D are your thing, you have no choice. Parallels Desktop 5 has so much better graphics support, and is so much faster in most of the comparisons, there's simply no contest.

One thing is clear: virtualization for the Mac works well. Really well—even for casual gamers. Even with that, given the track record, I expect we'll see it keep getting better and better.


About the author...

Neil is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of MacTech Magazine. Neil has been in the Mac industry since 1985, has developed software, written documentation, and been heading up the magazine since 1992. When Neil does a benchmark article, he likes to test the features that people will use in real-life scenario and then write about that experience from the user point of view. Drop him a line at publisher@mactech.com

Start | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

 
AAPL
$99.18
Apple Inc.
-1.57
MSFT
$45.90
Microsoft Corpora
-0.46
GOOG
$568.27
Google Inc.
-9.09

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Cocktail Family License (5 Macs) 7.6.1 -...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
Cocktail 8.0 Beta 2 - General maintenanc...
Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get... Read more
QuickBooks 2015 16.0.0.1352 R1 - Financi...
QuickBooks 2015 helps you manage your business easily and efficiently. Organize your finances all in one place, track money going in and out of your business, and spot areas where you can save.... Read more
Mac DVDRipper Pro 5.0.1 - Copy, backup,...
Mac DVDRipper Pro is the DVD backup solution that lets you protect your DVDs from scratches, save your batteries by reading your movies from your hard disk, manage your collection with just a few... Read more
Apple OS X bash Update 1.0 - Fix for sec...
The OS X bash Update fixes a security flaw in the bash UNIX shell on OS X 10.9.5 (also on OS X 10.8 and 10.7 [see Related Links below]). OS X 10.9.5 or later Downloads for OS X 10.8 and OS X 10.7 in... Read more
SyncTwoFolders 2.0.5 - Syncs two user-sp...
SyncTwoFolders simply synchronizes two folders. It supports synchronization across mounted network drives and it is a possibility to run a simulation showing in a log what will be done. Please visit... Read more
FinderPop 2.5.7 - Classic Mac utility, n...
FinderPop is a Universal preference pane that extends OS X's contextual menus using a FinderPop Items folder much as the Apple Menu Items folder used to do for the Apple menu. It has other features... Read more
VueScan 9.4.45 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
LibreOffice 4.3.2.2 - Free Open Source o...
LibreOffice is an office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentations, drawing tool) compatible with other major office suites. The Document Foundation is coordinating development and... Read more
calibre 2.4 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard (U...
iKeywi - Customizable 5-Row Keyboard 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Utilities Price: $.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Want to add an extra row to your iPhone/iPad? One of the most popular keyboard extension in iOS... | Read more »
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Suppo...
Manage Your Cloud – Wunderlist Now Supports Dropbox Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Nexticy Review
Nexticy Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: IDEAL FORM CREATIONiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad Nexticy allows you to make your own forms for research purposes or to organize your business better. It’s... | Read more »
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the...
Tiny Troopers: Alliance Marches onto the App Store Tomorrow Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] Tiny Troopers: Alliance, by Kukouri, is a | Read more »
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to...
HeroCraft Introduces Unlimited Sequel to WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 1st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
RGB Express Review
RGB Express Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: DELIGHTFUL PUZZLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Guide trucks along their delivery routes in RGB Express, a testing but charming puzzle game... | Read more »
The Sagas of Fire*Wolf (Games)
The Sagas of Fire*Wolf 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
BuggyFun Review
BuggyFun Review By Amy Solomon on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad BuggyFun allows children to create their own tracks for bugs to interact with for a unique open-ended experience.   | Read more »
Fold the Adventure Review
Fold the Adventure Review By Jennifer Allen on October 1st, 2014 Our Rating: :: AWKWARD FOLDSUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fold pieces of paper to create platforms for a princely rabbit in this puzzle game; something... | Read more »
WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics (G...
WW2: Sandbox. Strategy & Tactics 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $9.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: ***NOTE: Compatible with iPhone 4s and up, iPad 2 and up - may not work properly on earlier devices... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Amazon offers 13-inch MacBook Air for $899, $...
Amazon.com has the 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air on sale for $100 off MSRP including free shipping: - 13″ 1.4GHz 128GB MacBook Air: $899.99 Read more
Apple resting On Its iPhone Laurels? – The ‘B...
Apple calls its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus “The Biggest Advancements in iPhone History,” but does reality live up to the hype? “Seldom have so many waited so breathlessly for so little,” tweeted veteran... Read more
Roundup of Apple Mac and iPad Education disco...
Purchase a new Mac or iPad at The Apple Store for Education and take up to $300 off MSRP. All teachers, students, and staff of any educational institution qualify for the discount. Shipping is free,... Read more
Apple Boycotts German Magazine Computer Bild...
Apple has revoked its PR accreditation of Germany’s Computer Bild, Europe’s best-selling PC magazine, in reaction to Bild’s posting of a “#Bentgate” YouTube video. Axel Telzerow, editor in chief of... Read more
iPhone 6 & iPhone 6 Plus Available in Chi...
Apple has announced that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in China beginning Friday, October 17 from the Apple Online Store (http://www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and an expansive... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP, start...
Best Buy has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for $100 off MSRP on their online store. Choose free home shipping or free local store pickup (if available). Prices valid for online orders only, in-... Read more
Apple Releases OS X Mavericks bash Update 1.0...
Apple has released a patch update for OS X Mavericks users to address the recently-detected “Shellshock” security bug in BSD UNIX’s bash shell. Apple says only a few Mac users who had manually... Read more
Pivotal Payments Ready for Apple Pay – FlexPo...
Pivotal Payments, a provider of merchant services and global payment processing solutions, has announced its proprietary FlexPoint platform will support credit and debit transactions through Apple’s... Read more
iStabilizer Announces Tabarm — First Friction...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, dollies, mounts, and remotes for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, announced today the iStabilizer tabArm, the first... Read more
IStabilizer Flex Smartphone Tripod Wins Usa T...
iStabilizer, a specialist in universal lightweight compact tripods, steady cams, and other products for smartphones, tablets, and cameras, has announced today that its iStabilizer Flex smartphone... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, 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
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.