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

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Galaxy of Trian (Games)
Galaxy of Trian 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $6.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: Galaxy of Trian is an exciting, fast paced digital board game based on the highly acclaimed tabletop title. | Read more »
Dead In Bermuda (Games)
Dead In Bermuda 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Little Fox (Games)
The Little Fox 1.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.1 (iTunes) Description: The Little Fox is an alternative perspective on the world-renowned ‘fairy tale for adults', The Little Prince by Antoine de... | Read more »
How to get more cars in CSR Racing 2
NaturalMotion and Zynga brought a lot of real life cars to the table for CSR Racing 2. From souped up everyday rides made by Nissan and Hyundai to supercars produced by the likes of McLaren and Pagani, there really is something for everyone. [... | Read more »
Crypt of the NecroDancer Pocket Edition...
Crypt of the NecroDancer Pocket Edition 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Crypt of the NecroDancer is an award winning hardcore roguelike rhythm game. Move to the music and... | Read more »
Gear-grinding puzzle title Inner Circle...
If you saw our post earlier this month announcing the imminent release of ZPlay’s new creation, Inner Circle, you’ll be happy to know that it’s now available on the App Store. Established in 2010, developer and publisher ZPlay have taken the... | Read more »
CSR Racing 2: Your guide to what's...
CSR Racing 2, or CSR2, as it likes to call itself, has finally arrived. The follow-up to the immensely popular drag racing game CSR Racing is the first release from NaturalMotion since the studio's acquisition by Zynga in early 2014. [Read more] | Read more »
Nanuleu (Games)
Nanuleu 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Nanuleu is a strategy game where you take control of ancient magical trees that protect the land from an invading dark force. A... | Read more »
The Slaughter: Act One (Games)
The Slaughter: Act One 1.0.323 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0.323 (iTunes) Description: “The game mixes realism and surrealism to create a story that can cause just as much laughter as fear. A-” -... | Read more »
NEO TURF MASTERS (Games)
NEO TURF MASTERS 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: NEOGEO’s legendary golf game is back, in a brand-new mobile version with touch controls! NEO TURF MASTERS (also known as “BIG... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

New App Reminds Us to Put Down Our Phones and...
Mode, a new smartphone app that makes us more mindful of how we use our devices, debuts in the app stores today. The Mode app tracks time spent in different modes of day-to-day life without... Read more
ZuumSpeed Personalized Speedometer + HUD For...
RMKapps has announced the release and immediate availability of ZuumSpeed 1.0, its personalized speedometer plus heads up display for iOS devices. ZuumSpeed gives users over 18 custom fonts available... Read more
Apple refurbished clearance 15-inch Retina Ma...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1609, $390 off original MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included, and shipping is free. They have refurbished 15... Read more
9-inch 128GB Silver iPad Pro on sale for $50...
B&H Photo has the 9.7″ 128GB Silver Apple iPad Pro on sale for $699 including free shipping plus NY tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Read more
Why Use Indie Opera And Vivaldi Instead Of Sa...
For many years my web browser workhorses were various permutations and spinoffs of the Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox Open Source platform, and the Norwegian indie browser Opera, which I took a shine to... Read more
Western Digital Launches Worlds Fastest 256GB...
At the Mobile World Congress in Shanghai Western Digital Corporation this week introduced a new suite of 256 gigabyte (GB) microSD cards, which includes the new 256GB SanDisk Extreme microSDXC UHS-I... Read more
KeyCue 8.1 Integrates With Typinator To Displ...
Ergonis Software has released KeyCue 8.1, a new version of the company’s keyboard shortcut cheat sheet. KeyCue 8 introduced a new way to define a wide variety of triggers, which can be used to... Read more
Save up to $600 with Apple refurbished Mac Pr...
Apple has Certified Refurbished Mac Pros available for up to $600 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each Mac Pro, and shipping is free. The following... Read more
21-inch 2.8GHz iMac on sale for $1199, save $...
Amazon has the 21″ 2.8GHz iMac (model #MK442LL/A) on sale for $1199.99 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (Apple refurbished...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* iPhone 6s and New Products Tester Ne...
…we therefore look forward to put out products to quality test for durability. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store, Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions, Willow...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.