Head-to-Head: Parallels vs. VMware
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Head-to-Head: Parallels vs. VMware

So which virtualization product do you go with? Which solution is faster? Should you run Windows XP or 7? 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.


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

 Head-to-Head:

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

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 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) comfort because they can use their old applications, more easily get to old data, and in many cases, 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. Of course, you may simply want to play a Windows game not available on the Mac.

With virtualization, like you'll see in Parallels Desktop for Mac or in VMware Fusion, you can run Windows alongside the Mac OS, getting the best of both worlds. For many, this may mean running Windows 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 discussion.

The Big Question

So which virtualization product do you go with? Which solution is faster? Should you run Windows XP or 7? 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 virtualization benchmarking project that MacTech undertook in the past. In both cases, as with other MacTech benchmarks, we tested performance of the types of things that everyday users typically do. In this case, it was not just testing the Windows OS performance, but also commonly used Windows applications. This time, we paid even more attention to 3D graphics and gaming.

The goal was to see how VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop performed, covering both Windows XP and Windows 7. Furthermore, we wanted to see some of the differences with different Mac models, 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 Windows 7, some of which were 64-bit and multiprocessor while most were 32-bit and single virtual CPU, along with a whole slew of tests, each needing to be run several times, there were thousands of tests to be completed ... many with a stopwatch.

In fact, the testing took long enough that during the course of preparing these tests, both Parallels and VMware released minor updates, and those are the versions that we tested with.

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 3D graphics and games <g>). The article's purpose is to assess performance (including issues we found if something didn't work right), and not product features, user interface, etc... You should use feature and support information in conjunction with the below benchmarking results to make your product choice.

Before you ask why other solutions and products were not included, let's answer that. In short, my response is "give me a break." This benchmark project is already huge with several thousand collected data points crossing two guest OSes (Windows XP and 7), four models of computers, and over 50 tests each run 3-5 times for most of the environments. And that's before a single word of this article is written!  To add even one more product would increase this huge test matrix by 50%.  As a result, we focused on the two leading commercial virtualization products.  These two products also have free trial versions that you can compare against other solutions ... so you can try them for yourself and compare alongside any other solution you want at any time including before you buy.

One thing to note, however, is that the open source and other products may not be for everyone, especially non-technical users. For many, these offerings can be difficult to understand and install, and they do not have technical or product support behind them. Obviously, users can reach out in forums and the community, but if you don't understand something, you won't be able to pick up the phone and call support the way you can with a commercial product.  If that works for you, great.  If not, as is the case for most users, then a commercial product is likely your solution.

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 even faster.

We chose four Mac models to compare alongside each other: the "White" MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro.

  • 2GB MacBook, Intel Core 2 Duo processor ("White MacBook")
    Specifically: MacBook 2.26GHz 2GB/250GB White/ NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (late-2009)

  • 4GB MacBook Pro, Intel Core 2 Duo processor ("Unibody MacBook Pro")
    Specifically: MacBook Pro 15in 2.66GHz 4GB/320GB/ NVIDIA 9400M + 9600M GT

  • 4GB iMac, Intel Core 2 Duo processor
    Specifically: iMac 21.5in 3.06GHz 4GB/500GB/ NVIDIA GeForce 9400M (late-2009)

  • 3GB Mac Pro, Quad-Core Intel Xeon processors
    Specifically: Mac Pro Quad-Core 2.66GHz 3GB/640GB/ NVIDIA GeForce GT120

Memory for virtual machines can be configured with a wide array of settings. As a general rule, VMware Fusion's default memory for each configuration (of physical RAM and "guest" OS) was the same or lower than Parallels Desktop (although sometimes it was higher). As a result, we let VMware's default guide the way, and set Parallels Desktop to the same as whatever VMware Fusion defaulted to. In most cases, this was 512MB for Windows XP, and 1GB for Windows 7.

Similarly, for disk allocation, we defaulted to the sizes set up by VMware Fusion (40GB) and allowed for expanding disks. We took special care to make sure that the disk location of the virtual hard drive was in a similar physical location as that can make a significant difference in and of itself in disk performance.

The tests compared VMware Fusion 3.0.1, with Parallels Desktop for Mac 5.0 (build 9308), running Mac OS X 10.6.2. All required Windows updates were installed for each version of XP and Windows 7.

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 often provides 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, as we have in the past, 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.

There are two exceptions to this: graphics/gaming and CPU utilization. In these two cases, we found that testing utilities not only work well, but also are necessary to give the most repeatable and concrete results.

To that end, there are several kinds of tests that we ran: Virtual Machine Launch/Suspend, CPU tests, File and Network IO, CPU Usage Footprint, Application Performance, and 3D and HD Graphics.

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

 
AAPL
$108.00
Apple Inc.
+1.02
MSFT
$46.95
Microsoft Corpora
+0.90
GOOG
$559.08
Google Inc.
+8.77

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Vitamin-R 2.20b1 - Personal productivity...
Vitamin-R creates the optimal conditions for your brain to work at its best by structuring your work into short bursts of distraction-free, highly focused activity alternating with opportunities for... Read more
Dropbox 2.10.44 - Cloud synchronization...
Dropbox is an application that creates a special Finder folder that automatically syncs online and between your computers. It allows you to both backup files and keep them up-to-date between systems... Read more
Sandvox 2.9.2 - Easily build eye-catchin...
Sandvox is for Mac users who want to create a professional looking website quickly and easily. With Sandvox, you don't need to be a Web genius to build a stylish, feature-rich, standards-compliant... Read more
Cocktail 8.0.1 - General maintenance and...
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
LibreOffice 4.3.3.2 - 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
VMware Fusion 7.0.1 - Run Windows apps a...
VMware Fusion allows you to create a Virtual Machine on your Mac and run Windows (including Windows 8.1) and Windows software on your Mac. Run your favorite Windows applications alongside Mac... Read more
OneNote 15.3.2 - Free digital notebook f...
OneNote is your very own digital notebook. With OneNote, you can capture that flash of genius, that moment of inspiration, or that list of errands that's too important to forget. Whether you're at... Read more
Audio Hijack Pro 2.11.4 - Record and enh...
Audio Hijack Pro drastically changes the way you use audio on your computer, giving you the freedom to listen to audio when you want and how you want. Record and enhance any audio with Audio Hijack... Read more
Iridient Developer 3.0.0 beta 3 - Powerf...
Iridient Developer (was RAW Developer) is a powerful image conversion application designed specifically for OS X. Iridient Developer gives advanced photographers total control over every aspect of... Read more
TextWrangler 4.5.11 - Free general purpo...
TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator's tool. Oh, and also, like the best things in life, it's free. TextWrangler is the "little brother" to... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Monster Flash Review
Monster Flash Review By Jordan Minor on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: ALONE IN THE DARKUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Solid shooting and a surprising amount of spooky tension make Monster Flash a great portable... | Read more »
Retry Review
Retry Review By Rob Thomas on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: SOARING HIGHUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Flappy who? Let Retry wash all those bad bird-related memories away on a cool retro-flavored flight… right... | Read more »
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review
Dementia: Book of the Dead Review By Lee Hamlet on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: A TOUGH READUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad A witch hunter is sent after a demonic book in the spooky but short-lived Dementia: Book... | Read more »
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguel...
Card Dungeon, the Semi-Board Game Roguelike, Has Been Renovated Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Logitech Protection + Power iPhone5/5S C...
Made by: Logitech Price: $99.99 Hardware/iOS Integration Rating: 3 out of 5 stars Usability Rating: 0.5 out of 5 stars Reuse Value Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Build Quality Rating: 0.75 out of 5 stars Overall Rating: 1.25 out of 5 stars | Read more »
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanentl...
This Is Not a Test Goes Free, Permanently Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 31st, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Swap Heroes Review
Swap Heroes Review By Campbell Bird on October 31st, 2014 Our Rating: :: STRATEGIC SWAPPINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rotate a cast of heroes to fend of waves of monsters in this difficult, puzzle rpg.   | Read more »
Night Sky Pro™ (Reference)
Night Sky Pro™ 3.0.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Reference Price: $2.99, Version: 3.0.1 (iTunes) Description: Night Sky Pro™Wonder No More™ Night Sky Pro™ is the ultimate stargazing experience. From the creators of the original... | Read more »
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena (Games)
Audio Defence : Zombie Arena 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: A zombie shooter audio game. Made from gut-wrenching 3D binaural sound, for a new kind of weird immersion. You... | Read more »
RPG Asdivine Hearts (Games)
RPG Asdivine Hearts 1.1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.1.0 (iTunes) Description: SPECIAL PRICE50% OFF (USD 7.99 -> USD 3.99)!!! Travel alongside four companions and a cat in the adventure of a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Apple now offering refurbished 2014 13-inch R...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple Regains Momentum As Windows Stutters An...
The latest smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, for the three months to March 2014, shows Apple performing strongly in the first quarter of the year, with sales bouncing back in... Read more
Worldwide Smartphone Shipments Increase 25.2%...
New smartphone releases and an increased emphasis on emerging markets drove global smartphone shipments above 300 million units for the second consecutive quarter, according to preliminary data from... Read more
Apple now offering refurbished 2014 15-inch M...
The Apple Store is now offering Apple Certified Refurbished 2014 15″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $400 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and... Read more
Apple drops prices on refurbished 2013 Retina...
The Apple Store has dropped prices on 2013 Apple Certified Refurbished 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros, with Retina models now available starting at $999. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and... Read more
New 2.8GHz Mac mini on sale for $949, save $5...
Abt Electronics has the new 2.8GHz Mac mini in stock and on sale for $949.05 including free shipping. Their price is $50 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model from any reseller... Read more
Sale! 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro available for...
 B&H Photo has the 3.7GHz Quad Core Mac Pro on sale for $2649 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $350 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price for this model from any... Read more
Mujjo Steps Up The Game With Refined Touchscr...
Netherlands based Mujjo have just launched their Refined Touchscreen Gloves, stepping up their game. The gloves feature a updated elegant design that takes these knitted gloves to the next level. A... Read more
Sale! Preorder the new 27-inch 5K iMac for $2...
 Abt Electronics has the new 27″ 3.5GHz 5K iMac on sale and available for preorder for $2374.05 including free shipping. Their price is $125 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this... Read more
Simplex Solutions Inc. Brings Secure Web Surf...
New York based Simplex Solutions Inc. has announced the release and immediate availability of Private Browser 1.0, its revolutionary new secure web browser developed for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch... Read more

Jobs Board

Solutions Specialist with *Apple* Knowledge...
Company Description: We are an Apple Authorized Sales and Service Provider. We have been selling and servicing Apple computers in the Fairfield County area for over Read more
Position Opening at *Apple* - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** Every day, business customers come to the Apple Store to discover what powerful, easy-to-use Apple products can do for them. As a Business Leader, Read more
Sr. Manager, *Apple* Deployment Programs fo...
**Job Summary** Apple is seeking candidates for a new position on the Education Content and Technology team. iPad and Mac is in the hands of millions of teachers and Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple I...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.