Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp battle in real-world tests

Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp battle in real-world tests

Summary: A fresh review of Windows virtualization products for Mac OS X machines reports that Parallels was faster in accomplishing a wide number of common business and user tasks with Windows XP, as VMware Fusion moved ahead with Windows Vista.

SHARE:

Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp battle in real-world testsA fresh review of Windows virtualization products for Mac OS X machines reports that Parallels was faster in accomplishing a wide number of common business and user tasks with Windows XP, as VMware Fusion moved ahead with Windows Vista.

The review was performed by MacTech Labs for an upcoming issue of MacTech magazine. The testing compared an Intel Core Duo-based PC notebook running Windows XP (Fujitsu Lifebook A6025) with a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, and a Mac Pro running either Boot Camp, Parallels and VMware Fusion. It's very interesting reading.

The testing was mostly about real-world use of the computers including one-step tasks such as launching apps and scrolling in documents; and sets of tasks where the user would open documents in one OS and use them in another. The team ran benchmarks but decided that the results were all wrong and focused on the real-world performance.

The applications tested included most of the Microsoft Office suite and Outlook, which the testers noted was an applications that has no real equivalent on the Mac.

Entourage is of course available, but it is not a "Mac version of Outlook". As a result, many people are tied to Outlook use for corporate environments or because it has some specific feature set they need. Virtualization provides the perfect solution for this type of environment.

Check out a related story: Uncovering the missing Mac OS X applications.

The winner for each category of tests depended on the specific tasks involved and the flavor of Windows running in virtualization, XP or Vista. And the result was influenced by the architectural decisions made in engineering each product.

For example, Fusion seeks to segregate the virtualized OS and apps from the host system, while Parallels wants to merge the two. Each approach is valid.

For the task tests, Parallels is the clear winner over VMware Fusion - averaging over 6x faster than its competitor on XP, and 5.2x faster on Vista. To be clear, however, this is not because of poor virtualization performance per se, but the way each product is designed. Parallels is designed to have the virtual machine interact transparently with the host OS (Mac OS X). VMware Fusion, on the other hand, is designed on purpose to keep the environments separate. As a result, there are many extra steps you have to do sometimes if you are going back and forth between the host OS (Mac OS X) and the virtual machine (Windows).

Towards the end of the story is a comparison of XP and Vista. It's fun reading.

For example, when running Boot Camp, the Macs were faster Windows machines than the PC. But Vista levied a serious performance hit when compared with XP, ranging between 17 and 30 percent, the review said. However, we should note that this performance gap is something that is expected to be addressed with the upcoming SP1 version of Vista.

Which virtualization solution do you prefer?

Topics: Windows, VMware, Virtualization, Storage, Software, Operating Systems, Microsoft, Hardware, CXO, Apple

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

13 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • I've gone with Parallels

    I liked the integration with the MacOS, though at times it creates an odd gui (seeing the XP dock bar on the bottom of the Mac screen when using it with two monitors). Speed is exceptional under almost all cases. I run Vista on a desktop machine, and have found it very annoyingly slow and buggy compared to XP, so I have yet to go over to it for a main box. Having XP on Mac OS is a good compromise, as I find I use XP apps less and less. I didn't feel like rebooting to run another OS, like Boot Camp, but if I worked at a place with mostly Windows boxes and apps, I'd probably go that route.
    8string
  • A bit of apples and oranges

    As with a number of articles I've seen on ZD Net you mention Fusion, Parallels and Boot Camp all in the same headline. Boot Camp really doesn't belong on the same list as the other two as its really a very different product; i.e. its not virutalization at all, its a dual boot setup.

    One other comment: If what you are doing is Word Documents and Outlook, then performance is really a very very very secondary issue to you. What would be more important to you is ease of installation and ease of creation and management of virtual machines.
    cornpie
    • agreed

      Agreed - there is no virtualization happening with Boot camp - you're running Windows directly.

      "If what you are doing is Word Documents and Outlook, then performance is really a very very very secondary issue to you."

      Agreed. Word processing and email tasks that, computationally speaking, don't take much power. A word processor doesn't demand very much from a machine.
      CobraA1
  • Parallells

    I use Parallels and love it. I'm running Windows XP & Novel and it runs great.
    d_nc
  • What's next. A story on VMware, Xen, and Grub?

    (nt)
    People
  • What do I use?

    I actually own both products for exactly the reasons that have been pointed out. Paralles does a really good job and is steadily improving on merging windows and OSX. The problem is that I find I need Windows apps less often and therefore it gets used less often.

    I use vmware to develop virtual machine appliances for use by my work and as we embrace virtualization at work more I use my vmware installation more.
    People
  • My Experience

    Use both. Fusion is working better: it has installed all the Linux and FreeBSD oses I've thrown at it and it handles the windowing better. Parallels didn't play well with Ubuntu and I ended up going with Desktop-BSD (KDE on FreeBSD 6.2) but the resolution is 1200 x whatever, the entire Desktop is not visible, resizing the external window or guest configurations don't do the right thing.

    Parallels, and I'm not surprised it does better with Windows, is on a MacBook in case my free-lance work requires that I have to run Windows. Fusion is on an iMac. Both systems are running Leopard. Parallels released an update last week and I haven't seen if it runs Ubuntu now.
    DannyO_0x98
  • RE: Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp battle in real-world tests

    I actually like Parallels. I run XP, and even Vista (although I haven't figured out why; other than proof-of-concept) and both do ok. XP is actually usable and provides nice functionality for Visio in a XP "window".
    akmacaddict
  • Let's see a return of DESQview

    ;D
    johnay
  • RE: Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp battle in real-world tests

    I'm perplexed by the results discussed in the above
    references. I have both VMware Fusion 1.1 and
    Parallels 3.0. Until recently (e.g.: the release of Fusion
    1.1) I had a slight favor toward Parallels because of
    better integration. With Fusion 1.1 that all changed. My
    personal experience is that VMware Fusion performs
    equal to or slightly better than Parallels. I've also found
    it to be a bit more stable and nearly identical in terms
    of GUI integration relative to Parallels. Finally, the fact
    that VMware has a large library of virtual appliances
    and supports many operating systems (Linux, BSD,
    etc.) finally won me over.

    I've now converted to VMware Fusion (still have my
    Parallels license of course). Performance is definitely
    equal or better -- in particular I find Fusion restores a
    suspended operating system more quickly, and doesn't
    cause the Mac to "freeze up" periodically, for short
    periods of time, an annoyance that I saw occasionally
    with Parallels.

    In http://weblog.bosslogic.com/2007/12/vmware-
    converter/ I mentioned a few woes in converting from
    Parallels to Fusion, but overall it was a simple
    transition and I'm happier with Fusion than Parallels.
    zbeckman
  • RE: Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp

    I can't fully support this article with real world
    experience. I've never used Parallels - only because I
    purchased VMWare Fusion first and have had no
    problems (therefore no reason) to try Parallels.
    Personally, using a VM is perfect for me. I previously
    used Boot Camp and found it frustrating to have to
    boot back and forth between OS'. I don't require a lot
    of time one Windows, or a lot of "power" for my
    Windows apps (IE for access to a particular college web
    site and my corporate email; a few apps also
    associated with school) so I'm sure either VM would
    support my needs. I do like Fusion because of the
    support for multiple OS' though - I have Ubuntu and
    Fedora 7 and am going to load Solaris as well (work
    related I&T).
    stonefingers
  • Silly statistics

    The article is a bit dated, it didn't use the latest version of
    Fusion. It also has silly statistics like:

    "[i]VMware Fusion runs 46% slower than Boot Camp, and
    Parallels runs 44% slower than VMware Fusion (110% slower
    than Boot Camp).[/i]"

    How can you run 110% slower? Does that mean you are
    going backwards?
    Fred Fredrickson
  • RE: Parallels, VMware Fusion, Boot Camp battle in real-world tests

    Parralels!! I've run it on 3 Macs for close to a year now and the 'integration philosophy' underlying it suits me to a T.
    AJdeL