The latest head-to-head comparison between Windows virtualization solutions for the Mac

The latest head-to-head comparison between Windows virtualization solutions for the Mac

Summary: In its latest Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion article, MacTech said it performed more than 3500 tests on both single- and multiprocessor desktop and mobile Mac models. The study looked at the two main virtualization solutions on the market, as well as both 32-bit and 64-bit performance of Windows XP and Windows 7 in the virtual machines.

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In its latest Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion article, MacTech said it performed more than 3500 tests on both single- and multiprocessor desktop and mobile Mac models. The study looked at the two main virtualization solutions on the market, as well as both 32-bit and 64-bit performance of Windows XP and Windows 7 in the virtual machines. The authors were quick to point out that this is a performance anaysis, not a review:
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 ). 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.
In addition, performance isn't everything to your workflow. Each of the virtualization solutions brings a different perspective to moving between Mac and Windows environments, and VMware with its set of virtualized applications may fit in better to some organizations. However, in some benchmarks, for the moment (until the next rounds of updates), Parallels is beating Fusion on a number of speed tests, especially for file and network I/O and game performance. It appears at the moment that Parallels is taking better advantage of hardware acceleration when it's available.

But the virtualization is vastly improved from the emulation days on the PowerPC, MacTech reminds us.
One of the most interesting things in the virtualization market is how little overhead virtualization takes today compared to what it used to. To assess this, we measured in a variety of ways. Specifically, we focused on CPU usage (overall for the Mac), and how long the battery would last. CPU and memory usage were measured using "top" (a command line tool that's part of UNIX with a minimum of 50 continuous samples averaged for the result). [...] For the two idle tests, both virtualized environments did very, very well with only 2-5% of the CPU being used. So, while one may be 1/4 faster, it's not a significant difference to the user in real terms.
What struck me from a once-over of the data sets is how much better performance is gained from the Mac Pro. Listen, if you want speed, that's where you want to look. Yes, a MacBook Pro, for most tests, is faster than a plain MacBook. But don't think that you're getting desktop performance from a "mobile desktop." You ain't.

Topics: CXO, Apple, Cloud, Hardware, Storage, Virtualization, IT Employment, Windows

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15 comments
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  • An even better solution

    Boot Camp. Best performance. Best OS. Best
    hardware. What's not to like?
    NonZealot
    • With OS X, who needs boot camp?

      Windows never had it better than XP.

      Vista drove me to the Mac to begin with, and I've used Windows 7 (plus its much-vaunted 'XP Mode') long enough to know things are NOT better. Especially when XP mode isn't on the DVD, or why they resorted to antiquated virtual machine technology and not app-v.

      On top of the usual list of problems that will NEVER be fixed. Especially the registry...
      HypnoToad72
      • With boot camp, who needs OS X?

        Oh, right, we all do. Apple doesn't release
        firmware upgrades that are OS independent. I have
        to keep a partition on my Mac for OS X just so I
        can install firmware upgrades to fix bugs in
        Apple's hardware.
        NonZealot
        • RE: WHo Needs OSX

          It sounds like you hate OS X and apple hardwaare so why did you even
          buy a Mac in the first place?
          pjalm
    • Thats great for you....

      too bad that "best" is totally subjective, so that answer might work for
      you, but not for everyone. If thats the answer for you personally, thats
      fantastic for you... too bad its totally wrong for me.
      doh123
  • An even cheaper solution

    Virtual Box from Sun does all the basics for free. Why pay for Parallels or Fusion and then have to pay regularly for upgrades?
    ncted
    • free for now, and nothing is truly free. Hidden strings...

      And 'free is not a business model'. People pay money for the software developers make.

      Until capitalism is abolished (forgive me, I just laughed hard for 5 minutes), giving things away free just drives down wages and peoples' ability TO make a living.
      HypnoToad72
    • VMWare updates have been free for a while...

      ...and same with Parallel's. These last couple of versions are the first
      versions you had to buy for the update since these products launched.
      nix_hed
    • Not so?

      While Virtual Box IS free, it's lacking some of the performance abilities
      and feature set. If you pick up a copy of Parallels or VMware for $80, you
      get amazing performance, lots of extra features and better virtual
      machine stability. You only HAVE to pay once, but if you want to go to a
      newer version, yeah, it might cost you $40 or so. I'm still using Parallels
      4.0, and I don't see myself upgrading anytime soon.
      Ktroje
    • While....

      while its price is good, its still not as good as VMware. I always tell
      people to try it out if they need a virtual machine... but try out free trials
      of VMware and parallels too, since one of the others might work a lot
      better for what they are using it for.... but for some people virtual box is
      a fine answer.
      doh123
  • Agree - VirtualBox

    But not just because it's free. I find VirtualBox to be easier to use and provides better performance for desktop virtualization than VMWare.
    jshaw4343
  • RE: The latest head-to-head comparison between Windows virtualization solutions for the Mac

    MacBook Pro: I run XP Pro on Fusion 3.0. It's slow and
    SCARY re: stability. Win 7 Pro in Bootcamp is BLAZINGLY
    fast and stable. As soon as I'm sure everything works in
    Win 7, I'll dump Fusion - and XP.
    johnwadelong9
  • Free IS better

    My company uses almost exclusively free, open-source software. Instead, we invest in high-quality, local people to make the software do what we need it to do. I prefer that any day to some fat cat board of directors getting rich off of the toil of their contract programmers from some third world locale.
    ncted
    • Re: Free IS better

      Using local, qualified talent is what went away years ago. Now it seems that everyone wants to buy shrink-wrapped solutions and complain about the results instead of paying for customizing free or existing software to meet their unique needs.

      Example: a good shell script in the *NIX world can accomplish wonders, but most would rather pay for software than talent.
      ferris_fb
  • not as easy to use....

    not as easy to use, but none of these can touch the performance level of
    Wine.... the only problem with Wine, is that it will not run some things
    (yet) and some things it can run have a few problems... but for most
    software you an get working, its almost like running it natively.
    doh123