Apple switched to using Intel processors in 2006, and since then, users have been able to run Windows on Mac hardware. Prior to switching from the PowerPC architecture to Intel, Macs running Windows required software emulators for Intel processors resulting in slow computer functionality. Since this change to using Intel processors Mac hardware can boot directly into Windows using Bootcamp, or run alongside OS X in a virtual machine, or switch back and forth between a Bootcamp and virtual machine set up.
This new multi-OS capability of Apple’s hardware has software companies vying for the opportunity to become the main virtualization platform for Macs. This has spurred competition amongst three main virtualization applications in the market right now for consumer use:
Windows runs almost completely seamlessly in Mac OS with the help of one of the virtualization apps listed above. Windows apps can now run in their own dedicated windows, running beside Mac applications. Windows apps will also show up in the Mac’s Dock. The clipboard and file systems can be shared between the operating systems, and the user can access the Start Menu from the Mac’s menu bar or Dock. The user can also configure Windows to run in its own space where a simple swipe of the mouse or trackpad can switch the screen from an all-Mac environment to an all-Windows environment.
We will be comparing and contrasting the differences between them so that you can make the right choice that works with your work flow if you need to use a virtual machine in your network environment. When it comes to pricing VirtualBox from Oracle takes the win with the free price ticket. In the past according to previous performance tests this virtualization software had shown significant deficiencies for functionality and speed, however this may have changed for the better this year. TekRevue reviewed the three different virtualization apps using the following benchmark performance tests for Parallels 10, Fusion 7 and VirtualBox 4.
TekRevue’s Geekbench test results showed Parallels 10 and Fusion 7 neck and neck in most categories. Parallels took the lead by 2.5 percent in all the single-core tasks and Fusion had a half percent lead in the multi-core tests that were performed. VirtualBox trailed in third place in almost all these tests, but the race was close in categories such as floating point calculations and memory speed.
Fusion 7 $69.99
Parallels 10 $79.99
VirtualBox 4 $0
Parallels in addition to being the most expensive option is that it is licensed on a per Mac basis. Fusion, on the other hand, is licensed per user. So for someone who has multiple Macs, Parallels is more expensive, both initially and with each annual upgrade.
Geekbench – tests CPU and memory performance
The GeekBench tests that TekRevue used to test the 3 different virtualization software examined CPU and memory performance. GeekBench 3 now reports results for both single-core and multi-core workloads.
TekRevue’s Geekbench test results showed Parallels 10 and Fusion 7 neck and neck in most categories. Parallels took the lead by 2.5 percent in all the single-core tasks and Fusion had a half percent lead in the multi-core tests that were performed. VirtualBox trailed in third place in almost all these tests, but the race was close in categories such as floating point calculations and memory speed
3D Video Performance
TekRevue used 3DMark06 to test Direct3D, the Microsoft 3D application programming interface (API) element of the DirectX package that is used to render three-dimensional graphics. DirectX is an API for creating and managing graphic images and multimedia effects in applications such as games or active Web pages to run in Windows Internet Explorer.
The tests showed that Parallels 10 offers significantly better DirectX 3D performance than Fusion 7, and leads by a margin of 15 percent. The VirtualBox VM would not run the 3DMark06 test.
4D Video Performance
TekRevue also used Cinebench R15, a cross-platform benchmark test based on Cinema 4D, a graphics software by Maxtron. Cinebench compares CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms including Windows and OS X, and measures a system’s performance in terms of OpenGL GPU power as well as single- and multi-threaded rendering capabilities. Unfortunately, neither Fusion 7 nor VirtualBox would support the GPU test so the results only reported the rendering performance.
Parallels 10 won the multi-core efficiency category by 13 percent. The test results for the single-core efficiencies were all around the same for Parallels 10, Fusion 7 and VirtualBox 4, this may indicate that all virtualization software has a limit on single-core efficiency for the Cinebench tests. Fusion 7 took third place in these tests, although the margin behind VirtualBox was slight.
This test evaluates the performance of your system while using professional apps including Microsoft Office, graphic design, video and audio production software. Additionally this assessment looks at how Parallels, Fusion, and VirtualBox handles the workload while utilizing office or creative functions such as video chatting, browsing the Internet and gaming.
Parallels 10 scored the highest in the categories, and in the tests that VirtualBox could complete, it falls significantly behind with almost a 40% difference from Parallels.
Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0 is another benchmark that was run and this one looks at the overall system performance measuring:
- CPU tests: Mathematical operations, compression, encryption, SSE, and other computational functions
- 2D graphics tests: Drawing lines, bitmaps, fonts, text, and GUI elements
- 3D graphics tests: DirectX 3D graphics and animations
- Disk tests: Reading, writing and searching in disk files
- Memory tests: Memory speed and efficiency
For the computational CPU and graphics tests, Parallels 10 takes the lead again, however Fusion 7 wins by a slight margin in the disk performance category. An interesting point to note is the disparity in the disk performance score for VirtualBox.
File Transfer Speed
TekRevue also ran real-world tests to compare the file transfer capabilities. They used the Windows 7 Professional install ISO as the test file, which is 3.32GB in size. TekRevue tested copying and pasting this file from within each VM as well as copying and pasting the file from inside the VM to the host OS X.
Parallels 10 and Fusion 7 had about the same level of performance for large file transfers. The test results showed that Parallels was one second faster within the VM, and Fusion one second faster when transferring to the host operating system. VirtualBox remained significantly behind both Parallels and Fusion when it came to disk performance.
Virtual Machine Management
The virtualization apps enable more than one VM to run on a Mac. In addition to Windows and Linux, both Parallels and Fusion support running virtualized versions of OS X. OS X versions 10.6 and earlier require the Server software variety in order to be virtualized. Apple changed its virtualization license so that the less expensive, consumer versions of OS X 10.7 and later, can be virtualized.
Some users manage many VMs at once and efficient management of each of these virtual machines can be important for productivity. TekRevue completed tests to measure the performance of the virtual platforms if you manage multiple VMs and need to switch to a different one frequently. Tests were run to measure the time it takes to boot, suspend, resume, and shut down the different VMs.
Parallels had the fastest management times using a Windows 7 VM across all the tested functions. All three virtualization platforms could suspend a VM at almost the same rate, and VirtualBox had the worst scores against the competition when it comes to boot and shutdown times.
There are many reasons why someone would need to run a virtual machine including cost and convenience. Virtualizing your operating systems may enable you to cut down on the number of computers you own in order to run the proper OS. Hopefully the data in this article from TekRevue helps you make the right decision to use the virtualization product that works best with your workflow.