Performance Test Results – Which One’s Better?
VMware and Parallels are the two leading products used today for Mac virtualization, hosting a different OS on a Mac than what the original computer hardware supports. Both VMware and Parallels are based on hypervisor technology, which allows Mac users to run another 32- or 64-bit operating system in a virtual machine along with Mac OS X on a Mac computer with an Intel processor.
A virtual machine (VM) is a software based, imaginary computer that does not have real, physical hardware components. Virtual machines are based on the hardware specifications of a hypothetical computer; they emulate computer hardware architecture and execute programs like a physical machine. Virtualizing, with enough RAM and other resources, allows you to run multiple guest operating systems simultaneously on one computer. This can be useful for testing software and running different servers, in addition to many other useful functions.
In the past VMware Fusion and Parallels have offered similar options, including allowing both Windows and the Mac OS running at the same time and having applications from both operating systems sit and work right from the Dock. While this may be true the game changes when you look at performance of VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop which will be assessed later in the article.
According to Dave Girard in an October 10 2013 article in Ars Technica, VMware started differentiating its virtualization software from Parallels in previous releases by further developing IT-oriented features. Parallels was set apart by focusing on Mac integration and improving the 3D graphics support. Let’s see what the new releases will bring for Parallels and VMware in 2013.
Both VMware Fusion and Parallels show speed improvements and they also provide support for Mavericks features. So what’s the difference between Parallels and VMware and which one is better for you?
Parallels 9 will have the following features:
- Support for various cloud services such as a cloud storage tool that lets you sync Dropbox, iCloud, Google Drive, and Skydrive with your Mac and your virtual machines all at once without duplicating files on both OS installs.
- Enhanced Windows 8 and 8.1 support, including a Start menu and the Metro interface.
- This version will let Windows apps print to your OS X PDF printer and use OS X gestures inside Windows apps. It even makes the settings screens in the Windows apps skip the many OK and Cancel buttons.
- Security Center for managing malware threats to virtual machines.
- Access and install free security software subscriptions to keep the Mac and Windows virtual machines safe from viruses and malware.
- Enhanced new Virtual Machine Wizard.
- This makes it is easier than ever to set up a new virtual machine, especially on computers that do not have optical drives.
- Power Nap support for Macs that support it, allowing VMs to update when the Mac is asleep.
- On a MacBook Pro with a Retina display or a MacBook Air, the Power Nap feature will extend to Windows and Windows apps. This means virtual machines and all Windows applications will always be up-to-date.
- Thunderbolt and FireWire storage device support.
- For convenience of everyday use, customers can connect those devices directly to a Windows virtual machine.
- OS X PDF printer support for Windows applications.
- Sticky multimonitor setup, so VM programs will remember their location in different monitor setups.
- Editable keyboard shortcuts to help customize the Windows experience.
- Enhanced Linux guest operating system integration.
VMware Fusion, on the other hand, focused more on core tech features for their new release including:
- Support for Mavericks multi-display features and AirPlay displays.
- Enhanced User Interface.
- Improved PC migration assistant and easier installation of Windows. More granular selection of computer resources.
- Support for up to 16 virtual CPUs, 64 GB of ram, and 8 TB of disk space in the virtual machines.Improved dictation support in Windows applications.
- These added virtual specs have the new version of VMware Fusion ready for Apple’s new Mac Pro.
- Optimized for the Latest Macs.
- VMware Fusion 6 is optimized for the latest models of Macs taking advantage of Intel’s Haswell processors for more efficient power consumption, increasing battery life and faster performance when running Windows applications.
- Run Mavericks as a Guest Operating System.Create a full clone of a virtual machine from the library.
- Support for installing Mac OS X in a virtual machine from the Mac’s recovery partition.
- Prepared to support Windows 8.1.
- Supports Virtual SATA devices.
In this comparison of VMware and Parallels, MacTech tests many aspects of these virtualization software packages, looking at everything including:
- System launch times
- Application launch times
- Memory footprints
- Host CPU usage
- File I/O performance
- Graphics capabilities
- Optimal configurations for managing guest installations of Windows 7, Windows 8, and OS X
- Retina display support for Apple’s new laptop systems
According to these tests it turns out that Parallels Desktop beats VMware Fusion in most categories. Parallels had better scores that VMware Fusion in 62 percent of the 3D graphics tests by a factor of 10 percent or more. Parallels is also faster overall in more than 71 percent of the speed tests. Parallels surpassed VMware by 10 percent or more in 56 percent of all the tests conducted by MacTech.
MacTech also found some important details about optimal virtual machine setups. For example, allocating too much RAM to run specific tasks in the virtual machine may slow it down. MacTech discovered that, for Windows 7 and 8, 1GB of RAM was the optimal amount for best performance. The same holds true for the number of virtualized CPUs, MacTech recommends you assign multiple CPUs to the virtual machine only if it is necessary and no more than half the number of CPU cores your system supports.If you are trying to decide whether Parallels or VMware Fusion is the best virtualization software for keep in mind that even though performance is important, it is not the only factor that you should consider. How one virtualization package sets up the virtual machine and the way it integrates into Mac OS X may fit your workflow better than the other. Since both VMware and Parallels offer free trials for their software, you can download both and try them out to see which one works best for you.