updated 04:10 pm EST, Wed December 19, 2007
New benchmarks reveal that while Boot Camp is still the fastest way to run Windows on your Mac, the virtual machines offered by Parallels and VMWare offer increasingly decent performance -- depending on which flavor of Windows you choose to run. MacTech, in an extensive benchmarking of the different Windows-on-Mac methods, found that Parallels was somewhat faster in general than VMware Fusion for XP, but if you want the best virtualization performance for Vista, then VMware Fusion is the way to go. Overall, however, the results show that XP is, by and large, a much better VM performer than Vista.
The tests found that XP under Boot Camp averaged 12% faster than the baseline PC running XP, XP under VMware Fusion averaged 1% faster than the baseline PC running XP, and XP under Parallels averaged 19% faster than the baseline PC running XP. The baseline PCas a brand new Fujitsu Lifebook A6025, with an Intel Core Duo running at 1.86 GHz, 1GB RAM, running Windows XP SP2.
Vista was a different story, posting dismal performance stats under each operating environment. Vista under VMware Fusion averaged 46% slower than Vista under Boot Camp. Vista under Boot Camp averaged 24% slower than XP, Vista under VMware Fusion averaged 32% slower than XP, Vista under Parallels averaged 85% slower than XP.
The study also discusses the issue of cross-platform tasks performed under both VMWare Fusion and Parallels. Whereas Parallels is well integrated with Mac OS X and thus allows Windows to piggy-back on the functionality of its host OS. VMWare Fusion, meanwhile, is designed as a completely separate "sand box," meaning that cross-platform tasks take much longer to complete.
For instance: "If your primary mail application was Mail.app on the Mac and you got a Visio (.vsd) enclosure, you would need to open that on Windows within Internet Explorer (with the Visio plug-in installed). Parallels could do this transparently, where VMware Fusion you had to move the file first before opening it. Lastly, a Mail.app message has a web link, and you want to open it in Internet Explorer 7. Parallels can have a Windows browser specified as the primary browser, but in VMware Fusion, you would have to copy the link and past it into the Windows browser."
MacTech concludes, based on the testing: "Boot Camp, VMware Fusion and Parallels are all very good, each in their own way. You should make your decisions based on what your needs are as a result. If you don't want Mac integration, and just want to run Windows, go with Boot Camp. It's faster than a PC anyway. If you want a virtualization product (that allows you to run Windows alongside Mac OS X), and you want the best performance for the types of things that we tested, then clearly you need to run XP and not Vista. Furthermore, in our tests, both VMware Fusion and Parallels performed well, and were a good user experience."