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VM test: Parallels faster for XP, Fusion for Vista

updated 04:10 pm EST, Wed December 19, 2007

VM Test

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 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 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."

by MacNN Staff



  1. lancelott

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I dunno...

    But I read an article about how VMware Fusion actually uses the 2 cores of the Mac's processor fully, whereas Parallels only uses one of the cores...

    If that is true, then VMware should be a better performer...(?) The results could be affected by that fact that VMware fully virtualizes the environment of the hosted OS, whereas Parallels "integrates" the Mac OS X features...

    Either way, I prefer to run my virtual OS as "sandboxed" as possible. I installed both VMware Fusion, plus Windows XP Pro with SP2 and all updates till' september (from an .iso) in less than 10 mins and works very good.

  1. adrian_milliner

    Joined: Dec 1969


    2 cores

    I did some not-very-scientific tests of Parallels vs VMWare on my 4-core MacPro and found VMWare much quicker. Depends on what you're doing I suppose, but VMWare giving you two cores has got to help.

    I also stopped using Parallels because of the reckless way it treats your Mac's data - at one point, it defaulted the XP file sharing to read/write your entire Mac HD.

    I much prefer VMWare's sandboxed approach

  1. ciparis

    Joined: Dec 1969


    stability matters

    Any benchmark that doesn't factor in the likelihood of lost time due to product crashes and instability is missing part of the point; VMWare is much more trustworthy in my experience (owning both). The poor stability of Parallels is why I bought VMWare in the first place, and I don't see myself ever going back.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Re: i dunno

    But I read an article about how VMware Fusion actually uses the 2 cores of the Mac's processor fully, whereas Parallels only uses one of the cores...

    Part of that would depend on the tests that were performed, and how well the OS handles mutilple cores/processors.

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