Comparison of VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop

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Represented by their respective products, VMware and Parallels are the two major commercial competitors in the Mac consumer virtualization market. Both products are based on hypervisor technology and allow users to run an additional 32- or 64-bit x86 operating system in a virtual machine alongside Mac OS X on an Intel-powered Mac. The similarity in features and functionality between VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop for Mac has given occasion for much comparison.


[edit] Overview

VMware Fusion is currently a second generation product. It was first officially released on August 06, 2007[1], and version 2.0 was released on September 16, 2008 [1]. Parallels Desktop is currently a fourth generation product. It was first officially released as version 2.5 on February 27, 2007, while version 3.0 was released June 7, 2007[2] and version 4.0 was released November 11, 2008[3]. VMware Fusion initially focused on performance and platform features while Parallels Desktop initially focused on more end-user features.

[edit] Features

Feature Product
VMware Fusion 2 Parallels Desktop 4.0
64-bit support Yes1 Yes1
32-bit support Yes Yes
Run Mac OS X Server virtual machines Yes Yes
Run Mac OS X Snow Leopard experimental - guest experimental - guest and host
Run Windows 7 virtual machines Runs (Identified as WIndows Vista) experimental
SMP support Up to 4 processors per VM Up to 8 processors per VM
Adaptive Hypervisor resource optimizer No Yes
Max RAM per VM 16 GB 8 GB
DirectX support DirectX 9.0c with Shader Model 2 DirectX 9.0c with Shader Model 2.0
OpenGL support No OpenGL 2
Video memory 128 256
Intel Streaming SIMD Extensions No Yes
High-definition support Yes Yes
Bluetooth support Yes2 Yes2
Spaces support Yes Yes
USB 2.0 support Yes Yes
Power management function Yes Yes
Easy Install with Automatic Windows Setup Yes Yes
iPhone remote access No Yes
Scalable VM window function No Modality
Integrated window function for Windows Unity Coherence
Integrated window function for Linux Yes No
Windows Start Menu integration with Mac Dock yes (no icons) Yes
Smart selection function Yes Yes
File integration function Yes4 Yes4
Shared screenshot utility Yes Clips
Speech Recognition No Yes
Boot Camp support Windows XP (32-bit), Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit) Windows XP (32-bit), Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit)
VM conversion function Yes Yes
Multiple display support Up to 10, unique separate display Up to 2, single logical display
Multiple snapshot support Yes Yes
Snapshot manager linear display tree display
Option to schedule automatic snapshots AutoProtect SmartGuard
Mount virtual machines in finder (VM explorer function) Yes Yes
Windows Security Software 12-month subscription to McAfee VirusScan Plus 12-month subscription to Kaspersky Internet Security
Windows Backup Software No Acronis True Image Home
Windows Disk Management Software No Acronis Disk Director Suite
Security Manager Yes Yes
Pause/Resume/Suspend functions Yes Yes
Automated Linux Install and Setup Yes No
Linux virtual machine support Window resize, time sync, shared folders, drag and drop Window resize, time sync, shared folders
Multi-language support Yes Yes

1An Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo or Xeon processor is required to run the 64-bit guest operating system[4]

2Must install Apple Boot Camp drivers.[5][6]

3Not enabled by default.

4Shared folders and virtual mirroring of Document folders.[7]

[edit] Minimum system requirements

Requirement Product
VMware Fusion 2 Parallels Desktop 4.0
Host OS Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later Mac OS X 10.4.11 or later
RAM 1 GB (2 GB Recommended) 1 GB (2 GB Recommended)
Disk space for product 400 MB 450 MB
Recommended disk space for virtual machine 10 GB 15 GB

[edit] 2009 Benchmark tests

In March, 2009, Volume 25, Issue 04, MacTech [8] published the results of a new series of benchmark tests that compared the performance between VMware Fusion 2.0.1 and Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac (build 3540), both running Mac OS X 10.5.5.

In most of MacTech’s tests, Parallels Desktop performed 14-20% faster than Fusion; however, Fusion ran 10% faster than Parallels Desktop when running Windows XP 32-bit on 2 virtual processors.[9]

OS/Environment Result
Windows XP, 32-bit, 1 Processor Parallels Desktop runs 14% faster
Windows Vista, 32-bit, 1 Processor Parallels Desktop runs 14% faster
Windows XP, 32-bit, 2 Processors VMware Fusion runs 10% faster
Windows Vista, 32-bit, 2 Processors Parallels Desktop runs 20% faster
Windows XP, 64-bit, 2 Processors Parallels Desktop runs 15% faster

The tests were performed on the White MacBook, MacBook Pro, iMac and MacPro. Both Fusion and Parallels Desktop were optimized for virtual machine performance. MacTech’s test included launch and CPU tests, File and Network IO, Footprint, Application Launch, Application Performance and 3D and HD Graphics. In many cases, tests were performed after both Adam and Successful launches and were timed using a stopwatch.

Test Suite Performance Winner
Windows Launch Performance Parallels Desktop for Mac
CPU Parallels Desktop for Mac, except for 2 of the 14 tests
Footprint on Mac Parallels Desktop for Mac
Application Launch VMware Fusion
Application Performance Both products did well, except for IE where Parallels Desktop is 80-91% faster[10]
3D and HD Performance Dependent on game1, video and Windows environment.

1 3D Games tested were Civilization IV: Colonization and Portal. In Civiliation, Parallels Desktop has faster FPS (Frames Per Second) and performed better on slower machines while Fusion has better, more detailed graphics. Fusion has difficulty showing the startup video, but Parallels Desktop's graphics are not as rich. When running Portal, Fusion is faster but its graphics are visibly lighter, while Parallels Desktop has better graphics and visual details. [11]

[edit] 2008 Benchmark tests

In Volume 24, Issue 02 of MacTech, the editors published the results of one-step and task tests between VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop and Boot Camp and used a PC running Windows XP as a baseline comparison in a native PC environment.[12]

  • One-step Test: After clicking the mouse or pressing a key, this test requires no further human action.
  • Task Test: This tests the interaction between Mac OS X and the virtual environment and requires multiple tests throughout the process.

MacTech found that the faster the physical host computer, the more similarly Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion performed. MacTech did not test multiple processor performance. The following graphs displays the results in seconds. Shorter bars indicate faster performance.

Image:Mactech---cross-platform.png‎ Image:mactech---network---file-io.png

Each test was run on a MacBook (2 GB RAM; 1.83 GHz Core Duo processor), a MacBook Pro (4GB RAM; 2.16 GHz Core 2 Duo processor) and a Mac Pro (4GB RAM; Quad Core configuration with two 2.66 GHz Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors). MacTech tested Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac Build 5160 and VMware Fusion 1.0 Build 51348. All tests were done on clean host systems with new installations of Mac OS X 10.4.10 and Office installations and included all of the most up-to-date patches. No third party software was installed other than Mac OS X, VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Adobe Reader and Microsoft Office.

[edit] Cross-platform task tests

MacTech’s cross platform tests timed how long it took users to perform multi-step tasks that moved data between Mac OS X and Windows. VMware Fusion, which is designed for increased isolation from the host, requires more manual steps to move data between the host and the virtual environment. Parallels Desktop, which is designed to run transparently with the Mac OS X host, requires fewer steps to perform the same tasks. Therefore, Parallels Desktop was faster.

[edit] Networking and file I/O tests

Parallels Desktop occasionally displayed lag anomalies while VMware Fusion's virtual drive performance was very close to that of a physical drive. VMware Fusion preferred a bridged connection for reliable performance, and Parallels Desktop was consistent regardless of the type of virtual network adaptor used.

[edit] 2007 Benchmark tests

On August 16, 2007, CNET published the results of several benchmarks[13] in which Fusion demonstrated better performance than Parallels Desktop for Mac in SMP-aware applications, which Fusion supports while Parallels does not. It should also be noted that Boot Camp is a tool for natively booting Windows XP on Intel Macintosh and is not a virtualization product.

Image:Fusion chart01.png Image:Fusion chart02.png

This comparison was tested on an eight-core, 2.66GHz MacPro running Mac OS X 10.4.10, Parallels Desktop 3.0 for Mac (build 4560) and VMware Fusion 1.0 (build 51348). Fusion and Parallels were both set to 1,024 MB of system memory and a 32 GB hard disk. Fusion was set to 128 MB of graphics memory, and Parallels Desktop for Mac was set to 64 MB of graphics memory (the maximum for each at that time)[13].

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "WWDC: VMware brings virtual machines to Mac OS X". Macworld. 2006-08-06. 
  2. ^ Breaking Down the Walls Between Mac OS X and Windows - New York Times
  3. ^
  4. ^ Fusion System Requirements: Run Windows on Mac and Get Two Operating Systems - VMware
  5. ^ "VMware: New Kid on the Block". 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Rudolph, Ben (2007-08-24). "Parallels blog on automatically sharing of Documents between Windows and Mac OS X". Retrieved on 2007-09-28. 
  8. ^ Ticktin, Neil. "Head-to-Head: Parallels Desktop for Mac vs. VMware Fusion". MacTech. Retrieved on March 2009. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ Ticktin, Neil. "Virtualization Benchmarking How do Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, and VMware Fusion stack up?". MacTech. Retrieved on February 2008. 
  13. ^ a b Begun, Daniel (2007-08-17). "Inside CNET Labs: Windows virtual machine performance on the Mac". CNET. Retrieved on 2007-10-04. 
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