Why Parallels Not VMware Fusion Is The Best Virtualization Software For Most Mac Users

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If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of running Windows on your Mac, you’ve probably asked yourself which is the right virtualization software for you: Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion. Both have their vigorous defenders, but which one gives the best performance?

The guys over at MacTech have put together an incredibly throrough series of benchmarking tests, comprised of over three thousand tests. The result? A 9,200 word piece they are calling a treatise that — at least in my view — conclusively crowns Parallels as the king of virtualization software.

MacTech’s amazingly detailed article is worth reading for yourself, and runs Parallels and VMware Fusion through a series of tests that include speed, battery drain, operations and Retina performance using both Windows 7 and Windows 8.

The takeaway? Parallels is better than VMware Fusion in most tasks, if only slightly. Some takeaways:

• If you’re most interested in graphics performance, Parallels won 62.6% of all of MacTech’s benchmark tests by 10% or more, and was slightly faster another 8.9% of the time, and tied on the rest. “In other words, Parallels Desktop 8 was noticeably faster than VMware Fusion 5.0.2 in 3D graphics.”

• Parallels is also better at conserving battery life, and on MacTech’s test MacBook Pro, they got 40% more battery life in an idling virtual machine compared to VMware Fusion.

• If you’re virtualizing Windows on your Mac, MacTech says that allocating more RAM to each virtual machine actually hurts performance, and “means longer virtual machine launch times, suspends and resumes.” They recommend 1GB virtual machine RAM for regular users, and 1.5-2GB for gamers.

Like I said, it’s incredibly thorough, and while MacTech insists it isn’t a “product review,” the benchmarks certainly make a compelling case that Parallels is the better product for most users. It’s also, unfortunately, the more expensive product, costing $79.99 compared to VMware Fusion’s $49.99 sticker price.

If you enjoyed MacTech’s virtualization showdown, consider taking a look at their 2013 schedule of live community events around the United States.

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  • Kuipo

    Gaming in a VM is always a laugh to me. If you’re already running a Mac, just reboot into bootcamp, run windows natively… and get a gigantic performance increase for very little effort. You’ll be much happier than you ever will be playing in a VM. In fact, that’s all I use windows for… games. I always liken it to people as back in the day when you had to quit out of windows to run the game from dos. I “quit” out of OS X and go back to a windows install to launch the game.

  • Rowanova

    Is it possible to use Bootcamp, Parallels or VMWare to run Linux on the Mac?

    How about the ability to also run both Windows and Linux via VM on the same Mac?

    Not trying to be a smart-a__; just want to learn. Thanks in advance for any replies.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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