MacTech: "Parallels is the Clear Winner" Over VMware

With the release of Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac and shortly thereafter, VMware Fusion 4, the question has been how well do these programs perform? One of the leading Apple technology publications, MacTech expended a significant amount of time and resources on an exhaustive series of benchmark comparison tests to determine the leader in desktop virtualization.

Just how exhaustive was the testing process?

This benchmark project is already huge with thousands of collected data points crossing two guest OSes (Windows 7 and Lion), five models of computers with mechanical hard drives and SSDs, and over 50 tests each run 3-5 times for most of the environments. There were a couple thousand tests to be completed, many with a stopwatch. That's all before a single word of this article is written!

Resembling past benchmark comparisons conducted by MacTech, experts “tested performance of the types of things that everyday users typically do. In this case, it was not just testing the raw performance of the Windows OS, but also commonly used Windows applications.”

The general test results are anxiously revealed early on in the post:

We won't keep you in suspense. When we look at the "big picture" of all the top-level test results, Parallels is the clear winner. If you count up the general tests (including the top 3D graphics scores), Parallels won 60% of the tests by 10% or more. And, if you include all the tests where Parallels was at least 5% faster, as well as the balance of the 3DMark06 graphics tests, Parallels increased the lead further. In other words, Parallels Desktop 7 beat VMware Fusion 4.0.2 in 74.9% of the general tests we ran, and Parallels was double the speed or more in almost a quarter of the top-level tests.

MacTech goes on to explain the outcome of their extensive gaming and 3D graphics tests:

If you focus exclusively on 3D graphics, as measured by 3DMark06 version 1.2, Parallels won by an even larger margin. Specifically, Parallels won 71% of the tests by 10% or more, and was also a bit faster on an additional 8% more of the tests, and tied on the rest. In other words, Parallels Desktop 7 beat or tied VMware Fusion 4.0.2 in all of the 3D graphics tests we ran… not only is the speed difference huge (Parallels Desktop is often double or more the speed of VMware Fusion), but everything just seems to run more smoothly.”

Furthermore, with Parallels’ new power management features, MacTech noted “about 25% more battery time on an idling virtual machine (which results in 81 additional minutes of use) than we did on VMware Fusion in the same test” via a MacBook Pro.

With Apple users no longer having the option to switch over to a spare battery, battery life is crucial. Still, you won’t waste any time with Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac launching popular Microsoft Office applications typically in a “few seconds.” And for developers interested in cross-platform testing, “across the board, Internet Explorer 9 performed significantly better on Parallels Desktop than it did on VMware Fusion.”

All in all, the verdict appeared fairly clear: Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac is the most effective solution for running Windows applications on you Mac without rebooting