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How Does VMware Fusion 3 Compare to Parallels 6?

Fusion’s main competition for Windows emmulation on a Mac, Parallels Desktop, was recently updated to version 6. Here’s what Joe has to say about the update, and about how Fusion now compares to Parallels Desktop:

Parallels Desktop 6 includes a long list of performance enhancements and interface improvements. The company claims it’s significantly faster than Parallels 5, especially with 3D graphics, while offering improved battery life when used on laptops. Parallels 6 also supports 64-bit virtual machines and Surround Sound 5.1.

Along with many smaller tweaks, such as improved keyboard shortcuts and added support for trackpad gestures, Parallels has retooled Crystal mode (which hides virtually all of the Parallels user interface), making it an extension for Coherence (windows from Windows side-by-side with windows from Mac OS X) rather than an independent mode. This update also improves Boot Camp support (for example, you can now suspend a Boot Camp virtual machine), makes it easier to back up virtual machines using Time Machine, and enhances the process of importing Windows installations from competing virtualization applications. And, Parallels now offers a companion iPhone/iPad app for accessing a virtual machine running on your Mac from a portable device.

VMware Fusion is currently at version 3.1.1. Interestingly, Parallels 6 turns out to have addressed many of the same things Fusion 3.1 did. That is, Fusion 3.1 increased performance (especially for graphics) dramatically, improved the integration between Mac OS X and virtual machines, added support for 8-way SMP, improved importing from other environments, and offered better Boot Camp support.

Now, both VMware and Parallels claim to have benchmark tests proving that their software is faster than the other guy’s. And I’m sure that, depending on what sort of test scenario one concocts, the numbers can work out in a variety of ways. But my advice remains as it always has been: take performance benchmarks with a grain of salt. Both programs are very, very fast—for the work I do in Windows, I have the impression of native speed either way. If I were a hardcore gamer spending a lot of time in the latest bleeding-edge 3D games, I might care about an extra percentage point here or there, but for my needs (and I suspect most people’s), either one is perfectly fine from a performance standpoint. If you’re trying to choose between them, it comes down to which set of bells and whistles, which feature set, and which combination of interface niceties floats your boat—and you may, of course, also have opinions about price, support, and other peripheral issues. My own preference has shifted back and forth a few times, but believe me when I say that for 95 percent of users, it really doesn’t matter! Pick either one and I’m sure you’ll be happy with it.

Posted by Tonya Engst (Permalink)