Top positive review
78 people found this helpful
As usual, works great, but I still found Parallels edges it out...
on October 31, 2012
I've been using each version of VMWare and Parallels for about 3.5 years now, ever since I got my first Macbook Pro back in 2009. I'm on my fourth Macbook now, and still using them. Which one I use doesn't even really depend much on features, since they both seem to parallel each other (no pun intended) very closely with each new version. Sometimes I've been on VMWare, and then switched to Parallels. I've done the switch back as well. Usually it's a pricing issue. VMware seems to have a habit of not giving a good price break for existing owners to upgrade to the current version. There's a long thread on one of their forums from the bump to V4 where everyone was trying to get a break, especially those of us who bought it just a few months prior to the release of the new version. Parallels was offering a much better price to go to their new version as a competitive upgrade, which was the reason I jumped from one to the other at that point.
Historically, my systems always seemed to run better on VMWare. It always seemed just a little faster than Parallels. So I was interested when this came up on the Vine program as an option, as I am using the current Parallels, and wanted to do a direct comparison. So here's what I found.
Now, this is all running on a new 2012 Retina Macbook Pro with a quad core i7 at 2.3GHz with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD drive. I have a Windows 7 Ultimate VM, so what I did was copy that to my desktop on my mac, so I could import that into VMWare Fusion. I then removed all the Parallel tools from it, installed the VMWare tools. Activated it again, and I now have the EXACT same install of Windows 7 running on both virtual platforms. Both on the EXACT same hardware. Makes it really easy to do a 1 to 1 comparison.
For VMware, the first plus is that it shipped with a USB stick (1gb) AND the optical disc - this is great for those of us with systems that don't have optical drives.
The first minus - some help content missing and others inconsistent. During setup and configuration, some pages have a "?" there for more info about the options and what they mean, and when clicked, it just said "help not present for this". Three other times I tried the exact same question mark to find out more info, and it worked the third, but not the second or the fourth. Very odd, but hardly a showstopper as I'm a techie, and we're not allowed to use help pages or read manuals. ;)
After the initial migration and boot, the VMWare Windows 7 virtual machine went absolutely bananas for about three minutes - mouse going everywhere in the VM on it's own, randomly clicking things and opening and closing things. Finally it stopped and I was able to get in there to actually remove the old parallels tools and install the vmware tools. So if you do a migration, and this happens, just sit back and let it settle down.
Immediately I was far less impressed with graphics performance in vmware - resizing the Windows desktop is a completely different experience compared to the current version of Parallels - jumpy, skippy, blackout during the middle part of it, compared to simply a smooth resize with Parallels as it's dragged to a larger or smaller size, and the quick black screen only after you're done resizing and it finalizes the new resolution. You can easily see the desktop as it resizes in Parallels, but VMware just was too skippy.
It is also a 50% longer load time for my windows 7 VM using VMWare compared to Parallels - over 12 seconds to get to login screen with Vmware, under 8 seconds to get to login screen with Parallels. Counting both from when I double click the app to launch it.
Immediately after all was running, I got a prompt to upgrade to VMWare 5.0.1 when launching "for real" the first time. It promptly downloaded automatically for me, updated itself, and relaunched with no issues. But even after the update it's 50% slower to boot.
I ran the Windows performance rating while windowed, with a few normal things like Safari and Mac's mail program open, but none of them as the active window, just idling in the background. With VMWare it shows a base score of 6.0, which is the lowest speed, from both graphics and gaming graphics. Processor was 7.4, RAM was 7.9 and disk was 7.9. On Parallels, on the other hand, improves some and lessens others. Graphics for Parallels went up, from 6.0 in VMWare to 6.9 in Parallels, giving me a higher base score. However, Processor stayed the same at 7.4 and RAM stayed the same at 7.9 but Hard Disk dropped from 7.9 down to 7.5 - so overall Parallels was still the higher score. I reran the tests again and the numbers were consistent through both. These were both ran on the same hardware, one after the other, with the same background apps idling. Both VM's are configured for 4 CPU cores and 4GB of RAM (so I'm not running them concurrently obviously). During the test, both got my CPU up to 214-215 degrees F during the tail end of the test.
In VMWare, it's 10 seconds from selecting "shut down" to the VM actually being off. With Parallels, it's 6 seconds.
Now, the exact same virtual machine (remember I imported the existing one into VMware) in Parallels is 24.7GB, and in VMware it is 23.34. The Parallels App itself is 778 MB on my system, VMWare app is 700.4 MB. So there's a little less disk usage all around with VMware.
They both have similar features for running the Windows apps as if they were native Mac apps, showing up on the Mac task bar like any other program, rather than in a virtual "windowed" view of the Windows desktop. VMware calls it Unity, Parallels calls it Coherence. Both really work about the same, and both have the same annoyance - with the curved, rounded corners of programs running in Windows 7, both Parallels and VMware aren't able to render them with that smooth curve. You still see the smooth curve of whatever the window is, but there's little ghost corners off of those curves, as they are rendering straight lines right to the corners for these windows whether they're straight lined themselves. So there's always those annoying little points you can see around the Windows programs using EITHER virtualization product in those modes. Personally it's enough to put me off of it, but I prefer keeping Windows running in a window anyway, since I have the VM's for specific networking tasks and really don't need to share the interface with my Mac. Parallels offers a nice handy "exit coherence" with a right click of the dock icon, but VMware forces you to go back up to the status bar "View" menu item to do the same.
Both offer ways to access files and programs between the operating systems, and both work equally well. But VMware seems to handle "Drag and drop" to the windows desktop more consistently than Parallels. Sometimes with Parallels I have to drag and drop three or four times to get it to actually copy the file I'm trying to drag from my Finder window to the Windows desktop. VMware does it the first time, every time.
Both offer similar networking options for bridged, shared, or host only. Both have the same random inconsistency when you have it set to bridge "default adapter", and sometimes they just don't hit it. Both support systems also recommend you specify an adapter as one of the options to resolve the sometimes flakey networking. SInce my Retina MBP has no built in Ethernet, I just have it set to use the Wifi bridged. I manually switch to my Thunderbolt Gigabit when needed, but since it's not built in and I rarely use it, leaving it on the wifi has kept it consistent in both platforms.
VMware seems to enjoy distorting my dock on the Mac side when it launches, Parallels seems far less "intrusive" and doesn't cause graphical mayhem in the same way.
All in all, either program will work for you if you have to run windows on your Mac. Both offer a very similar feature set for "normal" users. I haven't come across anything in Parallels that I couldn't run in VMware or vice versa. I do have Realfight (an R/C flying simulator) and it runs great in either one, so both handle stressful graphics very well. The only reason I'm giving VMware 4 stars rather than 5 is because Parallels has consistently done better on upgrade pricing for existing users, and competitive upgrade pricing. And the fact that it starts up and shuts down considerably quicker than VMware does (which is the opposite of my experiences with all previous versions of both). But other than those factors, this version of VMware has shown it's every bit as reliable and stable as it ever has been.
All in all a fantastic program, and something that makes it SO much easier to migrate from a PC to a Mac if you ever get to that point. When I first migrated, I ran boot camp (where you boot DIRECTLY to the WIndows OS and run it as any PC on the mac hardware, no Mac OS X running at all) because of my Realflight program - it ran best when not virtualized. But as the virtual programs got better with graphics, I was able to switch to only running Windows virtualized, which saves me space on the drive and just makes things that much easier.
I switched to a Macbook Pro because of the hardware, not the software. OS X is great for some things, but I still prefer Windows for a lot of things. And software like this is what makes it so easy to live in both computing worlds. No need to be ONLY one platform or another, this way you can have the best of both worlds.