Parallels Desktop 5 vs. VMWare Fusion 3

As everyone else is weighing in with anecdotal evidence so will I. Since I use my Mac to run Windows to program in Windows and DOS for work, it’s very important to me to select the very best emulator. The odd thing is how each performed very well in different areas, both singularly excelling in areas that I would consider critical. That said, I think Parallels wins… read on.

Parallels Desktop 5

  • Faster Virtual Disk Access – And this is why it wins for me. Since so much of the performance of the VM is dependent on the virtual hard drive, this puts it way ahead of Fusion especially if you’re running antivirus on your VM.
  • Getures – Why can’t Fusion do this? Although I plug in a separate keyboard and mouse, several of my VM’s I use with the naked (so to speak) hardware. I was doing it by habit already so this is a win.
  • Serial Ports – To be honest I haven’t gotten the serial port to pipe to work (in about 30 min of trying), but the capabilities are far beyond Fusion, supporting even physical serial ports.
  • Configuration Options – It simply has more configuration options. Generally you don’t need them, but they’re there when you need them.
  • Better Host Integration Mgmt – Although turning these features off is anything but straightfoward, you have many more levels of integration from folder to MacLook that makes your Windows programs look like Mac programs. Also, there is (new to v5) a checkbox to completely isolate the VM from the host which will turn off all the other integration features.

VMWare Fusion 3

  • Workhorse CPU Virtualization – I have a testing program that tests the output of two different DOS programs running in the Windows XP DOS window (NTVDM). On a physical computer, these each consume up to 50% of the CPU. Parallels chokes and can run about .3-.4 units/sec whereas Fusion can test upwards of .6 units/sec. For whatever reason (probably lousy virtual drive performance), this doesn’t translate into overall better performance in Fusion.
  • FULL Keyboard Support – Fusion actually captures special keys like F12. I have Cmd+F12 mapped to the Pause/Break key. Parallels won’t allow this-won’t even allow setting it without turning off the OSX shortcut. Even in full screen it will bring up the Dashboard.
  • Good Mouse Support – Although it doesn’t support gestures, it did recognized the “Back” and “Forward” buttons on my Logitech mouse, and I don’t have any special Logitech drivers installed on the host or the VM.
  • Straightforward Config – Although not sufficient for the power-user, it does strike me as more accessible for the novice user.

These are just a few observations from regular use of both programs. Many of the basic features are identical, but Parallels really has the edge.

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