Test Setup & Methodology
As mentioned in the introduction, we ran our Parallels 11 vs. Fusion 8 benchmarks on two hardware platforms: a MacBook Pro and a Mac Pro. The MacBook Pro is a Mid-2014 15-inch model, with a 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4870HQ, 16GB of RAM, 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, and 512GB PCIe flash storage. The Mac Pro is a Late 2013 model with a 6-core Intel Xeon E5-1650 v2, 64GB of RAM, dual 3GB AMD D500 GPUs, and 256GB PCIe flash storage. The MacBook Pro was our primary test platform, used for all results unless otherwise noted.
Our host operating system for all virtualized tests was OS X Yosemite 10.10.5, the latest publicly available version as of the date of this article. Even though both Fusion 8 and Parallels 11 support OS X El Capitan, we’re reluctant to perform tests on beta software where bugs or future changes could play a factor in skewing the results. We’ll revisit El Capitan once it launches later this year and we’ll let you know if it provides any performance boosts that would alter the benchmark results reported here.
Our guest operating system for all tests was Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, which was installed separately in four configurations: native to the Mac’s hardware via Boot Camp, in a virtual machine powered by Parallels 11, in a virtual machine powered by Fusion 8, and in a virtual machine powered by VirtualBox 5.
Regarding our decision to use the 64-bit version of Windows, it’s true that the 32-bit version can be easier to virtualize and therefore may offer slightly better performance in certain circumstances. Unfortunately, the latest version of Boot Camp requires the use of a 64-bit version of Windows, so we were forced to use 64-bit VMs as well in order to maintain consistency between the platforms.
As for our virtualization software, we used the latest available version of all applications, which at the time of publication is Fusion 8.0.0, Parallels 11.0.0, and VirtualBox 5.0.3, which is admittedly a test build but is required to provide Windows 10 compatibility.
Each of our Parallels and Fusion Windows 10 virtual machines was configured for maximum performance, with 8 assigned virtual CPUs, 12GB of RAM (the maximum recommended amount in order to ensure that enough is reserved for OS X), and 1GB of graphics memory configured for each platform’s most advanced DirectX and OpenGL graphics support. The VirtualBox VM was also configured to its maximum supported hardware level, with matching CPU and RAM, but with only 256MB of graphics memory, the most it allows. For all platforms, all features that could possibly impact performance, such as error logging or an expanding virtual disk, were disabled.
All operating systems and testing software were updated to their most recent versions as of the date of this article. More information about each benchmark application or test can be found on its respective results page.
As is standard practice here at TekRevue, all tests, unless otherwise noted in the results, were performed three times for each Windows installation, and the results were averaged. Our normal procedure in the event of a discrepancy greater than 5 percent is to re-run the tests until the issue can be identified. The only test that required this additional analysis was battery life, and the issue is described further in that section.