As you may have read in our initial benchmark review of Parallels 10, there’s not a huge difference in performance between Parallels 9 and Parallels 10. But one area that both Parallels and VMware call out this year is battery life, with the former claiming an improvement of “up to 30 percent.” Our testing did reveal an improvement, but only by about 10 percent.
To see how Parallels 10 fares against VMware Fusion 7 and VirtualBox, we turned once again to Futuremark’s Powermark test, which emulates certain workflows until the battery is exhausted. We tested both the “Balanced” and “Productivity” workflows. The former runs a continuous loop of activities including Web browsing, word processing, video playback, and light 3D gaming, while the latter looks at just Web browsing and word processing.
As we mentioned earlier in Hardware, Software, and Methodology, our battery life tests were performed on a 2011 15-inch MacBook Pro with a 2.3GHz i7 CPU. The system is a bit older than our Mac Pro, but its battery isn’t, having been replaced this summer and reporting a cycle count of only 21.
Each test was performed with a fully charged battery and all nonessential applications disabled. Screen brightness was set to 50 percent and both the OS X host and Windows 7 guest operating systems were configured to stay awake indefinitely. Battery life was tested three times for each platform, and the results were averaged (this took a really, really long time).
The only issue we ran into was with VirtualBox and the Balanced test. VirtualBox couldn’t run the 3D gaming portion of the test; the test didn’t fail, but it just sat there with a blank window during the 3D portion. The result was that the MacBook’s CPU and GPU weren’t taxed, and the battery draw was minimal compared to Parallels and Fusion. We therefore omitted VirtualBox from the Balanced test, as its inability to fully complete the scripted workflow produced inaccurate and unreliable results.
The battery life test results are presented below in minutes, with longer bars equalling longer battery life.
While Parallels 10 enjoyed a victory in the majority of the previous tests, Fusion 7 easily takes the battery life crown. In the more demanding “Balanced” test, Fusion 7 beats Parallels 10 by 26 minutes, or about 18 percent. With the lighter “Productivity” workflow, Fusion 7 increases its lead even further, lasting 70 minutes longer than Parallels 10 for a 28 percent advantage. VirtualBox comes in a distant third, lasting only about 3 hours compared to Fusion 7’s more than 5 hours of running time.
The old cliché “you get what you pay for” satisfactorily explains VirtualBox’s shorter battery life, but we were a bit surprised by the disparity in running time between Parallels 10 and Fusion 7, even though that disparity remained consistent throughout the three iterations of our test. While further testing is outside the scope of these benchmarks, we may look again at battery life in the future, perhaps with alternate testing methods and operating systems.