It’s important to remember that this review focuses entirely on performance; there are a number of features and advantages exclusive to each virtualization platform that aren’t considered in the preceding pages. With that mindset, the clear conclusion is that Parallels Desktop 10 offers better performance in most areas compared to VMware Fusion 7. While the gap is narrow in some categories, Parallels 10 simply outmatches Fusion 7 in both raw processing power and graphics performance.
In addition to Parallels 10’s victory on paper, we’ll note that during our testing Parallels felt subjectively smoother than Fusion, with tasks like manipulating windows and launching programs in our guest operating system providing a “snappier” overall response. Fusion 7 felt at times slightly choppy, and provided a frequent reminder that we were using a virtual machine. By contrast, it was sometimes easy to forget were were using a VM during simple tasks in Parallels 10.
But both Parallels and Fusion faced surprisingly competent competition from VirtualBox. While a distant third in most benchmarks, VirtualBox easily handled most of our non-GPU tasks without a hitch. You won’t want to use a VirtualBox VM for gaming or heavy workloads, and disk performance could be better, but if you just need to run some moderately demanding Windows software on your Mac, such as the arguably superior Windows versions of Microsoft Office and Quicken, there’s absolutely no need to spend upwards of $80 on commercial virtualization software. In addition, VirtualBox is cross-platform, meaning that you can move your VMs between OS X, Windows, and Linux host operating systems with ease (although it should be said that this is also true of VMware and its broader virtualization ecosystem).
In the end, it’s hard to go wrong with Parallels 10 or Fusion 7. If you want to play games or demand the absolute best performance in most areas, Parallels 10 should be your choice. If you need robust cross-platform support, or the longest battery life, you’ll want to go with Fusion 7. But before you plop down the cash for either, give VirtualBox a try. It’s completely free and just might satisfy your needs as the tortoise in this rabbit race.
Parallels Desktop 10 is available now for $79.99, with an upgrade for those running Parallels 8 or higher available at $49.99. The full version of VMware Fusion 7 is priced at $69.99, with an upgrade for users of Fusion 5 or higher also available for $49.99. VirtualBox is, as mentioned, available for free on multiple platforms.
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