3 Reasons Why I Chose Parallels over VMWare Fusion

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UPDATE: This article is refreshed in this latest published version here3+1 Reasons why Parallels 7 wins VS VMWare Fusion!


If you’re like me, especially if you are working in an organizations where a most of the internal ERP systems are built only for Windows platform, and is also a Mac user, chances are you would want to be able to run both Mac and Windows applications at the same time. And if you’ve done your homework online, you would know that there is basically two main options to choose from, either to go with Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMWare Fusion.

New!! Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac

Both are pretty good choices and the current versions are very stable indeed. Both also costs the same retail price of US$79.99 and providing almost the same set of features. A quick search on Google as well as on Twitter reveals two camps that is generally happy with their choices. So, which would you choose? To be honest, even I don’t think I can provide that answer. However, what I can do instead is to perhaps share my experience with using Parallels Desktop for Mac on version 5 as well as some interesting features I found useful on the (currently as of this writing) recently released version 6 of Parallels Desktop for Mac.

I won’t be divulging much into the comparisons of Parallels Desktop versus VMWare Fusion here in this post. Instead, I’d share my views based on my experiences using both of them within the trial period when I evaluated both before deciding to put my money on Parallels.

This would also not be a complete review or walkthrough of Parallels (or VMWare Fusion). Instead, I’d focus more on the differences and key features that made my choice.

Why so? Well, in my experience, both Parallels Desktop version 5 (and 6) and WMWare Fusion 3.1 are very stable in running the virtual machines. Most postings I see online generally compares the much older versions of both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion. So those comparisons aren’t valid anymore. As I mentioned earlier too, both have very similar sets of features as well. Installation and setting up of a new virtual machine is fairly easy that anyone who knows how to install Windows would be able to do it. Template configs are provided on both products to ease that process. So choosing between these two isn’t all that easy today.

However, I do see that Parallels has always been in the forefront in getting new features (useful ones too) out into the market much faster than VMWare. Also, Parallels Desktop for Mac is perhaps one of the key products of Parallels, so I’m sure a lot of investment dollars goes into the R&D of the product as well. In VMWare’s case, Fusion is the only Mac product amongst their huge portfolio, so it’s not difficult to see a lesser focus compared to their other products.

It took me a while too before I was able to decide which one to go for but in the end I did choose and I was surprised why I did for Parallels, and how little those difference that made the choice was. So without wasting anymore bytes, let’s get into the whys of Parallels Desktop version 6 for Mac versus VMWare Fusion 3.1!

1. Visual Eye Candy

Both Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMWare Fusion had a feature called Coherence and Unity mode respectively. What this mode provides is the ability to run Windows applications on your Mac machine as if its a native Mac application. What happens is Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion hides the whole Windows guest OS and only reveals the window of the application on your Mac Desktop. Both also integrates with Expose where the Windows application would appear in Expose along with the other running Mac applications.

Curved transparent corners, always.

Now, this is to be honest a really small issue but it’s nagging enough for me to minus a point for VMWare Fusion. But Parallels really does a better job in the visuals department. My main guest OS is a Windows 7 virtual machine and Aero provide a really nice curved corners for the application window. Parallels consistently ensured that the the window is properly rendered onto the Mac OS. You can see what I mean in the screenshot on the left. Notice that the corners of the IE 9 beta browser is perfectly seamless on top of Safari in the background.

VMWare Fusions’ Unity feature however sometimes renders a white background at the corner of the Windows application, make it look like a square corner. Perhaps it’s my dual-screen setup that I use when I’m at home that seems to mess things up. But hey, Parallels don’t have this problem at all.

Also, it seems that somehow, Unity on VMWare Fusion is slower compared to Coherence on Parallels. However, I do have to mention that I am unable to objectively measure the difference. It’s just that I feel Unity is somehow lags more compared to Coherence mode, so much so that when I tried out VMWare Fusion, I hardly want to use the Unity mode. But on Parallels, it’s always left on Coherence mode.

Windows 7 on Parallels

The other thing that I hated about VMWare Fusion is the nagging Applications icon that perpetually stays on your Menu Bar to act as sort of the Start Menu of your Windows Guest OS. Again, this is a personal preference thing. But if you’re like me that prefers a less cluttered desktop, you might also hate this little thingamajig as I do. Perhaps there is a way to get rid of it that I wasn’t able to find. But heck, I lost my patience with it. But for Parallels, the Dock is used instead and sticks a Windows 7 Start Menu icon on it. Clicking on the icon then opens up the Start Menu.

Pretty nice if you asked me!

Also with Parallels Desktop version 6 for Mac, integration with the Windows 7 guest OS is much better where even the Jump List is accessible from Coherence mode!

Very cool and it very visually appealing too!

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac

2. Performance…

If visuals isn’t really your reason, perhaps performance is? Again, objectively, I am unable to clearly measure the difference without using proper tools and even then, it would not really reflect the real world usability of Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion.

But based on my experience of using Parallels Desktop version 5 and VMWare Fusion 3.1, I’d say that both performs pretty much on par. Although I could generally leave my Windows 7 virtual machine running/idling in the background, sometimes both would hog up a little too much RAM to OSX’s liking and the overall performance of the Mac machine slows down to a momentarily crawl. Because of that, I would usually shut down the virtual machine when I’m done needing the Windows platform.

So if it is a comparison between Parallels Desktop 5 versus VMWare Fusion 3.1, I’d say both performs at the same level although I ‘feel’ that Parallels is faster. Perhaps because I prefer to use Coherence/Unity mode where Parallels is a clear winner even on version 5.

However, Parallels Desktop 6 is a different story altogether.

In my brief use of the trial version of Parallels Desktop 6 so far, I’ve had noticeable performance improvements over it’s predecessor. It’s not just about running a single application fast on the virtual machine. It’s how little performance lag I get even when I leave the guest OS on all the time. Now, I just leave my guest OS running all the time in the background, even when I put the MacBook to sleep!

Apparently, Parallels has also improved the 3D graphics performance by leaps and bounds but I don’t (yet) play games on my MacBook Pro, so I wouldn’t know this personally.

3. iPad and iPhone app!

If you have and iPhone or iPad, you’d totally love what they did with the Parallels Mobile application. The previous version of the Parallels app for the iPhone was really ugly and wasn’t able to do much. All you could really do is to connect to where Parallels is running and manage and monitor the statuses of the the virtual machines. Nothing more.

However, the latest version now allows you to not only see which virtual machine is running, it also displays the virtual machine on your iPhone and or iPad and allow you to remote control the virtual machine!

So in essence, you could run Windows off your iPad or iPhone! Well, sort of. But imagine if you have a Mac Pro running Parallels with say, multiple virtual machines for multiple users, heck you can have a family of iPad users and all able to run their own VM instances off the iPad! If this is not cool, I don’t know what else is! 🙂

It even works if you set the virtual machine to run of Coherence mode! What you’d see is the actively running Windows app that’s running being shown on the iDevice! Awesome stuff.

So there you go, 3 little differences that made me decide to go with Parallels Desktop. If you have the same views as I do, why now check out the new Parallels Desktop for Mac 6 with Enhanced! Windows Applications in Your Dock and Spotlight

UPDATE: This article is refreshed in this latest published version here3+1 Reasons why Parallels 7 wins VS VMWare Fusion!


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9 Responses

  1. Nice article.

    Being a long time VMware user I can’t help but think VMware have their work cut out to make their product as slick, desirable to use and with the release of v6 of Parallels anything near as fast.

    I too blogged about the ‘On the Fence’ here : http://blog.vmote.net/?p=273


  2. hugow says:

    Regardless of any performance difference between VM Ware and Parallels, after years of suffering through Parallels insanely bad customer support system, I’m done with Parallels. Three more hours wasted with Parallels 6 Tools installation problems, and I’m migrating to VM Ware. When it works, Parallels is fine, but be warned: when it doesn’t, you’ll be tearing your hair out just trying to find out WHERE to get help, let alone actually getting live, competent tech support.

  3. Ken Ng says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I however have a rather pleasant time with Parallels’ support, both via emails and through the support site. Nevertheless, the web is also a great place for support when all things fails 🙂 What was your problem with the tools install? Perhaps crowdsourcing would help you here.

    Parallels 6 is such a great product for the Mac, it’s a shame to put it off just because of lousy support. I’ve got both Parallels 5 and 6 and VMware Fusion. Parallels 6 wins hands down from performance perspective.

  4. Matt says:

    I chose vmware for the icon. The parallels ‘pause’ icon is just ugly. The vmware icon is very nice…

  5. Ken Ng says:

    I’ve to say that I too think the dock icon can be much better. Even VirtualBox’s dock icon looks nicer 🙂

  6. Gig says:

    you chose an application due to an icon. You are a moron.

  7. Lawrence_o says:

    After evaluating both I have to agree with the author. Price is the same. Features very similar but performance of Paralleles is wayyyyy better. From v4 to v5: BIG difference. From v5 to v6:BIG difference.  Especially the possibility to use 2 cores or more is cool but VMware have this too. Either way, Parallels comes out as the clear winner for me.

    Cheers Lorenzo

  8. wmware actually pretty much invented virtualization, their product is cross platform and therefore superior, it also supports direct x… your article seems to have an element mac fanboyism, like many sadly you want a product that maintains your illusion of platform superiority… i love my shiny new mac but it is just a pc

  9. Ken Ng says:

    Hi Richard,

    But here’s the thing. I’m am indeed using a Mac and it is my main machine where I do my work, both professionally and personally. And between VMWare Fusion and Parallels, Parallels just works better for me. And last I check, Parallels supports DirectX too, so I’m not sure what’s your point was. I’m sorry that you do not agree with me. I like VMWare too for what it does, especially on a WinTel based system or even bare metal using hypervisor.

    And so you know, I bought VMWare with my own money and do use it quite extensively for work, but it’s mostly VirtualBox now since it’s free. Who doesn’t love free.

    As for the illusion of platform superiority, I’m not sure if that was the point of the article in the first place? Both VMWare and Parallels that I use are both used on a Mac and I’m not comparing them over the use of a Windows or Linux PC. Perhaps this article is too Mac oriented? But that is exactly what it’s meant to be. 🙂 But for the sake of differing point of views, I always welcome a nice discussion of Windows vs Mac vs Linux platforms. In fact, I do this a lot with my friends. At the end of the day, after comparing notes between us all, the conclusion is simply this. The superior platform is always what’s best to fit your needs. Each platform has their pros and cons. For me, the OS X simply provides me with the tools and capabilities I need to be extremely productive at what I do, both at work and at home without needing to buy too many 3rd party tools to beef up it’s native capability. Simple features like Quick preview, Automator, Apple Scripts saves me the precious time I have. What I lose then is the ability to play games well which is where the Windows platform excels far better than the Mac. But with two kids, I hardly have any time for games anyway. 🙂

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