At a time, Apple was thought to be the most valuable brand name across the planet, and for a good reason – the company helped reshape the software industry through the cut-throat competition. Besides, Mac OS X is of higher quality than Windows software. However, even the most loyal Mac users acknowledge that Windows rules the roost in the desktop and laptop computers industry. There are many essential apps that are Windows-only.
Are you using macOS but in dire need of accessing Windows or Linux-only programs? Virtualization technology has covered it all as we take a look at Parallels vs VMware Fusion for Mac.
While you can access various legacy apps using browsers, some require you to use the PC versions of Office and Windows-specific apps. For instance, the Windows version of MS Office has ingress to a database that has never been available for macOS.
Whether you are a home user, IT professional, developer, or business person, there are innumerable reasons why you might want to virtualize Windows, Linux, or any other operating system on your Mac.
Fortunately, as obtainable in Parallels vs VMware 2021, virtualization and virtual machine software packages allow you to run different operating systems on Mac, alongside the conventional Mac setup, without necessarily dual-booting back and forth between the macOS and the other OS.
These packages aim to provide a stable and secure local desktop virtualization platform without interfering with your normal setup.
Despite Apple’s plan to introduce Mac ranges based on Apple Silicon processors, the currently available Mac lineup comprises Intel processors. This article will introduce to you the two most sought-after virtualization solutions: Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion.
Before making it further, remember that virtualization software packages require you to have a full Windows license copy.
With that said, here is the core reason you are reading this post.
Main Differences between Parallels and VMware Fusion
This is the most interesting part of this work. To decide what virtual machine software to use, it is good to understand how each works on Mac. While parallels and VMware Fusion are great options to run Windows on Mac and will feel as if Apple developed them, depending on the user, they differ significantly.
There are very obvious and vastly recognized differences like exceptional customization and integration features of VMware fusion, where Parallels compensates with an effortless setup process. Parallels is accredited for fast performance in testing. Basically, VMware fusion is best suited for expert and professional users, and its counterpart, Parallels, is ideal for users at any level.
With that said, let's, objectively and independently, look at their features to get a better picture of what they are and how they virtualize.
#1 Parallels and Features
Parallels application is one of the fastest, easiest, and most potent virtualization solution, making it a favorite for many because you can precisely get what you want without overpaying for additional features you don’t need. Simply, this means that it has an intricate pricing model, where the price is determined by the features of the package you’re buying.
Although its primary purpose is to run applications on Mac as if they are operating in their native environment, Parallels Desktop has a myriad of incredible features. Parallels tend to issue an upgrade annually to coincide with the macOS latest versions.
Parallel's Video Downloader
Continuous Support for Latest Versions of Windows & Mac
The latest version, Parallels Desktop 16, comes optimized to support the latest Windows 10 updates and macOS Big Sur. With Parallels, you will stay up to date and work without interruption, thanks to the constant updates and seamless integration.
Instead of using deprecated kernel extensions, the package uses native macOS system extensions for an immersive Windows-on-Mac experience. At the heart of every feature, you can do more for less time without compromising on quality.
Run Games with Fast & Improved Graphics (DirectX)
Besides the superb speed, users can enjoy improved graphics delivered by Parallels Desktop Version 16. With up to 20% faster DirectX 11 and full support for OpenGL graphics allows you to run more Windows apps and games, including CLINCheck Pro, ProPresenter 6, Rhino 6, SAMSON Connect, DIALux EVO 9, among others. You can now achieve quality 3D capabilities, thanks to the world’s first Metal graphics acceleration in macOS Big Sur VM.
To ensure more hours of productivity, use Windows in travel mode to increase battery life. You can also set “Do Not Disturb” on Parallels Desktop so that Windows does not disturb you as well as use Trackpad to zoom and rotate content smoothly in Windows.
Support for Linux
Mac users who are passionate about using Linux virtual machines can now celebrate. If you use Parallels VM for software development, it is harder to get better than up to 75% faster “git status” execution for Git repositories stored in Linux Shared Folders. You can download and use Linux distributors, including Ubuntu 20.04, Fedora32, CentOS 8, and Debian 10.
Compress Files & Assign RAM
The PRO Edition continues to be more powerful and feature-rich to help you stay productive. PRO Edition, in the latest version, allows you to compress files before transferring for an easy and quick upload. Now you can assign 128GB of virtual RAM and 32 virtual CPUs for each virtual machine.
#2 VMware Fusion and Features
Although VMware Fusion doesn’t keep up with Parallels’ regular updates cycle, it also runs a smattering of Linux and Windows virtual machines. It takes the same basic approach to virtualization technology that uses software to simulate an ordinary Windows PC’s hardware. Like Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion allows you to run Windows and Mac apps simultaneously without compromising on each other.
More Suited for Technical Users
Although it is best suited for technical users, Fusion is simple enough for home users and powerful enough for businesses, developers, and IT experts. Depending on your need, you can get virtual machines that run Windows, various Linux versions, and macOS. The newest version, VMware Fusion 12, comes with remarkably incredible features to elevate your Windows-on Mac experience. You can select from hundreds of supported OSes and run them side by side with the latest macOS.
With Fusion products, you are free to keep the two worlds (macOS and Windows) securely apart or integrate them to make Windows feel at home on Mac. VMware Fusion allows you to, seamlessly, blend Windows with Mac without, significantly, cluttering your desktop. For an unparalleled experience, use the Fusion’s ‘unity’ mode to conceal Windows desktop so that individual Windows apps operate in Mac as if they were ordinary Mac apps.
VMware Fusion 12 is complete with the world-class desktop hypervisor, which allows you to run virtual machines, containers, and Kubernetes Clusters on Mac.
Although these two virtualization solutions are macOS Big Sur ready, Fusion 12 was re-architected to benefit from Apple’s hypervisor APIs fully. If you are a developer or IT professional, you must like the new CLI ‘vctl’ with its indispensable role of helping you build and test apps on production or familiarize yourself with emerging cloud technologies.
Support for DirectX for Graphics
VMware Fusion 12 supports DirectX 11 and OpenGL for graphics. It allows you to allocate some VRAM to your 3D accelerated guest to optimize 3D app performance and gaming. The latest version also supports eGPU devices enabling you to use external GPUs connected to the host.
Fusion 12 delivers additional compatibility with vSphere via ESXi and vCenter for remote virtual machine operation and configuration as well as USB 3.1 support so that hardware devices are passed into VMs with holistic driver support.
With Fusion 12, you get an improved security feature: Sandbox Renderer. The SBR allows you to disable integration features; therefore, isolating Mac from Windows and protecting the two operating systems out-of-the-box without sacrificing performance or quality. VMware Fusion allows you to, seamlessly, enjoy copy-and-paste, file or folder sharing and mirroring without any setup processes. For advanced cases, you can customize these integrations for a better experience.
Fusion believes in making computing inclusive. For this reason, they enhanced compliance with VPAT Section 508 to enable all users to benefit fully from using virtual machines. Fusion is now compliant with WCAG 2.1 criteria.
Parallel versus VMware Fusion Performance
Both Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion have set up a wizard to guide you through installation. Lucky enough, they both permit you to import Boot Camp partitions or migrate an old Windows PC to your Mac. However, Parallels tend to, definitively, guide users through installation and how to maximize productivity or gaming when compared to VMware Fusion.
Parallels Desktop's Installation Assistant
VMware Fusion's Installation Wizard
Although they are termed ‘simple', when Parallels is compared to VMware, it is simpler and more user-friendly as it guides you through. This makes it a perfect option if you want to avoid the job of adjusting settings. Basically, Parallels feels smoother compared to Fusion.
Compared to VMware, Parallels takes 15-35 seconds to boot Windows 10, whereas its counterpart, VMware, boots in more than a minute depending on how your Mac is loaded. Parallels emulates the Fast Start PC BIOS option that makes booting relatively faster. The fast booting speed might be annoying because Parallels turns everything on, including what you may not want. This may make your desktop cluttered.
Software Testing for IT Professionals
If you are a developer or IT professional wishing to test software, you will want a Windows system that is fully isolated from the host. In this case, both Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion allow you to fine-tune things to blend with your requirements.
In Parallels, you will enjoy faster booting and file transfer, which means Parallels is ideal for CPU-related tasks or if you want to be running apps that require tons of 3D rendering. VMware also offers remarkably unique cross-platform support plus legacy features. Although the performance differences are not dramatic when choosing Parallels versus VMware.
Parallels vs. VMware Fusion in Gaming
When comparing Parallels Desktop versus VMware Fusion regarding gaming experience, Parallels has a slight edge and is faster than VMware Fusion. If all you want is to play PC games using virtual machines on Mac, one of the things you need to do is check the graphics quality.
Even though Parallels can run graphic-intensive games well, VMware Fusion seems to also deliver good graphics, and with extra graphics memory, it elevates the overall gaming experience. Thanks to these features, VMware can run games and graphic-intensive apps on ultra settings.
Whether you opt for Parallels or VMware, you will get DirectX 11, and both support OpenGL (Open Graphics Library version), which enhances the quality of the display. Both Parallels and VMware Fusion can be tweaked to allocate more memory to improve graphics, which makes a significant difference.
With Parallels Desktop, you will probably play games best at the medium settings even when they are running greatly while VMware fusion allows you to play 3D games on high or ultra settings, provided you have an adequate GPU.
Parallels Desktop allows you to use an external GPU (eGPU) to optimize 3D performance and rendering. This makes Parallels run smoother than VMware.
You can get many games up and running on Parallels compared to VMware.
Both applications seem to suffer differently but from a similar issue: Shader stuttering. Whenever you enter a new phase in a game or execute initial action, the virtual machine tends to freeze shortly. Each game is affected differently. For VMware Fusion, the issue comes upfront, and the game may appear to have crashed with a terrible performance at the start, but things get better with continued play. On the other hand, Parallels Desktop will load the game faster and may start stutter as you play.
VMware comes in three editions: Fusion Player, Fusion PRO, and Fusion PRO+, whereas Parallels Desktop comes in three editions: Standards Editions, PRO Edition, and Business Editions and there is some discount for students.
It is noteworthy that Fusion Player offers a free ‘Personal Use’ license. This free offer can benefit home users, open-source contributors, students, or anyone who can use the software for non-commercial activity. Just remember that you must have a valid ‘My VMware account'.
The VMware Fusion 12 pricing is:
- VMware Fusion 12 Player: $149 for a new license or $79 for an upgrade.
- VMware Fusion 12 PRO: $199 for a new license or $99 for an upgrade.
- VMware Fusion 12 PRO+: $241 for a new license or $141 for an upgrade.
For Parallels Desktop, you will have to pay $79.99 for ‘Home and Students', $99.99 PRO Edition for ‘Testers, Developers and Power Users' (Most popular), or $99.99 Business Edition for ‘Use in Work Environments/Settings'. You can always get an upgrade for $49.99.
Bottom Line: Is VMware better than Parallels?
Whether VMware is better than Parallels depends on what you want to do with virtual machines. VMware may not have as much convoluted upgrade policy compared to Parallels. Both software offer cutting-edge virtualization technologies with their innovative features.
If you intend to run graphic-intensive apps, Parallels is faster, but VMware can also be a good solution, but if you want to perform other tasks on VM, then you cannot go wrong by choosing Parallels. Nevertheless, both are great options for virtualization.