Yet another whisper lost.

Parallels vs Fusion vs VirtualBox

I’ll update this as my experiences grow.  Currently I have copies of:

I originally purchased Parallels Desktop as it was the main option for Virtualization.  Parallels 3.0 is okay.  I’ve heard that 4.0 is an epic improvement.  Parallels 3.0 is sluggish and painful to use.  It has a better “coherence” mode than VirtualBox, but I can live without the eye candy (it’s a perk, but if it’s more sluggish, then why would I use it?).  I plan on upgrading to 4.0 this summer, but until then, Parallels 3.0 will remain as an outcast.  It was running slower than VirtualBox.  It was much faster than Q though.  The multi-monitor support on Parallels Desktop 3.0 is bad, almost horrible.  It just tells the guest that the screen resolution is (X2 - X1) by (Y2 - Y1)  So if you click maximize, you lose control of windows, windows might appear in regions you can’t see.  It’s find if all of your monitors are the same resolution and positioned in a square or a rectangle, but if you have a setup like mine (13-inch macBook and 20-inch monitor) it doesn’t work.

VirtualBox 2.2 is an awesome improvement from the 1.X version.  2.2 added much more support on Macs for other guest operating systems.  I’m fairly certain that VirtualBox was the first to offer a “seemless” mode for Linux guests. The question being why would I want a seemless Linux guess on Mac when a lot of the stuff is ported over?  Just to be able to do it.  VirtualBox is fast and effecient.  One of the problems I have is it lacks multi-monitor support. So for free, it does an awesome job, and the only perks of the paid software seems to be better support for some items (like 3-D gaming, Multi-monitor support, and some other things).  For my purposes (browser testing and cross- platform app testing) VirtualBox is fine, but if you know anything about me, I’d rather pay a lot for a name than to get something cheap or free. VirtualBox rocks, but people like me tend to crave more and file for bankruptcy early on in life.

VMWare Fusion is so far my favorite.  I hear that Parallels Desktop 4.0 beats it hands down, but until I upgrade, VMWare Fusion is what I’ll use.  My one problem with it is that VirtualBox starts up a bit faster than it.  Once it gets up and running, I can’t really see any differences in speed, but I do see differences in functionality.  The multi-monitor support in Fusion is awesome. The “Unity” mode does exactly what it’s called.  Windows works on my Mac just like it should.  The windows can be dragged anywhere and if I use the maximize button, it only maximizes in that monitor, not in all of them.  If feels like they’re working just fine together.  Parallels Desktop 3.0 makes me feel like Windows is running in a separate application, like it’s struggling to work. VirtualBox works fine, and in a single-monitor setting, it’s fine, but Exposé doesn’t work as nice as it does in Parallels and Fusion.

So, in terms of cost, VirtualBox wins hands down.  You get the most for your money.  It runs fast, handles most of what you throw at it, has a “seemless” mode, and is good for those who can settle with it.

In terms of functionality, VMWare Fusion has my heart.  They added educational purchasing options, so for those poor unfortunate college students like me, you can grab a copy at $40 instead of $80 (heck, buying it new in school is cheaper than me upgrading to Parallels Desktop 4.0 at $57).

Parallels Desktop 4.0, I’ve been told, surpasses Fusion, so I’ll post an update on that later on.

If you’re wondering what I do, I basically test different web site designs and interfaces on different platforms.  VirtualBox is enough for that, but now I’m doing desktop application interface design and testing.  VirtualBox is enough for that, but the features in Parallels and Fusion make them better options as a Windows Virtual Machine in one of those integrates better with Mac OS X.

I don’t really do gaming or 3-D interface design, so I can’t review anything like that yet.  This summer, I should hopefully officially open my portfolio, so wish me luck with that.  Hopefully I can find a job next year >.<