I realized a few days ago that I never came back and closed the lose ends on Parallels vs Fusion. (Of course, we are in the midst of moving from one house to another so perhaps I could be forgiven this minor oversight.) Basically, it comes down to this: both do the same job, they do it equally well, and the only differences are corner cases.
I’m not going to rehash what I put in prior posts; you can go back and read them if you missed one. So let’s talk corners…
- Speed – It’s one of those really difficult things to measure. The companies that write the code and those that review products can do it. They have all kinds of benchmark tests. And then they have to compare the numbers for the product being reviewed against similar products because saying “Product X scored Y on the Z test suite” isn’t going to mean much to the average user, even the technically savvy ones. And when you come right down to it the only “speed” that matters is in the user’s mind: do I think it’s running my task fast enough? Entirely subjective, I agree, but I also think it’s how most of us rate software. In this case, the reviews I looked at say Parallels and Fusion run about the same speed and that fits with my subjective evaluation.
Bells and Whistles vs. Under the Hood – This is another subjective kind of thing. Some people like all the bells and whistles they can get; others want to be able to tweak every setting possible. Paralles is the bells and whistles; Fusion is under the hood. Paralles seems to have a flashier UI than Fusion. They also have an app the runs on your iPhone/iPod touch/iPad (and maybe that Android thing). The app lets you control your VMs from a mobile device. Great for IT;meaningless to a home user. They also have more “modes” than Fusion does. One that Ihave found useful at times is Modality: it shrinks the VM’s display down to a small, translucent window that stays on top of all your other windows. It’s useful if you are installing software and it’s going to take a while. You have other things to do but you would like to keep half an eyeball on it. Fusion, on the other hand, is much more under the hood. It lets you tweak settings that aren’t visible in Parallels. An example is use of Intel and AMDs instructions for virtualization. Parallels doesn’t let you see them; it just assumes you want to use them. Fusion’s UI is also rather sparse which would appeal to an old UNIX guy – say someone like me! Fusion lets you get things started and then – for the most part – stays out of your way.
- Virtualization – Both do the same thing: intercept the keyboard and mouse and pass the info to the VM. Depending on how you configure the VM as far as the host OS goes, you may be able to cut-and-paste from the host OS to the hosted OS and vice versa. The hosted OS may be allowed to “see” host OS disks, ports, etc. (Personally, I don’t let the VM see much of anything on my Mac. I don’t need Windows doing squirrelly things.) The command-tab vs. alt-tab behavior (and things like it) are minor and can usually be compensated for by moving your mouse out of the VM’s view or using the keyboard device on the menu bar to “send” commands to the VM. An example of that is Ctrl-Alt-Delete.
I could keep going on but it all comes down to little things. Pick what’s important to you and go. Generally, there is no reason to jump ship unless (i) you are fed up with the product you are using, or (ii) the other guy has a widget you just can live without. If you are going to jump ship, the other company will give you 50% off as a carrot. I’ve been using Parallels for so long I know what to expect and there is no real motivation for me to change.
Note that there are other products out there, such as Virtual Box from Oracle (originally Sun), that are just as good. Again, you just have to find out who caters to your needs the best and go with them.