Last week I downloaded VMWare Fusion to see how it compares to Parallels Desktop from a mobile perspective. Remember, when I first looked at Parallels, I noticed that it really hit the battery hard. As I stated back then, it makes sense because you’re essentially running two machines off of one battery. I’ve spent a few days with VMWare Fusion and replicated the simple test and battery observation and it looks like VMWare Fusion might be the better choice if you’re solely concerned with your battery drain as a mobile user.
Just like I did with Parallels, I monitored the reported battery life on my MacBook Pro using a fully charged battery. With only a browser running and the display turned down near the minimum, my battery indicator shows a charge of 3 hours and 30 minutes; essentially the same as the first time I did this when it was 3:29.
I then fired up VMWare Fusion and let Vista boot up. I have one gig of RAM dedicated to the virtual machine, just like I did in the original experiment. Additionally, I only have one of the two CPU cores configured for the Vista environment, simply because Parallels can only allocate one core. This is a nice option in VMWare’s product; you can allocate both cores if you want.
Once Vista was running, I took a look at the battery monitor and see improvement over Parallels; it indicates an additional 39 minutes of run time over the first test. If you recall, a fresh battery only reported 1 hour and 30 minutes with Parallels running; with VMWare Fusion: 2 hours and 9 minutes.
Is this the most scientific test? Of course not; it’s simply a quick indicator of which virtualization product taxes your system battery less and for mobile device users, that’s a great place to start. Since I provided some CPU and memory indicators when doing this with Parallels, here’s the same information with VMWare Fusion.
CPU before VMWare:
CPU when running VMWare; by comparison the CPU was 53% idle under Parallels.
It’s clear from these base observations that VMWare is taxing the hardware less overall when compared to Parallels. I’ve found my MacBook Pro to run quieter, cooler and longer with Fusion than with Parallels Desktop. I’m still not sold personally on VMWare, however and this isn’t scientific: it’s personal perference.
My limited experience with VMWare Fusion has been less satisfactory than my experience with Parallels. For example: Outlook 2007 has stopped responding several times when sending a message in VMWare; I’ve never had that issue in Parallels. The Vista Start Orb in Fusion takes up much less space than the Vista Taskbar in Parallels, but the Start Orb becomes unresponsive for me over time. Both have a nice integration with Mac OS X; VMWare has Unity, while Parallels has Coherence. Overall however, I’m leaning towards a more favorable integrated experience over the battery life savings. We’ll see what happens as I still have plenty of time in my 30-day trial of Fusion.