Windows/Linux Virtualization on the Mac is mostly a 3 player game these days. You have the open source/free VirtualBox that was purchased by Oracle as part of its Sun acquisition two years ago. It is a basic emulator which works as a get what you pay for kind of basic functionality solution. Oracle isn’t big on free Open Source products so don’t expect it to get a lot better any time soon.

That leaves the two big players, Parallels and VMware Fusion. Both companies recently released updates to their software and both can now virtualize another instance of Mac OS X (great for developers who need to test their apps on older software or users who need applications that require Rosetta for instance). MacTech did a comprehensive set of Benchmarks and came away with a clear speed winner.

In almost every test, the $79 Parallels 7 beat the $49 VMware Fusion in speed (as you can see from the graphic above).

In the vast majority of overall our tests, Parallels Desktop 7 won. Again, if you count up the general tests (including the top 3D graphics scores), Parallels won 60% of the tests by 10% or more. And, if you include all the tests where Parallels was at least 5% faster, as well as the balance of the 3DMark06 graphics tests, Parallels increased the lead further. In other words, Parallels Desktop 7 beat VMware Fusion 4.0.2 in 74.9% of the general tests we ran, and Parallels was double the speed or more in almost a quarter of the top-level tests.

VMware obviously has a larger install base in the Enterprise with a longer history of virtualization on the PC. However with benchmarks leaning heavily toward Parallels, some Mac-focused businesses may start to tip toward Parallels.

We’ll have an in-depth look at Parallels 7 coming up as well as a contest where we’ll be handing out a few interesting prizes including a MacBook Air. Stay Tuned!

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