I own both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion, and I’ve switched back and forth between them several times since each has its advantages. For a long time VMWare’s linux support was better and it supported more hardware features, including power management. Fusion 2.0 even made it possible to run Mac OS X Server in a virtual machine. However, running Windows in VMWare always felt sort of clunky with “Unity” and their integration was never quite as good as Parallels, even with the improvements in version 2.0
With Parallels Desktop 4.0, which was released today, Parallels is back on top. Their already excellent Windows integration got even better, with the ability to show Windows task bar notification icons in the menu bar. Desktop 4.0 also improves their Linux support with shared folders and it now lets you virtualize Mac OS X Server, which were the big reasons to use VMWare.
Other nice features include a new “modality” view, which shrinks the VM window and lets you float it over other windows, so you can keep an eye on lengthy operations like software installation while you work in another application. Parallels Desktop 4.0 can still show a screenshot of the VM in the dock icon, which is one feature I always missed in VMware.
Parallels’ new Adaptive Hypervisor really does live up to the hype. It automatically optimizes VM performance based on demand, so when you switch between Mac & Windows applications it will always give priority to the active application. They also reduced the CPU usage for idle virtual machines dramatically. Just having a virtual machine open no longer uses 20% CPU or more.
I had two virtual machines running Mac OS X Server and Ubuntu Linux 8.10 running at the same time on my MacBook with only a very slight slowdown.
You can get an additional 10% off all Parallels products with the coupon code MACM-VXKD-SALE .