All of the things that wouldn't work on the keyboard in Boot Camp worked just fine in the VM. Ctrl clicking acted as a right mouse button and obviously all of my function keys worked. Parallels' Workstation also comes with a set of tools that you can install in Windows that enable additional functionality such as a clipboard synchronization tool. The sync tool makes it so that anything you copy in one OS is available to be pasted in the other and vice versa, making the VM truly behave like just another application running in OS X.

By far the biggest drawback of the Parallels' Workstation VM is that the GPU makers currently don't support any sort of GPU virtualization, meaning all of the graphics are CPU rendered when running the VM. What this translates to are choppy animations and a laggy mouse pointer when you're navigating around Windows XP; of course, don't even think about running any 3D games. There is a Parallels video driver bundled that is supposed to improve things, but you still get nowhere near the performance of hardware accelerated 2D graphics.

Update: While finishing up this article Parallels released beta 3 of their Workstation VMM for OS X, one of its improvements happened to be an increase in performance and an improved mouse synchronization tool. The updates in beta 3 made the mouse lag virtually disappear, which was a huge improvement over beta 2. The animations in Windows XP were still quite laggy unfortunately, but without a real GPU driver that's not going to change. Needless to say, the improvements in beta 3 make Parallels' solution far more interesting as an alternative to Boot Camp.

The CPU performance was quite good, although the VM only allows Windows XP to access a single core of the Core Duo processor. In the end, the fact that the MacBook Pro has two cores works out very well for use with a VM manager as the VM can use one of the cores while your other core handles whatever you may be doing in your host OS.

Overall running Windows XP as a VM using Parallels' Workstation is extremely convenient, but personally the choppy animations are annoying enough to the point where I'd almost rather use Boot Camp. I think my preference would change depending on what I needed to be in Windows XP to do. Currently my only needs for Windows XP are when I want to play a game or need IE for a particular website; the former would require Boot Camp while the latter is better suited for a VM solution.

One thing is for sure, the VM route does hold a great deal of potential for the future. Once virtualized graphics and I/O are here, the days of being stuck with a single OS on a single platform will be long gone.

Parallels' Workstation 2.1 Beta w/ Intel VT Support Rosetta vs. Boot Camp vs. VT
POST A COMMENT

48 Comments

View All Comments

  • Visual - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    you have some borked page 18 after the "final thoughts" page showing up in the dropdown.
    in printarticle.aspx it shows up as a duplicate of page 17 for some reason

    as to the article itself - good job :)
    my guess as to why the vm is faster than the real thing is because the hdd emulation works somewhat like a ramdrive - its a file on the apple hdd but it probably gets cached up by osx or by the vmsoftware itself.
    Reply
  • plinden - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    quote:

    my guess as to why the vm is faster than the real thing is because the hdd emulation works somewhat like a ramdrive - its a file on the apple hdd but it probably gets cached up by osx or by the vmsoftware itself.


    That could be - I have maxed out at 2GB RAM in my iMac, and I get wired RAM is close to the max and a hefty number of Page Outs (up to 210,000 last time I looked. before it setayed below 5000 even after being on for a week) while running Parallels VM.
    Reply
  • ibisbowti - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I been using the 1.83 Core Duo for about a week now. I think it is one of the latest builds according to the serial number. No problems at all, other than it does get pretty warm. Heat issue seems better after latest firmware update. I think the aluminum is designed to be a big heat sink! I thought the Front Row software would be a little gimmicky, but it is pretty cool, especially when sitting the unit on a coffee table and watching the HD movie trailers, IPhoto pics, etc with others. It's an awesome machine so far. Reply
  • artifex - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    Since you say you ran the same tests as in your earlier review, I'd like to see graphs comparing the results of the Intel iMac vs. the MBP. and add in ones for the Intel Mini, if you can. I suspect we'll see iMac > MBP > Mini, but it would be nice to be sure.

    Also, if you could slap Parallels on the Mini and tell us how much of a hit the virtualization takes because the hardware virtualization is disabled for that line, that would be really interesting.

    Thanks.
    Reply
  • AppaYipYip - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    "Apple quality control at it's best"

    That comment bothers me. Overall, there are no other manufacturers that come even close to Apples quality, design, and workmanship. Yet, you find one key that sits slightly off and suddenly feel the need to make such a blanket statement. If it bothers you so much, take it back and Apple will repair it for you, in record time.
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    The IBM thinkpads (before the Lenovo deal) were regarded as the best business laptops (or at least PC laptops) as quality and workmanship. Too bad they were designed with cramped keyboards (at least the models I saw) and no trackpad. Reply
  • Ryan Norton - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I'm a PC guy but I like Macs a lot and will probably buy a Macbook Pro, either now or when Merom ones come out. I figure Anand probably is too. Yet I work with Mac zealots who give me endless shit about the unequivocal superiority of Apple everything over PC (except for games, which they concede). So when someone like me finds a glaring flaw that seems like something that should have been spotted before it got to the end user, it's easy to take a cheap shot at Jobs =^) Reply
  • Sunrise089 - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    If I had my dream review of this product, here's how I would have you test gaming performance:

    Test performance in Windows mode. Then compare it to other Core Duo notebooks. Then see if there is any game written natively for OS-X under Core Duo, and run the OS-X version and the Windows version to see the difference in OS on performance on the same machine.

    Other than no gaming info, terrific review.
    Reply
  • Calin - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    This could be thanks to slower drivers in BootCamp Windows XP, or slower hard drive access/speed. Everything else is a disadvantage for VM: one more level of indirection in disk access, less memory, running the OS X behind the VM.
    Could you do some disk speed comparation between VM and native XP?
    Reply
  • BigLan - Thursday, April 13, 2006 - link

    I think it's going to be hard drive speed throwing off the benchmarks. The BootCamp partition is going to be at the outer edge of the disk, with much slower speeds than the VM client virtual drive which is on the faster Apple partition.

    I'm not sure if it's possible to assign the entire HD to a windows partition using Bootcamp, but that's about the only way i can think of to level the playing field.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now