Macworld columnist Rob Griffiths has done a great job keeping track of the top virtualization apps for the Mac. A little over a year ago, he reviewed the three top contenders: VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop, and Sun VirtualBox.
Which one came out on top? Griffiths' sage answer: It depends.
When a reviewer utters those two words, readers get annoyed. Sometimes, however, it's the truth.
This week, Griffiths is hosting a rematch. The names are familiar, although the version numbers have changed a bit. And if you're in a hurry to decide which one is The Winner, don't get your hopes up: In that case, the answer is, "Take your pick." Sorry to take the easy way out, but it's more-or-less true: All three are perfectly good apps. VirtualBox is the best--meaning the only--solution if you don't want to spend any money and have no need for fancy graphics or gaming; it's slower than the other two and missing some amenities that make the others easier to use. Fusion is the best solution if you need to use many, many different operating systems or if you want a program that's simple to use (but not dumbed down), with the fit-and-finish of a good Mac app. Parallels is best if you want speed and the highest total feature-count; it has both, as well some attendant complexity and an unfinished feel in spots, along with occasionally-risky updates. Based on these general guidelines, Griffiths' review does offer recommendations for a number of common use scenarios. If high-def video is a requirement for a Windows guest OS, for example, Parallels and Fusion are the best options. And if ease of use is a priority, he thinks Fusion generally comes out on top.
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Fortunately, if you need more detailed information to make a choice, the article includes links to separate reviews of Fusion 3.0.1, Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac, and VirtualBox 3.1.2. Sometimes, picking the right solution is just a matter of downloading and testing each option yourself, and these reviews can give you the background information you need to conduct your evaluations.