Parallels Desktop vs. Boot Camp: Which is best for running Windows on a Mac?

Parallels Desktop 7 promises Apple users the best Windows experience on the Mac. But is it actually better than running Boot Camp? We put both solutions to the test.

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BootCamp

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Parallels

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Transcoding the video clocked in at about 1/10th of the original performance (14765KBps vs. 1061KBps). Even with half the cores and half the RAM, this doesn't make sense.

Also, graphics performance dropped quite a bit from 13.24 frames per second (fps) down to 8.32 fps. It's enough for older games or 2D games, but if you decide to run Call of Duty MW3, there's no way you will be happy with Parallels. While you may get smooth gameplay on a higher-end Mac, you will likely be able to move up the graphics and resolution slider and still get a higher framerate under Boot Camp. To give Parallels some credit, though, I think it's quite an achievement to get even a bit of graphics performance out of a virtual machine.

The other PCMark stats show a loss in performance ranging from 10% to 25%, which is not all that bad given that the machine needs to have both Mac OS X and Windows running in the background.

Moving on to another synthetic benchmark: CrystalDiskMark 3 focuses purely on hard disk performance. It should show how much of the MacBook Air's SSD performance I lost under the virtualized environment. CrystalDiskMark tests both sequential reads/writes as well as the far more common smaller reads/writes (4k and 512k) that occur basically every second your system is powered.

BootCamp

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Parallels

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Surprised? I am! Thanks to the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) issue (explained here), I expected far better performance with Parallels since AHCI works fine under Mac OS X. Overall, performance is more or less the same (with one glaring 50% in 4k writes under Parallels).

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