Quick view

New challenger ? Not really. Even if it's true on Apple platform, VMware provides virtualization solutions since Windows and Linux since many years. While coming onto Cupertino's operating system, it gains 3D acceleration and multi-core virtualization (about the last statement, please tell me if it was the case before, but it seems not).

Test case

In order to test VMvare Fusion, I've created onto my MacBook a virtual computer with 512 MB of RAM, two virtualized cores and with 3D acceleration. About this last feature, the applications warns you about possible bad behavior with GMA 950 based machines. Onto this machine, I've installed Windows XP with all available services packs and fixes.

Installation and first overview

The virtual machine runs relatively smoothly, but it's not perfect. Windows XP installation takes less than one hour. I continue with hotfixes install, VMware tools install, which promise me : better graphical experience, better network experience, better mouse experience, better sexual experience, etc.

About mouse manager, it's really better: you don't need to clic onto virtual machine anymore if you want it to mouse control, but you just have to move mouse pointer over it: if mouse pointer is over virtual machine, it get mouse control; if not, Mac OS X get it.

From keyboard side, I still not have same keyboard mapping between Windows and Mac OS X, and I don't like it (to get identical mapping, you must download patches here).

Then, graphic drivers add an interesting feature. VMware Fusion gives you an unlimited amount of available resolutions. You just have to resize the window in order to get Windows resolution automatically adapted: if I resize the windows to 1280x500, Windows resolution will be 1280x500. It's the end of horizontal and vertical scrollbars, you may adapt the window to your needs.

A new “Unity” mode appears: this feature allows your Windows applications to run within the same plane than Mac OS X applications without being kept into virtual machine's window. And Windows' windows are treated like natives ones: they drop shadows, are visible within Expose, which is not Parallels' case.

With beta 4, performances are better, and virtual machine provides a better experience. Some slowdowns still occur, but it's perfectly usable. We are near native computer performances. However, there are still massive slowdowns when I switch from virtual machine to real one. In all cases, VMWare performances are lower than Parallels Desktop's ones.

Note for users of Macs with GMA950 (only for Beta 4 version, 3D is back with final version)

For users of these kind of machines (MacBook and Mac Mini), you may stop reading at this point. Since beta 4, 3-D acceleration is no more available as said into release notes: “3-D acceleration does not work on Macs that use the Intel GMA 950 graphic chipset.”. If you activate this feature, you will get the following message when booting virtual machine: “Failed to construct OpenGL rendering backend. The 3-D features of the display card will be disabled.”.

Is this stupid ? Yes, really. Hoping Parallels Workstation won't have the same “feature”.

Then the following info will only concern VMware Fusion beta 3 and won't be updated anymore.

Vmware and Direct3D

Here comes VMware's hottest feature, 3D acceleration. VMware should support DirectX 8.1 acceleration, then I'll have to test with not too recent games. It's OK, I have three or four of them, and they were not tested by developer team. All tests were performed with latest available patches, and all these games run perfectly with BootCamp using native resolution (when it's possible to test it). Results are:

  • “dxdiag” tool: This tool allows you to test Direct3D 7.0, 8.0 et 9.0 support for your graphic card. Results are OK for Direct3D 7.0 and 8.0 tests. But for Direct3D 9.0 test, all I get is a non-textured cube, and a flickering display. As VMware does not support DirectX 9.0 acceleration, I don't care too much.
  • Darkstone (DirectX 6.1): Display flicker, no text visible, but I'm still able to randomly click. I just can't find correct locations to start game.
  • Incoming (DirectX 5.2): Blue screen of death (with error message about graphic driver) when I launch the game. At least, it's a quick answer about compatibility question.
  • Unreal (DirectX 5.0): I could start a game, but the mouse is unusable, each move is too amplified (about this issue, see bottom). Using 800x600, 16 bits/pixel resolution, it runs smoothly, with some texturing issues sometime. Sound is not perfect.
  • Unreal Tournament (DirectX 6.0): I get the same results than Unreal (it's barely the same 3D engine).

As you can read, it's still not perfect. If you want to run Windows games, you should use Boot Camp.

I also have tested the following benchmarks (remember, I use a GMA950 chipset) :

  • 3DMark2000 (DirectX 7.0): Error while installing ? It worked better with VMware beta 2 (2082 points).
  • 3DMark2001 (DirectX 8.1): With VMware beta 2, it crashed my MacBook. With beta 3, I could go to half of tests, with sometime display glitches, before VMware crashes. At least, it's better than beta 2. With version 1.0, it crashs my MacBook again.
  • 3DMark03 (DirectX 9.0a): Does not start as the graphic adapter lacks Pixel Shaders 2.0.
  • 3DMark05 (DirectX 9.0c): Does not start as the graphic adapter lacks Pixel Shaders 2.0.

VMware and OpenGL

I also tried an OpenGL game: Quake III Arena. It should not work, because of potential OpenGL acceleration lack, and surprise! there is an avilable OpenGL acceleration. It's an unexpected hidden feature. But the game runs less smoothly than Unreal and Unreal Tournament using 800x600 resolution, as 3D is more exigent, and player moves are weirdly slows. And there too, sound is not perfect at all.

I get the same mouse issue than previous games. See above.

Games and mouse

As written above, I got issues with mouse. in fact, the issue comes from “VMware Toolbox” and VMware's mouse driver. this tool, with mouse driver, allow you to have a transparent mouse use between VMware and Mac OS X. If you uninstall VMware Toolbox and mouse driver, you won't encounter mouse issues with games anymore.

But if you don't plan to use games, You should leave at least mouse driver.