Restarting virtual machines is much faster in Fusion 5.
Fusion 5, the latest Windows virtualization tool from VMware, comes less than a year after version 4 and as such has only received a light brush of new headline features. Support for Retina displays and USB 3.0 in Windows 8 is included, as well as optimization for the latest Macs, battery life improvements for those using a MacBook, and other minor enhancements. The Pro version of Fusion has been updated to keep the IT administrators happy as well.
Installing a copy of Windows is simple enough, though not as elegant or user-friendly as with the more expensive Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac. Windows 7 took about 30 minutes to install from a DVD.
We like the slickness of Fusion — it feels Mac-like and looks good. Some of the icons are a touch generic, and first-time users might find it initially hard to remember what each one is for.
Our tests focused mainly on Windows 7, although we did try both Windows Vista and a pre-release version of Windows 8. Here’s where Fusion really impresses as at times you can completely forget that you’re using a Mac, with software running as quickly as you’d expect it to on a PC. Resuming a paused virtual machine is speedier than in previous versions too.
Even so, running a virtual machine occasionally brought our Mac Pro to a stuttering halt — it simply stalled and all we could do was wait for the quad-core 2.8GHz processors and 8GB RAM to catch up. However, the majority of the time Windows did feel like a native OS, and quickly switching between it and OS X was a breeze.
The bottom line. Fusion 5 is great; it’s cheaper than Parallels and ran just as fluently during our testing. Fusion 5 has more favorable licensing terms and overall tips the scales as a better first-time purchase. There’s nothing here to really sway an existing Parallels user away, but we’d say that Fusion does have the edge.