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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.
Restarting virtual machines is much faster in Fusion 5.
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.
Intel Core 2 Duo or later, Mac OS 10.6.7 or later, 2GB RAM (4GB recommended), 750MB hard disk space, 5GB per virtual machine
Faster virtualization. Competitively priced. Easy to use. License covers up to three Macs.
Not much reason for Fusion 4 owners to upgrade.