Although Parallels is a very effective way to run my Windows productivity applications within Mac OS X, I previously cautioned readers on how it would affect your mobility. Specifically, I showed how running a second operating system in Parallels 2.5 hit the CPU very hard and therefore dramatically cut your battery life. As any mobile computing user knows: the best hardware and software in the world are useless if you don’t have battery power to use them. So when James mentioned the newest build of Parallels 3.0, I decided to give it a try.
I had hoped that the performance was increased and this blurb on the Parallels press release page caught my interest:
"Superior Performance and Lower Overhead: Real-world workloadperformance has been substantially improved, especially in high stresssituations like OS startup and shutdown. This release includesimprovements in resource usage, particularly CPU utilization. Users cannow also allocate up to 2GB of RAM to an individual virtual machine.Windows Vista performs faster and more smoothly than in previous builds."
Armed with that information and hope, I downloaded the latest build of Parallels this morning to test the claim and promptly upgraded my existing virtual machine. With a fully charged battery, I checked my reported battery life which was 3 hours and 10 minutes; looks like I need to recalibrate my MacBook Pro battery because I used to get 3.5 to 4 hours reported.
The last time I did this test using the older version of Parallels, the battery reported an available runtime of 3:29 with just Mac OS X. After firing up Parallels, the battery life dropped to 1:30 or about 57%. This time, with the newest version, the battery life dropped to 2:10, or only by around 31%.
Even better is the CPU utilization between the two versions. With Parallels 2.5, the CPU was at 53% idle as shown below.
With the latest Parallels build (and with more threads & processes running), you can see below that the CPU is 84% idle, which helps explain the extra battery life.
I should also note that with the older version of Parallels, the fan on the MacBook Pro ran for a good portion of every computing session, making it sound like a jet plane was taking off nearby (and using more battery juice in the process). I’ve been using the newest version of the virtualization software for several hours and haven’t heard the fan kick in even once.
There are plenty of other new features and compelling reasons to upgrade to Parallels 3.0, but I’m sold just from the mobility standpoint. I’ve been using Outlook Web Access for the past few months, however I’m ready to pay for the Parallels 3.0 upgrade and go back to full-fledged Outlook 2007 within Mac OS X. Bear in mind that everyone’s computing environment is different, so if you run the same tests, your results will vary to a small degree. Regardless of your environment, I suspect you’ll find that Parallels 3.0 is much more efficient and uses less computing resources than the prior version.