Choice for a virtual machine?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by fiestafrog, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. fiestafrog macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2017
    Apologies in advance for the length and detail but thought better to try and head off follow-up questions doe to lack of data :)

    Currently laptop: 13” mid-2012 MB Pro with 2.9 Ghz i5, 4GB RAM and 500 GB Drive utilizing only 60 GB of data (primarily working data only as I have an NAS with mirrored 2TB drives containing about 1TB of data - mostly music collection and personal pictures). Generally try to use Apple productivity suite apps but have Office 2011 for Mac due to business use of Word/Excel (Lord Office runs slow on this machine - although this MB has always seemed pretty slow in general compared to the business class i5 Lenovo ThinkPad I was running with a hybrid drive prior to the MB. Of course the MB is infinitely more stable and I’ve become a fan of the form/function and whole Apple ecosystem over the past several years). Only other app i use regularly is dBPowerAmp for OSX as part of an ongoing project to transfer a large collection of a few thousand CD’s to a lossless digital archive/music server (use an external CD drive).

    New laptop laptop will mainly used as a business machine as majority of browsing, media, and email is done via ipad mini & iPhone. Despite future need for Windows based software plan to stick with the Apple ecosystem due to functionality across devices.

    New laptop needs: Xactimate 28 (an insurance adjusting/estimatics program) which is Windows based so I’ll have to also install Parallels 12 to facilitate the Windows virtual (insurance professionals are generally pretty old school so due to legacy systems but I do know of some people running older versions Parallels/Windows and Xactimate on MB’s. While there will be no real photo editing I will import e a large number of images into the Xactimate files as well as some 2D building sketches/floor plans.

    Here are the recommended requirements the for the Xactimate 28 software (which as indicated above will be running on a virtual windows machine using Parallels):
    • Processor: A dual core processor
    • Video Card: Open GL 2.0-compatible graphics with 512 MB of VRAM
    • Memory: 4 GB of RAM or more 2 GB of RAM
    • Hard Drive: 10 GB of continual free space is recommended to run Xactimate.
    • Monitor resolution set at 1280x900 or higher.
    • Require IE or Chrome
    Definitely going with the 512GB SSD regardless of machine I choose as I don’t see any need for a larger working drive and with the savings by forgoing the 1TB I can pay for Parallels and Windows, or certainly justify adding another NAS down the road if needed. Definitely think I’ll go with 16GB RAM either way (unless the consensus is that it’s just overkill) as it seems like a cheap upgrade to ensure plenty of RAM for the virtual machine as well as some future proofing.

    Leaning towards a 15” due to the added screen real estate (in a form factor not much larger than my current 2012 13” MB), but may still go with a 13” if there is no real benefit to the i7/GPU cost given my needs.

    Questions I would appreciate thoughts on:

    1. Screen real estate aside is there any real technical benefit in my case to the 15” with its i7 and GPU?
    2. If I should not really need the GPU benefits does the GPU actually provide performance cons vs. just going with a 13” i5?
    3. At the end of the day which model/specs should i be focusing on?
    4. MC Office or Office 365? Anticipate still using OS mail app instead of Outlook. I may be in the field frequently working from my vehicle without reliable internet - unless I tether to my mobile data. I’ve heard that 365 may be better to avoid needing to get both Office for MAC and MS Office for the virtual? But, perhaps with Paralles I can just go with Office for MAC and then store my documents to share between OS and Windows?
    Thanks in advance for your input!
  2. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    If it were my money. I'd buy a refurb 2015 Retina MacBook Pro 15". The primary reason being the 15" has a quad core CPU. It's not the i5 vs i7 that matters. It dual core vs quad core. Dedicated GPU is nice to have but not essential to your use. Running a virtual machine 8GB is minimum but 16gb ram would come in handy. 512gb minimum if you can afford the 1tb. Go for it. I think the 2016 MBP 15" is overpriced right now which is why I'd get a 2015 refurb with full warranty included and you can even add 3 years apple care if you want.
  3. admwright macrumors regular

    Sep 11, 2008
    I agree about the multi core processor, it helps with virtual machines. Also consider VirtualBox over Parallels, will save you some cash as it is free. I find it very stable and runs Windows 7 very well. I also have it running Snow Leopard for some old Mac software that does not work with the newer OS X versions.
  4. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    If you're considering using a VM, a quad core machine is one definitely something to consider, the 15" MBP comes with 16GB of ram also, which is another thing. You want lots of ram to run VMs.

    My recommendation is to try VB, Parallels and Fusion, the latter two offer a 30 day trial. I found by and large that the commercial offerings provide superior performance and features. While VB has caught up to some degree I think its still behind but I agree free is hard to beat, especially when you consider how both Parallels and Vmware try to force you to buy their upgrades annually.
  5. iShater macrumors 604


    Aug 13, 2002
    I agree with looking at the refurbed 15" MBPs. 16GB of RAM, and the quad CPU. That is what I am using now.

    I use VirtualBox exclusively, and have used it for quite a number of years. No need to waste money on Parallels or Fusion IMHO.
  6. mkelly macrumors regular

    Nov 29, 2007
    OK, a few thoughts:

    The GPU is unlikely to make much if any of an impact on your workflow. You are not doing any sort of 3D work. One thing the GPU will affect negatively is your battery life. If you think you'll be running on battery power most of the day, then the GPU can be a detriment.

    On the flip side: the 13" MacBook Pro uses dual-core CPUs whereas the 15" comes with quad-core. If you plan to be running a lot of processes in both your Windows VM and macOS simultaneously, then the 15" with its quad-core processor will be much more capable - in that you assign 2 cores to your Windows VM and still have 2 cores reserved for your Mac processes. The 13" would limit you to either sharing both cores between both OSes, or assigning a single core to Windows.

    Back to the battery for a sec: I see that you're planning to use Parallels. Others in this thread have suggested VirtualBox because it's free, etc. One thing that Parallels has over VirtualBox is much better support for power management in your VMs. I switch between Parallels and VirtualBox all day and when I'm on battery (on my 2016 15" MBP) I get *significantly* better battery life when running Parallels than I do with VirtualBox.

    Office 365 is a good deal for businesses. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for the average home user, but if you can write off the subscription, then the yearly cost for 5 licenses that you can mix between PC & Mac is pretty good. Plus your subscription also includes 1 TB of online storage in OneDrive.

    That said, if you already have an Office for Mac license you might as well stick with it - you can very easily share folders between Parallels and macOS.
  7. Beachguy macrumors 6502a


    Nov 23, 2011
    Florida, USA
    I tried Parallels and was disappointed in it. I use VMWare on all my machines, though, which include a mix of Mac, Windows, and Linux. I often share VMs among machines, which means VMWare or VirtualBox are the only real choices I have. VBox is my backup environment, and is sometimes useful if I have a VM I need that gets odd with VMWare.

    I have nothing to add that others haven't said about the hardware.
  8. mkelly macrumors regular

    Nov 29, 2007
    I agree: VirtualBox is great - the *only* two reasons I keep Parallels around are for its Windows integration (it supports Retina/HiDPI in Windows much better than VirtualBox or VMware do) and its power management abilities. That's it. If those improve in VirtualBox, I'll have no reason to keep Parallels around (plus I won't miss the spammy little ads that Parallels pops up from time to time, trying to get me to upgrade).
  9. fiestafrog thread starter macrumors newbie

    Feb 14, 2017
    Thanks for the input everyone! Glad I reached out as I kind of got lost in the weeds and overlooked the quad core advantages in the virtual environment. So seems like going with the 15" i7 will be the route I take.

    Good advice to consider the refurbs and possible VirtualBox - I'll do some more investigation on those options. Hoping to finalize my decision and get something purchased by end of the month.
  10. marioman38 macrumors 6502a


    Aug 8, 2006
    Elk Grove, CA
    As others have said you don't HAVE to stick with parallels. I use VMWare myself for no reason other than back in 2006 or 2007 I compared VMWare and Parallels and preferred VMWare Fusion so I still use it, in its newest version, to this day. It will take some time to set up each trial and install the operating system in them if you want to compare them side-by-side real world. Or I'm sure there are plenty of opinionated reviews on youtube you could watch.

    The cool thing about apple refurb is you still get the 1 year warranty and they look indistinguishable from new, I believe apple puts in a brand new battery and wraps a new outer case around the components, so no scratches, smudges or anything, looks like brand new. You can still get the 3 year apple care on it too!

    The bad thing. You have to pay tax. If the savings isn't super significant, say refurb $2299 and new is $2499 its pointless because you can go to BHPhoto and order for, say, $2499 with no tax there's your difference in price.

    I see BH has the 256GB 15" late 2015 Retina Macbook Pro (new, old stock) on sale for $1799 no tax, free shipping. They've also got the 256GB touch bar 2016 marked down $220... It would ALMOST be worth it to pick up the $1799 one because of the $200 discount and the $200 or so you are saving on tax and buying a 512GB or 1TB SSD from OWC ( but the Retina Macbook SSD prices haven't quite come down low enough.... :/

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9 February 14, 2017