Unibody Mac - 15" - How well does it run other O/S?
May 2, 2009 8:07 PM   Subscribe

So, I am in the market for a new laptop and am looking at all kinds of options. I'd like something that's going to allow me to continue to support my Windows clients, and one that's also going to allow me to virtualize other operating systems. I am considering many options, including Macs. I am curious: For those of you who have a 15" Macbook Unibody that run virtual guest O/S via VMWare Fusion, how does it perform? How much RAM did you need? How is the Mac performance when running a virtual O/S? How does the short 900 pixel resolution affect your ability to run Windows apps? What about Ubuntu or Fedora with VMWare Fusion? What about Vista or even Windows 7? Any and all stories are welcome, including stories about the last generation MacBooks.
posted by tcv to Technology (7 answers total)
Best answer: I use Windows XP with VirtualBox (which is free for personal and educational use) on my 15" MacbookPro, and though right now I haven't upgraded from 2GB RAM, I think 3-4GB would be ideal. I can run a few other applications without a problem, but with Firefox, Itunes, Ichat and Word running, I sometimes experience lags.
FWIW, I haven't had any resolution issues, but I only really use Outlook on XP.
posted by hellogoodbye at 8:19 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: I have used VMWare Fusion on a 13" Unibody Macbook and a 15" Unibody Macbook Pro. You definitely want 4GB of RAM. 2GB each seems to keep both operating systems happy. Performance on both is good. I can run older games on the guest without issue and Office 2007 and Visual Studio 2008 both work like a charm. I actually prefer 2007 to the Mac version (2008), so I use Word 2007 and Excel 2007 regularly.

The resolution was not an issue for either. Even the Macbook's 1280x800 was sufficient to comfortably use productivity apps in windowed and Unity modes, and full screen was no problem.

I have only used it with Windows XP, but my understanding is that 2GB is a comfortable amount for Vista and 7 should be slightly better.

One thing: definitely spring for a 7200RPM drive. The battery life difference is negligible and it will make a big difference in suspending/resuming the guest OS and switching to the guest OS after a long period of inactivity.
posted by jedicus at 8:57 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: I use a 15" mbp of my own work with fusion running my employers approved XP image I ripped off the piece of crap dell they issued me as well as ubuntu in another guest. The machine has 4 gb ram and a 7200rpm drive, but if you can get an ssd go for it (you will won't have any issues at that point), guest is allocated 1 or 2 processors and a gig of memory depending on what I am doing that day. The only thing you may notice is when the guest is doing very heavy disk io (depends ony our usage pattersn), but this is going to be true on any laptop unless you have an ssd.

The XP image the company uses runs better on virtual hardware than the dell they issued it to me on, I experience no lag in either the host or guest operating systems.

I have a number of other guests I spin up from time to time as I need to do testing, the MBP chugs along nicely and I don't imagine the experience will be terribly different on a unibody MB.

I suggest using spaces to give each guest it's own space and run the guest images in full screen.

I've been very very happy with this set up and we've duplicated it across to 4-5 other members of my team running the same set up. Fusion is a great product, I recommend using it over parallels due to the image portability and the ability to take your guest images to just about any other machine running Vmware and spin it up (linux host or windows host).
posted by iamabot at 9:34 PM on May 2, 2009

I haven't used VMWare Fusion since it was in beta, but I'm running a 1st gen 17" MBP maxed out @ 2GB and I'm happily running Vista, XP, Server 2003 and several flavors of linux under Parallels (not simultaneously of course; one at a time). I've also had good experiences with VirtualBox.

If I can be running well on a 3 year old MBP, you'll be more than happy with a shiny new one.
posted by zerokey at 10:27 PM on May 2, 2009

I'm using VMWare Fusion on my last gen MacBook Pro and its been solid, reasonably fast and very, very useful. The newer MBP's are better and faster so I can't imagine you'd be bummed about the performance.
posted by fenriq at 11:38 PM on May 2, 2009

Best answer: I use a 15 MBP (pre-unibody) with VMWare Fusion running XP SP3 full-time (I flip between constantly, control-right arrow for the win.)

Performance of the Windows side is indistinguishable from booting into Windows only. I often stream fullscreen video in the Windows side, even. Performance of the Mac side is not impaired at all, to my human eyes/fingers, other than the chunk of RAM taken away from it and some hiccups when the VM starts up or shuts down. I never shut mine down, though, unless I am shutting down the whole Mac. Once a month, maybe?

I've never noticed the 900px height to be a problem. I run it only full screen and until this question it never occured to me that was "short". 1024x768 is still very common (most common?) among Windows PCs anyway, so it's more than enough for that, and I'd be disgusted with any Windows app that REQUIRED more.

I have 2Gb of RAM, but I used the same setup with 1.5Gb for awhile and it didn't suck. 2Gbmade it all snappier, though, on both Mac and Windows "sides". I'd go for 4Gb if I could today, because RAM is cheap and always makes the world better.
posted by rokusan at 3:31 AM on May 3, 2009

Thanks for posting this tcv and everyones responses - I am in the same boat but my question is slightly different.

How well does it run Vista x64 natively through boot-camp? Can vmWare fusion actually use the Windows partition so that one has the choice of native or virtualized?

I've heard about Windows driver blips (which I am reasonably confident I can handle) and even a salesperson at a local (non-Apple) store told me that they have lots of returns because some applications don't work.

(How that could be possible when running Vista native and not through emulation? I'm thinking it is mainly "user-related"...)

So - I'm still ready to buy, but my wife - who used to be a big Apple booster is dead-set agains't it...
posted by jkaczor at 9:10 AM on May 3, 2009

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