VMware’s latest version of its OS X virtualization software, Fusion 8, is now available. Arriving one week after the launch of competitor Parallels Desktop 11, this year’s edition of Fusion is once again available in both standard and “Pro” versions and advertises the addition of over 50 new features, including significantly improved graphics performance. Here’s an overview of key new features in Fusion 8:
Full support for Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan: As expected, Fusion 8 offers complete support for Windows 10 as a guest operating system, and for the upcoming OS X El Capitan as both a host and guest operating system, which will let Mac owners test Apple’s latest OS without having to upgrade their primary OS X installation. Windows 10 features supported in Fusion 8 include (optional) “always on” access to Cortana, full support for the Edge browser in Unity mode, and easy upgrade support for existing Windows VMs. Fusion also supports new El Capitan features such as Split Screen and the ability to search the contents of Windows virtual machines via Spotlight.
Improved Graphics Performance: Fusion 8 introduces significantly improved graphics performance as compared to its predecessor, with support for DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3. To take advantage of these new graphics capabilities, users can also now assign up to 2GB of graphics memory to a virtual machine’s hardware configuration.
Support for New Mac Hardware: Fusion 8 has been updated to support the new Mac hardware and OS X technologies released in the past year, including support for Force Touch on the latest MacBooks, the 5K display on the 27-inch Retina iMac, optimizations for fast PCIe flash storage, and core “under the hood” improvements that will be introduced in El Capitan. There are also no version-specific limits on the hardware that can be assigned to a VM, with all versions of the product able to support up to 16 virtual CPUs, 64GB of RAM, 8TB virtual disks, and the aforementioned 2GB of video memory.
Streamlined VM Setup and Configuration: The wizard for installing, importing, and configuring VMs has been streamlined for Fusion 8, and all options — creating a new VM, importing a VM, migrating a Boot Camp partition, and even accessing VMs on remote servers — are now found in a single menu.
USB 3.0 Support for Windows 7: If you’re not moving to the latest operating systems just yet, VMware hopes to make the experience on older versions of Windows a bit better through the introduction of full USB 3.0 support for Windows 7, something that was previously unavailable due to the lack of drivers offered by Microsoft. VMware engineers worked with Intel to develop custom drivers, and those holding on to Windows 7 will now have much faster access to external storage devices and peripherals.
Fusion 8 vs. Fusion 8 Pro: Fusion 8 Pro offers all of the features of standard Fusion 8, but also brings support for additional enterprise-level and development-grade guest environments, the ability to support linked VM clones, significantly improved performance for encrypted VMs, custom virtual networks including IPv6 network translation, the ability to control or restrict VM environments, and integrated support for VMware’s cloud-hosted vCloud Air service (including a promotional offer for new vCloud Air customers to receive $600 in usage credits over six months).
Overall, VMware advertises improvements in Fusion 8 that can bring “near native” speed to many common virtualization activities. I’ll be testing those claims shortly over at TekRevue with a full benchmark comparison between Fusion 7 and Fusion 8, similar to the benchmarks already conducted for Parallels 11. For those new to the virtualization market and unsure about which product to commit to, also be on the lookout for my upcoming 2015 Virtualization Showdown, which will compare Boot Camp, Fusion 8, Parallels 11, and VirtualBox 5 (check out last year’s showdown for a taste of what’s to come).
Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro are available now at the VMware website. For new customers, Fusion 8 is available for a single purchase of US$79.99, while Fusion 8 Pro is priced at $199.99. Existing Fusion users running version 6 or higher can upgrade to Fusion 8 for $49.99 or Fusion 8 Pro for $119.99. In an effort to encourage users to switch platforms, VMware is also offering a 40 percent discount off the retail price of both Fusion 8 and Fusion 8 Pro for any user running Parallels Desktop 5 or higher.
Finally, users who purchased Fusion 7 or Fusion 7 Pro on or after July 29, 2015 can receive a free upgrade to the corresponding Fusion 8 version. This promotion continues until September 30, 2015, so users may be able to score a nice discount on Fusion 8 if they can find new versions of Fusion 7 available at a reduced price.
Multiplatform VMware users should also note that the company is simultaneously releasing new versions of VMware Workstation and Workstation Player (formerly “Player Pro”) alongside Fusion today. Check out the VMware website for more information on these Windows and Linux releases.