VirtualBox 3.0 review

While we’ve looked at professional virtualisation solutions before, like VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop, VirtualBox has something extra going for it. It’s free. It’s not an ad-hoc, leaderless project either – with apologies to successful community developed software everywhere. The company behind VirtualBox is Sun Microsystems.

We’ve looked at VirtualBox before – but, briefly, if you’ve used Fusion or Parallels you’ll know the drill. When you start up the software a wizard helps you set up a virtual machine, which can be selected from a list of supported systems. That list was impressive the last time around and included Sun’s own Solaris, Windows XP and Vista, Linux and OpenBSD. This time around Windows 7 is supported, which is very cool considering that the OS hasn’t even been released yet.

There are no half measures, even taking into account that this is free software. It runs Windows, for example, about as well as we’ve come to expect from VMware Fusion. Tools like Word and Windows Media Player are as usable as they are on bona fide PC systems. It can be run in full-screen mode, so it feels like you’re using another machine on your machine, but “Seamless” mode is more impressive – allowing you to run programs and open windows from your virtual machine in Mac OS.

These features were present in the previous version. The big news this time is beefed up 3D support – the holy grail for many folks seeking to run Windows on a Mac – because 3D means games. VirtualBox has better 3D with OpenGL 2.0 and experimental DirectX 8 and 10 support. Having said that, this is all in theory. Our test installation balked at Blender for Windows, running sluggishly, and couldn’t start Quake III, but others have reported better success.

OUR VERDICT

VirtualBox 3.0 has a host of bug fixes and, at its impressive cost of absolutely no money, it competes well with direct rivals in the market.

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