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MacWindows Special Report: Running Windows 95 on a Macintosh.

Virtual PC 2.0 and SoftWindows 95 5.0

Virtual PC 2.0 narrows the speed gap


First posted 4/26/98. Updated 6/5/98, 3/15/99
Thanks to Newer Technology for the use of its MaxPowr 604e and MaxPowr G3 processor cards.

What's New:

We've added test results of the two emulators running on a Power Macintosh G3/300, currently the fastest Mac available. On this Mac, we added a RAM setting of 64 MB. As a result, portions of the Overview, Analysis, and Recommendations sections and the results graphs have changed.

In this report:

 

Overview

Both Virtual PC and SoftWindows 95 promised faster versions with their 2.0 and 5.0 versions. The last time we tested Virtual PC and SoftWindows 95 (versions 1.0 and 4.0), SoftWindows was significantly faster in every type of test. (See previous special report.)

With the current versions, SoftWindows 95 is still faster than Virtual PC in most configurations, though the speed gap has narrowed, and the faster the Mac, the narrower the gap. On the a G3 processor, Virtual PC ran faster than SoftWindows 95 in some tasks, slower in other tasks. SoftWindows 95 was still faster than Virtual PC in floating-point intensive tests on the G3.

Performance of the two emulators varies in relation to Orange Micro's low-end OrangePC 530 board (with a 166 MHz Cyrix processor). On non-G3 processors, the OrangePC 530 ran more than 4 times faster then the emulators -- even though OrangePC card had only 16 MB of RAM. On the G3 processor upgrade board in a Power Mac 7500, the OrangePC 530/166 ran more than twice as fast as either emulator on a G3 processor. However, on a Power Macintosh G3/300, the emulators approached the speed of the board in some tests, and were faster than the 166 MHz board in other tests when when the emulators had 40 or 64 MB RAM With FPU-intensive tests, the low-end OrangePC board with 16-MB RAM was still faster than the emulators running on a Power Mac G3/300. (We will be testing a higher-end OrangePC board with more memory in the future.)

As an upgrade, SoftWindows 95 5.0 proved to be slower than version 4.0 at some tasks -- the database tasks that Virtual PC did well on a G3 processor. Virtual PC 2.0 was faster than version 1.0 on all tests.

SoftWindows 95 5.0 adopted the interface features of Insignia's Real PC (a DOS version), and therefore became easier to configure than in past versions. The hottest new feature in Virtual PC 2.0 is drag-and-drop file copy, which lets you copy files and folders between the Finder and the Windows desktop via drag-and-drop when you're not in full-screen mode.

Both emulators also support a 3Dfx graphic boards for acceleration of graphics in 3Dfx games, though we did not test this aspect. As with our last special report on this topic, our tests used Windows 95 business applications timed with a stop watch.


Products Tested

For the OrangePC coprocessor board, we used the test results from our last batch of testing:

*Note: the current version of SoftWindows 95 is 5.0.3. This version would not have affected our test results, according to Insignia, but add features. Some these are listed in the features section below.

**Note: the current version of the OrangePCi software is 3.0.2. It offers 32-bit driver support and other new features. MacWindows is currently testing OrangePCi 3.0.2 with a higher-end OrangePC board.

We did not test Insignia Solution's RealPC (which comes with DOS) with a copy of Windows 95 installed on top of it. Insignia claims that RealPC with Windows 95 will run at the same speed as SoftWindows 95 5.0.

See MacWindows Solutions for a brief description of these products with links to the manufacturers' web sites.


Current emulator features

Improvements over previous versions include the following:

Virtual PC 2.0

  • 3Dfx graphics accelerator card support for games
  • Improved DirectX support: emulation of a new video_ adapter, (the "S3 Trio 32/64") and a new drivers makes DirectX usable in 2.0
  • Drag and drop file copying, from Finder to Windows desktop, and Windows to Finder.
  • 2-way cut and paste (version 1.x could on cut and paste text from Mac to Windows)
  • Sound input (8-bit) is supported.
  • The maximum amount of memory you can assign to the PC has been raised from 64 MB to 128 MB.

SoftWindows 95 5.0.3

  • 3Dfx graphics accelerator card support for games (users of versions 5.0 - 5.0.2 must download enabler here).
  • SoftWindows 95 now uses the same setup dialog found in RealPC. This is an improvement, as it is easier to setup memory than in version 4.
  • SoftWindows is now Sound Blaster Pro and Sound Blaster 16 compatible.
  • Macintosh joysticks will now control PC games.(Already in VPC 1.0.1.)
  • DirectX (Windows 95 games) support is now faster
  • Pentium MMX support in now included, another area which will benefit games. (Virtual PC already had MMX.)
  • Version 5.0.2 added support for Plug and Play joysticks with Windows 95, sound import, ODI networking on G3 Macs, PowerBook 3400 PCMCIA Ethernet and other 3rd party Ethernet cards, and bug fixes (see the Insignia's update page).

Usability Comments

Installation of the OrangePC board takes longer than installation of emulators. You have to open the Mac, insert the board, and connect the monitor using the special cable that comes with the board. However, installing the software, including Windows 95 (or NT), for the OrangePC board is just as easy for the Orange Micro as for either emulator. all three products use a one-click installation method, which is easier than installing your own copy from the Microsoft install disk.

Setting memory in SoftWindows 95 5.0 has improved over version 4.0, but is still more complex than with Virtual PC or the OrangePC 530 board, and might require an extra 5 minutes for a new user to learn.

Virtual PC's drag and drop copying of files between Mac and Windows works very well, and is the easiest method to copy files that any product has come up with.

A Note on the "Quitting the Finder" Trick


Feature Comparison

Connectix

Insignia Solutions

Orange Micro

Virtual PC 2.0

SoftWindows 95 5.0.3

OrangePC 536 (with 166 MHz Cyrix 686)

Cost

$149

$199

$887

Upgrade cost

$39

$99

processor, RAM are upgradable

Operating systems supported

DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 98, OpenStep, and any OS that runs on Intel (However, readers have reported not being able to get Linux running on VPC. Connectix does not supply tech support for non-Windows OS's.)

DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95 (preliminary support for Windows 98)

DOS, Windows 3.x, Windows 95 Windows NT, Windows 98

Minimum Mac processor

180 MHz PowerPC 603 processor

66 MHz 601 PowerPC processor

Any Mac with PCI expansion slot

Maximum PC RAM

128 MB
No limit

128 MB (256 MB for model 550)

Sound

Sound Blaster Pro

8-bit sound input

Sound Blaster Pro and Sound Blaster 16 (though not 16-bit sound)

Sound input, MIDI

Sound Blaster 16 input and output ports. (3D Wavetable sound chips on the 550 board).

DirectX games

Yes
Yes
Yes

MMX support

Yes
Yes

Pentium MMX processor available

Hardware graphics acceleration

Built-in support for 3Dfx graphics boards for games

Built-in support for 3Dfx graphics boards for games

No, but 2D/3D acceleration on the Orange PC 550 board

Support of PC SCSI devices

Yes
Yes
Yes

Joystick support

Mac joysticks
Mac joysticks, Widows 95 Plug and Play joysticks
Includes game port for any PC joystick

Access c: drive from Finder

Yes
No
Yes

Launch PC files from Finder

No
Yes
No

Drag and drop file copy

Yes
No
No

AppleScript support

No
Yes
No

AppleGuide help of Windows or DOS

No
Yes
No
Windows Networking and Printing Features

Virtual PC 2.0

SoftWindows 95 5.0.3

OrangePC 536 (with 166 MHz Cyrix 686)

Ethernet

Yes
Yes
Yes

Token Ring

No
Yes
No

Utilizes either MacTCP or Open Transport

No (Open Transport required)
Yes
Yes

Single IP address for both Mac and Windows Internet connections

No
Yes
No

NetBEUI, IPX networking

Yes
Yes
Yes

NDIS and ODI drivers included

No
Yes
Yes

Print to AppleTalk Postscript printer from within Windows (without adding anything)

Yes
Yes
Yes

Windows Internet software included

Internet Explorer
StuffIt for Windows
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Word and Excel Viewers

Internet Explorer
StuffIt for Windows
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Microsoft Office 97 Viewers PKZIP
Macromedia Shockwave

Internet Explorer

See MacWindows Solutions for links to manufacturer sites and contact info.

Test setup and conditions

Hardware configuration:

Power Macintosh 7500

Hard drive: 3 GB Quantum
RAM: 48 MB in system
Level 2 RAM Cache: 512k
Processors:
132 MHz 604 Apple processor card
225 MHz 604e MaxPowr processor card from Newer Technology
250 MHz G3 MaxPowr G3 processor card with 512k, 2:1 backside cache

PowerBook G3, 250 MHz, 512k, 125 MHz level 2 cache, 32 MB RAM

Power Macintosh G3/300

Hard drive: 6 MB, Ultra SCSI 3
RAM: 96 MB in system
Processor: 300 MHz G3 with 512k, 2:1 backside cache

The OrangePC card was tested with the slowest PowerPC processor, the 132 MHz 604.

System Software and Settings

PowerBook G3 tests were conducted at 800 x 600 full screen mode, while the other tests were conducted at 640 x 480 pixels. This probably accounts for the slightly slower results on the PowerBook G3 than on a Power Mac with G3 processor.

Test Procedure

Conclusions and recommendations

With the fastest Macs, emulators are sometimes matching the speed of low-end coprocessors boards in some tasks. This is new with the Power Mac G3/300. Generally, however, if speed is your main concern, the best option is an Orange PC card from Orange Micro. More RAM or a faster processor in the OrangePC card would improve it's speed beyond that of the emulators on the G3/300, and on other Macs, the hardware solution is many times faster than an emulator.

It should be noted that while extremely fast, Apple's G3/300 still does not use the fastest PowerPC hardware; Connectix says that if Apple were to increase the cache speed from 2:1 to 1:1, the emulator speeds would improve another 20% or so.

Among the two emulators, SoftWindows 95 5.0 is faster than Virtual PC 2.0, but how much depends on your Mac. The slower your Mac's processor, the better choice SoftWindows 95 becomes. If your Mac has a G3 processor, the choice is less clear, as each emulator won some of the races on G3s. SoftWindows 95 5.0 has better floating point speed, but Virtual PC has better disk access speed. For users with G3 processors, the choice of which emulator to use should be based on the other factors, such as the features listed in the Features table. Each emulator has some unique features -- you need to decide which ones are most important to you.

We recommend a Mac with 48 MB minimum for either emulator, or a minimum of 32 MB of RAM assigned to the emulator software. Increasing RAM assigned to the emulator increases performance, but the greatest increase was from 24 MB to 32 MB. However, processor speed is a far more important factor than the amount of RAM for emulators.


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Copyright 1998 John Rizzo. All rights reserved.