VMware Workstation 5.0 beta1 review

Quoting from Flexbeta:


It is always a nice an sunny day when it is time to test and write about beta software; especially when this application includes so many wonderful new features you can’t stop yapping about. VMWare has been a leader in the virtual machine world and they are about to increase the gap between them and the competition with Workstation 5.0. Being a long time user of VMWare Workstation, it is always a pleasure to experience such a great application get better. This new Workstation, though still in beta, has come with a bag of new goodies every user is sure to love.

Though there isn’t much difference in the user interface of VMWare Workstation 5.0 Beta when compared to Workstation 4.2, however, the new Beta includes a number of new features. One of the features which I found extremely useful is the ability to take more than one screenshot of your guest operating system. Now it is possible to have multiple saved screenshots of before and after a certain legacy software is installed. There is also experimental support for isochronous USB devices; so you can use a webcam or record multi-track audio in a guest operating system. Workstation 5 supports streaming audio and video from USB input devices.

New Features

Workstation 5 has further support for 64Bit host hardware. AMD64 Opteron, Athlon 64 and Intel IA-32e CPU (including “Nocona”) have found enhanced support in version 5. Workstation 5 also supports new 64-bit host operating systems, including SuSE 9.1, Windows XP (64-bit edition), and Windows Server 2003 (64-bit edition).

Workstation 5 also includes the ability to clone a virtual machine. You are given the ability to fully clone a virtual machine, in which it is a fully independent virtual machine with its own virtual disk; or you can also have a linked clone. Linked clones are new virtual machines that share virtual disks with the original virtual machine, saving space.

A few new operating systems have found support under Workstation 5, including Solaris 9 and 10, Longhorn, and new Linux distributions running the 2.6 kernel. Also, support has been added to Workstation 5 beta for Java Desktop Systems.

Under Linux, Workstation 5 now installs Linux Tools under X and also features support for wireless networking.

A new feature which is sure to have Microsoft themselves impressed is the ability of Workstation 5 beta to convert a virtual machine created in Microsoft Virtual PC for use with VMWare Workstation. The new V2V assistant guides the user through the entire process. To test the new V2V assistant, I setup a virtual machine in Virtual PC and later converted the virtual machine to use with VMWare Workstation 5 Beta.

The V2V assistant guides the user through the entire process; a heads up notice to users who wish to convert their VirtualPC virtual machines using the V2V assistant, make sure that the virtual machine is not paused within VirtualPC, or the conversion will not work. You are given the option to either make a copy of the entire virtual machine which will be later converted to use with Workstation, or to link the existing virtual machine. Though the linking process takes less time than the copying process, using the linked virtual machine with Workstation automatically invalidates it with VirtualPC; which means that you won’t be able to use the linked virtual machine with both. I chose to link the virtual machine first in order to see how effective it can be. The conversion took less than 1 minute, after the V2V assistant was done, I ran the newly linked virtual machine on Workstation 5 Beta. The Windows XP logo successfully loaded, however, I was presented with the infamous Blue-Screen Of Death (BSOD). The cause of this error is most likely associated with the sudden change of hardware that Workstation emulates; since we originally installed Windows XP using VirtualPC using its own emulated hardware. Using the copy feature only lasted 4 minutes; which really comes in handy if you want to preserve the virtual machine to run it on VirtualPC.


It isn’t exactly fair to compare the performance of an application in beta phase and expect improvements over previous versions. Workstation 5 Beta did not match up well against its previous version, Workstation 4.5.2. Running a few benchmarks using PassMark PerformanceTest v5.0, we see no improvements in performance as of yet in this beta release. In fact, Workstation 5.0 Beta performed rather slowly when compared to its predecessor (or soon to be). Again, Workstation 5 is still in beta phase and has tons of tweaks and performance enhancements to go before its final release. Below are the benchmarks which were performed on both Workstations 4.5.2 and Workstation 5.0 Beta. The host machine’s specs are as follows:

Intel Pentium 4 3.0GHz HT
Abit IC7-G Motherboard
Two 512MB Corsair RAM
Seagate 160GB Sata Drive
ATI Radeon 9550 256MB

Performances are here.

It is clear how the beta version lags in many of the test.

More New Features & Conclusion

Probably the best of the newest features available in Workstation 5.0 is the ability to capture movies. Similar to capturing a screenshot of the virtual machine, this new beta gives the user the opportunity to record a movie. The movie is captured as an AVI file and the user if given the option on the movie quality. Using the medium setting, I was able to record 28 seconds of video which made the movie nearly 3MB in size. Capturing another movie of about the same size in the highest quality increased the size of the movie file to about 9MB; however, the quality of the video is highly noticeable capturing more frames per second than the medium setting. I can think of multiple uses for this new feature, including How-To videos on slip-streaming your Windows Service Packs into Windows CD; or just to show off a new release of a Beta operating system, such as Windows Longhorn.

Another nice feature built into this release is the ability to start, stop and suspend groups of virtual machines as if they were one object. This new feature, dubbed Teams in Workstation 5.0, is very easy to setup and maintain and serves handy when a cluster of virtual machines are needed to manage.

Workstation 5.0 Beta also allows the user to capture and save more than a single snapshot. A snapshot manager was added to Workstation 5.0 Beta in which the user is presented with a chronological view of each saved snapshot. Capturing a snapshot in this Beta version did prove a bit time consuming. Workstation 5.0 Beta seemed to freeze and pause for a few seconds before starting again.

Workstation 5.0 Beta is definitely an application you would want to keep your eye on when it is finalized and ready for main stream use. VMWare has bundled many new features which is sure to capture the attention of the competition. Thought there are still a few performance enhancements scheduled before the final release, the features which are visible now are extraordinary. The movie capture alone would give me the only inceptive needed to upgrade.