My MacBook Pro is generally a fast machine (3.06 Ghz Core 2 Duo, 8GB of RAM, 7200RPM hard drive) but VirtualBox 3.2.6 running Ubuntu 10.04 is just too slow compared to VMWare. What can I fiddle with to improve this? Within Ubuntu, I use Eclipse mostly but even booting and GNOME desktop accessories are slow...
The performance will become normal if you disable VTx and set it to use only one core of CPU. See the thread at http://forums.virtualbox.org/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=39368
This is an observation: I use the end 2016 Macbook pro (15 inch), and run Virtualbox on it. As guest system, I have Win 7 and Linux Mint. Both show poor performance, which seems to be related to the graphics.
My observation: If I use an external screen (27 inch, resolution 2560 x 1440). The VBox guests are as smooth as you would expect.
Even moving the VBox window from the Macbook screen to the external screen and back shows that on the external screen, it is fast immediately, on the built-in screen it is slow -- even for non fullscreen mode.
This is more of a work-around than an answer. I was in the same boat, the Oracle-branded version 3.2.6 was bringing my Ubuntu VM to a crawl. So I just deleted 3.2.6 and installed version 3.1.8 and everything was fine. If you're just running Ubuntu I don't think there's much of a difference between 3.1 and 3.2.
Switching from Gnome to Unity (and installing VirtualBox Guest Additions) made a huge difference for me on Ubuntu 17.10, VirtualBox 5.2.8, OS X 10.13.3 High Sierra. Source: https://askubuntu.com/a/1017107/148598
Just throwing this up here as it may help others significantly.
I had Ubuntu VMs (guests) that i created on a Linux host install of Virtualbox, they ran fine on the Linux machine and were very slow once I moved them to my top of the line MacBook air 2012 (2ghz, 8gb ram) . I found i could make them extremely fast by increasing the cpu count (in the vm's settings) from 1 to 2. It made approximately a factor of 10 difference (a suite of phpunit tests went from 5 minutes to about 30 seconds). I'm not sure if the slowness had anything to do with the migration from Linux to OSX 10.8.2 or if the slowness would have been there even with guests that were created on an OSX install.
This seems to still be a problem in a Macbook pro 2018, Ubuntu runs really slow, however, the only option that I had to turn on was the 3D Acceleration and that did the trick, now the VM is really fast. Hope this helps.