This paper presents a study of the workspace and kinematic properties of four different architectures of six-degree-of-freedom parallel mechanisms. For each architecture, the volume of the Cartesian workspace is computed at different orientations of the moving platform. The distribution of the workspace is also found by computing the 2D sections of the 3D workspace. The rotational workspace is then determined at the reference position of the platform. Finally, the stiffness properties of the architectures are obtained. Normalization factors are then defined to account for the structural differences between the architectures of mechanisms. The comparison of the different architectures of parallel mechanisms has been performed using SIMPA, a specialized CAD tool developed for the kinematic analysis and optimization of parallel manipulators. The results thus obtained illustrate the range of performance which can be expected from different parallel architectures. Although none of the architectures proves to be better than all the others in all respects, particular architectures do excel in particular performance measures. The approach proposed would therefore be useful in further studies relating to the design and optimization of parallel manipulators and mechanisms.