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MacWorld Reviews Parallels Desktop for Mac 3.0

Quoting from MacWorld

It was just about a year ago that I first reviewed Parallels Desktop. I found it to be a fast and versatile way to run Windows, Linux, and many other systems within OS X. But things are moving quickly in the virtualization arena, and much has changed in the last year. The recent release of Parallels Desktop 3.0 is evidence of that: this first-ever paid upgrade has over 50 new or improved features.

Accelerated graphics

Parallels 3 now offers support for accelerated graphics (both OpenGL and DirectX), allowing some 3-D games to run within Parallels. This feature is disabled by default, as it’s still somewhat experimental, but it can be easily enabled in the virtual machine’s preferences. The company provides a list of games known to be compatible, though others may work as well. For instance, I installed and tested Infogrames’ BoarderZone, an older PC snowboarding game. I also installed and played a demo of the Live for Speed driving game. Neither is on Parallels’ list of tested games, but both worked quite well. However, other games I tested, such as Microsoft’s Flight Simulator and Motocross Madness 2, didn’t run after installation. But for those games that do work, the results can be good—especially for older games with less stringent graphics requirements. (For more on gaming with Parallels, see Peter Cohen’s Game Room blog.)

To test Parallels’ gaming abilities, I installed the Prey demo on Mac OS X, Windows XP via Boot Camp, and Windows XP via Parallels on both my 2.66GHz Mac Pro and 2.33GHz MacBook Pro. I then copied a recorded demo file to all of these setups, and I ran a benchmark test using that demo file on each machine.

The Macworld Lab performed a separate test. They tested Doom 3 on a 2.16GHz iMac Core 2 Duo to see how well this graphically intensive game held up when run in Parallels.

As you can see from the chart below, there’s a substantial performance hit for running either game under Parallels. The results could be improved, of course, by using a smaller window or lower quality graphics settings. When I was testing Prey’s actual gameplay, I found that frames per second (FPS) varied between about 20 and 60 (the latter is where Prey caps it during game play) on the Mac Pro in Parallels. At no time, though, did it feel unplayable. But Prey on the MacBook Pro is another story. To play Prey via Parallels on that machine, both resolution and image quality would have to be reduced to get a usable frame rate.

Doom 3 results on the iMac were similar to Prey on the MacBook Pro—you’d need to reduce the window size and graphic quality settings to get decent gameplay.

If you want the best Windows gaming experience, use Boot Camp to turn your Mac into a real Windows PC. But if your gaming needs are mainly limited to older titles, or if you’re willing to play in a somewhat smaller window, Parallels 3 provides a usable solution, at least for some games, without rebooting.

Gaming tests were not the only tests we performed. We attempted some tests with WorldBench 6, but despite numerous attempts, we were unable to come up with conclusive results. Some tests would not completely run; other tests intermittently corrupted our versions of Windows. We are working with our colleagues at PC World to sort out the problems we’ve encountered with World Bench tests and hope to post results soon.

It should be noted that we didn’t run into any issues running applications on their own—Microsoft Office, the Prey demo, and various other Windows applications ran as expected.

...

The review continues with coverage on: Snapshots and Undo Disks, Boot Camp partition support, Coherence mode, Smart Select, Parallels Explorer, and Other Improvements, and Tech Support.  You can read the rest of the review, here.

The magazine offers the following quick pros and cons: 

Pros: Many substantial new features; 3-D accelerated graphics support; Snapshots and Undo Disks features allow you to easily revert a system to its previous state; support for Boot Camp partitions as virtual machines; Explorer program facilitates easy transfer of files between operating systems.

Cons: 3-D graphics support still has some problems; Shared Application support may be overkill in some situations; tech support still somewhat complicated.

Published Wednesday, July 18, 2007 5:40 AM by David Marshall
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