Parallels Desktop v6

Parallels Desktop for Mac is simply the world’s bestselling, top-rated, and most trusted solution for running Windows applications on your Mac. With Parallels Desktop for Mac, you can seamlessly run both Windows and Mac OS X applications side-by-side with speed, control and confidence. Run Windows programs like they were native to your Mac. Setting up Parallels Desktop for Mac is simple and quick. Enjoy the best of both worlds — Windows and Mac OS X - on one seamless desktop. Experience as much or as little Windows as you want. Multiple view modes make it possible for you to customize the level of integration between Mac and Windows without compromising performance.

It has been less than ten months since we reviewed Parallels Desktop 5, a competent but buggy release from Parallels. Shipping paid updates with stability issues seems to be the company's modus operandi, so I was a little skeptical when I saw that a new version was already being released, since the last one had so many issues that needed ironing out. The feature list of Parallels Desktop 6 isn't what I'd call ambitious—the main focus of version 6 has been on the 64-bit host and increased speed, mostly for 3D and gaming. Gaming was already Parallels' forte, but I was curious to see if the new version would finally make playing modern games with complex shaders, high resolutions, and high-quality audio a reality. If it doesn't come through, and suffers from stability issues, this could be a disastrous release for Parallels. Read on for the verdict.

Test Hardware

  • Mac Pro dual quad-core Nehalem Xeon 2.66 GHz
    • 24GB RAM
    • 120GB OCZ Vertex Turbo SSD system drive with separate HD RAID disk for virtual machine disks
    • Radeon 4870/Geforce GTX 285 testing scenarios
    • Dual NEC WUXi 2490 Spectraview monitors
    • OS X 10.6.4 64-bit kernel with graphics update
  • Windows 7 64-bit VM specs:
    • 8 cores
    • 8GB RAM
    • 256 MB VRAM and 3D acceleration and vsync enabled.
  • MacBook Pro Core2 Duo 2.4GHz 15" Santa Rosa
    • 4GB RAM
    • 120GB OCZ Vertex SSD
    • NVIDIA Geforce 8600M 256MB
    • OS X 10.6.4 32-bit kernel with graphics update
  • Windows XP SP3 32-bit VM specs:
    • 2 cores
    • 2.5GB RAM
    • 256 MB VRAM and 3D acceleration and vsync enabled

System Requirements

  • Intel Mac. 64-bit virtual machines require an Intel Core 2 Duo or higher
  • Minimum 1GB of memory, 2GB of memory is recommended
  • 500MB for Parallels Desktop application and support files
  • Snow Leopard: Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.3 or later
  • Leopard: Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.8 or later

Interface changes

Most of the interface changes in Parallels Desktop 6 are subtle tweaks, but they make the application feel more polished overall. The new VM Library window has a slight transparency-with-blur effect over the background:

 Resuming and suspending VMs overlays a similar charcoal gray and glass feel:

When you attach a USB device, a slick little window pops up:

This consistent feel makes the whole Parallels experience a little slicker and more in keeping with Apple's interface design. This is also helped by changes to...

That icon

I don't think many applications have received as much hate over an icon change as Parallels has. How bad is it? Well, I noticed this when searching for installation info for Parallels:

When your icon is so contentious that it's trumping "install" and "increase memory" for support questions, I think it's safe to say people don't like it. I was no fan either—just look at this thing:

The updated icon attempts to right some of the wrongs, while keeping the "parallel lines" motif:

The lines still feel lazily dropped on top of a decent stock icon, but it's an improvement, and the overlaid lines look okay on top of applications:


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