Review: Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac

Wil Limoges took the most recent version of Parallels Desktop for a spin. Here is a summary of what it has to offer and some feature highlights.

Recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to take Parallels Desktop 7 for a spin. Having been both a Parallels 5 and VMWare Fusion user for years, I couldn’t wait to see what new features and improvements had made the cut for version 7. In addition, I’ve recently taken Parallels Mobile, Parallels mobile App for iOS, out for a test drive as well and was quite impressed. You can read that article here.

Parallels Desktop 7 is fast and solid

Parallels Desktop 7 is the most recent release of Parallels' virtualization software, which allows you to run multiple operating systems on a single Mac. Since version 5, it has grown into its own quite nicely adding a new user interface and simplifying most of the processes for managing all your virtual machines. The Installation process is a breeze and should look every bit as familiar as most other Mac installations. During the process, Parallels will check for updates and download any new updates. After installation is complete, you’ll be given the opportunity to register and sign up for a Parallels account (recommended if you want to use Parallels Mobile) and activate your product by entering in your serial number. Once you’ve successfully installed Parallels Desktop 7 you’ll be presented with a window providing you options for setting up your new virtual machines. In order to use Parallels, you will be required to install an operating system. In the most typical of situations, Windows is usually the operating system of choice. For instance, on my Mac, I’m running Windows XP and Windows 7 Pro using installation disks. Thankfully, Parallels provides a simple solution for users who don’t have a copy from within this window. Not only can you purchase a copy of Windows 7, but Parallels also provides an installation image of several other popular operating systems such as Ubuntu, Fedora, Chrome, Windows 8 Developer Preview edition, and OS X Lion. If you don’t see an OS or require additional software, Parallels makes that easy as well via their Convenience Store.

Setting up Windows

Once you’ve decided on what operating systems you would like to run, the next step is setting up Windows. Parallels Desktop provides two simple options for doing this. Set up Windows like a Mac or set It up like a PC. Setting it up like a Mac puts Windows into what Parallels refers to as Coherence Mode, allowing you to interact with Windows applications and settings as though they were Mac applications, only with Windows chrome. Setting it up like a PC allows you to run Windows in a Window which can be expanded to full screen, allowing you interact with Windows as though you were sitting directly in front of a PC. At any point after this dialog, you can change your settings to see which you prefer.

Managing your virtual machines

Parallels has simplified the process of managing your virtual machines with a simple little list of installed machines, each with a status indicator and a preview of the desktop if the machine is currently running. From this list, you can right-click on your virtual machines to remove them or add a new one by clicking on the plus button located at the bottom of the window. It’s really just that simple.

Parallels benchmark results

According to Parallels, Parallels Desktop for Mac is the No. 1 selling and best-performing desktop virtualization solution in the world. MacTech magazine recently performed thousands of benchmark tests comparing it to Fusion 4. The full report of benchmark results is available here and highlights follow:

“When we look at the "big picture" of all the top-level test results, Parallels is the clear winner. If you count up the general tests (including the top 3D graphics scores), Parallels won 60% of the tests by 10% or more. And, if you include all the tests where Parallels was at least 5% faster, as well as the balance of the 3DMark06 graphics tests, Parallels increased the lead further. In other words, Parallels Desktop 7 beat VMware Fusion 4.0.2 in 74.9% of the general tests we ran, and Parallels was double the speed or more in almost a quarter of the top-level tests.”
“If you focus exclusively on 3D graphics, as measured by 3DMark06 version 1.2, Parallels won by an even larger margin. Specifically, Parallels won 71% of the tests by 10% or more, and was also a bit faster on an additional 8% more of the tests, and tied on the rest. In other words, Parallels Desktop 7 beat or tied VMware Fusion 4.0.2 in all of the 3D graphics tests we ran… not only is the speed difference huge (Parallels Desktop is often double or more the speed of VMware Fusion), but everything just seems to run more smoothly.”

Also, be sure to check out the recent Parallels announcement regarding experimental support of Windows 8 Consumer Preview and OS X Mountain Lion.

Though I have yet to even scratch the surface of Parallels in my day-to-day tasks, I can say that I am thoroughly impressed with the performance and stability that it has to offer. If you use any other version of Parallels, Parallels Desktop 7 offers several compelling reasons to make the leap.