Parallels Desktop 6 review
For our tests, though, we used our existing Windows installation, and accepted the default 768MB of RAM. In full-screen virtual mode, the overall benchmark score fell to 0.68.
It’s worth noting that the slowdown was by no means uniform across our tests. Our CPU-based audio encoding test was only 7% slower under Parallels, but tests that opened and closed lots of windows were hit by Parallels’ slower graphics performance: the Office test was 20% slower, and Photoshop slowed down by a full 30%, although these applications still felt responsive enough for everyday use.
The worst result was in our 3D rendering test, which was slashed by 47% in Parallels: a brief investigation revealed that, by default, only one core of the Core 2 Duo CPU had been made available to the guest OS, halving the processing power available to multi-threaded applications. Setting Parallels to use both cores restored performance to the expected levels, but left OS X crawling along while 3ds Max hogged the entire CPU.
We then repeated the test in Coherence mode, which hides the Windows screen and presents application windows directly on the OS X desktop. This reduced performance in the more graphical tests by a further 10%, but left us with a still-usable overall benchmark score of 0.64.
Although that’s significantly slower than native performance, it’s better than VMware Fusion. Its benchmark score in the same test was just 0.61 in full-screen mode. Switching to Unity mode – the VMware equivalent to Parallels’ Coherence view – knocked that down to 0.58. The gap isn’t huge, but Parallels is clearly ahead.
And if you’re tempted to save money with the free, open source VirtualBox package, you’ll find a much bigger trade off, in both convenience and performance. VirtualBox won’t boot from a real Windows partition, so you can’t easily switch between native and virtual Windows as you can with the paid-for packages. Nor is there any equivalent to Coherence or Unity, so running Windows applications means moving back and forth between environments. With a final benchmark score of 0.47, VirtualBox was significantly slower than either of the commercial offerings too.
So for anything more than occasional tinkering it’s worth investing in a commercial virtualisation host. And although Parallels is slightly more expensive than VMware Fusion (which comes in at £46 exc VAT), its stronger performance, coupled with niceties such as the mobile application and keyboard harmonisation, give it a small edge. For regular commuters between operating systems, it’s worth the money.
|Software subcategory||System tools|
|Processor requirement||1.66GHz Intel processor|
Operating system support
|Operating system Windows Vista supported?||no|
|Operating system Windows XP supported?||no|
|Operating system Linux supported?||no|
|Operating system Mac OS X supported?||yes|
|Other operating system support||none|