We’ve reviewed Parallels a couple of times before and generally it’s fared quite well against other Virtualisation platforms for the Mac, despite it’s price tag and almost constant upgrade treadmill. Since it’s been a while since the previous review we decided it was time to look at Parallels again, and by now it’s version 10 that’s released.
So, I shelled out the $55 USD to upgrade from PD8 to PD10 with great expectations. After all, PD8 was showing some really good signs of providing almost native performance in the 3D graphics arena and was really quite fast. It was hard to see how another version could do much better, except provide support for Yosemite which I’m now running instead of Mountain Lion or Mavericks.
One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that installing and uninstalling all these software applications to test for ReviewMacSoftware tends to bog the Mac down after a while (OK, it takes years, but nonetheless, it happens). Given that I wanted to run Parallels for a review, I thought it would be good to install OS X Yosemite as a guest OS. Parallels offers the ability to automatically install OS X from the recovery partition and the process is extremely smooth, albeit slow since it downloads a lot of the installation from Apple and Australia has ridiculously slow internet links. But, the installation was smooth, required minimal intervention and went well.
But then it all fell apart. The installed guest OS X was almost unusably slow. The screen updates were slower than pouring a jar of molasses in winter. Never mind I thought, I haven’t installed the Parallels tools yet, that must be what the problem is. So I installed them. And it made absolutely zero difference to the speed of the guest OS. The Google homepage had a great animation on the day I was playing and on the host machine it ran as smooth as silk – the guest OS struggled to give me 10 – 15 frames per second, for a simple HTML5 animation.
After much digging around, it appears that for an OS X guest, there is no hardware acceleration for video. I would’ve thought in this day and age that’s a basic requirement. Given the speed that the guest OS runs at under Parallels, their claim that they support OS X guests seems a little far fetched to me.
So much for that. I decided I wanted to try the new Elementary OS Freya instead (which incidentally, the quick look I managed to get at it looks fantastic, but that’s another story). I downloaded the ISO and dragged it onto the Parallels ‘new guest’ screen as directed. The New Guest screen couldn’t determine which type of guest I was installing ( odd, since Elementary is an Ubuntu based distro ). Not to worry, I told it what it was and proceeded to install Elementary OS, which went smoothly enough. Elementary booted up quickly and showed me what I had been waiting for – a polished OS indeed. I wondered if Parallels tools would install since it was an Ubuntu based distro I suspected that they would and indeed they did.
But then it all fell apart – again. After installing the Parallels tools the screen corrupted into a mosaic of multicoloured squares and lines. It looked like an old TV with the horizontal hold messed up (hah, half the people who read this will have no idea what I’m talking about). Nonetheless, utterly unusable. So I dug around on the internet again for a solution to screen corruption. It seems a number of people have had this problem and one of Parallels solutions was to turn off desktop effects in the guest OS. Parallels had no solution for how to do this in Elementary OS and in Ubuntu their ‘fix’ was to install the Gnome-Fallback package. This isn’t a fix at all, its installing a different (ugly) desktop to overcome Parallels shortcomings. [EDIT: I have discovered that switching OFF 3D acceleration in the Guest settings appears to fix this issue. What I’m not sure of is how much it affects the performance]
So, is Parallels a good choice if you want to run Windows? Well, it does seem to do well on Windows. This version of Parallels runs with a lot less processor overhead and the 3D performance is acceptable. But I didn’t test it too closely as yet, come back later for a better review of the Windows capabilities of Parallels. It’s certainly not up to scratch for any other operating system to be installed as a guest any more and to be honest at this stage I feel like I have been swindled out of my $55 USD, and given that they actively advertise Parallels as working for other operating systems I think it’s a bit dishonest too.
Design - 9/10
Features - 6/10
Cost - 3/10
Ease Of Use - 8/10
Customer Support - 4/10
Overall Value - 4/10
Positives: Runs Windows well
Negatives: Cannot run OSX guests at sensible speed, massive screen corruption on Linux guests.
Trial Available: Yes
Price: $89.99USD - $54.99USD for upgrade
Steve is a paramedic in Victoria, Australia who is also an ex-IT Consultant and currently uses all manner of MacOS software in his everyday life. So he usually tends to write about his experiences with that. But sometimes he'll write about medical, political or other stuff that might (or might not!) be of interest