Parallels 8 Desktop For Gaming (specifically EvE Online under Parallels)

Screen-Shot-2013-09-27-at-7.31.32-PMSome time ago I wrote a review on Parallels Desktop and compared it to VMWare and VirtualBox. Since then, things have moved on in version numbers and I thought it was time to revisit.

I have a particular need of late, and this review is centered around that need. Notably, the Mac client for EvE Online developed a significant bug that made it unplayable (for me, as a Wormhole Dweller) since Odyssey came out. A graphics glitch on OSX Mountain Lion means that when scanning for signatures, one can no longer see the probe spheres in space – making it very difficult to resize them properly. So, I decided I would try to run it in a Virtual Machine. Various people had said it worked ok and I figured apart from a bit of disk space I had little to lose…

Initially I ran a trial copy of VMWare Fusion 5. The performance was acceptable. Just. It wasn’t as good as the Mac client but at least my little blue spheres showed up when I was playing. The average FPS was around 10 lower than I experienced with the Mac client, so I was getting around 20fps in space – so long as there weren’t too many objects around and about 10-15fps in station. Playable, but not great. This was on a mid-2009 MacBook Pro with 9600GT.

I then decided to take a look at Parallels Desktop 8 – the previous version I reviewed here was Parallels 6 and it didn’t cope too well with 3D graphics back then. I was surprised just how well Parallels 8 does deal with Eve Online. There’s no noticeable speed decrease between the Mac client and the Parallels version. There IS however a number of other differences when playing Eve under Parallels. Firstly and primarily, the blue spheres show up correctly when scanning for signatures within my wormhole. When compared to running EvE under Wine on OSX, Parallels is without question the more reliable method. The launcher is flawless under Parallels and there’s no graphical glitches.

Parallels Coherence Mode means I can pretty much operate Eve in exactly the same way as I do the normal Mac client. The icon sits on my dock and I can move the application between desktops – which is great for running those alts while mining or doing stuff that is much better in twos. Having said that, the video performance suffers quite heavily in Coherence mode, so if FPS is your thing, you may want to stick with full screen mode.

Parallels does require a little more processor horsepower than the Mac client, though I’m not convinced it demands all that much more than Wine. It’s worth going through your Windows installation and switching off any un-necessary services (such as Windows Media Sharing, and anything else you don’t need) as some people have had high CPU usage issues with un-necessary services chewing up background processing power. I tend to find the CPU idles around 5-10% when Parallels is idle, and around 2-5% when Parallels is not running, so there’s something running in the background even though I’ve disabled lots.

The EvE online Windows client is light years ahead of the Mac client in terms of reliability, which is not overly surprising since the majority of EvE players connect from Windows boxes. Given that Parallels 8 performs well with DirectX games now (and rumour is that Parallels 9 is even better), it’s fair to say that I’d recommend playing EvE within Parallels instead of the buggy Cider client that CCP foists on us Mac users.

And of course, if you want to do other Windows based things (such as Contribtastic, Eve Isk Per Hour, or even heaven forbid something productive that requires Windows) then Parallels is well worth the price point for the convenience of not having to BootCamp the machine and allowing you to run your Mac software alongside the Windows. I can’t speak highly enough of Parallels, it ticks all the boxes.

I also feel the need to add that Parallels support is second to none. My LAN connection through Parallels was doing some very funky stuff, freezing up the main hosts networking as well. Turned out that for some reason, despite the little tick box saying not to, Parallels was sending the host computers MAC address to my DHCP server and was being given the same IP address as the host. I could run it adequately in NAT mode, but not in Bridged mode – and Bridged mode seemed to suit EvE better so I was a bit frustrated. My ticket to support received a response within a couple of hours and shortly thereafter I received a phone call from a Parallels technician asking if he could access my VM. I agreed and within minutes he had rectified the problem (I know not how) and did everything remotely. You really can’t get better than that.

 

Additional Info

You can find out more about Parallels at http://www.parallels.com – including downloading the latest trial version.

You can also find out more information about EvE Online at http://www.eveonline.com – if you’re looking for MMORPG this one is highly recommended!

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