Parallels today released their latest and greatest instalment of their virtualisation software, Parallels Desktop 6. Now I have actually been testing the Beta version for the best part of 3 months now in private (as with most testing programmes) so I know the software pretty well now.
The user interface hasn’t changed much at all – just minor UI tweaks and they have removed the silly animated virtual machine names that looked good when you first saw it but it soon became annoying. You still have a list of all your virtual machines and the actual virtual machine itself is ver clean and un-cluttered with icons to do everything like directly interface with certain devices.
Now if you read the ‘What’s New?’ page on the Parallels site, you might be forgiven for saying not much has changed. Phrases like “immersive environment” don’t really mean much and making things “easier than ever” are good selling points but not enough to warrant the upgrade price just shy of $50 unless you really love your frame rates in games and 5.1 surround sound on your mac. This isn’t to say they haven’t done enough to warrant it in these fields but for someone who already uses Parallels, they are not what I would consider selling points.
What I think are bigger selling points are the “Manageability and Mobility” and “Enhanced performance” as the Parallels marketing team puts it. In non marketing language, they have a remote control app for virtual machines now for you iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch etc that will let you control your virtual machines over WiFi or even 3G.
I have already done some basic tests on it and I must say I am incredibly impressed with the way you turn it on. As with most cool features that involve handing your computer’s screen over to another device, it is disabled by default but a quick trip to Preferences and the Mobile tab will sort you out. Just log into your Parallels account which you created when registering your product and open the app on your iDevice and fill in the same details.
There is nothing amazingly special about the application itself – it behaves like any remote desktop app. Pinch to zoom, tap to click and other finger based gestures to tell the computer. Seems to work very well over WiFi and I was surprised at the performance of it over 3G so now sitting in that meeting going – “does this site work in IE6″ or the far more likely want to play Call of Duty on your iPhone in a meeting, is now a possibility.
Back to the software itself. The other feature I would like to draw on if the increased performance. If you have a recent mac that supports the snow leopard 64bit kernel, the upgrade is a must! The performance increase is fantastic. I cannot yet quantify the improvement as this is more of a first thoughts affair but the virtual machine is now a lot quicker to boot, struggles less with multitasking and seeing as it uses less CPU time, will quite possibly be a huge improvement for MacBook Pro owners. They have supposedly upgraded the graphics capability but being the non-gamer I am, I do not own a single game that could put this to the test.
With regards to the other features, they are all very standard. Coherence allows you to merge both the virtual machine’s desktop and you macs together so you can enjoy “Your computer might be at risk” warnings from your mac’s top bar. You can install pretty much any OS you can get your hands on and its a breeze to do – takes around 15 minutes for me to get from nothing to a full windows 7 installation. I can’t really say any more than is already listed at the Parallels website so to save your time, I will not bother repeating any of that as its all pretty much the same as version 5.
So to conclude this short review – Parallels Desktop 6 is well worth the upgrade if you want the ability to manage your VM’s on the go, own a 64 Bit Mac or just really love Call of Duty with insane framerates. If neither of these really apply to you and you already own Parallels Desktop 5, I would save your money for now.
If you have not yet bought a virtualisation package, I can highly recommend this for first time users as Parallels guides you through every step and makes it as simply as possible.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Parallels and never have. All views in this review are my own and I am not paid to write any of the reviews – I do it as a bit of fun.
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