The Virtualization industry for the Apple Macintosh has existed for almost as long as the Macintosh, with one of the first virtualization products (at least that I used) being hardware based on the Macintosh IIc back in 1987. Warping forward to 2010 how times have changed for both software and hardware manufactures and “with Hell Freezing Over…” Apple made the move to the Intel Chipset. In my humble opinion one of the best decisions Apple ever made! In the Virtualization space today the players are Parallels Desktop 5, VMWare fusion 3, and Oracles’ Virtual Box, with the predominate lead going to Parallels. What sets Parallels Desktop 5 apart from other Virtualization software really boils down to it’s mature and thorough feature set and just raw performance emulating Windows. If your interested in a short comparison of Parallels and VMware I created a screencast here, late last year.
Parallels Desktop 5 is all about raw speed, performance and reliability. Leveraging the release of Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard, Parallels Desktop 5 now takes advantage of the 64bit OS, Intels VT-x2 Technologies, and can utilize up to 8 CPU’s on the most powerful Mac the MacPro. What does this mean? In simple terms it means booting up in Windows XP in under one minute or even less with Windows 7.
Performance is clearly carried through in both application performance as well as graphics including OpenGL 2.1 and DirectX 9 support. What this has meant to me is that I can easily run applications like MS Word and Internet Explorer with performance that is better then most windows machines, and quickly test my website designs and video production for Windows compliance. What has also much improved in Parallels Desktop 5 is the ability to play 3D games now in a virtualized environment, and get performance that makes casual gaming very acceptable. For a more detailed look on gameplay within Parallels, I created a screencast late last year that you can find here.
What sets Parallels Desktop 5 apart is a well executed user interface and mature feature set for each Virtual Machine. Parallels has created a very unobtrusive interface to launching a Virtual Machine instance, and accessing the hardware & settings of the environment.
The interface has been well thought out with the ability to configure every feature/function of the virtualization experience with a very comprehensive set of options. While there are over 70 new features that are included in this release and certainly too many to cover here, the most important features to me are the performance improvements and the new Crystal Mode of operation. To see Windows 7 literally melt away so that only you only see the Windows program running next to your mac programs is simply brilliant!
In summary Parallels Desktop 5 sets a very high bar and a new standard in Virtualization software. The product offers an incredibly robust feature set, performance that is just amazing, and rock solid stability. I personally use Parallels Desktop 5 on both a MacPro and MacBookPro daily, and my experience has just been stellar! I for one will be interested to see how Parallels improves on this incredible release!