Review: Parallels Desktop 6 Switch to Mac Edition

By on

Parallels Desktop 6 is the latest consumer virtualisation platform for Mac from the company Parallels. It allows you to virtualise any operating system including Mac OS X itself. Other features include launching Windows apps from the dock, sharing files between operating systems and 3D graphics performance. Also included with the “Switch to Mac” Edition we received to review, is a high-speed USB transfer cable. Check out the full review after the break.

  • Score:

    9.0 / 10

  • The Good:

    Easy to use, USB Transfer cable, Fast

  • The Bad:

    Only 60 day free AV, Transfer is a bit confusing

  • Bottom Line:

    Great app to use when you want to run windows on your mac.

Introduction

The installation of Parallels Desktop 6 was very painless and was almost like any other Mac OS X application. Run the installer and start the app. Upon opening the application you are presented with a setup screen which allows you to choose how you wish to start. Transferring a whole computer to your Mac or installing a new operating system. We tested the Transfer to Mac option and also installed Windows 7 Ultimate in a separate VM.

Transfer to Mac

One feature I absolutely love about this edition of Parallels Desktop 6, is that it comes with a High-Speed USB Transfer cable allowing you to transfer your whole Windows based computer (whether it be a laptop or desktop) to the Parallels virtualisation platform. Simply plug the cable into each of the computers, install the transfer software from the installation CD on to the windows computer and start the process on your Mac. On our test machine, which ran Windows XP with 512MB of RAM, 1.2Ghz Celeron Processor and a 20GB hard drive, we transfered the whole system over (it was a standard install with drivers, a few applications and a few files installed) in just under 5 minutes. The transfer also removed any unneeded drivers installed to ensure computability with the new virtualised platform. This is an extremely impressive result.

User Experience

The Parallels Desktop 6 interface is very slick and appealing to the eye. It also doesn’t intrude with Windows allowing you get your work done (if you use Windows for work) without being awed at the pretty colours. There are three options you can choose to have your VM appear in. Window mode, which shows the guest operating system in a simple window, Coherence mode, which allows you to mesh the Windows interface with Mac (more on this later) and full screen mode, which allows you to show the VM on a full screen.

Coherence Mode has improved since version 4 when it was introduced. Coherence mode allows you to have both the Windows windows and the Mac windows together. Open Windows applications will show in the dock and taskbar icons will show in the icon bar up the top of mac. You can see this in action to the right of this paragraph. This mode worked well especially if you want a “seamless” experience between Windows and Mac, also handy if you find yourself constantly switching between Windows and Mac applications. I also tested the playing of video through all modes and video played smoothly once there was no interaction with the VM.

Performance

The operating system of choice to do the testing was, Windows 7 Ultimate 32-bit edition. We chose this because it is Microsoft’s current operating system and we believe it is a perfect choice for running within a virtualised environment. The computer Parallels was installed onto is a Late-2009 Macbook White, with a 2.26ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4GB of 1067 MHz DDR3 ram and a NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics card. Parallels automatically assigned the virtual machine with 1 CPU core, 1GB of RAM and a 64GB Expandable hard disk.

The installation of Windows 7 was fast and painless (to be expected from Windows) and appeared to go the same speed as installing the operating system natively onto your computer. Once installed, Parallels automatically installed their tools application which allows smoother mouse movement and interaction with Mac. We also installed Norton Internet Security 2011 as our choice for protection, however, Parallels does come with a free copy of Kaspersky Internet Security (for 60 days).

Once we installed Norton Internet Security, we let Windows rate its system performance and it gave us a score of 2 out of 7.9 which is pretty disappointing. However, this score was given due to the performance of the Windows Aero graphics. You can see the full details to the left of this paragraph. All in all, the operating system feels responsive and fast to run any program you need.

In regards to the graphics performance of Parallels, Windows Aero functioned fine providing transparency when within full screen or windowed mode. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any 3D games to test out (mainly due to my lack of game playing) and because my Macbook doesn’t play many good games anyway. However, Parallels do advertise 3D graphics performance, so it must work?

Conclusion

All in all, I believe Parallels Desktop 6 is a great product for the mac to virtualise your guest operating system. Whether you transfer your old PC to your mac or you simply install a new operating system, Parallels Desktop 6 caters for any use. The Transfer to Mac USB cable is an absolute killer and there is currently nothing from the opposing team to compete with that. Great product Parallels!