Parallels 6 For Mac First Impressions Review

After what seems like far too short a period of time since the release of Parallels 5 for Mac, Parallels 6 has landed. We’ve been expecting it for a few weeks, thanks to a couple of leaks, and playing with it for a few days thanks to an early release for existing users.

The Verdict? It’s good. The downside? It’s a bit of an affront to Parallels 5 users when it comes to iPhone app integration. Parallels have had an iPhone app for yonks, but it’s never quite lived up to users’ expectations. Offering the ability to view desktops, but not control them, and being an utter pain in the behind to set up. Parallels 6 introduces an all-new and definitely-not-backward-compatible App that fixes both of these problems, which is bound to frustrate a few Parallels 5 users who were expecting a free update to the App itself with these features.

The new App is a synch to set up, and will list all of the computers you have actively connected to your Parallels account, allow you to start/stop virtual machines and, more importantly, control them. It’s no Teleport, however, and controlling a virtual machine is currently very fiddley. If they could work in the absolutely perfect mouse control from the brilliant Teleport VNC app, it would be nothing short of VM-control perfection. Hopefully an update will come soon, and not warrant the purchase of Parallels 7!

Setting up the Parallels 6 iPhone App is much easier, you simply enter your Parallels username/password into the desktop application under Preferences->Mobile and hit “Login.” You do the same with your iPhone and, voila, you see a list of your computers. Connecting to any single computer requires inputting your username/password (for that particular computer) which is a slight pain, but much easier than the original App, where it was hard enough to get this far.

In terms of Performance, Parallels 6 is breaking the mold once again. What if I told you that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is almost playable? Well. It is. Alas the game suffers from some graphical artefacts that make it very difficult to play successfully, despite being generally playable in low/medium detail on a Core i7 iMac with 8GB RAM. It’s still leagues better in Windows Bootcamp, but Parallels makes a lot of classic, top notch and not ridiculously graphically intensive games that little bit more accessible without a reboot.

Upgrading my VMs to Parallels 5 generally went without a hitch. Ubuntu 9.10 worked right out of the box, and the Parallels tools upgrade went smoothly. Furthermore, a dist-upgrade to 10.04, followed by another install of Parallels tools was successful, too.

Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro went without a hitch, although as usual the RAM restrictions generally make everything decidedly slow until the VM gets comfortable. Reinstalling Parallels tools was a synch, and the new remote control functions seem to work fine under both Windows and Linux… apart from the fact the App still isn’t great in terms of mouse control.

On the 27″ iMac it was a different story. Attempting, again, to mount and use my Bootcamp installation of Windows 7 Ultimate resulted in an endless reboot/repair loop which I simply couldn’t be bothered to try and fix. It’s a common problem that has plagued Parallels since Windows 7 support began, and I’ve never successfully set up a Bootcamp/Virtual Machine hybrid. By now, Parallels should have fixed this so it, ahem, “just works.” Particularly with official Windows 7 Bootcamp support now out!

My Windows 7 virtual machine had troubles to. It ended up constantly crashing before it could successfully boot. I ultimately resorted to turning every feature off which could be turned off, finally pinning the problem on 3D graphics. Fortunately, switching off 3D Acceleration did the trick, and after a reinstall of Parallels Tools I could re-enabled 3D Acceleration without a hitch.

Overall Parallels 6 is a great product in its own right, but as a successor to Parallels 5 it’s no-doubt going to irritate a few users. Features which should have made version 5 have been rolled into a new release. Fortunately, an Parallels upgrade isn’t that expensive, and the effort put into creating this home Visualization solution at a generally quite accessible price deserves to be rewarded. The iPhone App remains absolutely free, too, which is a bonus, as it could easily run up to and over the £5 mark in light of its new functionality and ease of use.