Parallels allows Intel-processor Macs to emulate an x86 system. This allows them to run all versions of Windows and even Linux.
Pre-Windows 2000 support is questionable in Parallels. Windows 98 and below will run but won’t have any of the integration features. Parallels 3.0 represents some major improvements in that area. There is now some support for 3D applications. Snapshots are also supported. This allows the user to install software try it out and then revert to an earlier snapshot if they don’t like it. Parallels also supports multiple operating system installs.
Installing Parallels is effortless. It will install Windows from either an ISO image or an original CD. XP stills need to be activated, which can be a pain.
The Snapshot manager works well. It takes a bit of time to revert to an earlier image, and the software will warn the user that any work done since the last image was taken will be removed. Running the virtual machine though doesn’t seem to have taken any more of an impact on the system than before they had snapshots. The snapshot manager will work with a paused virtual machine or a shut down virtual machine. This worked nice when trying to install games to test their new 3D features. With a snapshot, the games are gone as if they never existed.
The 3D features were a little less impressive. Some did run but not all the ones the developers claimed, and some were painfully slow. Half Life 2 wouldn’t even start and complained about a problem with the shading engine.
Scorched Earth 3D did run, but was very slow. There was a noticeable difference between Parallels and a native Windows environment. Parallels 3.0’s support for 3D is a big step in the right direction, but it still needs work, or even faster machines for better games and applications.
Parallels has lots of other nice features that have been around since previous versions.
The Coherence Mode makes the the Windows applications look and feel like they are actually running native inside Mac OSX. The Windows task bar is put above the apple dock.
The virtual machine can be suspended at any time, this means that there is no time required to start it back up when you need to pause it and come back to something later, or your done using windows and don’t want to wait for it to boot next time.
The virtual machine also supports USB. It allows a device to be tied to either the host Mac OS or to parallels. This is nice for devices that don’t have Mac drives yet.
Overall, Parallels is a great piece of software. Its support for games may be lacking right now, but it will improve with time, and Parallels has shown to be well supported and patched by its developer. It’s a solid buy for dual OS users.