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Parallels Desktop is not a new challenger for VMWare Fusion. In fact, on Intel based Mac OS X platform, Parallels Desktop was the first virtualisation solution to come. It was also the first to bring a new way to display Windows applications, without displaying all Windows desktop. As this new version brings 3D acceleration, its time to write a test about it.

Test case

In order to test Parallels Desktop, I've created onto my MacBook a virtual computer with 384 MB of RAM and 3D acceleration. Onto this machine, I've installed Windows XP with all available services packs and fixes.

Installation and first overview

Installing Windows brings no issue. In fact, virtual machine runs smoother than VMWare Fusion, and switching from virtual machine to real one does not show any slowdown. Windows once installed, I continue with hotfixes install then Parallels tools, which promise me : better graphical experience, better network experience, better mouse experience, better sexual experience, etc.

About mouse manager, it's really better: you don't need to clic onto virtual machine anymore if you want it to mouse control, but you just have to move mouse pointer over it: if mouse pointer is over virtual machine, it get mouse control; if not, Mac OS X get it.

From keyboard side, I still not have same keyboard mapping between Windows and Mac OS X, and I don't like it (to get identical mapping, you must download patches here).

Then, graphic drivers add an interesting feature. Parallels Desktop gives you an unlimited amount of available resolutions. You just have to resize the window in order to get Windows resolution automatically adapted: if I resize the window to 1280x500, Windows resolution will be 1280x500. It's the end of horizontal and vertical scrollbars, you may adapt the window to your needs. And a new “Coherence” mode appears: this feature allows your Windows applications to run within the same plane than Mac OS X applications without being kept into virtual machine's window. But unlike WMvare Fusion, windows moves are sluggish, and these windows are not considered as native windows: they don't drop shadow, are not visible within Exposé, etc.

Parallels and Direct3D

Here comes Parallels's new feature, 3D acceleration. Parallels should support DirectX 9 acceleration, but I don't have recent games to test it (except for 3DMark03 and 3DMark05). All tests were performed with latest available patches, and all these games run perfectly with BootCamp using native resolution (when it's possible to test it). Results are:

  • “dxdiag” tool: This tool allows you to test Direct3D 7.0, 8.0 et 9.0 support for your graphic card. Results are OK for Direct3D 7.0 to 9.0 tests. The cube seems to spin too quickly, but I don't care.
  • Darkstone (DirectX 6.1): No text visible, but I'm still able to randomly click. I just can't find correct locations to start game.
  • Incoming (DirectX 5.2): Crash at startup.
  • Unreal (DirectX 5.0): Works perfectly.
  • Unreal Tournament (DirectX 6.0): Works perfectly.

As you can read, it's still not perfect. If you want to run Windows games, you should use Boot Camp.

I also have tested the following benchmarks (remember, I use a GMA950 chipset) :

  • 3DMark2000 (DirectX 7.0): Works perfectly, 3840 points.
  • 3DMark2001 (DirectX 8.1): Some graphical glitches, then Parallels Desktop crash.
  • 3DMark03 (DirectX 9.0a): Crash when starting tests.
  • 3DMark05 (DirectX 9.0c): Does not start as the graphic adapter lacks Pixel Shaders 2.0.

Parallels and OpenGL

Parallels Desktop provides OpenGL acceleration, then I have tested Quake III Arena. The game works perfectly, even if the mouse seems to have an odd behavior: it's sometime slow, it sometimes accelerate without any warning.