Parallels Desktop for Mac v3 review

4.5 out of 5
£50

For

Allows you to run virtually any OS on your Mac, support for 3D graphics, Snapshot feature

Against

Needs memory - lots of it

You've made the switch, got a shiny new Intel Mac and realised that there is that really important application that you need to run and there isn't a Mac version.

There are two main options for you, the first is to go the beta route and download Apple's Boot Camp, the second is to opt for Parallels' Desktop for Mac v3.

So does this non Apple software package really give you the best of both worlds? We switch allegiances to find out.

Where Parallels differs from Apple's Boot Camp is that you can run the software directly from the desktop or full screen rather than having to reboot your system every time.

While Boot Camp allows you to run Windows XP and Vista, Parallels goes one step further by allowing virtually any operating system to be installed from Windows to DOS, to Solaris to Linux.

Running an operating system on your Apple Mac of course demands memory and that's one thing you will need to have plenty of if you are planning on taking advantage of what the software can do over Boot Camp.

So what are the differences? Well for starters you can seamlessly switch from OS to OS with a click of the mouse rather than having to restart. Then there is the full screen or window based solution and you can drag and drop files either via a virtual drive on your desktop or by simply from one desktop to another.

Then there is the ability to have the programmes running in your Apple dock, Called Cohherence, it allows you to open programmes within Parallels via the "Open with..." option and basically have greater control over how the two operating systems react to each other far more than version 2 ever allowed.

That's not all the software will allow you to share; internet, USB2 sockets (new to v3), CD-Rom drives and virtually all of your computers hardware. The Internet is the most useful of course as you can download new drivers, software and basically surf the Internet - using a Mac in the office we've already started relying on Parallels to check new site features work, look and respond in the way we want them to via different browsers on different platforms.

If that wasn't enough, Parallels has also tried to appease gamers with the addition of DirectX and OpenGL support. The move means that if your machine can handle it you can now play Windows-only 3D games without having to wait months before they are ported to the Mac.

In practice and it's not as easy as it sounds and you've got to make sure not only is your machine capable, but that you've installed the right drivers and software to make it work.

Other features of note include greater support for those who do use Boot Camp (v3 now allows you to use the same partition), Parallels Transporter that allows you to move the contents including the OS from a real PC to the virtual machine, and Snapshots, a system that allows you to save the state of the virtual machine. Working like system restore, users can revert back to a certain point erasing all changes including viruses made after the shapshot was taken.

Verdict

If you've tried Apple's Boot Camp and like what you see, however want greater control and connectivity with your second operating system then Parallels Desktop for Mac v3 certainly offers it in spades.

The ability to have the best of both worlds is certainly appealing. Version 3 of Parallels Desktop for Mac only improves on the efforts so far with some nice features.

If you really must have a PC and don't want to be limited to booting from the start via Boot Camp (which is free for the time being) then this is a great application to do it with.