The macOS is a great operating system that provides many creative professionals with a smooth and seamless workflow. However, there are still some applications that are available only on Windows.
This is where virtualisation software like the new Parallels Desktop 12 (PD12) for Mac comes into the picture.
Unlike macOS' Boot Camp, which allows you to boot your Mac computer natively in Windows, virtualisation software allows you to switch between operating systems without the hassle of rebooting.
As you might expect, there are many new features in the latest iteration. Probably the most important is the ability to buy Windows 10 within PD12 during the installation of a virtual machine (VM). This reduces the hassle of users who do not have a copy of Windows 10.
In addition, PD12 offers free operating systems (OS), such as CentOS, Debian, Fedora Linux, as VMs for installation. This is great for developers who need different OSes to test their products.
Plus, PD12 supports the new macOS Sierra as well as the previous OS X El Capitan and Yosemite, as both host and guest OSes. So if you are apprehensive about upgrading from El Capitan to Sierra, you can try out Sierra as a VM first before taking the plunge.
The PD12 comes bundled with a nifty software known as Parallels Toolbox for Mac. It resides on the Menu Bar on top of the macOS and has 20 tools, such as archive and lock screen, that simplify the everyday tasks on your Mac with a simple click.
Furthermore, Parallels promises up to 60 per cent faster suspend of VMs, 25 per cent faster Shared Folder performance and improved VM responsiveness when your Mac's memory is low.
While I was not able to fully quantify the performance improvements, I did find the PD12 to be more responsive than its predecessors when starting or suspending a Windows 10 VM.
And PD12 has support for the popular multiplayer shooter game Overwatch by Blizzard Entertainment. You do need to set Overwatch's graphics quality to low, and the frame rates are not spectacular, but it is playable.
Playing Overwatch in Windows 10 VM with PD12 on my mid-2012 MacBook Air felt kind of surreal. I remember not being able to play any games with previous versions of any virtualisation software, be it Parallels Desktop or VMware. To be able to do so now is a testament of how far software engineering has come.
PD12 also supports Windows 10 Xbox app. Thus, it allows you to stream and play all Xbox games on your Mac. But this is essentially streaming games from your Xbox One console and is very dependent on the network speed. I would recommend playing less graphics intensive games, like Minecraft, for a better and smoother gaming experience in PD12.
In addition, the PD12 comes bundled with a nifty software known as Parallels Toolbox for Mac. It resides on the Menu Bar on top of the macOS and has 20 tools, such as archive and lock screen, that simplify the everyday tasks on your Mac with a simple click.
System requirements: A Mac computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, Intel Core M or Xeon processor, 4GB of memory (8GB recommended), 850MB of disk space on the boot volume
SOFTWARE: macOS Sierra, OS X El Capitan and OS X Yosemite
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5
For example, instead of pressing Shift, Command and 3 to take a screenshot of your Mac's desktop, just click on Take Screenshots in Parallels Toolbox to do so.
I found the Download Video function in Parallels Toolbox to be the most useful. Click on its button to summon a download window, then copy and paste a video link on to this window and the video will be downloaded. This is really easy, and you can even specify the quality of the video, from 360p to 1080p.
Parallels Toolbox is also available as a standalone subscription product at US$9.99 ($13.58) per year.
Another sweetener added to the PD12 is a one-year free subscription to a 500GB cloud backup storage plan by Acronis True Image ($39.99 per year). While macOS X already has Time Machine to back up everything, True Image provides incremental changes to a VM. So you do not have to back up an entire VM or go through the tedium of saving changes every time a change is made.
•Verdict: Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac might provide incremental upgrades in terms of speed performance and better usability. But its sweeteners, such as Parallels Toolbox and Acronis True Image cloud backup, make up for the upgrade costs.