Tuesday, 21 August 2018 17:02

Parallels Desktop 14: more speed, less storage

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Parallels Desktop 14 for Mac has arrived with some interesting new capabilities and integrations.

Parallels Desktop 14 is the latest version of the widely used virtualisation software for macOS.

While it is most commonly used to run Windows on a Mac, it also supports other operating systems including Linux and macOS.

Why would you want to virtualise Apple's operating system on a Mac? Typically to run an older (eg, for application compatibility) or newer (eg, a beta release) version as whichever release is installed on the hardware.

But as you might expect, most of the improvements and new features relate to Windows.

Reduced VM size Windows 8 and Windows 10 virtual machines are about 10% smaller under Desktop 14 than they were under previous versions. Senior product manager Kurt Schmucker told iTWire that this is "a major reason" to upgrade, especially where Parallels Desktop is used on a Mac fitted with a relatively small SSD.

This has been achieved at least in part by a new storage optimisation approach that takes into account the storage mechanisms used by macOS and Windows. This can save as much as 20GB per VM, according to Parallels.

Desktop 14 includes a "free up disk space" wizard that can help save space by (eg) removing unneeded snapshots or converting a Boot Camp partition to a VM.

Touch Bar support Desktop 14 provides built-in support for a wider range of applications (additions include SketchUp, AutoCAD, Revit, Quicken, QuickBooks, Visual Studio and ArcGIS).

It also delivers a mechanism for customising the Touch Bar with items from a standard palette. More advanced users can prepare XML files that specify the text (and its appearance) for each spot on the Touch Bar, and the key combination (such as Control-Shift-A) it should generate.

Parallels Desktop 14 Touch Bar customisation

Ink Desktop 14 supports additional Ink features, such as using gestures to edit Word documents (eg, scribble out a word to delete it), or to add shapes to a PowerPoint slide (eg, drawing a circle adds a circle object). This feature handles pressure sensitive input (eg, press harder to get a thicker line) when used with appropriate hardware such as a Wacom tablet or the MacBook Pro's touchpad. It is said to work with all Windows application that support pressure data.

Graphics improvements Desktop 13 supported cameras up to 2K resolution, but this has been increased to 4K in version 14. In addition, higher frame rates are possible at all commonly used resolutions.

The performance of graphics-intensive programs such as CAD and scientific applications has been significantly improved, Schmucker said.

Changes to video memory allocation and OpenGL improvements mean additional Windows applications work with Desktop 14, including SketchUp 2018, OriginLab, CTVox, DELFTship and DIALux 8.

General performance Significant improvements - around 70 to 80%, depending on the hardware - have been made to VM startup times compared with Desktop 13. Suspending a VM is up to 30% quicker, and Coherence mode (where a single Windows application rather than a complete Windows desktop runs in a macOS window) frame rates are up to 17% better.

Perhaps the biggest performance improvement comes from the new support for the AVX512 instructions provided by the Intel processor in the iMac Pro. This provides up to twice the performance for certain activities including audio encoding, high-performance computing and emulators, according to Parallels. AVX512 is rumoured to be a feature of forthcoming MacBook Pro and Mac Pro models.

Mojave support Desktop 14 already supports the Mojave beta as a guest OS (as does Desktop 13). Parallels is committed to making Desktop 14 work with the release version of Mojave as both a host and guest OS, though that may require a minor update.

The Desktop 14 application is 'Notarized,' meaning it is signed by the developer and checked for malware by Apple.

Miscellaneous Other improvements include reduced memory consumption, support for Coherence mode on external displays, and auto-detection of games keyboards. The Business Edition allows smartcard readers to be shared between the two environments.

“Millions of Parallels Desktop customers highly value performance and efficiency,” said Parallels president Jack Zubarev.

“With Parallels Desktop 14, we’ve taken those to the next level by focusing on graphics and storage, allowing customers to save as much as 20 GB of disk space while enjoying the best-ever performance. Personal productivity enhancements include more Windows features available on Mac devices. Touch Bar support for Windows applications — such as OneNote or Quicken — enables customers to add their favourite applications to the Mac Touch Bar so their shortcuts are at their fingertips.”

Parallels Desktop 14 costs $109.95 for a one-year subscription or $137.95 for a perpetual licence.

Parallels Desktop 14 Pro Edition and Parallels Desktop 14 Business Edition each cost $137.95 for a one-year subscription.

Subscriptions include concurrent subscriptions to Parallels Toolbox for Mac or Windows (a collection of diverse tools for tasks such as screen captures, downloading video, preventing the system entering sleep mode, changing screen resolution — even to settings not directly supported by macOS — and resizing images), and Parallels Access (remote access to macOS and Windows computers from iOS and Android devices).

Existing customers with perpetual licences for Desktop 12 or Desktop 13 can upgrade to Parallels Desktop 14 for $71.45, or to Parallels Desktop 14 Pro Edition for $71.45 a year.

A 14-day free trial of Parallels Desktop 14 is available.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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