Review: Parallels Desktop For Mac 12

At about this time every year, Parallels releases their new version that promises compatibility with whatever upcoming version of the Mac operating system is coming in the next couple of months. This year is no different as Parallels Desktop For Mac 12 has just been released.

Here’s what this new update promises:

  • Get support for Windows 10 Xbox app, for streaming and playing all Xbox games on a Mac.
  • Control storage space used by VMs directly from the Optimized Storage in macOS Sierra.
  • Store Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer passwords in Mac Keychain.
  • Assign special behaviors to Windows apps, such as Always Open Full Screen or Always Hide
    Other Apps, so they play even better on your Mac.
  • Easily cancel time-consuming VM actions.
  • Open documents from SharePoint and Office 365 in Microsoft Office for Windows desktop
    applications directly from your favorite Mac browser.
  • Keep Windows ready in the background, instead of suspending the VM, to instantly open Windows applications and documents.
  • Outlook for Windows now features your recently accessed documents, both Mac and Windows, so they are conveniently available to select when you add attachments to your e-mails.
  • Improved Retina support for resizing Windows VMs.
  • Archive VMs to save space in the Pro Edition.
  • Up to 90 percent faster Snapshot creation.
  • Up to 60 percent faster suspend of VMs.
  • Up to 25 percent faster Shared Folders performance.
  • Compile Visual Studio projects on shared folders up to 25 percent faster.
  • Up to 10 percent battery life improvement for certain environments.
  • Improved VM responsiveness when your Mac is low on free memory.

One new item is Parallels Toolbox. This is a separate product that is being sold separately for $10 a year, but now comes with Parallels Desktop 12. It allows you to easily do things like take a screenshot with a simple click, secure private files with a password, download a favorite video from YouTube or Facebook, easily record a screencast, or keep your Mac from sleeping with the push of a button. In my short time using it, I found it to be somewhat useful. I also tested it with my beta copy of macOS Sierra and I was able to confirm that Parallels did deliver on everything that they promised as it did work with all of macOS Sierra’s features. Having said that, Parallels 10 and 11 will be able to run virtual machines on Sierra. Another new item to me is the fact that they are now offering 500GB of storage through Acronis True Image. But I have to wonder how useful it would be to me seeing as I backup my Mac nightly which means that all my virtual machines are backed up. Though what Parallels is also offering is the ability to do incremental backups which would reduce the time to back up virtual machines. Finally, Parallels Desktop allows you to open Windows applications or documents up to three times faster according to the company, even if you’ve quit Parallels Desktop. This I admit was a cool feature. However, since I only use Parallels Desktop to test out client scenarios, it isn’t a feature that I would use frequently. But for those who rely on using Windows apps on their Mac, I can see how it would be handy. I also was able to test Office365 support in it and found that it worked as advertised as well. That’s where the good news ended for me. 

The bad news starts with the fact that my virtual machines were not any faster from what I could tell using my Windows 7 VM as a guide. This was further backed up by the fact that my overall Windows Experience overall score did not change. While I will admit that everything but the processor score improved slightly. Since the processor score was the lowest, the overall score did not change. Previous versions of Parallels Desktop would increase the Windows Experience score significantly across the board and the user experience would be noticeably faster which made this result with Parallels Desktop For Mac 12 disappointing. Though to be fair, they didn’t directly promise performance improvements on that front.

I also found that Parallels Desktop 12 is buggy. The biggest example of this that I found was when I tried my Windows Vista virtual machine and it wouldn’t start. It was stuck at a black screen. Through some trial and error, I discovered that the hypervisor was the problem. When I had the Parallels one selected, it would not work. But if I used the Apple one which from what I have researched is not as fast, optimized, or stable, it worked. My other virtual machines work fine with the Parallels hypervisor, which does imply that the Parallels hypervisor is likely problematic in some circumstances. This has been further confirmed by searching the Parallels forums as others are having similar issues. I found a bunch of other minor issues that weren’t as bad as the hypervisor issue, but were still annoying. All of which made me wonder if the product was QA’ed properly before release as previous Parallels Desktops releases tended to be much better than this.

What’s really missing from this upgrade is Direct X 11 support. While Parallels does promise improvements on the gaming front, particularly with the cool video game de jour which is Overwatch, the fact that they still don’t have Direct X 11 support is a #fail in this day and age. One wonders when they will get on that bandwagon.

Given that those running Parallels Desktop For Mac 11 or 10 can expect it to work with macOS Sierra, the fact that there’s really no features that have had earth shattering improvements, or the fact that there’s no Direct X 11 support at all, I am really finding little reason to recommend an upgrade if you’re a Parallels Desktop For Mac user. The fact that it’s also buggy doesn’t help either. Hopefully a quick update will fix the bugs with the product. But I don’t know what will fix the fact that this new version of Parallels Desktop For Mac isn’t anything to get excited about. Parallels Desktop For Mac 12 goes for $49 as an upgrade for owners of previous versions, $79 for new users, $99 a year for pro and business subscriptions. But if I were you, I would save your money until Parallels shows to its users that this upgrade is worth it. Because as it currently stands, it is far from being worth it.

UPDATE: I utilized a workaround that is not easy to find on the Parallels knowledge base to fix the issue with my Windows Vista virtual machine. In the interest of making your life easier, if you have a virtual machine that boots to a black screen and nothing more, use this document to make things right.


7 Responses to “Review: Parallels Desktop For Mac 12”

  1. My Windows 7 score increased by .1 due to graphics. Had the score of 7.1 back with Desktop 9 and went to 7.0 with 10 & 11. Also have a major bug I reported into Parallels with getting Mac errors every time I launch a Windows application saying that the VM moved. It still launches, but I have to click away the Mac error every time. Parallels is aware of it and working on it.

  2. Just a question, have you in any way tested the xbox game streaming? I don´t know why the suddenly advertise the support for the xbox app so aggressively when it already works pretty good in parallels 11. So does it work even better (better streaming performance?) or it the performance all the same?

  3. […] readers of this blog will know that I am a long time user of Parallels Desktop For Mac. Last year’s update to be frank underwhelmed me. But that strangely didn’t stop me from plunking down my cash to […]

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