While this year’s Parallels update doesn’t “wow” us when it comes to performance, it’s still nice to see some noticeable performance improvements in certain categories, although we’re a bit disappointed to see graphics performance seemingly hit a wall. Parallels has led the graphics race for several generations, but the last few versions have offered little to no improvement, and there’s no sign that the Parallels engineers will be able to take us past DirectX 10 any time soon.
This may be all that we can reasonably expect, of course, and we were encouraged to see the several tests where Parallels 11 nearly matched native performance. Features aside, the average user experience with Parallels 11 for common tasks like Office, Web testing, or Windows-only productivity software is going to be very good, and the convenience of not having to reboot into Boot Camp will likely outweigh any performance delta between the VM and native Windows.
But it also seems that we’re entering a virtualization arms race based almost exclusively on features, and Parallels 11 doesn’t disappoint in that category. Easy access to Cortana (for those who want to use that feature), the ingenious application of Quick Look to Windows files, and the continued refinement of longtime features like Coherence and the ability to share online services between operating systems all make Parallels 11 an attractive upgrade for those who need to use the software every day.
A Word on Battery Life
As we mentioned near the beginning of this article, we haven’t covered battery life here, and it’s all due to time constraints. We conduct battery life testing thoroughly, performing multiple rounds for each test. Factor in the time it takes to drain the battery, the time it takes to charge it back up, the prep time in between, and the number of iterations, and you’re looking at days, if not weeks, to properly and accurately evaluate the impact of these products on your MacBook’s battery life.
But that doesn’t mean such tests aren’t coming. We’re already planning our tests, and we’ll likely end up publishing battery life numbers for all virtualization products once Fusion 8 is released and we update our 2014 VM Benchmark Showdown. So stay tuned!
Pricing and Availability
If you were convinced by these benchmarks that Parallels Desktop 11 is right for you, you can pick it up right now from the Parallels website. New users can purchase the “standard” version of Parallels Desktop for a one-time $79.99 purchase, while the Pro and Business editions are each available for a yearly subscription fee of $99.99. Existing Parallels customers running version 9 or higher can upgrade to Parallels Desktop 11 for $49.99, or choose to upgrade to the Pro edition for the same $49.99,
although it’s important to remember that the Pro pricing is a yearly subscription fee that will renew the following year at the regular $99.99 price.
Update: That last statement was incorrect on subscription pricing. Parallels has confirmed that if an existing user of Parallels 9 and up chooses to upgrade to the Pro version, they will be eligible for discounted pricing of $49.99 per year for the life of their membership. This makes the Pro version much more competitive for users who require the additional features it provides.
All versions of Parallels 11 are also available via a free 2-week trial, letting users evaluate the new version tiers to determine which edition is best for their needs.