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Hands up who likes gaming! Hands up who likes gaming on Macs! Er, OK. Well, Parallels has an update for you
DirectX 11 and Catalina support will please, the price may not
Virtualization outfit Parallels celebrated International Left Handers Day* with an update to its Desktop package.
Parallels Desktop 15 brings toys aimed at the slim Venn diagram intersection of gamers and macOS fans, as well as productivity tweaks that will appeal to users both north and south of paw.
The software is aimed at Mac fans who need that certain, special Windows or Linux app that just isn't available on macOS and can't be bothered with the shenanigans of Bootcamp. They can either endure the Windows experience in a, er, window, or run in Coherence mode, where Windows apps (such as Word) appear to run as native macOS apps.
The most eye-catching new feature this time around is the move to Metal for DirectX graphics. Prompted by Apple deprecating OpenGL in favour of Metal (although OpenGL remains in macOS and Parallels insisted that it hung back until there was "true user value"), version 15 now supports DirectX 9 to 11 via Apple's hardware acceleration.
The result is considerably snappier games that use the go-faster graphics tech, along with apps such as Autodesk 3DS Max and Lumion 6.5.
DirectX 11 was not supported in earlier versions of Parallels Desktop.
Of course, you still need the hardware – as the company tersely warns: "Parallels Desktop cannot turn your four-year-old MacBook Air into an $8,000 Alienware gaming rig with a $1,300 liquid-cooled graphics card."
The company also reckons that DirectX 11 will work best on a Mac running Catalina, currently in beta and due for release later this year. Once the OS drops, an update to Parallels Desktop 15 will improve support for the Sidecar feature as well as Apple's Sign-in and handling of the Apple Pencil tilt and double-tap.
Sadly, we don't have access to such exotic hardware but we can confirm that compared to version 14, 15 is definitely quite a bit snappier in use. Perhaps not quite the "80 per cent faster" launching of Office and other Windows applications, but noticeably more rapid.
Pro and Business users also get the ability to connect internal and external physical disks to a VM as a logical disk, allowing Windows or another OS to be installed elsewhere. The Virtual Trusted Platform Module (vTPM) will please those who need the extra security to connect to a corporate environment.
Finally, the toolbox that Parallels bundles with the Desktop package has had a few additions. While none are essential (and most could be picked up elsewhere, or represent OS settings familiar to knowledgeable users), the suite is handy and Parallels pointed to the existing ability to download video from streaming sites such as YouTube as something that has proven popular with users.
Overall, the package remains pricey at £79.99 for a perpetual licence, or £69.99 for a year's subscription, especially when one considers that you still need that Windows 10 licence on top of it (although the company will help you migrate from an existing Windows PC).
In comparison, VirtualBox, which does similar virtualized things on a Mac, is free but lacks the polish and some of the features of Parallels' more expensive product.
However, if you fancy some of the newer Windows games on your new Mac (and Bluetooth Xbox controllers are also now supported) then the Parallels approach works well. And the vTPM along with the other enterprise tweaks will ease those shiny Macs into the corporate world.
And let's face it, compared to the crater a new Mac will leave in a bank account, Parallels is merely a nibble. Assuming you absolutely must have that special app or game.
Otherwise there's always Bootcamp. ®
* It is also National Prosecco Day and National Filet Mignon Day, so if you'll excuse us, we have a busy lunchtime ahead.