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Parallels Desktop 15 review: The best virtualization software is even better

Parallels 15 Desktop
Parallels 15 Desktop (Image credit: iMore)

Each fall, Apple releases a new version of macOS. At around the same time, the folks over at Parallels Inc. reveal its latest version of Parallels Desktop, which lets Mac users install and run one or more virtual copies of Windows on their machines.

Parallels Desktop 15 for Mac, not surprisingly, is the best Parallels title to date. The reason is mostly that Parallels now supports Apple's hardware-accelerated Metal graphics API. There are other reasons to love Parallels Desktop 15, as I'll explain below.

New Features

First introduced for iOS in 2014, then on Mac a year later, Metal allows machines to maximize the graphics and computing potential for apps across Apple's many operating systems. Metal 2, which debuted in 2017, extended the API to virtualization solutions. Now that Parallels supports Metal, highly intensive apps for Windows such as CAD software and games that require DirectX 11 now work on Mac.

Additionally, there's improved performance for DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 as well. To date, nearly 1,600 PC games require DirectX 11, which mean you can now experience them all on your Mac. Noted Windows apps that will now run on your Mac include Autodesk 3ds Max 2020, Lumion, ArcGIS Pro, and more.

Beyond this, Parallels Desktop 15 is also fully compatible and optimized for macOS Catalina, which means it supports Sidecar and the update's new security and privacy features. It also works with Mojave 10.14, High Sierra 10.13, and Sierra 10.12. And yes, Parallels 15 supports Apple Pencil.

The latest version of Parallels Desktop also includes:

  • Support for the Share menu in Finder, which allows you to send files from macOS using a Windows email.
  • With Parallels Desktop 15, you can drag images to Windows from Safari, Photos, and other Mac applications.
  • A fresh category of Bluetooth devices are now supported, including a Logitech Craft keyboard, IRISPen, some IoT devices, and more.

Subscription time?

Parallels, like other software providers, has embraced subscriptions. For Parallels Desktops 15, you can purchase a static standard license or get a yearly subscription, which gives you better performance and features. For most, the Pro version is likely the one to get.

Standard EditionPro EditionBusiness Edition
Download and install Windows 10 with one clickXXX
Optimized for macOS Catalina (10.15)XXX
Customizable Touch Bar for Windows applicationsXXX
Virtual RAM for each VM8GB vRAM128GB vRAM128GB vRAM
Virtual CPU's for each VM4 vCPUs32 vCPUs32 vCPUs
Integration With Chef/Ohai/DockerXX
Network conditioner to simulate speeds and testXX
Visual Studio Plug-InXX
Debug, dump VM, or start an SSH session from menuXX
Support for business cloud servicesXX
Premium 24/7 phone and email support30-daysXX
Centralized administration and managementX
Unified volume license key for mass deploymentX
Upgrade Pricing (Parallels 12 and above required)$50$50/ year$100/ year
Full License Pricing$80$100/ year$100/ year

Verdict

It wasn't that long ago that virtualization software was a slow mess. Not anymore. With Parallels Desktop 15, virtualization is easier than ever before and very straightforward to install. Because there's always room for improvement, I'm giving it 4.5/5.

From a pricing perspective, making the upgrade to Parallels Desktop 15 is an easy decision. At $50 a year, the Pro Edition, with its extra features and improved performance, is a no-brainer.

Parallels Desktop 15 is the flagship consumer product from Parallels and is available through a free trial or to purchase new or as an upgrade for $50.

See at Parallels (opens in new tab)

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

2 Comments
  • Parallels is better than Fusion or Virtual Box. But the support is terrible and they seem to wait to fix bugs until the fall, when you either have to re-up the subscription for pay again for a (very limited) perpetual license. I've been suffering with their lousy support, bugs and pricing model since PD 6. I'd convert if my entire workflow wasn't tied to PD. Sometimes the other aspects of a product -- like the company's attitude towards its customers means more than speeds and feeds.
  • From my understanding, Parallels has the best performance, VMWare Fusion has the best stability, and Virtualbox is… well, free. VMWare Fusion is my software of choice, if I really needed performance in Windows I'd use Bootcamp