Hands on: Latest Parallels Desktop for Mac a 'winner'

But there are still a few rough edges, especially for gamers

Parallels late last week released the next version of its PC Virtualization software for Macintosh, unveiling the newest release just days before this week's Worldwide Developer's Conference. Headlining version 3.0 -- officially it's Build 4124 -- is native support for DirectX and OpenGL Video along with a host of bug fixes and new features.

Ever since Apple moved to Intel chips last year, virtualization has gained popularity as an easy way to run Windows apps on newer Macs, with Parallels most likely the best choice. Each update has improved on its predecessor and the latest version offers better reliability, functionality and ease of use. Parallels 3.0 runs most desktop business applications flawlessly and now adds the ability to play a number of games.

Over the last few days, I took the application, which retails for $79.99, for a spin. I really liked what I saw. In fact this release may be a little too good in terms of software development for the Mac platform -- more about which below.

First of all, my hardware setup: I'm running a first-generation, slightly beat-up MacBook Pro with a 2-GHz Core Duo chip and 2GB of RAM. That MacBook Pro is connected to a Dell 3007 30-in. LCD monitor.

I started my testing with the previous version of Parallels -- which Computerworld's Scot Finnie called a "must-have" in April -- running Windows XP on a virtual machine. It is a clean XP Pro installation updated with Service Pack 2 and running Dragon Naturally Speaking, Symantec Antivirus and Visio 2007. I considered upgrading to Windows Vista for this review, but there was no compelling reason to do so, as all of the applications I planned to use already work in XP.

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