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

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

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First, I downloaded the 78MB disk image from Parallels.com. This is easy and requires no registration or e-mail signup -- unless you plan to use the software under the 15-day trial offered by Parallels. First, a cautionary note: Make sure that when you quit Parallels 2.0 for the last time, you completely shut down your Windows VM, as the upgrade will require a fresh boot of Windows. Don't leave the VM in a suspended state; Doing so can cause upgrade problems.

When you run the Parallels 3.0 installer, you'll be prompted to update your copy of Parallels and then restart your Mac. (A required restart is something that's becoming more and more rare with applications these days, an indication that there is some serious under-the-hood file-updating going on here.)

After the restart, click on the Parallels icon in your dock as you normally would and go to the settings for your XP machine. Navigate to the video setting and check the DirectX checkbox so we can have some fun. You'll also want to go to the Memory setting and update the VRAM to 32MB.

You can increase the amount of video RAM allocated virtually to Windows.
You can increase the amount of video RAM allocated virtually to Windows. (Click to view larger image)

You can now hit the play button to launch your XP image. This prompts a warning that Parallels is updating its drivers, which means basically you just got a new virtual video card. As with adding any (plug-and-play) Windows hardware, you'll see "Found New Hardware" warnings. The Parallels updater Install shield window will also launch. Follow the easy-to-understand prompts, be sure to update Parallels Tools, restart your virtual machine and you're ready to go.

The first thing I did was uninstall Symantec antivirus, which was about to expire. Parallels comes bundled with a copy of Kaspersky Antivirus, which logic says must be solid on this virtual platform. The move to Parallels 3.0 was quick and painless.

The latest version of Desktop for Mac comes with Kaspersky internet Security bundled in.
The latest version of Desktop for Mac comes with Kaspersky internet Security bundled in..

Next, it was time to try my Virtual Machine bread and butter: Dragon Naturally Speaking 9. Since setting it up months ago, I have found that dictating with Dragon on Parallels was much better than anything else I've used -- especially with a Bluetooth headset. (iListen is the closest native Mac application but I think it is going to have a hard time keeping its market share, given how easy it is to use Windows apps in Parallels.) In fact, that's the beauty of virtualization on the Mac. If there's a program you need that's not available natively, you can now use the Windows version. I can honestly say that the best voice recognition program for the Mac right now is Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 for Windows.

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