With any software upgrade, you’d expect a big collection of improvements and new features, but Parallels Desktop for Mac 9 seems to take things to a new level, even adding some features to guest Windows 8 installs that some native users may wish they had.
Let’s start from the top. Performance improvements include +40% to disk performance, +25% to shut down speed, +20% to suspend speed and +15% to graphics – on the graphics front, DirectX 10 and OpenGL are fully supported.
Cloud integration is a major part of Parallels Desktop 9, with the host and guest being able to easily tie into the same iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive and SkyDrive accounts in order to reduce or remove the number of local duplicate files. While in your Windows guest, folders for these services can be found in the shortcut list to the left of any open folder.
One of Mac OS X’s most popular recent features is Power Nap, one that allows your computer to run at a very low-level (aka: almost sleep), allowing tasks to run in the background. With the latest version of Parallels, this functionality extends to Windows apps as well. Other neat tie-ins include Thunderbolt and Firewire device support inside of your virtual machine, and Mountain Lion’s dictionary gesture extended to Windows apps.
Parallels Desktop for Mac 9 doesn’t simply support and run Windows 8, it actually enhances it in a couple of ways. You might be able to guess the main enhancement: A dedicated Start menu. Parallels seems to “get”, what Microsoft doesn’t. Further, if Windows 8 is used in a unity mode, you’ll be able to run Metro-based applications in their own window – something that’s not possible with a native Windows 8 install (although it could be possible with a hack).
Sticky multi-monitor setup is yet another cool feature, allowing you to use Windows full-screen on one monitor while keeping Mac OS X to your main monitor. Plus, the virtual machine wizard has been improved to become even easier – namely on machines that don’t have DVD drives.
While it gets a minor mention, Linux guest support has been improved in version 9 of the software as well.
Current Parallels Desktop for Mac customers (7 or 8) can upgrade to 9 for $50, while new licenses are $80. Student licenses can be had for $40, while the “Switch to Mac” edition is priced at $100. If you’re an existing customer, you can upgrade to 9 today via this link. Everyone else, hit-up Parallel’s site on September 5.