Corel’s Parallels is one of the most popular apps for running Windows on a Mac, alongside options like VMware Fusion and VirtualBox. Parallels Desktop has now released a new update, but if you don’t have the all-access subscription, it’s probably not worth the upgrade fee.
Parallels Desktop 18 includes a new option to “download, install, and configure Windows 11 in one click.” The previous release already had full support for Windows 11, but now you don’t need to go hunting for the latest ISO file. This update is also “optimized” for the upcoming macOS Ventura update, though Parallels 17 also supported Ventura (although some previous Ventura beta releases had problems).
Compatibility with game controllers has also been improved, which can be helpful for anyone trying to play Windows-only games on Mac without resorting to a cloud streaming service, like GeForce Now. Xbox and DualShock Bluetooth controllers can both connect to Parallels, which in turn will forward button presses to the virtual machine. There are a few other compatibility fixes, including fixes for accessing files from emulated x86 Windows software and improved USB 3.0 support.
Parallels already worked with M1 and M2 Mac computers, but Parallels 18 has new optimizations for the M1 Ultra chip found on the high-end Mac Studio. Windows 11 virtual machines on M1 Ultra are now “up to 96% faster” compared to Parallels 17, based on Corel’s own testing. That’s an impressive boost, but considering that a Mac Studio with M1 Ultra costs a whopping $4,000, not too many people will be able to try it out.
Parallels Desktop is sold as a one-time purchase (Standard) for $99.99, or as a recurring subscription (Pro) for $119.99 per year. If you already own Parallels 17, there’s not really anything in this update that is a must-have, especially since the previous version is still functional with macOS Ventura and Windows 11 and upgrading costs $70. Anyone paying for the Pro subscription will get the new update for free, though.
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