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Parallels 5 boasts huge speed improvement

Virtualization software that allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows and Linux adds 70 new features and is even faster than Apple's Boot Camp, Parallels CEO says.

Parallels on Wednesday released Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac, a new version of its virtualization software that allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows and Linux alongside Mac OS X.

According to Parallels, the new version of its software is up to 300 percent faster than the previous version, Parallels Desktop 4. The company also hired Crimson Consulting Group to do performance testing on Parallels 5 and said it was 22 percent faster than its nearest virtualization competitor when running Windows 7 64-bit on a MacBook Pro.

While the competitor wasn't named by Parallels, it is widely thought the virtualization market is ruled by Parallels and VMWare's Fusion for Mac.

Speaking with CNET, Parallels CEO Serguei Beloussov said company had three main goals when making Parallels 5 for Mac: make it faster; make it smarter and easier; and make it more powerful.

Beloussov said the company achieved those goals by adding support for gestures, supporting a broader range of 3D features, and optimizing Parallels to handle virtual hardware and drivers more efficiently.

Parallels 5 also adds a new viewing mode called Crystal, which is similar to Coherence, where Windows completely disappears from your desktop. However, Crystal adds the Windows taskbar items on the top of the Mac OS X menu, allowing easy access.

Apple also offers a way to run Windows on an Intel-based Mac. It's called Boot Camp, but it requires the user restart the computer and run Windows separately from the Mac OS. While that may be inconvenient for many users, the native speed of running on the hardware was always seen as a major advantage. Parallels says they can now beat that.

"Parallels is faster than Boot Camp," Beloussov said. "Most slow downs with Windows is not because of computational problems, it's handling drivers. We offer optimized virtualized hardware and drivers, making it faster."

Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac is available for $79.99 or $49.99 for an upgrade.