Parallels Desktop 8 Game Benchmarks, Part 1

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is out now, letting you run Windows games on your Mac without rebooting. Having had a love-hate relationship with Parallels, where I’d try gaming with it on occasion and inevitably get frustrated and just use Boot Camp, I figured it was time to have another look.

In this first part, we look at Parallels running on a Mac Pro, souped up with a GTX 570. We upgraded from Parallels 7, and used our Boot Camp Windows 7 install for all our testing. Installation was surprisingly painless (aside from an odd bug affecting Wacom tablets) and we were up and running almost immediately.

There are some new features that affect integration with OS 10.8, but we jumped right in to the important stuff– the video options.

Interestingly enough, there’s a setting for “DirectX10 (experimental), so that was the one we opted for. Parallels are boasting that you’ll see a 30% improvement in 3D graphics over Parallels Desktop 7. But are they to be trusted? We fired it up and did some tests to find out.

Set up

First things first, for this battery of tests, we are using the following configuration:

  • Mac Pro 2010 2.8 Quad-Core Intel Xeon (4 CPUs allocated to Parallels)
  • 10 GB RAM (4 GB allocated to Parallels)
  • NVidia GTX 570 (512 MB video RAM allocated to Parallels)
  • DirectX 9 (Parallels 7), DirectX 10 (Parallels 8)
  • Vertical synchronisation enabled
  • Full-screen (1920×1080) in all cases
  • Windows 7 (Boot Camp configuration)
  • Parallels Desktop 7.0.15106
  • Parallels Desktop 8.0.18100
  • All games tested had settings optimised to run smoothly in Windows rather than Parallels.

We ran each test on Parallels version 7, Parallels version 8, and in Windows/Boot Camp (as a baseline). We recorded the video and frame rate simultaneously using FRAPS, whose presence may or may not have skewed some of the results.

3DMark06 Test

The ubiquitous DirectX 9 benchmarking utility was our first port of call. We ran all the tests in the suite, with anti-aliasing and filtering maxed out.

Platform GT1 GT2 HDR1 HDR2 CPU1 CPU2 SM 2.0 score HDR/SM 3.0 score CPU score 3DMark score
Parallels Desktop 7 33.767 31.221 49.973 29.867 0.991 1.335 3899 3992 2875 9342
Parallels Desktop 8 40.884 36.156 71.149 51.094 1.110 1.604 4622 6112 3335 12294
Windows 57.711 56.686 82.526 57.599 1.705 2.331 6864 7006 4984 16376

So, in the benchmark at least, there’s a definite improvement over the previous version. Going by the 3DMark score alone, the 30% claim is justified. What’s also interesting is that we’re catching up on pure Windows here, which is itself only scoring a 25% improvement over Parallels.

But no-one trusts a standard benchmark, so we give you: Games We Actually Ran, with glorious DATA!

Space Marine Test

Space Marine is a pretty run-of-the-mill game in terms of graphics performance, it generally runs very smoothly. We carved up some Orks for a minute and then had a look at the results.

Parallels Desktop 7 Parallels Desktop 8 Windows
Min FPS 3 1 47
Max FPS 30 31 62
Average FPS 18 18.033 59.467

Embarrassingly, the stats didn’t get properly for PD7 run, hence on the first half are there. There was also severe frame drop in the PD8 version when a Steam notification popped up. Moving on…

Skyrim (Modded) Test

Skyrim has been criticised for its lacklustre graphics engine and textures. However when bolstered with some of the many mods available (as we’ve done in this case) it can look quite spectacular.

Parallels Desktop 7 Parallels Desktop 8 Windows
Min FPS 0 0 10
Max FPS 24 27 48
Average FPS 16 15.367 29.967

So not a huge improvement over Parallels 7 here.

The Witcher 2 Test

The Witcher 2 is one of the most graphically intensive game ever created, so it seemed a natural fit for these tests.

Parallels Desktop 7 Parallels Desktop 8 Windows
Min FPS 0 0 0
Max FPS 1 21 62
Average FPS 0.05 11.104 25.556

Well this was so unplayable on Parallels 7 that we gave up on it. With Parallels 8, it’s still not very good, but at least you have a fighting chance of playing the game (especially if you tweak the settings). Also notable was that there were strange graphical issues with Parallels 7 that didn’t exist with 8. I’m not sure what the cause of the frame drop was in the Windows version at the end.

Fallout: New Vegas (Modded) Test

As with Skyrim, Fallout: New Vegas  can be made to look spectacular with the liberal application of several mods.

Parallels Desktop 7 Parallels Desktop 8 Windows
Min FPS 0 0 13
Max FPS 28 30 65
Average FPS 12.933 12.979 49.263

That’s pretty much identical between the two versions. Please try to ignore the fact that I kept getting killed within a minute…

Saints Row: The Third Test

In both versions of Parallels, Volition’s freeform, silly take on Grand Theft Auto crashed in DirectX 9 mode. It ran under Parallels 8 in DirectX 10 mode, but with severe graphical glitches. We gave up at that point.

Batman Arkham City Test

Parallels Desktop 7 Parallels Desktop 8 Windows
Min FPS 3 6 0
Max FPS 21 34 46
Average FPS 15.067 19.167 22.53

Of all the tests, this was the one that demonstrated the 30% improvement in performance in a real game. Ignoring the end of the Windows result (it appears some background process kicked in), this game most closely resembled the results of the 3DMark benchmark.

Coming up in the next part, we do some tests on the MacBook Pro with Retina.

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is lets you seamlessly run Windows and Mac applications side-by-side



    Mr.Yussut says:

    Good job!

    Aramit says:

    Guys, compare with Fusion! And you will notice how great is PD8!

    Ron Boulay says:

    Should of also compared Bootcamp

      NinjaFoodstuff says:

      We did!

      We ran each test on Parallels version 7, Parallels version 8, and in Windows/Boot Camp (as a baseline).

      The orange line in each graph is for Boot Camp.

        Ron Boulay says:

        Sorry I missed that. Then this is exactly was I was looking for. Great Job!!

        I am planning to get a NEW 27″ IMAC [if they ever come out] and use Bootcamp or Parallels Desktop® 8 for Gamming.
        I work with Photoshop, and Adobe Premier, After Effects and I play WoW on MAC and Star Wars Old Republic and other PC only games. I have a Synology DS212+ NAS for Data and Backup.

        Going with:
        27″ 3.4GHz quad-core Intel core I7 with 8MB L3 cache
        8GB Ram
        Upgrade to 32GB 1600MHz DDR3 from OWC or Crucial
        3TB 7200rpm Fusion Drive Maybe
        NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX Graphic processor with 2GB of GDDR5 memory
        AppleCare Protection Plan
        Samsung SE-506AB Slim Portable Blu-ray Writer

        As you see I was planning to get the 3TB 7200rpm Fusion Drive.
        Choices of drive 768GB SSD, 1T or 3T Fusion HHD, 1T or 3T HDD

        The problem is with Bootcamp you need to partition your drive. You don’t need a whole new drive. (Note – 3TB drives can’t currently be partitioned for Bootcamp.) and I rather use Bootcamp than Parallels. This why I was looking for information like what you provided. I am confused as to what Drive setup I should get? Do you have any Ideas on the matter?

        There must be a number of Gamers that are in the same quandary.

    Super Sugar (@SuperSugar) says:

    Great article and awesome website. I just got a copy of Parallels 8 and Windows 8 (Release Preview) and I downloaded a couple first-person shooters. The frame-rate is so poor it makes the games unplayable. I tried to download drivers from Nvidia’s website (Discrete graphics is NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M). I feel like Parallels isnt seeing me discrete graphics… what do you think?

      NinjaFoodstuff says:

      Parallels uses its own drivers, so there’s no need to download nvidia windows drivers. It might be your version of Mac OS (All our tests were done with 10.8) or it might be something specific to Windows 8 (which we didn’t test at all).

    Christopher says:

    More about Fusion Drives and Bootcamp here (basically Windows/Bootcamp doesn’t benefit from the SSD)

    jared luo says:

    so parallels 7 is better?

    Ed says:

    do i need to buy windows aswell to run it?

Your thoughts on this?