Can you run Flight Simulator 2020 on an Intel MacBook Pro with Parallels Pro?

I couldn’t resist it any longer. My only computer at the moment is a 2019 16″ MacBook Pro, but I desperately wanted to try Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Hoping that I could use a virtual machine instead of Boot Camp, I downloaded Parallels Pro and hoped for the best.

Long story short, running Flight Simulator 2020 on an Intel-based MacBook Pro with Parallels Pro is a mediocre experience. At best. Frame rates average around 11 FPS, no matter what settings I choose.

Parallels Pro might be a decent solution for running Flight Simulator 2020 on a MacBook Pro for some users

It’s important to note that “decent” does not mean “great”. But for some users, it works. Despite the maxed-out specs on my MacBook Pro and all the tweaks that I’ve done within Parallels Pro, I can’t achieve frame rates higher than about 14 FPS in the best conditions.

  • If I’m flying an airliner at high altitude, that’s when the frame rate is the best.
  • When I’m flying low and slow over a dense city, the frame rate drops to about 10 and it’s like watching a slideshow. It’s painfully frustrating.
Flight Simulator 2020 airbus a321neo

Climbing out of LAX in Flight Simulator 2020 with an Airbus A321neo

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The specifications of my MacBook Pro

I have a 2019 16 inch MacBook Pro (with an Intel chip). It’s completely maxed out. It has 32 GB of RAM, 8 GB of video memory, and a 2 TB hard drive. It’s a beefy machine. I use it primarily for doing 4K video editing in Premiere Pro, and it can handle a lot.

My Parallels Pro set up

I did some research beforehand, and I found out that the regular version of Parallels doesn’t have enough bandwidth to process high amounts of GPU usage for demanding applications such as Flight Simulators. That’s why I went with the Pro version.

These are my graphics and hardware settings within parallels Pro:

parallels pro settings for flight simulator 2020

Pro tip: maxing out your setting in Parallels Pro will NOT improve performance in Flight Simulator. These are the settings that worked best for me.

Pros and cons of using Parallels Pro to run Flight Simulator 2020 on an Intel MacBook Pro

Despite how disappointing of an experience it is to run Flight Simulator 2020 on my MacBook Pro, it’s not all that bad for high-altitude airliner flights. Honestly, it’s better than nothing. Here are all the pros and cons:

Pros

  • It’s a fast and easy way to run Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on your MacBook Pro.
  • I can switch back-and-forth between Flight Simulator and my Mac desktop with ease. There’s no delay at all.
  • It just works. I didn’t have to configure my MacBook Pro or my Parallels Pro installation to get it to run. In other words, everything works right out of the box with the default settings.
  • It doesn’t slow down my computer at all if I’m working on other things while flying in the background. I truly don’t even realize that the simulator is running.
  • Installing Windows within Parallels Pro is extremely easy. There’s a quick setup guide, and all you have to do is follow the on-screen prompts.
  • There are no driver conflicts running windows through Parallels Pro. Your mouse, keyboard, camera, microphone, etc. will work.

Cons

  • Even on the lowest settings within flight simulator, I can’t get any better performance than 14 FPS.
  • Flying over dense cities at low altitude makes the simulator almost unusable. 10 frames per second is about as good as it gets – even at the lowest possible settings.
  • It’s somewhat expensive. At the time of this writing, Parallels Pro cost $99 a year. You’re also going to have to pay for a license to run Windows.
Flight Simulator 2020 airbus a321neo LAX

This may look nice and pretty, but I was only getting about 11 FPS at this point. Grrr…

All the reasons why you should and shouldn’t use Parallels Pro to run Flight Simulator 2020 on an Intel-based MacBook Pro

Because of the poor performance, using Parallels Pro to run Flight Simulator 2020 on a MacBook Pro isn’t for everyone. Basically, you have to want it really bad to be able to deal with how slow it is.

Why you should do it:

  • You are a Mac user who has no intention (or desire) to get a Windows PC just for Flight Simulator.
  • You don’t want to deal with the headache of partitioning your hard drive and running Flight Simulator through Boot Camp.
  • You’re not a very serious flight simmer, and all you want to do is just tinker around.
  • All you want to do is fly airliners at high altitude. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 doesn’t require a lot of graphics resources for that kind of flying, and you’re likely to get the best frame rates that way.

Why you shouldn’t do it:

  • You are an FPS snob who won’t play any game below 60 frames per second.
  • The thought of not getting anything better than 10 frames per second at busy airports and over densely populated cities ticks you off.
  • You want to fly low and slow over detailed terrain. You’re not going to get anywhere above 10 frames per second when doing that, even at the lowest possible settings

Is using parallels Pro for Microsoft Flight Simulator a viable alternative to using Boot Camp?

Yes, using parallels Pro is a viable alternative to Boot Camp for running Flight Simulator 2020 on a MacBook Pro.

However, viable doesn’t necessarily mean good. Frame rates are going to be ridiculously low, almost to the point of it looking like a slide show while flying over densely populated areas.

However, based on my experience using Boot Camp for an FSX installation on my old iMac mini years ago, I promised myself that I would never do that again. The reasons are as follows:

  • My daily workflow is Mac-based, and having to boot my system into Windows to run Flight Simulator killed my productivity.
  • It was buggy beyond belief, and I was always having all kinds of driver issues for my peripherals. It seemed like there was always something not working the way it should.
  • It took up a lot of hard drive space. Having to partition my already full hard drive to run Boot Camp was challenging.

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