Sounds like a cool setup. I have only used virtualbox, so I will talk about that. The ram is a good idea, because virtualbox just eats up the chunk that you have allocated to the VM right away. I'm not sure about the SDD. With one that size I don't think that you would want to use space on it for virtual drives, and I think that the virtual drive file is the only one which the VM uses much, and therefore the access speed to it determines performance. Granted, virtualbox allows you to make a dynamic virtual drive rather than allocating the space right from the start if you want to, but just the basic installs of your target applications would eat up allot of space.
But you said that the virtual machine was just for testing/playing/learning. If this means that you don't mind a little bit slower experience, anything will do. Just for kicks, I installed VB on my netbook under linux, and I was able to boot another another version of linux from an iso file and run it (with rather low frame rates, but it ran).