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I am setting up an OS X (build and) test environment for a open source project with a big C codebase. It shall be a Mavericks host on a Mac mini, which has a virtual machine with Snow Leopard. Both machines are designated to act as Jenkins build slaves. Nothing else is meant to happen there.

I'm not sure which hypervisor to chose: VMWare, VirtualBox, Parallels, any other? It shall be both powerful enough to do the jobs in short times, but also affordable. What are your experiences and recommendations?

Thank you in advance.

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1 Answer 1

Criteria you've specified:

  • Affordable
  • Powerful enough

Anything you want to consider? The most affordable is VirtualBox because it's free.

The most powerful?

I don't have any hard data on which performs the best but when I had to make the choice (last year) between the three applications to run on my MacBook Pro I chose Parallels.

At the time Parallels seemed to have better support for Windows 8 and 8.1 (better performance than either VirtualBox or VMware). The graphics processing and rendering was far better than the others which meant I could play Windows games on my Mac if I wanted to and most importantly it supported the Retina resolution for the virtual OSes and VMware didn't do that. For me Parallels was powerful enough.

The problem I have now with Parallels is they release a brand new paid version every time Apple releases a new version of OS X. That means within a year the software is "out of date" and all existing (mainstream) support for the product stops. I don't want to spend $50+ a year in upgrades, although I might have to when Windows 10 comes out.

The problem I had with VirtualBox was it didn't do Retina display scaling (at the time), didn't have the same graphical processing capabilities (not sure if that's still true) and I thought I would use the better OS X integration (embed Windows apps in OS X) - but I never did. VirtualBox is that one application I keep around in-case something doesn't work in Parallels.

I've never tried VMware but for me it sits in between the other two - unless they've recently made some gains or offer better features. I think there's a $10 difference between Parallels ($80) and VMware ($70).

As long as you have a powerful enough machine underneath the hypervisor I think you'll be fine with any of them. I'd double-check your criteria before buying something.

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