There are a lot of valid reasons why someone would want to run Android emulators on their PC. App developers may be trying to test their application before shipping it out. Gamers may want to use a mouse and keyboard on their games. Maybe you just want it there to have it. In any case, Android emulation on PC is possible and it’s a lot easier than it used to be. Some old favorites either left the space or became unusable at some point (Andy, AmiduOS, and Leapdroid), but everything else here should work okay for most people. Here are the best Android emulators for PC and Mac.
The three main uses for Android emulators
There are three main uses for emulators. The first is the most common and it’s for gaming. Gamers can use emulators on their computers to make some games easier to play. They don’t have to rely on the battery life of their devices and the existence of macros and other tricks help the process. In most cases, these little tricks aren’t illegal (in most games) so nobody really has a problem with it. The best Android emulators for gaming include BlueStacks, LDPlayer, MeMu, KoPlayer, and Nox.
The second most common use case is development. Android app and game developers like to test apps and games on as many devices as possible before launch. Fortunately, Android Studio comes with the “Android Virtual Device” (AVD) which blows all other emulators out of the water in terms of performance and functionality. The only drawback for non-developers is that it comes with an installation of the space-hungry Android Studio and Android Software Development Kit (SDK). Of course, this is no problem for developers that already have all the necessary software on their machines.
The final main type is productivity. This isn’t nearly as common because Chromebooks are cheaper and better for using Android apps on something other than a phone and most productivity tools are cross-platform. In this day and age, we recommend going with a Chromebook (with reasonably decent specs) if you want to run productivity apps in a laptop or computer environment. It’s simply better.
Finally, a bit of a disclaimer. At this time, no consumer emulators run the latest versions of Android. The only place you can find it is in Android Studio and it’s not for playing mobile games. Luckily, most apps and games still function on older versions of Android so this shouldn’t be a big deal.
BlueStacks is known by many users to be the most comprehensive Android app player in the market, and with good reason. Aside from running on both Windows and Mac, this emulator comes jam-packed with a ton of features to improve the gamer’s experience.
Its most popular features include the Keymapping Tool to create customized control schemes, the Instance Manager through which you can create multiple instances of the emulator and run several games simultaneously, and quality-of-life features like Eco Mode, which help to reduce resource consumption while running the most demanding games. It’s also the safest emulator out there, with certified GDPR compliance — your data is always safe with them.
The most recent version, BlueStacks 5, is the lightest and fastest the emulator has ever been, delivering high-performance gaming even on low-end devices. The latest version addresses some of the most common complaints of the previous version — namely, the fact that it can feel bloated, especially when running on inferior hardware. Try it right now for yourself and discover why BlueStacks has a community of over 500-million gamers around the world!
John Dye / Android Authority
It supports many games, including Epic Seven, Clash of Clans, Arknights, and many others. This is one of the few emulators on the list that gets active updates to improve compatibility. In the latest versions, LDPlayer has optimized the smoothness of Free Fire & Mobile Legends and fixed the device restriction on Moonlight Sculptor.
Besides that, LDPlayer is also a well-rounded emulator for using TikTok, Instagram, and other popular apps. It borrows a bit of design from Bluestacks, but that’s not really a bad thing. It’s a good all-rounder and should bit the needs of most.
Android Studio emulator
Android Studio is the default development console (integrated development environment, or IDE) for Android. It comes with a bunch of tools to help developers make apps and games specifically for Android. As it turns out, there is also a built-in emulator that you can use to test out your app or game. We use the emulator to test out new versions of Android from time to time.
The setup is rather complicated so it won’t appeal to everyone but it is by far the fastest and most feature-rich option on this list. You can run vanilla Android, download apps from the Google Play Store as you normally would, add custom launchers and keyboards, and emulate any size or form-factor device. You can even try out foldable devices!
As an added rub, you may need to use a tool to change the APK in order to make it compatible. There are a lot more steps to make this work than most other Android emulators for PC. On the plus side, though, it works with any operating system that can run an instance of Chrome (macOS, Linux, Windows, etc). We linked to the official GitHub where you can find detailed instructions for its use.
Price: Free / Optional donations
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
As a VM install, the process is easy, but tedious if you’ve never made your own virtual machine before. The USB installation method is even more complicated, but it lets your computer actually run Android natively from boot. We don’t recommend this one for the faint of heart. That makes Bliss a super unique emulator if you can make it through the steps to the end.
Of course, it only really runs well if your system is compatible so be prepared with a backup of your current operating system. The system runs Android Oreo and that’s among the newer versions of Android offered on an emulator. You can also find more info about this on its XDA-Developers thread here.
The emulator downloaded and installed fine and the games we tested ran just fine. This one is not good for productivity or developmental testing. However, if you have an itch for mobile FPS gaming along with some titles, this is actually a fairly decent gaming emulator and it boasts a good collection of newer titles. Plus, the keyboard controls and performance is good.
Price: Free with paid options
This Android emulator is mostly for developers. It lets you test your apps on a variety of devices without owning them. You can configure the emulator for a variety of devices with various versions of Android to help suit your needs. For instance, you can run a Nexus One with Android 4.2 or a Nexus 6 with Android 6.0. You can easily switch between virtual devices at will.
It’s not great for consumer uses, but Genymotion does offer its services for free for personal use. Its most useful feature is its availability on both your desktop computer and the cloud. Those without powerful computers can make Genymotion’s servers do all the work for them.
Price: Free / $2.99 per month / $29.98 per year
You can even run multiple instances at once for multiple games or testing features. It aims itself at gamers much like Bluestacks and similar emulators but it’s usable as a productivity tool too. The premium version runs for $2.99 per month and it disables ads, adds more customization options, and enables premium support options. The emulator gets updates on a fairly frequent basis. You can check out the running changelog here.
We didn’t have any outstanding issues using it, but it ran well and we were able to download all the games we wanted to test. MeMU, Bluestacks, and GameLoop kind of surpassed it in terms of features and all three of those get regular updates. However, if none of those work, this one probably will.
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Nox gets regular updates. It’s also one of the few that runs Android 9, a much newer version than the Android 7 that most emulators run. This emulator also features multiple instances so you can play multiple games. There is even script recording. Nox started out as a lightweight alternative to heavier hitters, but it’s quickly becoming a lot more mature and usable.
To be frank, it almost runs like ChromeOS minus all the Chrome parts. You can multitask, watch video content, or play games as you choose. Perhaps the coolest part is that you can run it with the latest versions of Android (up to Android 11) since you don’t need a virtual machine. The official website is one of the worst on the list, but luckily you don’t have to go there very often except to download PrimeOS.
Remix OS Player
Remix OS Player by Jide is an older Android emulator for PC. It runs Android Marshmallow and that’s not the newest you can find these days. The installation process is pretty simple and using it is also fairly easy. It caters mostly to gamers. There are a few gamer-specific features along with a customizable toolbar. It boasts features like running multiple games at once.
That said, it’s a fairly clean emulator so it’s still perfectly usable as a productivity tool. The official site seems to be down and we’re relatively certain Remix OS Player isn’t in active development anymore. You can still download the builds from Sourceforge in case you want something older, but still reasonably stable.
Price: Free / Enterprise options
Xamarin is an IDE similar to Android Studio. The difference is that it can plug into things like Microsoft Visual Studio for an even larger development environment (for better or for worse). Also, like the Android Studio, this comes with a built-in emulator for app or game testing. In case it wasn’t readily apparent, we only recommend this one to developers. The setup is simply too tedious for regular consumer use. Xamarin’s emulator is not as powerful as something like Genymotion, but it’ll get the job done if you intend on using this and it’s also configurable for your needs. It’s free for personal use. Companies and larger teams may have to negotiate a payment plan.
Make your own
Price: Free (usually)
As it turns out, you can build your own emulator. Here’s how it works in a nutshell. You need to download VirtualBox (linked above). You then have to download an image from Android-x86.org. From there, it’s just a matter of finding one of the many guides online and following the steps. This is easily one of the more difficult methods, but still not quite as tedious or difficult as setting up a whole IDE like Android Studio or Xamarin.
We don’t recommend you try without a tutorial and a little prior knowledge. It won’t work well, it’ll be buggy, and unless you’re a coder, it’ll be difficult to fix. Still, it’ll be yours to customize as you please and who knows, maybe you’ll make and release an emulator that’ll adorn this list some day.
If we missed any of the best Android emulators for PC, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists! Here are what happened to some old classics from the list:
- Leapdroid was purchased by Google and no longer operates.
- AMIDuOS closed its doors officially on March 7th, 2018. You can still try it out, but you have to browse the official subreddit for download links.
- Andy began using some seriously not great development tactics, including suspected bitcoin mining without user permission. We don’t know if it’s from the third-party installer or from the Andy developers so until that whole situation resolves, we’re keeping it off of the list.
- Droid4x used to be one of the best options and its later builds are still available. However, it is no longer actively updated so we removed it from the list.
- KoPlayer is an outstanding Android emulator for gamers. However, the website appears to be down as of the time of this writing. If it comes back up by the time we update this piece again, we’ll gladly add it back to the list.
- YouWave, a once-popular option, has fallen out of favor because it runs much older versions of Android than most of its competitors. You can still get it at the link, but it’s not in active development so it won’t get any more updates.
- Most of the rest simply haven’t been updated or in active development in years and don’t really work well anymore with newer operating systems and hardware. If we missed any, let us know in the comments!
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