15 best Android emulators for PC and Mac of 2021
Information about 15 best Android emulators for PC and Mac of 2021
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.
It’s also worth noting that Windows will allow native Android app use starting in Windows 11. It’s the Amazon App Store, though, so we think people will still use Android emulators for Google Play Store and Google Play Games cloud-saving access. Windows 11 launches on October 6th, 2021 and should rollout Android app support sometime within a few months afterward.
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 LDPlayer, BlueStacks, 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 a 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. Any gaming emulator works as a productivity emulator to an extent. However, those with hyper-specific use cases and a little knowledge can try ARChon and Bliss. Even so, in this day and age, we recommend going with a Chromebook (with reasonably decent specs) if you want to run Android apps in a laptop or computer environment. It’s better that way.
Finally, a bit of a disclaimer. At this time, no emulators run the latest versions of Android except for ones made for developers. Luckily, most apps and games still function on older versions of Android so this shouldn’t be a big deal. However, most emulators right now run anywhere between Android 7.0 Nougat and Android 9.0 Pie.
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!
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. 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!
Price: Free / Optional donations
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
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
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Joe Hindy / Android Authority
Remix OS Player
Remix OS Player by Jide is one of the newer Android emulators for PC (comparatively speaking). It runs Android Marshmallow and that’s still relatively new compared to many of the others on the list. The installation process is pretty simple and using it 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 site seems to be down and we’re relatively certain Remix OS Player isn’t in active development anymore. It should be okay for another year or two before it starts to feel really old. We’ll replace it when we find a good 15th option.
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 someday.
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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