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.
Most emulators are used for gaming and development. Most PC platforms have productivity tools already.
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.
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
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
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.
Price: Free with paid options
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.
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 fit most needs.
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.
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.
Remix OS Player
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
Make your own
Price: Free (usually)
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 crypto 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. It has been quite some time since the site went down so we assume development has ceased.
- 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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