Are you a desktop user with a yearning to play some Android games or test out an Android-only app? With Android emulators, you don’t have to switch between your desktop OS and Android. By installing an emulator on your Mac, Linux, or Windows desktop, you can run all the latest Android games and Android-exclusives on a larger screen. Emulators can also be useful if you’re building your own mobile app and want to test the user experience on Android.
1. Bluestacks – Windows & macOS
Bluestacks is one of the most popular Android emulators for Windows and is probably the best Android emulator for macOS as well. This emulator is built primarily for mobile gamers and claims to provide a “PC-like” gaming experience for your mobile apps.
Bluestacks has full support for the keyboard and mouse and comes with a set of recommended preset controls that are also fully customizable. If you do create custom controls, Bluestacks lets you export these settings so that you can easily share them with your fellow gamers.
When you launch Bluestacks for the first time, you’ll need to perform some initial configuration exactly as though you’re booting a new Android smartphone or tablet.
As part of this process, you’ll be prompted to sign in to your Google account. This allows you to download mobile games via the Google Play store. After entering this information, you should see the familiar Android homescreen with Google Play already installed.
You can now launch Google Play, find the app you want to run, and download it as normal.
After downloading your app, you can launch it and enjoy your favorite Android apps on your desktop.
2. Genymotion – Windows, macOS, Linux, & Web
If you’re looking to test your latest Android project, Genymotion is worth a look. This Android virtual machine is targeted at software developers, so it has everything you need to test your app across a wide range of emulated Android smartphones and tablets.
You can run Genymotion as a local app or in the cloud. If you opt to run Genymotion on your Desktop, you can download it from the Genymotion website. Genymotion Desktop is free for personal use, although several paid licenses are available.
In addition, Genymotion offers a cloud-based virtual emulator service. Genymotion Cloud enables you to perform mass testing by spawning multiple virtual machines and running them in parallel. This can significantly reduce the time it takes to test your app, although depending on your plan, you may be charged for each virtual device you create.
3. Android Studio – Windows, macOS, Linux, & Chrome OS
Unlike the other emulators on this list, Android Studio is created by Google. This Integrated Development Environment (IDE) is aimed firmly at Android developers and has everything you need to design and build your own Android applications.
Using Android Studio, you can create an Android Virtual Device (AVD) that has the hardware and software configuration required to test your app.
You can then run this AVD on Android Studio’s emulator and see how your app handles this unique configuration.
Rinse and repeat to test your project across dozens or even hundreds of emulated Android devices.
With so many features, Android Studio isn’t the best choice for someone just looking to run a few mobile games on their desktop. However, if you’re an app developer, Android Studio is pretty much a must-have tool and is considered the official development for Android.
If you do use Android Studio, it’s worth noting that the Android emulator has a reputation for being slow. Features such as Instant Run have reduced the time it takes Android Studio to deploy your app, but you may still want to do some research into ways to speed up the Android emulator.
4. NoxPlayer – Windows & macOS
While it used to be a bit dated, the latest version, 22.214.171.124, now supports Android 9. This makes it ideal for running newer games and makes NoxPlayer one of the most stable and accurate Android emulators around.
It’s good enough to emulate most games (as long as they’re compatible with Android 9), and very easy to run. It’s highly customizable, and its UI does a great job of accommodating keyboard-and-mouse controls in place of touch controls. There’s even support for up to 128 GB of storage within the emulator.
One thing that might concern more privacy-focused users is that NoxPlayer phones home to a Chinese IP and installs some of its own crapware apps that you can’t remove. There’s no malicious code or anything like that, but it still removes a degree of control from what’s otherwise one of the top Android emulators.
5. MEmu – Windows
MEmu is designed specifically with Android gaming in mind, so there’s ample support for keyboard and mouse controls, along with gamepads. Great response times make it even more enjoyable to play your favorite Android games on a much larger screen.
A nice feature of MEmu is that you can run multiple instances at once. If you happen to have several Android accounts, you can run them all on a single screen at the same time. While this Android emulator is free, there are ads. On the other hand, DirectX 3D and OpenGL rendering effects make those small images on your Android device pop when they hit the big screen.
6. Android-x86 – Windows & Linux
Technically, Android-x86 doesn’t exactly run on Windows or Linux. Instead, it’s a completely new OS based on Android. This is more like standalone OS than a traditional Android emulator for Linux and Windows. The good news is it’s designed to work well on its own on another partition or within a virtual environment, such as on VirtualBox or VMWare, so there’s no need to partition anything.
It’s being actively developed, unlike some of the other Android emulators on this list. Don’t let the video ads on the site deter you; this is a legitimate emulator. However, as with most emulators, not all Android apps are compatible.
7. Anbox – Linux
Anbox, also called Android in a Box, is one of the best and fastest Android emulators for Linux. It uses a sandboxing system to utilize your hardware and OS resources safely without virtualizing anything. This leads to better overall performance.
Since it integrates with Linux, it runs like a native app. However, you’ll need to load apps using an Android Debug Bridge. Currently, the Google Play Store isn’t supported. This can make finding and loading apps a little more difficult, but the seamless experience on Linux makes it worth it.
8. Bliss OS – Windows, macOS, & Linux
Bliss OS is one of several Android emulators that work as a stand-alone OS. It comes with a dual-boot installer, making it easier to partition your hard drive and get everything set up. It’s designed specifically for performance and compatibility with a wide variety of devices.
Surprisingly, security features are also built in, which isn’t always a strong point with Android emulator systems. Plus, you’re free to fully customize the settings to get the installation you want.
Unlike Anbox, Google Play Store is included. This makes it simple to install and use your favorite apps without any extra hassle. Not only can you use this on desktop devices – but mobile devices as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are the Android emulators for Mac compatible with Big Sur?
Most are, yes. Initially, Bluestacks wasn’t, but the emulator was updated to provide compatibility. However, any older emulators that haven’t been updated in several years won’t be compatible. Check any emulator’s list of compatible systems before downloading to make sure your system is compatible. At worst, you may download it, only for it not to work or produce random glitches.
2. Does Windows 11 include an Android emulator?
Windows 11 is adding support for Android apps, but it’s not available quite yet to the public, even though that was marketed as a major reason to upgrade. The Insider Build introduced the feature in October 2021. However, as expected, there were some glitches.
As far as when this will be released fully to Windows 11 users, it’s uncertain. When it does release, you’ll be able to download apps from the Amazon App Store versus Google Play. Microsoft released an official press release detailing what to expect.
3. Will all Android apps run in emulators?
No. First, it depends on the version of Android the emulator uses. Many apps are designed to only run on certain versions of Android due to certain features requirements of the system. Some apps are either backwards compatible or an older version is downloadable.
Some apps won’t run in any emulator, though your best chances are with an Android OS, like Bliss OS, Android-x86, or Bluestacks.
4. Can I run Android apps on iOS?
The best way is to simply find an iOS-compatible version of the Android app. Android emulators for iOS are difficult to install and usually need to be sideloaded. Apple can also prevent the emulator from working at any time. In this case, it’s usually easier to get a slightly older Android device, which can easily cost under $100, to use any Android-only apps.
5. Can I make my own Android emulator?
Absolutely! If you’re more technical minded, create your own Android emulator. The Android developer site actually provides details for creating and managing Android virtual devices along with using Android emulator devices. There’s also a guide to creating a cloud-based emulator.
6. Are there any online Android emulators?
Genymotion offers a cloud-based, or online option, but it’s only for testing apps. Redfinger is a service that provides access to cloud-based smartphones. It works on Android, iOS, Windows, and in your browser. However, it isn’t free. Pricing starts at $9.95 for 30 days of use. While this is an emulator, it’s also considered a full cloud-based phone, so it may be more than you actually need.
The above are some of the best Android emulators for your desktop, though not everyone of them will be suitable for you. The one you choose depends mainly on whether you want to get a full Android experience or just test out apps.
Looking to run iOS on Android? Try out these iOS emulators for Android.
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