If you’re an Apple fanboy but have a yearning to play some Android games or run an Android-only app, then you’re going to need an emulator. They’re also very useful for testing purposes if you’re developing an Android app of your own.
Let’s run through the four best Android emulators on offer for Mac users.
The Nox App Player is a great choice if you’re looking for an Android emulator for gaming. It’s capable of supporting gaming controllers, vital if you take your gaming seriously. You can use Nox to test your apps, too, but it’s designed with gamers in mind.
Nox is quick to install and runs well on macOS with no noticeable lag. The user interface is simple and intuitive for beginners, with access to the Google Play store included. You can also record your screen if you want to share your gaming exploits online.
Nox is also lightweight on resources, meaning you can keep several applications running without slowdowns. If you’re looking to play Android games on your Mac, you can’t go that wrong with Nox.
Bluestacks is one of the most popular Android emulators for Windows and the macOS version doesn’t let you down. It’s another emulator built primarily for gamers. You can use it for development, but it’s not really useful for that purpose.
Installation takes longer than with Nox, but once it’s up and running the UI is simple to use. Like Nox, you can also install apps and games through the Google Play store. There’s native support for Xbox compatible controllers, but only on certain “gamepad-ready” games.
Performance depends on your system, but the latest version of Bluestacks is a lot more lightweight than previous versions. You should find that games run smoothly, even on older machines, assuming they aren’t too graphically intensive.
If you need Android emulation for development purposes, then Genymotion is worth a look. It’s targeted at software developers, allowing you to test your apps on a range of virtual devices.
One of the key features for developers is the ability to use Genymotion Cloud, their cloud-based virtual emulation service. It means anyone can interact with your virtual device through a web browser, making it perfect for sharing your project without the recipient needing to have Genymotion installed themselves.
These features don’t come for free – the desktop edition weighs in a $136 per year for a single user. For Genymotion Cloud, SaaS starts from $200 per month. There is a trial version, but this requires you to register and verify your email before you can download it.
4. Android Studio
Android Studio is Google’s own tool for app developers. It’s not just an emulator – it has all the tools you need to design and build your own apps. The emulation allows you to test your creations on virtual devices.
With so many features, this isn’t a choice for someone just looking to run a few Android apps or games on macOS. If you’re an Android app developer, it’s one of the most important tools you’ll need. You can also simulate incoming calls and SMS messages, set the device location, and even model motion sensors.
Installation is pretty lengthy, and its UI is not the most user-friendly for beginners. That’s mostly due to the number of features that Android Studio offers. The emulator itself allows you to choose from a huge selection of device profiles that allow you to test your app. Since it’s Google’s official emulator, it supports emulation all the way up to Android Pie 9.
Which Should You Choose?
The right emulator for you really depends on your own needs. If you’re just looking to play some Android games on Mac devices, then paying for Genymotion might not be for you. If you want to share your app design over the cloud, then it’s the one you’ll need.
All but one of the emulators listed here are free to try (or entirely free to use), meaning you can afford to try them and see which one suits you best as a Mac user. If you’re considering moving to a different OS, then check out our review of the best Android emulators for Linux.