The 10 best Android emulators for PC and Mac

Want to emulate Android directly on your PC? We have selected several solutions, more or less efficient, offering a more or less pure and recent Android experience to launch the games and applications of your smartphone in a sandbox right on your desktop. We offer you the best free solutions here.

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Android usually runs on ARM SoCs common to smartphones, tablets and a wide selection of mobile devices. It is however possible to emulate an Android environment, or even to launch a virtual machine with a ROM in it.. A bit like the emulators of consoles or old computers. Even the DOS operating system has been “ported” through emulators.

Read also: the whole history and timeline of Android

If performance left something to be desired a few years ago, this is no longer the case today. Emulators have grown. They got stronger. They are more secure against the threat of malware. They use the virtualization of AMD and Intel processors. And they are not only stable, but also smooth and fast. Some maintain a developer-oriented approach, with pure Android experience to test the compatibility of applications with the operating system.

Others have clearly taken the party to address the needs of those who use these emulators to play games available on the play store. Compatible with game controllers. Capable of replacing tapping at specific locations on the screen with mouse clicks or keyboard keys. Even offering the possibility of simultaneously launching several games on a screen (or several times the same game). These emulators target gamers looking to enjoy their Android games on a big screen … and have some benefits in passing.

There are several free and commercial solutions. In this guide, we have chosen exclusively free emulators (or offering a free version). Few are those who live on love and fresh water. Some publishers offer a version dedicated to developers. Others are variations with advanced play options.

And for those that are completely free, the commercial aspect usually only involves display advertising or an affiliate program. Thanks to these, you earn points after downloading a game from a partner store instead of going to the Play Store. And these are often the most popular competitive and multiplayer games on the Play Store. So much to join the useful and the pleasant … Finally, note that some solutions present here do not all benefit from recent updates. On the rare occasion that this is the case, we will be sure to point it out.

Bluestacks

Bluestacks is a benchmark in the field of Android emulation on computer. Very popular, the software offers a clean and complete experience. Compatibility with games and apps is high. And there are many configurations capable of running the emulator. As with most Android emulators, Bluestacks requires you to activate the virtualization service in the BIOS of your PC, if you haven’t already.

bluestacks 4

The services offered by Bluestacks are above all geared towards gamers. The application supports PC accessories: keyboard, mouse and gamepad. It offers to assign areas of the screen to certain keys. And it includes a tool to create macros, in order to combine several keys at the same time. With Bluestacks it is possible toopen multiple sessions of a single game (with different accounts each time) and create scripts to automate some repetitive tasks. It is even possible to define a false geographical position. Great for Pokemon Go!

The application is based on an always active maintenance, the last version dating from January 2021. Bluestacks is based on Android 7.1.2 (this is the most recent version integrated into the emulators). It is compatible with Windows (7, 8 and 10) and Mac (up to macOS Big Sur). It also works well with AMD and Intel processor virtualization tools. The software is remunerated on the affiliation: you can download the games on the Play Store, but also on an integrated store. If you choose the latter, Bluestack earns money.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD BLUESTACKS 4

Nox Player

Nox Player is considered Bluestack’s main opponent in the field of Android emulation on computer. A well-deserved place, as the developers of Nox Player have been able to improve their solution to offer an experience just as qualitative as that of Bluestack. And the Nox Player offer has even been modernized, with the support ofAndroid 7, like BlueStack, and compatibility with macOS, in addition to Windows.

nox player 6

Nox Player is aimed, like BlueStacks, more at players with a nice range of advanced functions to adapt the gameplay of Android games to a PC-oriented grip: support for controllers, keyboards and mice, key allocation to an area of ​​the screen, creation of scripts and macros for automation, opening of several instances for a single game, etc. A store for downloading and installing games is also integrated, but you can of course go through the Play Store.

The development of Nox Player remains active. The latest versions for macOS and Windows date from November 2020. And an update is released every three months or so, bringing new features, bug fixes with some games, and gameplay or emulation optimizations. Finally, the publisher regularly publishes guides to the most popular titles on its official site, which serve as much to refine the settings of the emulator as to start a game well.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD NOX PLAYER

MEmu Play

Launched in 2015, Memu Play was then considered the little thumb of Android emulation on PC. A little thumb full of future and full of energy. By focusing its speech and its development on the speed, fluidity and simplicity of the experience, Memu Play then came closer to the “retrogaming” spirit (we launch the emulator, load a ROM and play). Since then, the little thumb has gained ground. Functionally, it does not yet equal the kings of Android emulation on PC, like Bluestacks. But it is getting closer.

memuplay

Memu Play has therefore grown stronger over time. The emulator now relies on Android 7 and no longer Android 4 or 5. This considerably improves compatibility with the most recent games. It offers all the expected features: mapping of touch areas; support for controllers, keyboards and mice; multisession. Memu Play also remains one of the fastest emulators, even if it is sometimes a little greedy. Also note that the free version includes some advertisements for monetization. But a paid version allows them to be removed.

As when it was launched, Memu Play still benefits from active development today. Updates remain very frequent, with a new version every six to eight weeks or so. And each update improves compatibility with the apps available on the Play Store. At the time of this writing, the latest version is numbered 7.3.0 and dated December 2020. On the other hand, Memu Play is only compatible with PCs. No Mac version again with this emulator.

CLICK HERE TO INSTALL MEMU PLAY

Droid4X

Droid4X is a very different emulator from Nox Player, Memu Play and Bluestacks. Its offer is different. Its positioning is different. And above all the technology he uses is different. Indeed, Droid4X is the only emulator in this panel to rely on an external hypervisor to function. This is Oracle Virtualbox, free software for individuals. If you decide to use Droid4X, then you will have to install the emulator and hypervisor, whereas the most common competing emulators require that the hypervisors be at least closed or even removed.

droid x4

The offering and positioning of Droid4X are also different. The emulator advocates a experience faithful to that of Android. This is to reproduce the environment of Android, without adding or artifice. In fact, the compatibility and stability of Droid4X is really good. You will not find all the features dedicated to video games that you find in particular with the three emulators mentioned above. On the other hand, Droid4X offers a rare function: the fact ofuse your smartphone as an external controller, taking advantage of the touchscreen for easier navigation.

Droid4X is free, even for app developers. It works on an old version of Android. Which could cause (paradoxically) some compatibility problems. It only works on Windows, although the official site promises the arrival of a macOS version. Finally, note that Droid4X is no longer maintained since 2019 (implying that macOS players have every interest in turning to another emulator…). But the emulator remains functional.

CLICK HERE TO INSTALL DROID4X

LDPLayer

LDPLayer is one of the many alternatives to Nox Player and Bluestacks. This solution is developed by the Asian publisher Xuanzhi. Created in 2016, LDPlayer was then based on Android 4. In 2017, the emulator went to version 2.0. It is then based on Android 5.1. In 2019, it goes under Android 7.1, thus catching up with all the big names in Android emulation on PC. Currently, LDPlayer is offered in version 4.0.5.

ldplayer

This version integrates all the services expected by the players who want to enjoy their Android games on a big screen. You can of course assign keyboard keys or joystick buttons to part of the screen. You can open multiple applications in a single window or open multiple sessions of the same game. You can create macros to automate certain tasks. And you can increase the display frequency of a game to gain fluidity.

In addition, LDPlayer 4.0.5 supports multiple languages, including french. Francophones will therefore be delighted. And of course, the emulator is completely free. It is financed through an affiliate program (via an integrated game store that accompanies the classic Play Store). The only real downside to the big names in Android emulation, LDPlayer is only compatible with Windows today. There is no no macOS version for this solution.

CLICK HERE TO INSTALL LDPLAYER

GameLoop

GameLoop is an Android emulator developed by Tencent, the Chinese Internet service giant. In just a few years, Tencent has become a benchmark for Android apps and games. Besides QQ and WeChat apps, Tencent is developing games with its in-house studio. But the group also bought development studios, Riot Games and Supercell. Tencent is also a partner of Bluehole, Activision and Epic Games and publishes mobile versions of their flagship titles in China, PUBG Mobile, Call of Duty Mobile and Fortnite, respectively.

gameloop

GameLoop obviously benefits from the omnipresence of its owner in the Chinese mobile video game market. This emulator is therefore optimized for certain games created or marketed by Tencent. If you are a Fortnite fan on Android for example, GameLoop is therefore an interesting choice since it incorporates many exclusive parameters to fine-tune the games published by Tencent. GameLoop is also one of the only emulators to integrate anti-cheat tools for multiplayer games.

It does not offer the possibility of opening multiple instances of a game, but offers to customize the handling and display according to the performance of your PC. Using Android 7, like many other recent emulators, GameLoop is not available only on Windows. On the official site, Tencent does not rule out the possibility of a release on macOS, however. It is not available in French and few games are fully supported. However, there are the hottest competitive mobile games in the list.

CLICK HERE TO INSTALL GAMELOOP

Anbox

If you are linux user, you are not spoiled for choice in terms of Android emulator. Even on macOS, the offer is bigger. However, there are two interesting initiatives. The first is Andy OS, an emulator compatible with macOS, Windows and Linux. But this has not been updated for several years. And the second is Anbox that we present to you here. This project, although it may seem dormant, is still supported by its development team.

anbox 1200 px

Anbox is very special. First, it does not use virtualization to work. The system exploits the peculiarities of Linux and uses real hardware resources to run Android (here version 7.1.1). This is therefore a very different approach from the majority of solutions used on Windows and macOS. This does not mean that applications launched with Anbox have access to data: the operating system is encapsulated. Nothing goes in or out without your permission.

Using Anbox is not easy. It requires for example the installation of a bridge which makes it possible to install the APKs in the encapsulated system. You also need to be familiar with the command lines to start the installation and applications (but which Linux user is not familiar with the command lines, shall we say?). Finally, Anbox does not come with the Play Store. This means you need to find APKs differently, or download the APK from the Play Store to install it in Anbox. Fortunately, there are videos on YouTube that walk you step by step through how to do this. Despite this, Anbox remains much less intuitive than Windows emulators.

CLICK HERE TO INSTALL ANBOX

Android Studio

Android Studio is not an emulator per se. This is theintegrated development environment that Google offers developers of applications for Android. It is therefore not software created for the general public. So forget here the awesome macros, crazy scripts, graphics optimizations and everything you might enjoy with Bluestack, Nox Player and others.

android studio

Android Studio is a very heavy sequelwhether it’s downloading, installing, configuring or installing. The archive to download weighs several gigabytes. But this suite is also very complete, since it allows you to create applications and games for all platforms that work with Android, whether smartphones, tablets or connected watches. And of course, Android Studio includes an Android emulator to test applications.

Android Studio is not an easy-to-use solution for those new to development interfaces. On the other hand, Google obliges, it is about one of the solutions which most faithfully reproduces the mobile operating system and which offers the best stability, the best fluidity and the best compatibility. In addition, it is one of the only solutions to offer theaccess to the latest version of Android (as well as all those still supported by Google).

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD ANDROID STUDIO

Xamarin

Like Android Studio, Xamarin is not an emulator per se, nor even a software intended for the general public. This is a integrated development environment (IDE) proposed by Microsoft (since the takeover of Xamarin in 2016) for application developers who code in Windows with the framework Microsoft .NET. Compatible with Mac and PC, this solution is equivalent to Android Studio, with the major functional difference being better integration into Microsoft’s development suite, including Visual studio.

microsoft xamarin

A big advantage over other competing suites, Xamarin offers all the tools to deploy the same application on different operating systems. Indeed, Xamarin allows create native Android, iOS and Windows apps. Develop yourself once. You post multiple times. This does not mean that adaptations are sometimes necessary, since some APIs do not always have equivalents in all operating systems. Microsoft announces that the code common to all versions of an application can go up to 75%.

As with Android Studio, Xamarin includes an Android emulator primarily intended to test the compatibility of an application. Of course, this is a development environment: heavy to install, cumbersome to configure and heavy to use. And you don’t have any of the services offered by “real” emulators. But here too, the compatibility is very high. Note that the software is chargeable for developers. But a version intended for informed individuals is offered free of charge.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD XAMARIN

Can we use hypervisors with Android emulators?

The virtualization of an operating system requires several technological bricks. The first brick is material. You must activate the virtualization service in the BIOS of your PC. All emulators use this technology to create an Android environment where you can install games and apps.

To activate virtualization, you need enter BIOS (during the computer startup phase), then go to the advanced configurations of the processor and activate the service. The latter takes several names, depending on the brand of the processor: Intel Virtualization Technology (VT) or AMD Secure Virtual Machine (SVM). Once done, you can restart your computer normally.

Virtual Box and Android

Then there is the software brick. Not all emulators approach this phase with the same tools. Some will impose already existing virtual machines. Droid4X, for example, relies on Oracle’s Virtualbox to function and will ask you to install it if you haven’t already. Bluestack, on the contrary, works with its own solution. Technical support for the emulator recommends disabling (or even uninstalling) virtualization solutions, such as Virtualbox and VMWare from IBM.

Finally, to be complete, note that it is possible to create a virtual machine and install an Android distribution in it. It’s long. It’s tedious. It’s not optimized. But, if you like to get your hands dirty, you will be served! Find below two links to VirtualBox and an Android Open Source distribution.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD VIRTUALBOX

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A ROM OF THE ANDROID-X86 PROJECT

Have you tried any of these solutions? Do you know others? Talk about it in the comments!

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