Finding the best Android emulators isn't necessarily a tough task. But, why? After all, we already have our smartphones, don't we? Furthermore, even the slowest computer is much more powerful than some of the fastest flagships. So, what gives?
Well, apparently, there are lots of Android apps and games that are not natively available for Windows computers. So, if you want to enjoy something like that on a big display, then an Android emulator is your go-to choice.
With all of that being said, let's get right into it!
1: Best Mainstream Android Emulator: Bluestacks
You can't possibly talk about the best Android emulators without mentioning Bluestacks at least once. There is no doubt that it's one of the best that you can get right now and it has been for a really long time.
It actually offers a pretty balanced experience.
- Software support
- Different settings that you can use to tweak the program to your preference
- Lots of support for games.
- A tiny bit heavy for slow computers
One of its strongest points isn't just the superb stability, but also the wide variety of games that it supports.
Now, with that being said, do keep in mind that if you've got a Ryzen build or an AMD build in general, you'll probably have to head over to your BIOS and enable virtualization - also known as SVM. Otherwise, you'll probably experience poor performance issues - even with such a powerful machine.
Intel computers generally have it enabled by default. So, chances are that Intel users won't have to worry about it.
Overall, Bluestacks is the mainstream emulator choice that works just fine for most people, including Mac users. Just do keep in mind that it's rather heavy for old and/or slow computers. We couldn't get it to launch on a 2008 Intel Atom notebook. So, If you've got something like that, consider checking out the other options.
2: Best Android Emulator For Developers: Android Studio
Android Studio is a sort of toolkit that you can use to create Android apps and games. But, it also includes a handy emulator which you can use to test your stuff; or just use it as a normal emulator.
However, as it's mostly meant for developers, the whole process of setting it up isn't exactly easy for a casual user. To say that it has a long learning curve, may be a massive understatement.
- Probably the best choice for app developers
- Numerous useful tools
- Large download size
- Not friendly with casual users
- Feels much slower compared to other emulators
Overall, if you're someone who is planning on developing stuff, then this is most likely one of the best Android emulators for you; if not the best. After all, it delivers pretty much everything you want in a single package.
For everyone else, however, well, maybe it would be for the best if we stick with our other options.
3: Best Native Emulator: Android-x86
Everything that we've checked out till now is running from within the Operating System of the computer - which is mostly done by using virtualization. However, that is significantly slower than running an OS directly.
After all, simple math tells us that running two systems at once is tougher on the hardware than running only one. So, if, for any reason, you want to run Android natively, then Android-x86 is one of the best Android emulators for you. That is if you can call it an emulator, of course.
Due to the way that it works, the installation of Android -x86 is a bit different compared to what you're used to. You basically need to burn the ISO image to a DVD or write it to a thumb drive with something like Rufus, and then boot directly from it.
We understand that this sounds like Greek to someone who never had to run a different OS. But, once you go through it, you'll see that it's actually pretty simple. We may actually create a dedicated guide on how to install Android on a computer with Android x-86. So, if you're interested in that, do let us know about it.
- Running Android directly means that it should technically work faster than emulators
- Can bring back life for an older machine that is being rendered useless due to its outdated hardware
- Installation process is different and may confuse non-tech-savvy people
- If you need to have it always installed then you need to sacrifice a whole drive for it
- Hardware compatibility is basically a trial and error situation
Overall, if you want to actually install Android on your PC and not just run it through an emulator, then try this one out.
4: Most Lightweight Emulator: NoxPlayer
So, as we mentioned above, while Bluestacks is working great for most people, it can get kinda heavy for those of us who are not fortunate enough to own a decent PC. But, there's still hope.
Nox has long been known as one of the most lightweight Android emulators and still remains as one of the best choices to this day. It only asks for a gigabyte of RAM and a CPU that supports virtualization. That's it!
If this feels slow as well, then you either forgot to enable virtualization from your BIOS or your PC can't actually handle an emulator. Still, trying out a different option isn't a bad idea - just in case there are hardware compatibility issues or anything like that.
- More lightweight compared to other options
- Smallest download size (Makes a small difference if you're using a notebook that's tight on space)
- Easy to install and use
- There have been rumors that the company behind the emulator is trying to spy on its users but no proof has been provided thus far
Speaking of spyware, we'd recommend staying away from the false official website of Nox. There are lots of red flags there. Fake reviews, weird website design, weird ad placement, and most importantly, the fact that it's called the official website while they also admit in the bottom of the page that they've got nothing to do with the actual BigNox.
In fact, we assume that all these people who've complained about issues and malware downloaded Nox from pretty much any other website than the right one. Still, we're only making assumptions here without having any actual proof. So, take that info with a grain of salt.
Best Android Emulators: Wrapping Up
- Bluestacks is the go-to choice for most of us
- Android Studio is a great option for developers
- Android x-86 is worth checking out for those who want to install the Android OS on their PC
- And Nox is suitable for those who want something more lightweight
That's all for now. If you've got any other recommendations, let us know about them in the comments section down below!