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Best Android emulators for Windows and macOS

Originally posted on androidpolice.

Turn any laptop or desktop computer into an Android device!

Testing and developing Android apps can be enjoyable, but it can also be frustrating when determining how an app will work on the numerous types of mobile devices out there. With so many incredible devices running Android and each company having its own variant that functions slightly differently from the stock version, it’s physically impossible to test your app on each one. Thankfully, you don’t have to. With an Android emulator, you can test your app or game without owning a single Android device, saving you time and aggravation.

Of course, this isn’t the only reason to utilize an android emulator. Among other things, you might just wish to use your laptop or widescreen gaming monitor to play your favorite games, especially since there are so many top Android games to enjoy. Whatever your reason, we’re here to save you even more time by sharing the top Android emulators for PC and macOS devices.

LDPlayer

This gaming-focused Android emulator for Windows is easy to install and is ready to go right out of the box. LDPlayer 9 (the latest version) uses Android 9, while LDPlayer 4 uses Android 7. The LDPlayer UI differs from an Android device; it’s more like a web browser in that every app opens in a new tab (visible at the top of the screen). You can install various apps and games from the “LD Store” and Google Play Store. Additionally, it has a few system apps pre-installed: web browser, file manager, gallery, contacts, files, messaging, and Google Play Games. There’s a Premium upgrade (monthly or yearly subscription) that will remove sponsored ads on the emulator desktop and pop-ups and ads from sponsored apps. It’s also noted that the subscription can reduce network bandwidth, CPU, and memory consumption, thus improving your gaming experience. Since there’s intermittent stuttering when playing games through the free tier, the upgrade can be worth it if you plan on using LDPlayer regularly.

LDPlayer includes screen recording and screenshot tools. There’s also a shared folder to share files between Windows and the emulator. In settings, you can customize things further for these options: advanced, model, game, audio, network, shortcuts, and wallpaper.

Bliss OS

Here’s a great option if you’re looking for something different from the typical emulator. Bliss OS is an open-source operating system based on Android with numerous enhancements and improved functionality. There are four available versions, and you can install them on both Windows and Mac devices. The most stable version is based on Android 9, while the experimental version is based on Android 11.

There are multiple installation methods, which are outlined in its help documents. The instructions are straightforward, and once completed, you’ll need to restart your computer and boot into Bliss OS. In this case, we opted to live boot Bliss OS from a USB drive. The system is fast and has the same look and feel as an Android device; plus, it has many of the same features, like swiping down for notifications.

There are two available launchers: Lawnchair (traditional Android setup) and Desktop Mode (similar to a PC desktop setup). Along with the standard apps, Bliss OS includes the Midori web browser, Audra Droid app repository, Aurora Store (Google Play Store alternative), MPV media player, Notepad, NewPipe (YouTube frontend), Etar calendar, and an RSS Reader.

NoxPlayer

This popular emulator is similar to LDPlayer in its style and features (minus the tabbed interface), and it’s available for both Windows and macOS. It also runs noticeably smoother and contains zero stuttering during gameplay. The most stable version uses Android 7.1.2, but there’s also a beta version available using Android 9. Unfortunately, you may receive a message on Windows stating, “this app can’t run on this device.” Thankfully, there’s a workaround in the NoxPlayer support section.

You can use the search bar or App Center to browse available apps and games for installation. If needed, you can install APK files via drag and drop. A Premium subscription is available (monthly, quarterly, yearly) to remove ads and recommended games under the search bar. Other handy features include a built-in screenshot tool, a screen recorder, a macro button for recording and running scripts, a close all apps button, and a restart button.

In Settings, you can customize many aspects; you’ll find: performance, gaming, device, display, theme, backup, general, and shortcut. Finally, NoxPlayer has a rewards center where you can earn points by completing tasks like trying out new games. You can then redeem these points for Amazon gift cards.

Genymotion

This is the only app on this list that isn’t good for gaming; however, it’s perfect for app development and testing. It includes all the tools needed to ensure your app is compatible and performs well on various Android devices and versions. There are numerous device types and screen sizes, such as Amazon Fire HD 10, Google Nexus 9, and Google Pixel 2 XL (one of the best Google Pixel phones of all time).

Currently, you can choose Android versions 5 through 10; if you’d like to use version 11, you’ll need to purchase a Genymotion license. The default virtual device settings will suffice for most users; however, almost everything is customizable if you want to change memory size, display size, window style, and more. You’ll see different performance results depending on your chosen Android version; for instance, Android 10 was noticeably sluggish and had a slow response time compared to Android 7.1.0.

Genymotion has a small selection of apps to play around with, like Calendar, Camera, Clock, Contacts, Email, Files, Gallery, Messaging, and Phone. Unfortunately, there isn’t a web browser, but you can easily install one (and any other app) by downloading the APK and then dragging and dropping it to the virtual device window.

MEmu

Here we have another gaming-focused emulator for Windows similar to LDPlayer (also using a tabbed interface) and NoxPlayer. It’s quick and offers smooth gameplay, but it isn’t the most stable; for instance, it sometimes freezes up and times out when launching. Also, upon installation, the default language is Chinese, so if you don’t speak it, you’ll need to change this in MEmu’s Settings. The current version runs Android 7.1.2, but you can change it by opening the auto-installed “Multi-MEmu” app and creating a new instance; version 9.0 (64-bit) is the highest.

A few system apps are already installed: Chrome, Google Play Store, Google Play Games, file manager, gallery, and MEmu Guide. In addition, there’s a handy search bar at the top where you can search for apps and games. You can also install apps directly from the APK files using drag and drop. Gamers will enjoy the key-mapping button, which allows them to use a keyboard, mouse, or gamepad.

Using the shared folder button, you can also share files between Windows and MEmu. Finally, if you want to do some tweaking in Settings, you’ll find these options: engine, display, storage, profile, network, device, appearance, preferences, and shortcuts.

PrimeOS

Like Bliss OS, this is also an Android-based operating system that you’ll need to boot into separately from Windows or macOS; the newest version runs Android 11. It has a clean and beautiful desktop UI with a taskbar at the bottom of the screen. Its swift performance is also impressive. It comes with the essential system apps plus Dev Tools, FX file manager, FX TextEdit, Gaming Center, Google Play Store, and Termux (terminal).

The notifications are set up like an Android device and pulled down from the top of the screen. However, multitasking works differently; it’s like the Windows taskbar, where you can see all open apps and easily switch between them. A “close all apps” icon also appears when multiple apps are open. Along with installing apps and games from the Google Play Store, APK files can also be downloaded and installed via a web browser.

The PrimeOS Gaming Center is where you can view and launch installed games, view recommended games, see how many hours you play per day, set performance profiles for each game, and more. You also see system information for your device, like memory, ram, and storage usage.

BlueStacks

This Android emulator is arguably the most widely used option on Windows and macOS, and it’s in a league of its own. The new “BlueStacks X” interface is set up like a digital game store, and you can view the gaming enhancements available for each title. These enhancements include game controls, shooting mode, tap spots, macros, rerolling, eco-mode, multi-instance, scripts, real-time translation, repeated tap, and high FPS.

While you can still use the old-school BlueStacks Player to install games via the Google Play Store and the BlueStacks Game Center, BlueStacks X is faster and smarter. It uses AI-based hybrid cloud technology to determine where you can have the smoothest gameplay experience automatically. So, when you choose a game to play, you’ll be given the option of playing it in the cloud or downloading and playing it on your PC.

When using the BlueStacks Player, which runs Android Nougat 32-bit, you’ll find these apps: Camera, Settings, Chrome, Media Manager, and the Rewards Center. You can also use the auto-installed “BlueStacks multi-instance manager” to switch Android versions; Android Nougat 64-bit and Android Pie 64-bit are available. In addition, you’ll find options for performance, display, graphics, devices, gamepad, and shortcuts in Settings.

Which option will you choose?

Gaming-focused emulators are the most readily available options, and that’s for a good reason. There are countless games available on Android that you can’t find on PC, Mac, or iOS; however, playing on a tiny smartphone screen isn’t fun. There’s no need to purchase a tablet for Android gaming when you can turn your laptop or desktop computer into a giant Android device.

Source: androidpolice

 

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