Android gained popularity after Google took over the nascent startup and released it publicly in 2007. Since then, Android emulators for PC gained popularity for various reasons. Some use it for trying different apps before installing on their phones while others try it for business purposes. A new breed of users has emerged as well who utilize Android emulators for gaming. It can be attributed to games like PUBG Mobile
What is an Android emulator?
An Android emulator is an Android Virtual Device(AVD) that emulates the Android environment for other devices to run the Android operating system. It is generally used for testing, bug-finding, running various apps on a virtually controlled system on devices other than actual Android phones.
It lets the host(mainly computer system) behave like another hardware or software system for different purposes. The idea of Android emulator gained traction with the release of Android SDK by Google, in 2007(2008 for Public)
Here are some of the best Android emulators for PC
1. MemeU Play
First on the list is Android 5.1 Lolipop based Android emulator for Windows. It is among the most customizable Android emulators for PC in the segment.
The installation is quick and simple with no bloatware third-party apps to install like we come across in some emulators. The installer is also one fancy thing, I might add.
It takes around 2-3 minutes when launching for the first time. Time varies according to the processing power of your computer, among the performance of other components.
The emulator comes pre-loaded with some third party apps, preferably the ones sponsoring them so can’t really a complaint. There is no option to remove them. Honestly, I wouldn’t worry unless I’m running on 2 GIG of RAM and a Pentium 4 processor which really can’t handle multi-tasking.
One of the hot selling points of this emulator is Key Mapping. What Key-Mapping does is that you can put markers anywhere on the screen and assign a keyboard key or mouse button.
When you press that key or push a button, the controls or app present on that part of the screen gets pressed/triggered. It comes in handy when playing FPS, RPG or any game that require multiple button control.
The emulator is already keyboard-mouse compatible to an extent, worked with most of the games without any hiccup.
What I liked
• Customizability: The emulator is flexible in terms of general resource usage. You can set the amount of RAM, Screen resolution, FPS, and graphics engine to be used by the emulator according to your machine’s capabilities.
Custom DNS, Root mode, and Cache performance policy can also be changed according to user’s requirements.
• Key-mapping can help gamers play games with a variety of onscreen controls on the snap of a finger.
• Cross-platform installation of apps is a bliss. You can browse folders present on Windows and install APKs directly without the intervention of Play store.
Even the option of synchronizing folders between Windows and emulator for a variety of purposes is provided. That makes it easier to transfer files from Windows filesystem to Emulator and vice-versa.
What I did not like
• Not really a con per se but Microphone integration could be more efficient given the stability the platform provides.
2. Bluestacks 3
BlueStacks is one of the oldest emulators for Android out there that are still active in the market. It’s not a sin to say that perhaps it was the market-defining player during its peak days.
The key reason for its success was its ease of usability and access to the consumers. This android emulator is pretty easy to use and comes in FREE and PAID variants.
Installation is simple but filled with their sponsor ads. Setting up emulator is pretty easy. You launch the emulator and a welcome screen appears. You select the language and Google account sign window appears. Sign-in with a Google account and you are golden.
The ad-filled experience might be bitter-sweet for few as you launch the emulator, ad of some sponsored game appears in one tab.
Talking about ads and bloatware, the pre-installed apps are fewer than what you get on normal free versions of certain emulators. However, it is compensated by ads at various creative placement blocks
What I liked
• Ease of use. The emulator is extremely easy to use with one click Emulator setup.
• Separate key-mapping for different games
• Customizable resolution up to 4K
• Tabbed applications. Every application is windowed separately in a tab which can be closed
• Forum support. Being one of the segment leaders, Bluestacks has built quite a community on their forums. It is helpful for troubleshooting and creative aspects.
What I did not like
• Excessive ads. Given the competition in freeware segment, competitors are not flooding your screen with ads.
• Lacks native Android experience. Users who are looking for vanilla Android experience might not entertain such emulator.
Touted as the Android emulator for GAMING, it is an Android KitKat 4.4 operating system emulator.
In the era of Android P, this may seem like an obsolete choice for a general user. The emulator can be crucial for developers who are looking to test it on older versions of Android.
KOPlayer is a feature rich emulator, ideal for users looking to get the most of out if emulating experience.
Android 4.4 is still used on over 11% of the smartphones based on Android OS, according to the official statistics by Google.
What I liked
• Drag and drop option between cross-platforms
• Dual-graphics option to switch according to the demand of the respective application
• Ease of access buttons on either side of the display
• One-click recording and basic editing. The edit video feature is pretty basic but still gets the thing done.
What I did not like
• It is not bug-free. Minor bugs pop up from time to time. One of them being unresponsiveness of the window.
4. Nox Player
Amongst the list of best Android emulators for PC, this is one of the fastest, in terms of installation and operations. One click installation without any bloatware or third party apps.
The Android version is 4.4 KitKat.
One of the things that stand out is the Macro step record option. You can record your steps in Macro recorder and re-enact them later.
Some apps only work for certain phone models and it really sucks when it is not compatible with the respective emulator. This Android emulator has a workaround for that.
You need to hover over to settings. Set the respective smartphone model. By default, the only option you get is on Samsung smartphones. However, you set is on custom with the model of your choice with some custom presets available online.
You can drag and drop files from Windows to the emulator and vice-versa. It is a small but a useful feature.
For some odd reason, I could not find PUBG mobile on the Play Store. Only the competitors of the much-celebrated game were present.
What stands out
• Macro Recorder is helpful for developers, content creators
• You can lock the mouse to the emulator window. It is useful when playing video-games on the emulator so that your cursor/pointer does not fall out of the game’s scope.
• The full-screen mode is seamless. When I say seamless, it really is easy without any hiccup.
What can improve
• Computer resource usage for running the emulator can be optimized further.
Another Android Kitkat 4.4 based Android emulator for PC. Hands down the simplest Android emulator in the list.
Installation is fairly quick and bloatware free. There are no advanced features like the formerly mentioned emulators in the article.
You get Key Mapping feature to get around. The mouse 360-wheel mapping is something that is crucial while gaming. As soon as the emulator is installed, two virtual machines, named VM1 and VM2 are created. I honestly could not find a way to run more instances. However, two should suffice.
It is an easy going emulator for quick gaming and app testing/usage.
What I liked about it
• Ease of use. The emulator is easy to operate and does not require a tutorial. I asked my neighbor’s kid who has a Samsung Tab. He found it easy to operate.
• Low resource usage
What could have been better
• APK integration from Windows
• Full screen(non-window) feature would have given a better emulation experience.
It’s your turn now
I have listed some of the finest Android emulators for PC that are available out there. The right emulator for you will be solely based on your personal preference. It can be baffling for you to chose the best android emulator. I suggest you take it slow. Try the ones you find falling in your criterion.
Did I miss an emulator worth mentioning? Then let me know via the comment box
Gurupriyan is a Software Engineer and a technology enthusiast, he’s been working on the field for the last 6 years. Currently focusing on mobile app development and IoT.