A brief examination of the best Android emulators for Windows and macOS is useful for running the Google operating system and the various applications – with the possibility of installing them from the Play Store – directly from desktop and notebook systems.
The emulators Android allows you to run the operating system from Google, even on PCs using the same tools and the same applications that can use a mobile device.
Although many tend to always talk about Android emulators, there are still important differences between emulation and virtualization.
An emulator takes care of tracing another system’s operation, different from the one used on the machine, but exploiting the hardware and software configuration available. The emulator stands between the host system (for example, the machine on which Windows, Linux, or macOS is running) and the hosted system, rebuilding the environment necessary for the latter’s correct functioning.
On the other hand, virtualization solutions leverage a software component called a hypervisor that implements the isolation necessary to separate the host system from the physical hardware of the machine. The virtual machine (“guest” system) “sees” hardware generated “ad hoc” from the resources available on the host system (“host”).
Emulation leads to lower performance than full (native) virtualization due to the need to translate instructions from the host system format to the host system format.
Best Android emulators for Windows and macOS
The software that we propose below is completely free and allows you to install and run Android applications by downloading them directly from the Google Play Store or starting them from the corresponding APK file.
The virtualized environments can also be made to communicate with the host machine’s file system to recover the files stored there or to save elements produced by applications or by the Android operating system.
– Android Studio, an integrated development environment (IDE) that can create applications for the Google operating system, integrates a useful mechanism for setting up and managing a series of virtual devices based on the Android operating system.
Android Studio is the most complete and versatile solution to test the functioning of applications; even if to works well, it requires a good amount of RAM (we recommend more than 8 GB RAM) on the PC and does not adapt to the expectations of normal users.
For more information, see this page.
– BlueStacks is a platform that caters to gaming enthusiasts: it was developed to make the main titles with higher performance than those that could be obtained with top-of-the-range Android smartphones available on PC.
Although it was created for video game enthusiasts, BlueStacks can take advantage of a complete, versatile, and performing Android environment on PC even by those who use apps of more or less common use, with no connection with games.
The beauty of BlueStacks is that installed Android apps (normally downloadable from the Google Play Store) can appear with their icon on the Windows desktop and are bootable directly from there.
We talked about it in BlueStacks articles, what it is and how it works and stable, fast, and performing Android emulator: how to configure it on PC.
Although both Google and BlueStacks refer to their respective solutions as “emulators”, in both cases virtualization is used to the extent that users are invited to verify hardware support and activation (check at the BIOS / UEFI level) of the Intel VT-x and AMD-V technologies.
BlueStacks is available for Windows and macOS systems.
– Menu Play, like the previous ones, is a free Android emulator that, once started, presents a screen very similar to those of normal mobile devices.
As well as BlueStacks, Memu offers an interface entirely translated into Italian and supports the Google Play Store’s direct use. You can download and install any type of application.
Menu Play is currently only available for Windows systems.
– Nox App Player is a well done Android emulator from a technical point of view. Also, in this case, it was designed primarily for gamers (it supports the connection to the PC of a controller or a gamepad, to be used as an alternative to mouse and keyboard). Still, it can also be used to start any Android app that is used on smartphones. And the tablet.
Nox App Player is available in versions for Windows and macOS. It is also one of the most frequently updated solutions.
– Andy is one of the “historical” Android emulators that, as in the other cases, allow you to run the apps of the green robot in a window, downloading and installing them from the Google Play Store.
It is available in Windows and macOS versions, although the developers do not seem to have made any new improvements in some time.
Some users are concerned that, in some cases, it is not possible to trace the code added by the developers of each Android emulator. This is considered a security and data privacy concern.
For those wishing to move with the utmost caution, the advice is not to use a personal or business Google account with the various Android emulators but to create an “ad hoc” one for various tests.
The same consideration applies to operating systems derived from the Android AOSP release that do not use virtualization but can be started from a USB key from an external drive when the machine is booted or installed on hard disk / SSD.
Among the best are Prime OS, Bliss OS ( Android on PC with Bliss OS ).