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The Use & Benefits of Android Emulators and the 17 Best Android Emulators in the Market in 2021

Updated: July 11, 2021 July 11, 2021 By Rakesh Naik

Title Image on Use of Android Emulators and the 17 Best Android Emulators of 2021

Do you have a low spec android phone but want to play the latest high-end android games with your friends? Are you an android developer who wants to develop and test apps without having to purchase a new android device? You've come to the right place!

In our article about Android emulators, we will discuss all the benefits and drawbacks of using an emulator, their viability in 2021, as well as look at some of the best android emulators available in the market, such as Bluestacks, MeMU, NOX player, LD Player etc. just to name a few.

 


Android Emulator

Platform Supported

Price

Rating (Out of 10)

Bluestacks

Windows & Mac

Free/$2 per month

10

LDPlayer

Windows

Free

10

Droid4X

Windows & Mac

Free

8

Nox Player

Windows & Mac

Free

9

Genymotion

Windows, Mac & Linux

Free with paid services

9

MeMU Play

Windows

Free

8

GameLoop

Windows

Free

7

AndYroid

Windows & Mac

Free

5

KO Player

Windows & Mac

Free

6

Android Studio Emulator

Windows, Mac, Linux & Chrome

Free

8

Prime OS

Standalone

Free

9

Remix OS

PC

Free

8

ARChon Emulator

Chrome

Free

5

Bliss Emulator

Standalone

Free/Accepts Donations

10

AMIDuOS Emulator

Windows

Free

5

Phoenix OS

Windows & Mac

Free

7

ARC Welder

Windows & Chrome

Free

8


What is an Android Emulator?

An android emulator is, like the name suggests, software that can emulate an Android device on a platform that isn't a mobile phone. They can mimic Android software and hardware to provide an environment for a multitude of uses.

Most commonly, an android emulator, such as LD Player or MeMU, can be used by gamers to run games that either might not be compatible or isn't user-friendly enough on their mobile device. The android emulator usually allows gamers who might not be able to afford high spec, expensive android devices to play mobile games that require high resources.

User Interface of the LDPlayer Android Emulator

Image Source – androidauthority.com

But gaming is only a part of their application; an android emulator can also be used for developing and testing android applications by developers. While this is a more niche application compared to gaming, it is also quite important one. Multiple android emulators are released specifically for this purpose.

The third application from a Cyber Sec and Forensics viewpoint also exists for android emulators. An android emulator can be effectively used for the analysis of malware designed to infect Android devices without sacrificing any costs incurred.

An android emulator can be basically be used as a sandbox for testing malicious applications in a safe environment without the malware spreading to other devices through a data or Wi-Fi connection.


Benefits and Drawbacks of Using an Android Emulator

Advantages

Disadvantages

All Android emulators, free-to-use or paid, come with a general set of advantages, as well as disadvantages to users. While the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages, the latter is not to be taken lightly or ignored.

Table Listing Advantages and Disadvantages of Android Emulators


ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

Better display and user posture

Lower speed and performance compared to hardware device

Run high resource-consuming applications with no additional costs

Non-reliable software for important applications

Extended battery charge

Poor memory management

More convenient controls

 

Advantages

  1. Bigger display and better user posture. The most important advantage of an android emulator is its large display and improved user posture. While staring at a small screen with your head tilted down isn’t very difficult, it will have long term effects on your eyes, neck and back. With an android emulator, you use a PC sitting straight looking at a big screen, which is quite forgiving on your body.
  2. Run demanding applications without limits of Android device. Another advantage is that an android emulator allows users who don't possess a high-end android device to use applications that demand the high-end device spec. This means that every gamer can play that high spec game, and every developer can test his applications without spending a lot of money on high-end devices.
  3. Don't fall victim to a low battery charge. An android emulator also allows you to reserve your mobile battery since most applications would be run on the emulator instead. This means your mobile has a healthy charge on it when you need to head out somewhere.
  4. Use all comfort of desktop controls. Finally, android emulators allow a user to use an app with controls that are more convenient than a tiny mobile screen. Most android emulators support peripheral input devices such as keyboards, mice and even game controllers that make a user's life more convenient.

Disadvantages

As mentioned before, the disadvantages of an android emulator are not comparable to their advantages. Even so, we can’t ignore these since they are important while using an android emulator.

  1. Lower performance on x86 and x64 platforms in comparison with original ARM. The most common disadvantage of an android emulator is the comparatively low speed and performance when compared to the real device. This mostly occurs due to the lack of dedicated software optimisation and hardware that is present on a real android device.
  2. The lack of reliable android emulators. While the market is full of different android emulators, not all of them can deliver consistent performance without crashing or lagging. Some might even be masqueraded malware intended to harm users.
  3. Disk management for android emulators is quite lacking. While they may not always take up a huge space on the PC hard disk, the management of the occupied memory is poor due to a mismatch in hardware architectures. This may lead to faults while using the emulators and even crashes every now and again.

The 17 Best Android Emulators in the Market

Bluestacks

LDPlayer

Droid4X

NoxPlayer

Genymotion

MEMU

GameLoop

AndYroid

KO Player

Android Studio Emulator

Prime OS

Remix OS

ARChon Emulator

Bliss Emulator

AMIDuOS Emulator

Phoenix OS

ARC Welder

In this section, we shall be exploring the 17 best android emulators available in the market for Windows and Mac OS. We will discuss a few of their main features and functionalities as well. The below list contains both paid and free android emulator software along with the supported platforms.

A user has to always be careful while selecting an android emulator to use since there are quite a lot of malicious tools in the market. These might be adware, spyware or just general malware that may cause inconvenience or harm to the user.

The android emulators discussed below are some of the bests in the market and are proven to output high performance to improve user experience and productivity.

1. Bluestacks

Bluestacks Beta Version Poster

Image Source – androidauthority.com

Bluestacks is at the top of this list for a reason. It is hands-down, the best Android emulator available in the market and is also absolutely free to use. Every android user has at least once in their life installed the Bluestacks emulator on their PC for some reason or the other.

It is appreciated by a lot of mobile gamers who can't afford a high spec gaming phone or need to do android app testing in a more convenient environment. The emulator, by default, has Google Play Store available, and a user can download all apps available.

Some of its features include:

  1. Streamlined and user-friendly design
  2. Support for optimised gaming
  3. Offers a custom keyboard mapping facility
  4. Easy to install and begin using
  5. Allows screen recording
  6. Runs on Android Nougat 7.1
  7. Price – Free and Premium version available ($24)
  8. Operating systems supported – Windows and Mac OS

2. LDPlayer

LDPlayer Ad Poster

Image Source – ldplayer.net

The most popular android emulator designed for video games. This emulator was designed with mobile gaming as a core feature. The emulator runs the Android Nougat 7.1 version and usually gets updates every couple of months or so.

It offers support for almost 2 million mobile games and comes pre-installed with Google Play Store as well as LD Store. Features of the LDPlayer include:

  1. Download games from Google Play Store or LD Store with almost 2 million choices to pick from
  2. Automatic gaming management with optimisation to adapt games to PC
  3. Keyboard and mouse support available to use as game controls
  4. Custom keyboard maps are supported
  5. Multitasking for games is supported
  6. Price – Free
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows

While some of the features offered by the LDPlayer are available with a few other similar emulators, what makes it stand out is the game optimisation for PC. This allows high frame rate and graphics-intensive games to run smoothly with no lag or frame drops.

3. Droid4X

User Interface of the Droid4X

Image Source – technogone.com

Droid4X is an android emulator that thrives even on low spec PCs. It is built in such a way that it can output top tier efficiency even when the available PC hardware might not be the best in the market.

It comes with Google Play Store support and can run most of the applications available on the Play Store. Furthermore, it also is optimised for touch screen support while running on a PC making the user experience as smooth as possible.

An interesting feature allowed by this emulator is a buddy app that comes with it which can be installed on your android phone. The android phone can then be used as a controller for the games being played on the Droid4X emulator on the PC.

A few of its features are as listed below:

  1. Improves user experience with touch screen support
  2. Can run smoothly even on PCs matching only the minimum requirements
  3. Supports additional keyboard and mouse for gaming
  4. Buddy app to turn android phone into a controller
  5. Price – Free
  6. Operating systems supported – Windows

4. NoxPlayer

User Interface of the NoxPlayer

Image Source – androidguys.com

A very stable android emulator that is optimised for both games as well as standard applications. It has a large fanbase for its gaming performance, with it being able to support even games that require large resources, such as PUBG or Genshin Impact.

It has an open keyboard mapping running with a single click and the support to map smart android gestures to a keyboard. It also supports the use of a mouse, as well as game controllers. It also runs Android 7 Nougat and allows multiple games to be run at the same time.

One of the most interesting features is the support for macros. The emulator allows a user to record a macro and bind it to certain keystrokes allowing quick execution of any scripts. Some of the features available on the NoxPlayer are:

  1. Supports additional input methods such as keyboard, mouse, gamepads etc
  2. Supports macro recording and scripts by default without third party apps
  3. Optimised for improved user experience and smooth use
  4. Multiple apps can run simultaneously
  5. High requirement games supported without any lag or frame drop
  6. Price – Free
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows & Mac OS

5. Genymotion

User Interface of the Genymotion showing the Boot screen

Image Source – “Windows 10 Fix” YouTube Channel

Unlike some of the other android emulators on this list, Genymotion is developed for the android app developer market. Mostly used for testing android apps by developers in a safe environment, Genymotion supports virtualisation as well.

It can run more than 3000 device configurations, each acting as an independent android device and with different specifications. It also has powerful sensors such as GPS, multi-touch, Gyro, etc.

Genymotion supports HD pixel compatibility, which means the picture will be of very good quality with high clarity on the screen. It also has the support to use the PC webcam as an input source to record videos.

Some of its features are:

  1. Developer friendly and allows in-depth app testing
  2. Capable of sharing live demo and monitoring performance on multiple devices
  3. Supports virtualisation with over 3000 different device configurations
  4. Powerful sensors that can be used during testing
  5. PC Webcam can be used as a video source
  6. HD pixel compatibility for better clarity images
  7. Price – $136 to $412 per year
  8. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Linux

6. MeMU Play

User Interface of MeMU Emulator with Home-screen Icons

Image Source – getintopc.com

Focused on gaming, the MeMU player is a relatively new Android emulator for PC that only released in 2015. Even though being new, it can still output speeds and efficiency to match emulators like Bluestacks or LDPlayer.

A feature that stands out in the MeMU player is the support for both Nvidia as well as AMD graphics chips as well as the superior rendering effects. This basically allows a better display of images on larger screens.

Another functionality supported by the MeMU android emulator is the ability to host multiple virtual devices allowing the user to simulate multiple android devices as well. Some of the features of the MeMU Play emulator are:

  1. Support for keyboard, mouse and game controllers with customisable key mappings
  2. Supports Android Jellybean up to Android Lollipop
  3. Improved rendering of 3D effects
  4. Can be customised for business use
  5. Supports virtualisation
  6. Price – Free and Business version available
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows

7. GameLoop

User Interface of GameLoop showing Available Games

Image Source – tencentgameassistant.en.uptodown.com

Popular among fans as an amazing gaming platform, GameLoop was originally released as the Tencent Gaming Buddy to run PUBG on PC. It was mainly intended to work only with PUBG so that even users with a low spec android phone could play the games using this emulator.

It has since expanded the games supported after rebranding to the name ‘GameLoop’. It supports a bunch of other Tencent games and many of the popular game titles such as Call of Duty, Fortnite, Free Fire, and many more.

Like most other emulators, this too supports an additional keyboard, mouse or game controller addon. The emulator requires no user account to be created and can be used for gaming right after install.

Some of the features include:

  1. Supports a wide range of popular mobile titles
  2. Can work seamlessly even in a low spec environment
  3. Customisable game overlay controls
  4. No registration required
  5. Price – Free
  6. Operating systems supported – Windows & Mac OS

8. AndYroid

User Interface of Andy Emulator with Home-screen icons

Image Source – apkpure.com

Andy emulator, or AndYroid, is an android emulator that allows users to play any android game with zero hassle. It also offers users a huge storage capacity allowing quite a lot of games to be downloaded by users.

Andy also allows users to install the app on their phone, turning it into a joystick to be used with the game on the emulator. This allows users to play any game like they would on the phone without missing out on any of the touch elements of the game.

Another interesting benefit of the emulator is that it regularly releases updates to keep the emulator up to date with all the latest Android features. It also allows users to directly download games in the browser and then import them to the Andy OS.

Some of the main features of AndYroid are:

  1. Support for many popular gaming titles
  2. Mobile to joystick support
  3. Allows direct download of games using a PC browser
  4. Offers a large storage capacity
  5. Latest android features kept up to date
  6. Price – Free and Paid Developer version available
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows & Mac OS

9. KO Player

User Interface of KO Player with Home-screen apps

Image Source – filecroco.com

KO Player allows good quality android experience to the user with a lag-free gaming experience. It is an easy-to-use and user-friendly emulator that allows a default screen recording functionality. It also supports the addition of extra input devices such as keyboard, mouse, game controllers, microphones etc.

One of the attractive features offered by the KO Player is that it allows users to save their favourite gameplay and share it with their friends. It also supports quick and simple installation of games and apps.

Another feature on the user interface of the emulator is the presence of a quick access toolbar with options for screen recording, volume adjustment, screen resolution etc. One drawback of the app, it is reported to freeze once in a while.

Some of the features of the app include:

  1. Built-in video recording feature
  2. Drag and drop install for apps and games supported
  3. Support for additional input devices
  4. Gameplay record and share feature available
  5. Quick access toolbar for important functions
  6. Price – Free
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows & Mac OS

10. Android Studio Emulator

The Android Studio Emulator Development Environment with Code

Image Source – developer.android.com

The Android Studio Emulator is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) officially released by Google for the Android OS. It has an in-built emulator that can run an android OS on a PC. It also comes with a myriad of plugins and functionalities aimed at making a developer’s life more convenient.

It has a good GUI and can run high-end games while consuming low memory of the system. Being a Google product, reliability is also more than great for the Android Studio Emulator.

The Android Studio Emulator comes built-in with various tools that can be used by developers during different stages of app development. It also runs stock or vanilla android allowing the development of apps that run on any environment.

Some of the features of the emulator are:

  1. Customisable themes and launchers
  2. Multiple applications can be run simultaneously
  3. Reputation of the Google Brand
  4. Plugins and addons for developer support
  5. Stock android with google play store pre-installed
  6. Price – Free
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows & Mac OS

11. Prime OS

User Interface of Prime OS Displaying App Tray

Image Source – primeos.en.softonic.com

Prime OS is a high-performance output emulator which can work as a standalone OS, quite like Windows or Mac OS. It also supports peripheral devices such as keyboard, mouse and more, giving the user a PC like experience.

Rather than just gaming or testing, the Prime OS was mainly designed to be used as an operating system itself based on Android. It also supports most apps and games available in the Google Play Store.

The emulator combines the android environment with a PC like look and feel, giving users the best of both worlds. It also supports dual-boot with the Prime OS installer with a custom DecaPro app to manage keyboard mapping.

Some of the key features of Prime OS include:

  1. Works as a typical OS such as Windows, Mac OS etc
  2. Support for dual-booted Prime OS
  3. Deca Pro app allows custom key-bindings
  4. Can work as a standalone OS
  5. Android x86 based with support for all android apps
  6. Price – Free
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Standalone

12. Remix OS

User Interface of Remix OS with Home-screen App tray

Image Source – linux.com

Again, Remix OS is an emulator that functions like a standalone operating system giving the user a Windows like user experience. Although not as good as the Prime OS, Remix does manage to capture the essence of an android system and combine it into a Windows like environment to provide a good user experience.

The emulator also supports additional input devices like a keyboard and mouse. It even has the functionality of right clicks, cut-copy-paste, and many more features usually seen in Windows devices.

It can also run smoothly on low spec PCs, giving older computers a fresh look and feel. Some of the features of Remix OS are listed below:

  1. Can run as a standalone OS
  2. Easy to install and user friendly
  3. Supports a lot of key Windows features
  4. Supports multitasking
  5. Runs on Android Marshmallow 6.0.1
  6. Provides a fresh look to old Windows PCs
  7. Price – Free
  8. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Standalone

13. ARChon Emulator

User Interface of ARChon with Welcome Screen

Image Source – androidauthority.com

Known for being lightweight and flexible, ARChon emulator is one of the first android emulators capable of running on Chrome as an addon app. Being a product of Google, the emulator is highly reliable and secure and can run in almost all environments.

It was basically started to be able to run a few android apps that Google released on the Chrome Web Browser. It was picked up and improved by a developer on GitHub to be able to run all android apps.

While it technically is an android emulator, it simply can't do any high-performance gaming due to its addon like nature. It is more suited to run little apps that improve web browsing and increase productivity.

Some of its features are listed below:

  1. Compatible with all operating systems
  2. Lightweight and doesn't take up a lot of processing power
  3. Integrated into the Chrome browser
  4. Can run Android apps to improve the web browsing experience
  5. Price – Free
  6. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Linux

14. Bliss OS Emulator

Home-screen of the Bliss OS

Image Source – malavida.com

Bliss OS Emulator is another android system-based operating system that doesn’t necessarily require a Windows or Mac OS base. It can be installed as an independent OS like the aforementioned.

It gives the user a feel of using a proper PC rather than using a blown-up version of your mobile phone. It also supports most games and apps available on Google Play Store, which comes pre-installed.

It has quite a lot of customisations available, along with peripheral devices and touch support. It is also highly secure, with a few security options being customisable. A few of the Bliss OS features include:

  1. Open Source and Ad-free
  2. Combines a PC like feel with an android base
  3. Great performance output and easy to use
  4. Highly secure
  5. Offers a lot of user customisation
  6. Updates released regularly
  7. Runs Android 9 Pie
  8. Price – Free
  9. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Linux

15. AMIDuOS Emulator

Home-screen of the AMIDuOS Emulator with App icons

Image Source – androidcommunity.com

AMIDuOS is a basic Android emulator after all the android OS emulators we’ve been looking at. Put simply, AMIDuOS allows a user to run android applications and games on their PC smoothly with minimal lag.

The emulator allows sensor support for best results while gaming and also custom keyboard mapping. It also has support for game controllers and supports almost all applications available on the Google Play Store.

One outstanding feature it supports is the ability for root mode, meaning that it can install apps that aren't usually supported by Android. The root mode doesn't need the user to spend hours using rooting software. The root mode is just a toggle switch in the advanced settings in the emulator.

Some of the main features of the AMIDuOS emulator are:

  1. Quick setup for applications
  2. Doesn’t slow down PC
  3. Compatible with latest Windows versions
  4. Hassle-free root mode supported
  5. Sensors supported
  6. Support for peripheral input devices
  7. Price – Lifetime license for $10
  8. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Linux

16. Phoenix OS

Home-screen of the Phoenix OS Displaying the Notification Center

Image Source – filehorse.com

Offering a simple user interface, the Phoenix OS running on x86 Android does a good job at integrating the Android OS to a desktop PC environment. It runs on Android 7.1 Nougat and supports a wide variety of games available on the Google Play Store smoothly, with minimum lag.

Although it isn't suited for games that demand high graphics or RAM resources, it can run small and low spec games with almost no issues.

It also has multitasking support, allowing a user to run multiple games and applications simultaneously. Most importantly, it releases regular updates keeping all features up-to-date and eliminates any bugs.

Some of the Phoenix OS features are:

  1. Fast performance due to Android 7.1 Nougat
  2. Supports 30 fps videos and games even on low spec PCs
  3. Attractive user interface and is easy to use
  4. Runs most games smoothly with no lag or drop in framerate
  5. Regular updates to patch bugs and keep software up-to-date
  6. Price – Free
  7. Operating systems supported – Windows, & Web Browser

17. ARC Welder

Angry Birds Gameplay on the ARC Welder Emulator

Image Source – “PcMobiTech” YouTube Channel

Another Google Chrome based android emulator, the Arc Welder, was released by Google to run android apps on the Chrome browser. The Arc Welder emulator is usually used by app developers to test their apps within the Chrome environment to test for any runtime errors or bugs.

The ability to run on Chrome means that the developer doesn’t necessarily need a high spec PC or emulator to test their apps. The emulator was initially released only for developers as an experimental project, but after its success was made available to everyone.

However, due to being a bare-bones emulator, it runs only with apk files, meaning that a user will have to download an apk file of the required app and then install it on the ARC welder emulator. A few of the ARC Welder functionalities are listed below:

  1. Integrated with Google Chrome
  2. Consumes minimum system resources
  3. Allows streamlined testing process for Android applications
  4. Being a Google product, it evolves quickly and is highly reliable
  5. Price – Free
  6. Operating systems supported – Windows, Mac OS, & Linux

Are Android Emulators Still Useful?

This is a very interesting question in the year 2021. If you compare an android device that released in 2021 to one that released even 5 years back, there will be a huge gap in the technology and costs involved.

Technology used in smartphones has been revolutionised by a few brands such as Xiaomi, Samsung, Huawei etc., making it possible to release cheaper devices with better specifications when compared to devices in earlier years.

Poster Displaying Multiple Latest Xiaomi Mobiles

Image Source – tzperspective.com

A budget-friendly smartphone in 2015 maybe had a 5-inch LCD touchscreen, running on a 1.3 GHz chip with 2 GB RAM and under 15MP camera. Conversely, a budget-friendly smartphone in 2021 comes with almost a 6.5-inch AMOLED screen, running on a 2.3 GHz chip with 6 GB RAM and a 48MP camera.

The improvement of technology means that a phone in 2021 is capable of better performance than a phone in 2015. It should also be able to run apps smoother than its predecessor without any lags or crashes.

This would technically also mean that users wouldn't need to spend as much money on devices to play their favourite games, thereby not requiring the use of any android emulators. All above details would hold true for the most part, but one key factor is being overlooked here.

With the improvement and availability of cheaper technology, android applications are also improving their interfaces and source code to run on higher specifications. While an app that released in 2015 would run smoothly on 2GB RAM, an app in 2021 would demand 4GB of RAM. This reflects other resource requirements as well.

PUBG Gameplay Showing Player Shooting a Gun

Image Source – bindawdionline.wordpress.com

All of this leads to the same requirement of android emulators by users who can't afford or don't want to spend money on high-end smartphones. Although the demand for android emulators would be lower when compared to previous years, it still is a high demand market.

Android app developers are not to be forgotten while discussing the usefulness of android emulators. No matter how cheap smartphones become or how many features they provide, an android developer will always need an android emulator.

Android app development is done on emulators, not because of the cost of android devices but simply due to the convenience of emulators. It is always easier to deploy and test an android app on an emulator since a developer need not manage a PC as well as a mobile phone for app development.

Also, an android emulator can be customised to mimic any android environment with software and hardware requirements meeting the needs of the developer. This allows a developer to test their app in a diverse range of android environments that have varying resource availabilities.


Conclusion

In the above article, we first discussed what an android emulator is, along with its advantages and disadvantages. We then went on to look at the 17 best android emulators available in the market and finally discussed the viability of android emulator software in 2021.

If you liked our article or if we missed out on your favourite android emulator, leave a comment below and let us know!

Tags: 
Technology
Author
Rakesh Naik
Freelance Cyber Security Analyst and Writer practicing in Infosec Assessment.

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