When you think about why you would want to emulate Android on Windows, there are a lot of reasons behind that. First things first, we must appreciate just how flexible Android OS is when it comes to be being emulated. Also, it is a great way of giving you a platform to test your apps before releasing. Many developers who do not have access to a separate Android phone to test their apps on can use these emulators to test them out
Needless to say, these emulators are not something that is new in the market; they have been here since the days of HTC Desire or the original Galaxy S, and they are only going further and further as far as the development is concerned.
The good thing is that there is a level of consistency shown in these emulators and over time, we have only seen these emulators getting better and better with time. That being said, this roundup talks about the best Android emulators available for Windows in 2020.
Therefore, let’s not waste time and have a look.
BigNox (AKA Nox App Player) is a great Android player with a few nice features. It is primarily intended for gamers, but has great customization as well. Unlike BlueStacks which requires a premium subscription for changing the background wallpaper, and third-party modding tools for custom launchers, BigNox allows you to do both right out of the box. In fact, BigNox is pretty much exactly like an Android phone (or tablet) right on your screen.
BigNox is regularly updated, and it can run Android Nougat 7.1.2. You can also sideload APKs instead of downloading apps directly from Google Play. It’s really quite a useful little Android emulator – it may not be as feature-rich as BlueStacks or Andy, but for certain things, it might get the job done even better. However, like BlueStacks, the free version of Nox will sometimes install “sponsored” apps, without your permission.
BlueStacks is perhaps the oldest Android emulator. While many other Android emulators have come out in recent years, BlueStacks remains one of the most popularly used. It is mainly designed to provide the best Android gaming experience on your computer, but it supports other apps as well.
BlueStacks has free and enterprise versions. The free version allows unlimited access, but it is supported by ads. It will also download “supported apps”, which means games you don’t necessarily want will automatically begin downloading within the emulator. You can remove the ads and automatic app downloads for $2 per month subscription.
The enterprise version is aimed towards app developers, as it offers numerous features that are useful for testing apps in a native Android environment. Pricing for the enterprise version is based on a few different criteria, so your monthly bill depends on how you’ll be using BlueStacks enterprise.
Andy is another one of the best-known Android emulators, being an often-cited competitor for BlueStacks. In fact, BlueStacks and Andy were both developed around the same time. However, while BlueStacks focuses on a “setup and go” procedure, focused mainly on the Android gaming emulation, Andy is a bit more “tinkerer” friendly. However, BlueStacks and Andy are both pretty much tied, performance-wise.
The main difference boils down to the differences in premium subscriptions. Like BlueStacks, Andy offers both free and enterprise versions. However, Andy’s enterprise version is a bit simpler to sign up for. BlueStacks requests a lot of information and company details for its licensing, while Andy just wants your payment info.
Genymotion is not an Android emulator with gamers in mind. It is primarily targeted at developers. It supports the Android SDK, Android Studio, and has support for macOS and Linux. Because it is developer-oriented, it has a lot of features for testing apps – such as disk IO throttling, a GPS widget for testing location-based apps, an accelerometer and multitouch event testing, and a lot more.
It’s really the perfect emulator for app developers, as it allows you to test your app in a wide variety of potential situations. Pricing, however, gets a bit steep when you start looking at the tiered plans. A Genymotion desktop license starts at $136/year for indie developers, $412/year (per user) for businesses. They also offer an enterprise license, as well as Genymotion Cloud (Platform-as-a-Service or Software-as-a-Service versions available).
5. Phoenix OS
As a full Android-based desktop OS, Phoenix OS is a great choice for people who want a total Android experience on their PC. It is currently based on Android Nougat, and can either be installed to your machine as an OS (with dual-booting available), or it can run off a USB drive. Note: Phoenix OS is only available for x86 platforms.
Phoenix OS has a desktop-style launcher, with a Start menu style app dock. The file manager is also a lot like a regular desktop OS. Being an in-development project, Phoenix OS does have quite a handful of drawbacks. There is no native ethernet support, because Android does not natively support ethernet. There are also a handful of bugs to be found. Overall though, Phoenix OS is worth a try, if you’d like a complete Android for desktop PC experience.
MEmu has been around since 2015, which makes it a bit younger than other, more well-known emulators. But it’s still a speedy little emulator that is great for gaming, with comparable performance to BlueStacks and Nox. It has support for Android Nougat, and also supports both AMD and Nvidia chipsets.
Memu does have some issues – we said it has comparable performance to Bluestacks and Nox, but in some cases, it’s handily beaten by those superior emulators. On the bright side, Memu is completely free – though it is supported by ads.
7. Android SDK
Hands down the best Android emulator is the official Android SDK’s emulator itself. However, because the Android SDK is primarily for developers, it is not a simple process to install and get running flawlessly out of the box. There are a lot of steps involved to getting an optimum gaming experience using the Android SDK emulator, but it’s certainly worth it.
Intel users will want to install HAXM, while AMD users will want to install Hyper-V. It’s highly recommended to read a good setup guide and learn your way around the Android SDK, but once you do, you probably won’t consider any third-party emulators. It is completely free, has zero ads, and generally offers the best performance. It’s just not easy to install, which is why other emulators offering one-click installations have become popular.