Have you ever wanted to run Android applications on your Windows laptop? If so, you may think that it’s impossible. But that’s simply not the case. There are several different Android emulators out there that will allow you to install and run Android apps right on your laptop running Windows.
Today, let’s first take a look at how this works and what types of laptops it works best on and then we will look at five of the best Android emulators for Windows that you can install and start using today.
How It Works
An Android emulator is essentially a piece of software that emulates the hardware that is needed to run Google’s Android operating system. In many ways, it is much like a virtual machine that you use to run an operating system on top of an operating system.
The main difference is that these emulators are designed specifically with Android in mind. Because of this, you often get performance boosts and added features to help improve the overall experience compared to installing Android in a traditional virtual machine.
Make no mistake, the experience won’t be the same as using Android on a smartphone or tablet, but it is still darn good, and it’s the easiest way to gain access to the world of the Google Play store right on your laptop running Windows.
What Laptops Work Best
The first thing you need to know is that you can run these emulators on pretty much any laptop running Windows. Some of these emulators will also install on Mac, but most of the emulator creators have set these up to be Windows compatible and don’t support macOS. Sorry Apple users.
However, while the emulators will run on most computers, some machines will work better than others. Because the emulators are running on top of Windows, the more power you have the better experience you will have when running Android. Android is very efficient, but if your hardware is on the slower side you will notice performance issues when using the emulator both inside and outside the emulator.
Another great feature to have is a touchscreen. Remember, Android is based on a touch interface. The emulators do provide mouse support and even Android supports mice and trackpads, but for the best user experience you will want to use your fingers. This is especially true when you want to use multi-touch features such as pinching for zooming.
Now my personal favorites when using the emulators are the convertible laptops. These can easily be transformed into large tablets that are perfect for use with Android.
Five Best Android Emulators
Now that you understand how it works and which machines work best, it’s time for the fun part. Let’s take a look at some of the best Android emulators available so you can start running Android on your Windows PC today.
I decided to start with my current favorite emulator. Why do I like this one so much? Because it just works. It is very easy to install and you can even setup multiple instances for testing purposes, which is great if you are designing an app for Android. Overall it is a very lean system designed for both gaming and productivity, making it one of the best all around emulators out there. That is what I was looking for in an emulator, which is why I ultimately chose this one as my Android emulator of choice. It only runs Android Lollipop 5.1.1, which is a bit dated, but it is regularly updated and pretty rock solid. Sure there are the occasional bugs, but that’s just part of emulation. Overall, it is stable, easy to setup, and provides a traditional Android interface right on your Windows desktop.
Price: Free/$2 a month
For quite a long time, Bluestacks was the go to emulator out there. In fact, for a while, it was tough to find anyone else making high quality emulators other than Bluestacks. While things have changed, Bluestacks is still a leader in the pack. It is designed primarily for gamers and the developers take the time to test various Android games on the platform before certifying that a game will work on the system. There is much more to it than games, however, but you will find a little bloatware along the way. You can reduce this if you pay them $2 a month, but it’s still decent even if you opt for the free version. It’s compatible with both AMD and Intel and runs great on Windows. It’s also Mac compatible, which is a nice feature as well.
Another one of my personal favorites, this one is relatively new in the world of Android emulation. It’s also one of the only ones to run Android Marshmallow instead of an older version of Android. It’s easy to setup and install and built for gaming, so expect to see other handy features designed for mobile gamers built right into the platform. Personally, this is one of the best looking emulators out there, in my opinion. The only downside is it doesn’t support AMD processors. That means you have to have an Intel-based system to use it. Still, with all the extras and the customization features, it is definitely one of the best out there and worth it as long as you use a system supported by an Intel processor.
Ko Player is another emulator that has managed to fly under the radar. Still, it is well worth a mention here on this list. With support for both PC and Mac, most every user can access this emulator to run Android on their laptops. It’s another emulator designed with gamers in mind, and includes several features such as key mapping to create a controller with your keyboard. The install process is easy to do and it is pretty stable, although some have found the occasional stability issue with this emulator. Of course, this is emulation, so some of that is to be expected. If you are a Mac user, this one is definitely worth a closer look as it makes a great alternative to Bluestacks.
Price: Free with paid options
Genymotion is a little different from the other emulators on this list. The others are designed for a nice user experience and almost a replacement of an Android tablet. Genymotion, on the other hand, was designed with developers in mind. You can run different instances of Android based on different devices. This allows you to test your app on a variety of platforms to ensure compatibility. It’s really not designed to be used as an Android replacement where you game and do things such as check your email, but it can be done. You can pick your device of choice and off you go. Still, remember this one is primarily created to help developers test their apps, so your experiences may vary if you try to use this as a tablet replacement on your laptop.
Personally, I love running Android on my laptop. Now I do have a touchscreen and the ability to convert my laptop into a tablet. That makes things much easier. However, even if you don’t have this ability, you can still do it.
While it is hard to replace the true touchscreen experience you will get from using an Android smartphone or an Android tablet, if you want the ability to run Android apps on your PC, using an emulator is certainly the easiest way to do it. Google is working on Android support in Chrome OS and its browser, but it’s still not quite there yet. In the meantime, using an emulator is the best way to do it.
Have you tried any of these emulators that I have mentioned? If so, tell me about your experience in the comments below.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.