The Best Alternatives to BlueStacks: BlueStacks has been one of the main players in the Android emulator scenarios for consumers. Android emulators let you run Android app on your PC by providing a complete virtual Android environment for the apps. Developers use Android emulators that are packaged with their development tools such as Android Studio, Visual Studio or Xamarin. However, these are quite difficult to set up as they come tons of developer-focused options.
For consumers who just need a solution that works out of the box, there is BlueStacks. BlueStacks has been one of the most popular Android emulators that existed even before Android gained a lot of traction. BlueStacks enabled people to play games on their PCs which were exclusive to Android only. Moreover, it also gave access to WhatsApp, Instagram and other mobile-only apps.
Moreover, the biggest feature of BlueStacks was that it came with Google Play Store installed right out of the box. This meant that it was much easier to get access to your apps right from the beginning. However, over time, BlueStacks became quite bloated. The free version is filled with advertising and you get a constant nagging to get yourself the ad-free version.
If you are annoyed by the present state of BlueStacks and you are looking for free alternatives, then here are a few that can help you out.
Before you proceed
Now, before you proceed with installing an Android emulator, here a few things that you need to know. An emulator is like a device inside a device. This means when you are running BlueStacks, or any other Android emulator, in that case, you are essentially creating a virtual machine in your computer that will use the real resources of your computer – like CPU, RAM and disk space.
For your CPU to be able to support virtualization, it needs “virtualization” support to be turned on. You can see if your CPU has virtualization support or not in the Task Manager on Windows 10. You can change the settings in BIOS to turn on or off virtualization. Please note that some apps on your PC may not work correctly if virtualization is enabled, however, the chances are quite slim.
Once you have enabled virtualization, your CPU is ready to handle the Android emulator. Now, with enough RAM and disk space, you can proceed with the installation. Most of these apps need around 2GB of RAM, but that will not be an issue on most modern computers.
So, here are the best Emulators
1. Remix OS Player
Remix OS is a fork if the Android x86 project. The Android x86 project aims at running Android on regular x86 Intel and AMD CPUs and not the ARM CPUs that are designed by Qualcomm or MediaTek. Remix OS was designed to be installed on older computers as a replacement for outdated versions of Windows or Linux. It would provide Android instead, which would consume similar resources as it did on a phone. It would be limited in functionality but would be a great way to revive old computers. This made Remix OS clean, minimal, functional and free from bloatware.
Remix OS Player brings the classic Remix OS, based on Android 6.0 on your Windows PC. Now, you do not have to use a complicated dual-boot setup to play that Android game. You can just launch Remix OS on your PC like you would launch any other app.
Remix OS comes with a different interface. It brings the elements and the layout of the Windows PC with a new design. It does not go for the traditional smartphone or tablet UI and instead opts for the Desktop grade UI. There is a taskbar, a fly out Start menu and desktop icons. These are UI elements that anyone using a Windows or Linux desktop OS is familiar with. On the taskbar, you will find Google Play Store pinned from where you can get all your apps. You can also map keyboard buttons in games and manage multiple games simultaneously.
What makes Remix OS Player so feature filled is that the underlying OS was built for desktop systems and not for mobile devices. You can download Remix OS to create your own virtual device using Hyper-V on Windows, or you can download the Remix OS Player and get started with accessing Android apps on your PC right away.
MEmu is a gaming-focused Android emulator on PC. If you want your Android Emulator to just play your games and be as light as possible, then get MEmu. One of the biggest advantages of MEmu is that it supports all AMD chipsets. Most of the emulators work well with Intel’s virtualization technology. However, not all emulators properly support AMD’s virtualization technology. MEmu is one of the new Android emulators that properly support all AMD processors.
Memu comes with Google Play installed. Setting up Memu is a breeze. You download the set, install it and run it. That’s all. Your Android emulator is up and running. You can search for your game (or app) on Google Play and you can start playing it.
It comes with a great feature that allows you to have multiple accounts for the same game, or you can use the same account for multiple games and play them simultaneously. For MMORPG games on Android, playing two games simultaneously is a big feature. You get mouse, keyboard and even gamepad features too. An operation record feature allows you to automate actions. It is like recording macros that will let you perform tasks without any user-interactions.
Memu is free of cost. Right now, it is known as Memu Play, according to the official website. The latest version comes with Android 7.1 too. You can download it free of cost from the official website.
3. Nox Player
Nox is a highly skinnable and gaming-focused Android emulator with little system requirements. What Nox Player boasts about on the official website is the performance and compatibility. If your computer hardware supports, Nox Player can use the hardware resources to give you a solid 60 fps gaming experience. You get buttery smooth frame rates. Moreover, Nox Player is updated quite frequently to support the newest games on the emulator.
Nox Player is also highly customizable. No matter what sort of PC you have, you can run Nox Player on it. You can precisely select the number of CPU cores, the amount of RAM that you want to allocate to Nox and the FPS it will run at. You can also use DirectX for rendering instead of OpenGL. It gives the option of two separate rendering modes.
Another great feature of Nox Player is the ability to drag-and-drop APK files onto the Nox Player window to install the APK file. It’s quite a neat feature, especially if you get your games from elsewhere and you want to play them on the emulator while being offline.
It also gets you keyboard mapping and script recording for automated actions. What’s interesting is that Nox Players offers a rooted version of Android right out of the box. So, you can customize it endlessly, or get rid of all the bloatware.
Nox Player also has a multi-player system that allows you to run multiple instances of Android at the same time.
AMIDuOS or DuOS by American Megatrends Inc. is an Android emulator made by the popular BIOS maker. DuOS need Virtualization enabled on your PC as well as as.Net Framework 4.0 or above installed. DuOS have been discontinued, but you can still download and use it.
DuOS run a pretty old version of Android. You get Android 5.1 Lollipop. However, the USP of the DuOS emulator is that it does not come with Google’s apps. So, if you want your Android distribution to have the minimal app, then get DuOS. You do get Amazon App Store instead. But then again, the Amazon App Store does not even come close to the sheer number of apps that is on the Google Play Store.
However, installing APKs is a breeze with DuOS. The installation is embedded in the context menu of Windows. So, if you simply right-click on an APK file in Windows, you will see the option to install it in DuOS.
Functionality wise, it is quite minimal. There is no excess functionality related to gaming. You do not get multiple instances. You do not even have keyboard mapping. However, DuOS does have decent hardware support right out of the box. IT can work with external GPS hardware as well as gamepads. It also has a separate “root mode” that allows you to switch root access on or off.
If you want, you can game on DuOS, but it is not meant for gaming. Moreover, DuOS is not free. You can get it for a 30-day free trial. After that, you need to purchase the $10 or the $15 version depending on the level of features you will require.
LeapDroid is quite a powerful Android emulator that was acquired by Google and then shut down. However, you can find the downloadable package floating around the internet. Even after it’s discontinuation, LeapDroid still is one of the best Android emulators out there.
It comes with an older version of Android. You get Android 4.4 KitKat, but that’s good enough to run most games, even from 2018. It comes with full Google Play support right out of the box, has OpenGL or DirectX rendering, supports keyboard mapping, gesture mapping and more.
LeapDroid would have been an impressive Android emulator and a fierce BlueStacks competitor, but it was shut down unexpectedly. Moreover, the company behind it is not supporting it either anymore. If you want, you can still give it a try.
Genymotion is not a proper BlueStacks alternative. It’s more of a tool for developers. But still, it is an Android emulator that is worth mentioning. Genymotion does not come with its own virtual machine. You need to have some other virtual machine where Genymotion will be installed.
The easiest to use, in this case, is VirtualBox. On Windows 10, you can also use Hyper-V if you are tech savvy. That way, you do not have to install any extra third-party software. However, Genymotion is known to work well with VirtualBox. Moreover, with Genymotion, you can install any Android version. You can install anything from Android 4.4 to Android 7.0 at the time of writing this article.
You can also manually set battery levels, GPS coordinates and more. It comes with tons of plugins for development tools too. Genymotion can be particularly useful for app developers as well as modders who do not want a full Android development suite on their PC.
Another emulator that relies on VirtualBox is the Droid4X emulator. It allows you to run games using joysticks. It supports GPS simulation, full-screen mode, screencasting and remote control too. However, it is still in the beta phase,
Another gaming focused, and not so popular Android emulator is KoPlayer. KoPlayer, according to the claims of its official website, is an Android emulator that is built for x86 processors, comes with Intel VT-x as well as AMD-V support. It can also support graphics cards with OpenGL and DirectX support. It comes with Google Play Store from where you can download and install apps.
KoPlayer also comes with its own app distribution platform from where you can directly download APK files.
9. Andy OS
Andy OS is a feature-filled Bluestacks alternative but has the same drawbacks as that of Bluestacks. While Andy OS is free, it still comes with bloatware. Andy OS comes with a lot of adware that you want to avoid. However, if you just want to use it for running a single app every once in a while, then you should be fine with it. Still, Andy OS should not be the first choice for anyone trying to use an Android emulator.
There are tons of BlueStacks alternatives out there, but only a very few can actually cover all the bases. Remix OS is truly a complete solution, followed by Memu Player. However, the rest cater only to a certain niche.