Given the ever-greater functional rapprochement between smartphone and desktop operating systems, many users are increasingly looking for ways to refine these links by bringing their smartphone apps to their desktop computers. What used to be the exclusive territory of the Android SDK or at most of the pioneering BlueStacks has bloomed into the proliferation of BlueStacks-like tools that let you run Android apps on PC by adapting the controls to keyboard and mouse and offering an enormous level of compatibility and performance.

BlueStacks

Let’s start with the most veteran of the programs, although over time it’s differentiated itself from the other tools in favor of a more sober experience. Its compatibility list is quite limited and only shines for certain games. Likewise, its interface is quite ruined by its attempt to make the smartphone navigation as intuitive as possible, with Google Play Services integrated into the emulator and prompts to sync your real account with the virtual machine. [Download]

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Nox

A recent arrival that’s managed to make a dent thanks to offering what the people want: simplicity, speed, and compatibility. We obviously can’t ask for the moon here, but even with just a year of development they’ve managed to bring out an emulator that can handle most of the latest lot of apps despite having a system based on Android Kit-Kat. In fact, the interface offers no external submenus and most of the browsing is done from the emulated Android menus. If you’re looking for a basic way to play Clash of Clans on PC and not much more, this is the best option. [Nox]

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Andy

Andy takes the sobriety of BlueStacks, gets rid of some complications, and enormously increases the compatibility list of the games. Andy is halfway between the two previous emulators, and is equally consistent when it comes both gaming or using communication apps on your desktop. Still, its intentions become clear when you see some of its features such as the option to use a physical smartphone as a control pad. [Andy]

Genymotion

Some emulators offer extra features that go beyond amateur use. Genymotion, in its free version, is a more than competent Android emulator that has little to envy the others. But it’s in its Premium mode that it gets really interesting, offering a full integration between IDEs and Android Studio or the increasingly reviled Eclipse. The expansive documentation on its official webpage aims to supplant the Android SDK’s own emulator as a testing tool. [Genymotion]

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KoPlayer

We don’t quite know where KoPlayer popped up, but it’s clear that we’re looking at a Korean Android emulator that brings together loads of goodies relegated in most cases to paid apps, like the option to smoothly capture the video of the emulation. Besides allowing the download of games from Google Play or directly in APK format, it has its own market with a selection of apps that run perfectly on the emulator. [KoPlayer]

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