I always recommend to try the free emulators that HP offers. They allow you to get familiar with the calculator before having it. It also allows you to get solutions when you have a computer but no calculator.
However, the HP Prime emulator is mandatory, not “even if you’ve got a Prime”, but “precisely because you’ve got a Prime”. It is the best way to write programs for it, after the editor of the connectivity kit (which includes colors like a programming editor). This way you can test and edit your programs much, much faster than in the calculator. You’re using all of your computer features: mouse, fully fledged keyboard, cut and paste… much better than doing it with your calculator!
Don’t even consider to program anything more complex than a quadratic equation solution outside of the emulator. There are very small behavior differences between the emulator and the real calculator, but for all practical purposes they are the same machine. And as soon that you have made the program and tested it on the emulator, you can just copy it from the editor and past it n the real calculator, provided it is connected by USB to the computer you’re running.
(By the way - I am using a Mac running a Parallels Windows session - it works flawlessly, although I was forced to upgrade from trusty old XP to Windows 8 and further to 10)