You don't necessarily need an Android device to run a particular Android app or game. With BlueStacks, you install an Android virtual machine on your PC or Mac.
Free with advertising; $2 per month
Windows Vista/7/8; OS X
www.bluestacks.com8 Score 80
- Easy installation
- Supports most of the Android apps
- Configure key combinations
- Intrusive advertising with the free version
- Default home screen cluttered
There are several ways to run Android on your PC, but BlueStacks is by far the easiest. You can use the program for free, but then you will be obliged to install an app once every few days. If you want to work with BlueStacks without these advertisements, switch to the Premium version for 2 dollars per month. Also read: 11 tips for Android on your PC with BlueStacks.
After installation, you will need to enter your Google account information so that you can use the Google Play Store. BlueStacks has its own Android environment and it seems that a lot of apps are already installed, but in fact these are suggestions for apps. If you want to install an app or game, you can do that using the search function on the home screen.
Not all apps work under BlueStacks, but the company itself states that it supports 96 percent of the apps and 86 percent of the games in the Google Play Store. That's quite a lot and most apps will simply run under BlueStacks. At the top and left of the screen you will find a few buttons to control or configure BlueStacks. For games, it is especially useful to click the WASD button. This allows you to link key combinations to typical smartphone or tablet movements.
On the left you will find the general menu. Here you can easily import a file from your PC into BlueStacks, take a screenshot or rotate the screen. If you want to install an app that is not in the Google Play Store, you can also load an apk file with the APK button. If you want to change the default home screen, install an app like Nova Launcher. Once installed, you can set this app launcher as the default and BlueStacks is more like a traditional Android system.
Is BlueStacks the ultimate Android emulator for your PC? I would almost say yes. Most apps and games run smoothly and you have a pretty full set of features at your disposal to get the most out of the apps. The fact that BlueStacks supports most of the content in the Google Play Store is of course a big plus. The downside is the intrusive advertising if you are not willing to pay 2 dollars per month for a Premium subscription. The default home screen is a bit cluttered, but BlueStacks is easy to install and offers a near-perfect Android experience for the PC or Mac.