Emulating Android Apps With BlueStacks

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bluestacks-android-emulator-windowsPCs are, without any question, one of the most versatile machines on the planet. From simple calculations and word-processing to hardcore number-crunching and graphics rendering, they do it all and they do it with style.

Emulation of other platforms is where it gets exponentially more interesting though.

Did you know you can play almost all of your PlayStation 2 games on a powerful enough PC with PCSX2? Now, the PlayStation is for all intents and purposes, a device of the past; but what if I told you you could run all of your Android apps on your PC? You can. Enter BlueStacks.

 

Downloading and Instalation

The BlueStacks setup executable, with a size of 305 MB, is available here. The setup process itself was fairly straightforward; it took only just over 1 minute to install BlueStacks on my Optiplex 990.

There is a one-time setup process that has to be completed before you can actually start using Android apps on your Windows system. It involves singing in to your Google account and adding BlueStacks as a service associated with that Google account. Then you log on to your Google account via BlueStacks.bluestacks-android-emulator-windows

All this went quite smoothly but BlueStacks took up almost 70% of RAM when active. I was hoping that it was some sort of minor glitch but the truth is, it’s just one of the drawbacks of emulation. Hopefully you will have better luck.

Your BlueStacks Android instance comes with a few apps pre-bundled. Facebook, Instagram and Photos.  Any other apps that you want to use will have to be installed, just like they are on an actual Android phone.

Installing Apps

Installing apps with BlueStacks is just as you’d expect it to be on Android, with one little caveat of sorts. You need to install sponsored apps in order to use your free apps. It might sound like a hassle, but if you view the issue from BlueStacks’ perspective, it only makes sense.

You get a bunch of apps that you won’t use and BlueStacks devs earn some dollars. As an alternative, you could purchase the premium app player for $2/month, which is almost nothing.

The actual home-screen is fairly confusing as it lists the top trending games and apps in such a way that you’re fooled into believing you have them installed. You don’t. Instead, you’re taken to Google Play where you proceed to download and install them. This is a tad misleading.

Performance

Once you are done installing apps of your choice, you can fire them up and use them. I loaded World Championship Cricket 2, a game that I’m addicted to nowadays. It wasn’t long before I realized this game was practically unplayable unless I was using BlueStacks on a tablet or a touch-supported device. The reason? Multi-touch. Now single touches and swipes can easily be emulated my mouse movements and clicks. But it is multi-touch where a mouse simply can’t help you. There are workarounds of course, such as DroidRemote.

Then there is the issue of emulating tilt. Workarounds exist for that as well, in the form of the Aurora Keymap Tool.

One of the more practical features that BlueStacks added is the ability to import files from the host(i.e. Windows) file-system. This way you can download APK files to your PC and install them on your BlueStacks instance.

On a PC with a Sandy Bridge i5-2400, 4 gigs of memory and a 750Ti and a SanDisk X110 SSD (on which BlueStacks was installed), BlueStacks did NOT give me any performance issues at all. Before that though, without the SSD, running BlueStacks meant I couldn’t run anything else because my system hanged so much. Interfacing with the peripherals was a peach too as games like FIFA Ultimate Team worked perfectly with my Xbox controller.

GeekBench reported the system as an Asus Zenfone 5 device with a dual-core GHz Atom Z2760 Clover Trail processor with 1.5 gigs of RAM. The benchmark returned a single-core score of 2010 which is 200 more than the best device on the comparison list, the 2.50 GHz Tegra K1 based HTC Nexus 9.

The multi-core score was more realistic at 3454, surpassed by a couple of heavyweights on the list including the Samsug Galaxy S6.

Popular Android benchmarking tool Antutu returned similar results, coming a close second at 89151 points behind Huawei Mate 8 which had 92746 points. On closer inspection it turned out that our BlueStacks instance had far better scores in just about all the individual categories but one of the two 3D tests was not supported which put it a good 10000 points behind. Otherwise, the performance was top-notch.

Conclusion

If BlueStacks can fix the mouse/keyboard input issues and channel the benchmark performance level to a majority of the apps, then I’d say it’s worth trying. People who don’t have Android phones and want to give it a test drive will find it useful as will people who have powerful PCs and laptops but weak Android phones. In the end, it depends on how much you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your goal.

 

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