BlueStacks Review

  • MORE

Editors' rating:
The Pros

Plays most games well; Doesn't use a lot of RAM; Easy to install and use

The Cons

Requires installing random apps or paying $2 a month ; No control over home screen apps ; Lacks full Android interface; Buggy features ; Laggy performance

Verdict

BlueStacks lets you run Android apps on your PC but it suffers from poor performance and a pushy, sales-oriented interface.

You don't need an Android device to run Android apps. A freemium Windows app, BlueStacks can run popular games and apps such as Candy Crush Saga and WhatsApp Messenger while you work in Microsoft Office in another window. Though it's one of the most popular Android emulators, the software is heavily focused on selling apps, even requiring you to pay a $2 monthly fee if you choose not to install titles from BlueStacks' partners. Poor performance, buggy features and an annoying interface also hold BlueStacks back.

article continued below

Installation

Installing BlueStacks is as simple as running the EXE file. The program requires 2GB of RAM and 9GB of disk space. During the process, BlueStacks tells you it runs best with App Store Access and Application Communications enabled. You can uncheck those options, but it's not clear on that installation screen what they do.

App Store Access means what it says: the ability to connect to Google Play or Amazon Appstore (which comes installed by default, along with 1Mobile Market, BlueStacks Charts, Facebook, GamePop, Swift HD Camera and Twitter). Application communications, however, per BlueStacks' privacy policy, dictate that you allow BlueStacks to contact you via text messages, push notifications and/or email. I left these enabled (and haven't received any spam from the company in about a month of testing), but you have the option to opt out.

It does take a while (about 15 to 20 minutes) for the program to initialize for the first time. While you wait, BlueStacks showcases the kinds of apps this program was mainly developed for: games.

Clash of Clans

MORE: How to Run an Android Emulator on Your PC

User Interface

That focus on games is even clearer when you first launch the program. Instead of seeing the typical Android home screen, as you would with other Android emulators, you're presented with rows of apps, most of them games, except for those in the "media and messenger" category. Although BlueStacks is technically an Android emulator and runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat, it works more like a simple Android app launcher. Instead of getting the full Android user interface, you get a customized Windows app that runs Android programs in either full screen or a fixed-size window.

BlueStacks' custom home screen is confusing and frustrating. On first glance, it looks like you have all these apps installed, but tapping on one of the app thumbnails takes you to Google Play, where you can install the app. There's no way to clearly see on the home screen which apps you have installed and which are just BlueStacks' suggested apps. (To see all the apps you have installed, click on the All Apps button on the top row. Apps there are arranged alphabetically and cannot be rearranged or grouped together.)

The worst part, however, is that there's no way to rearrange the apps on the home screen or to remove any of the thumbnails. Every time you start BlueStacks you'll see these suggested apps, even if you have no interest in ever playing Dumb Run or the Fright Night at Freddy's 3 demo.

Clicking on the More button for an app category shows you a limited number of recommended apps, rather than all of the Android apps in that category you could download. To install an app that isn't on one of these screens, you have to search for it by name and then click through to the search results in Google Play. Otherwise, there's no direct link to Google Play for browsing apps.

Top Apps

In short, this is a limited, restrictive environment -- one that feels a bit too much like a pushy salesperson peddling Android games.

Keyboard and Touch-Screen Input

On the plus side, however, when running an app with BlueStacks in full-screen mode instead of windowed, it really feels like you're on an Android tablet, complete with support for multi-touch (if you have a touch-screen tablet PC) and sensors integration (so you can do things like tilt to move in a game).

Don't have a touch-screen laptop? BlueStacks was designed with the non-touch-screen computer owner in mind. The keyboard icon in the bottom menu bar lets you map tablet controls like swiping, tilting, zooming and tapping to keys of your choosing.

Bugs

Unfortunately, the keyboard-mapping feature doesn't seem to work everywhere or very well. I couldn't zoom in on Google Earth using my mapped keys, for example, and in Temple Run, the key mappings were reversed.

Similarly, although you're supposed to be able to set how you want portrait apps to run (auto-rotate, always run in portrait mode or force to run in landscape mode), changing that setting did nothing for me. Imagine trying to play Temple Run with the screen rotated and the swipe-left key making you jump instead of go left!

Templre Run

Performance and Gaming

In spite of the issues above, BlueStacks does its intended job of playing games fairly well, even on my aging laptop (with an Intel Core i5 Ivy Bridge processor and 4 GB of RAM). Most games I tried -- including Clash of Clans, Dragon Blaze and Asphalt 8 -- ran without a hitch and looked fantastic.

The graphics in Batman Arkham Origins ran smoothly, but there were odd glitches such as missing text overlays and occasional freezing during cut scenes. Apps also took a miserably long time to load. For example, Instagram and Castle TD took 33 and 45 seconds, respectively, to load in BlueStacks, but just 4 and 11 seconds on a Nexus 5 phone.

BlueStacks ran WhatsApp fine -- I could make and receive calls through my laptop's microphone -- but the emulator struggled at times with things such as processing photos in Instagram and even opening the inbox in Gmail. Rendering in Google Earth was also painfully laggy, but that's to be expected given Google Earth's high performance demands. Apps that are meant to use your location, such as Google Earth, Google Maps and the game Ingress, also failed at finding my location, so you'll need to use an app that emulates a GPS to trick other apps into finding your location.

As with all virtualization tools, performance will be limited by your computer's memory and CPU. BlueStacks ran best when I had no other program open on my old laptop. Just for kicks, I also tried BlueStacks on a newer Surface Pro (Intel Core i5 Haswell processor and 8 GB of RAM). Performance was noticeably better, but I still saw many of the glitches mentioned above.

Android benchmarking tool AnTuTu, however, says BlueStacks' general performance is rather high, surpassing 95 percent of other devices, while its game performance is better than 60 percent of other devices. As a comparison point, Geekbench 3 shows BlueStacks as emulating a Samsung Galaxy S4, a two-year old phone, but one that performs solidly. Yet compared to other Android emulators, namely AMIDuOS and Andy, BlueStacks' performance was at the bottom: scoring 26,311 versus Andy's 31,299 and AMIDuOS' 45,611.

antutu

That said, most apps that could run in KitKat should be able to run in BlueStacks. In fact, the company claims BlueStacks is compatible with 86 percent of Android games and 96 percent of all Android apps, a higher compatibility rating than that of competitors YouWave, Genymotion and Andy.

Special Features

Finally, BlueStacks offers a few interesting features like syncing apps between your phone and the Windows app via a cloud connect app, moving files between Windows and BlueStacks via a shared folder, and sideloading apps by double-clicking an APK file from your desktop. The cloud connect app didn't seem to work. It's supposed to push apps from your phone to BlueStacks on your PC and also sync the settings over, but I found no changes in either my phones' apps or BlueStacks' apps after initiating a sync, unfortunately. Sideloading apps worked like a charm on the other hand, and that feature works great when you want to test out an app that's not available yet on Google Play. (I used it to try out a new Dropbox feature in beta.)

The Bottom Line

In the end, I found BlueStacks to be buggy. Although it can play many games quite well, the software's limitations and performance issues keep me from recommending this program to anyone but casual Android gamers who aren't able to run more powerful Android emulators on their PCs. If your system is fairly new (made in the last couple of years) and has a decent amount of memory (4 GB of RAM), other emulators will run Android more smoothly and in the full Android environment. Consider Andy if you want a free option, or AMIDuOS if you're willing to pay for strong performance.

Ask a Question
Platforms Mac
Platforms Windows
Company Website http://www.bluestacks.com
Add a comment
15 comments
  • DGRose Says:

    I installed and quickly uninstalled Bluestacks from my PC because it was laggy and bossy. Now, however, my smartphone's USB connection options don't work properly. If I select "charging" on my Android, which should allow the phone to charge but not be visible to the computer, the phone won't charge anymore. In fact, it doesn't charge on any setting I pick anymore. Also, the phone keeps beeping and alerting me that it wants to set up a data connection for file transfer. The same data cable works properly in other USB charging devices, just not on my PC anymore; my tablet is unaffected. I don't recommend anyone to use Bluestacks, it was on my PC for less than 24hrs but the grief goes on for my smartphone... Greasy.

  • Tammy Jean Says:

    I didn't realise this wasn't a blue stacks site rofl sorry Miss Melanie. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to have our say! :)

  • Tammy Jean Says:

    When this first came out it was complete crap. Eventually there were updates and I could finally get it to work with BLUESTACKS2.native. It worked 1 time! Now all it does is crash crash crash! Steady crashes as soon as I open it. Also we are made to pay or download a ton of apps to keep using it. I don't get that at all. I was going to pay but you guys wanted a year's membership all at once. NO! Month by month is how I wanted to pay. After downloading this and trying to get it to work and all the pop ups and automatic updates that self install I would like to say I'm very disappointed with this app. Once I uninstall it I will not download/install again. Please anyone for the love of gaming come out with a reliable app player so we can use our apps on our computer. This is not it. Sorry.

  • piyush Says:

    Blue stack is provide usefull feature But It's a Very very slow to open as well as working.because of installed this apps, other application working very down & also itself.

  • frallan Says:

    it suck that you now have to pay for it, it destroys the whole purpose of bluestacks. so dont download it. get somthing that is free and better

  • StephenK Says:

    One of the worst "updates" I've ever been forced into. First, it wouldn't install from the official site, so I had to go to another site to get it, and while that did install it lost all of my old Bluestacks installation data, so I had to reinstall all of my apps (fortunately I had Fallout Shelter data files backed up, so I didn't lose too much, only about a couple of weeks). Horrible, laggy performance, glitches galore, takes forever to launch, and usually crashes on exit.

    This thing is absolute garbage. I'm going to switch over to Andy and see how that works out. It can't possibly be worse than this mess.

  • walter Says:

    es muy bonito este juego es porque asi puedes jugar con todo el mudo

  • angel Says:

    i downloaded bluestacks and had problems tried to uninstall and it wouldnt uninstall. eventually i had to set my brand new windows 10 tablet back to factory settings to get rid of it. i will never download it again.

  • Mokim Says:

    I am having problem of crash while playing "alien creeps" in bluestacks

  • AWAIS Says:

    THIS IS VERY GOOD WEB I LIKE THIS APPS AND I USE EVERY TIME THANKS

  • Eric Antao Says:

    yeah its rubbish it took away my 3 months clas of clans progress and i had to start all over again

  • steve Says:

    Bluestacks app is horri-fcking-ble. it is SO SLOW! and it wants you to pay 2 fckn dollars a month for some blsht. improve yo sht

  • Rod. Baker Says:

    It gave several excuses.
    1 Display driver
    2Lost Public key

  • Dusty Says:

    I've got Bluestacks on my Asus Intel core i7, Nvidia Geforce 745M, touchscreen laptop. It's almost bug free, the only problem I've faced is loading bluestacks, sometimes it can take over 2 minutes. Other than that it runs everything I throw at it. I've been able to watch Netflix, play games, read email, type documents, etc.
    I just wanted to mention that I totally agree with you regarding the user interface. However, you can install a third party launcher, I'm using Nova Launcher from the Play store and it feels like I'm using an Android device when I'm running Bluestacks. I even uninstalled the Amazon app store and 1Mobile Market.
    I tried using the free version of Bluestacks, because lets admit it, who wants to pay $2 a month. Anyways, it kept installing stupid games and apps onto Bluestacks. Not only that, but these apps and games would pop up as installed apps in my Google play store, so I started receiving recommendations from google play based off these unwanted apps. The free model was starting to feel almost like malicious software was running on Bluestacks, so I subscribed to the paid version. The app has since run problem free. I even ran into a problem requiring tech support and with one short email, Bluestacks was able to solve my problem(networking) with a patch. My only gripe so far is that Bluestacks hasn't received the Android lollipop update or any additional software/hardware features from 8 months ago when I installed it. I feel that a subscription service should give the benefit of free and frequent updates, not just malware removal.

  • David Says:

    Melanie, it's been a LONG time since I've read such a thorough & comprehensive review of software of any kind & that says a lot!

    My tech world started with 1401emulators & mthly full home service & equipment rental telco bills of $6.95!

    Keep up your good work with good words. Only thing missed was streaming TV/Movies via services like Google Play.

    Staying off-grid with a PC, $60/mth fee & no multi media hrdwre except a laptop with Skype, gets more complicated every day. Knowledge, information & reviews like yours will help us to stay strong & free!!!

    Thanks Melanie & keep those reviews coming
    David, The Olde

Back to top