If you’re looking to get some apps and games up and running on your computer with the minimum of effort, BlueStacks is your friend.
The BlueStacks App Player presents itself as just a way to get apps running, but it actually runs a full(heavily modified) version of Android behind the scenes. Not only that,
but it has the Play Store built-in so you have instant access to all of your purchased content. It actually adds an entry to your Google Play device list,
masquerading as a Galaxy Note II.
The BlueStacks client will load up in a desktop window with different app categories like games, social, and so on. Clicking on an app or searching
does something unexpected — it brings up the full Play Store client as rendered on tablets. You can actually navigate around in this interface just as you would on a real Android device, which makes it clear there’s a lot more to BlueStacks than the “AppPlayer” front end. In fact, you can install third-party launcher like Nova or Apex from the Play Store and set it as the default. The main screen in BlueStacks
with the app categories is just a custom homescreen, so replacing it makes BlueStacks feel almost like a
regular Android device.
BlueStacks App Player, in the Play Store Having full Play Store access means you won’t be messing around with sideloading apps, and BlueStacks manages to run everything impressively. Most games are playable, but keep in mind you’ll have trouble operating many of them with a mouse. If your PC has a touchscreen, you can still use apps and games that rely on more than one touch input.
BlueStacks can essentially make a Windows 8 tablet PC into a part-time Android tablet. BlueStacks calls the technology that makes this possible “LayerCake” because Android apps run in a layer on top of Windows.
The only real issue with BlueStacks is that it’s not running a standard Android build. All the alterations the company made to get apps working on a PC can cause issues — some apps simply fail to run or crash unexpectedly. This customized environment is also of little value as a development tool because there’s no guarantee things will render the same on BlueStacks as they might on a real Android device without all the back end modifications. It’s also a freemium service with a $2 pro subscription, or you can install a few sponsored apps.
So what’s the best way?
If you’re interested in getting apps running on your PC so you can actually use and enjoy them,
BlueStacks App Player is the best solution. It’s fast, has Play Store access, and works on multitouch Windows devices. If you need to test something with the intention of
putting it on other Android devices, the emulator is still the best way to give builds a quick once-over on
a PC before loading them on to Android phones or tablets. It’s slow but standardized, and you’ll be able
to see how things will work on the real deal. The Android PC ports are definitely fun to play with, and performance is solid when you get apps running, but they can be finicky. If you just want to play Clash of Clans on your Windows machine, get BlueStacks. More at ExtremeTech.