If you follow tech blogs, the name BlueStacks has got to sound familiar to you as the famous Android emulator that lets you run Android apps on PCs and Macs without requiring to install the complete Android operating system in a virtual environment. In fact it has become so popular that the company behind it is reportedly in talks with several computer manufacturers to bundle BlueStacks Player with their notebooks and desktops. Back in 2011, we posted our detailed review of the app highlighting its impressive design and features. Being touted to be ‘Optimized for Surface Pro’, this Android emulator has now finally arrived to Windows 8 (sorry RT folks, no Modern UI flavor yet), and works like an absolute charm on Windows 8 PCs, notebooks and ultrabooks alike. Lets take a deeper look inside and see what changes the company has brought to the table in this Windows 8-only variant.
BlueStacks for Windows 8 supports an elegant interface and runs in full screen mode by default. The application is also fully optimized for the 1920 x 1080 HD display of Surface Pro, though I noticed several jagged-edges among various elements of the app on my Windows 8 PC. The emulator also creates a Start Screen tile when installed. While in full screen mode, the application disables Windows 8 Charms Bar, and instead adds a navigation box on the bottom-right when you hit the hot corner to evoke the Charms Bar. This navigation Charm contains Android-specific buttons for Back, Settings, Apps, Exit, Share, etc. You can also access various featured apps that seem to be popular on Google Play Store. The navigation bar at the top lets you switch between app categories including games, messaging, music, social and more, along with a custom Top 25 Apps list for a jump start.
Downloading and installing an app is fairly simple, though you’ll need a Google Account to get many of the apps. You can still download a few of them without a Google account though. If you don’t already have a Google account, you can easily create a new one from the Settings window. Speaking of the settings window, it also lets you customize other aspects of BlueStacks, such as keyboard settings, language, date and time, contacts, sound and so on. Another interesting aspect of BlueStack is its ability to let you sync your Android device with the tool to transfer your apps, messages and contacts to BlueStack via Cloud Connect. For that however, you must have a BlueStacks account.
Apps are downloaded almost instantaneously. The progress bar gives you an idea about the ETA of the app and its size.
BlueStacks also boasts a handy search feature to find an app that’s not listed on the main page. Simply type the app name and hit enter, and BlueStacks will display all the matching results for the keyword.
You can also browse Google Play Store, which becomes available when you sign in with your Google account. Play Store works exactly the way it does on any Android device, allowing you to browse thousands of Android games and apps.
Apart from the main screen, you can install apps from within Google Play Store as well. Just hit Install from the top-right corner of the UI, and wait for download to finish.
All the installed apps can be managed under the My Apps section. You can run an app by clicking on it. Likewise, clicking and holding on an app’s icon lets you uninstall it.
Even though the apps run just fine, I noticed a slight jittering issue and low frame rate for various apps I tried during testing. Nevertheless, this issue primarily applies to games and other similar apps that require high-speed graphic rendering.
To sum it up, BlueStacks for Windows 8 is perhaps the most interesting application to hit the OS so far. It’s a significant boost to the otherwise lukewarm offerings of Windows Store. BlueStacks works on all variants of Windows 8, but not on Windows RT. Testing was carried out on Windows 8 Pro 64-bit.