Android emulator BlueStacks is a program that makes it possible to run Android applications on a PC or Mac. The free utility first launched in 2011, but it’s been through a number of major updates over the years, and this week BlueStacks released a new version designed to offer better performance.
BlueStacks 4 also brings a brand new user interface and an upgrade from Android 4.4 KitKat to Android 7.1.2 Nougat.
According to the developer, BlueStacks 4 “is now able to use your computer’s resources much more efficiently,” which means that it leverages the power of your system’s CPU and GPU to load the emulator, launch apps, and run apps and games more quickly. Gamers should also notice higher frame rates and smother gameplay.
Your performance will certainly vary depending on the hardware you’re using. A computer with a 16-core CPU, 32GB of RAM and discrete graphics is probably going to outperform most smartphones, but my laptop with a dual-core Intel Skylake processor, 8GB of RAM, and integrated graphics seems to have no problem running apps like the Google Chrome web browser and Evoland RPG game (with support for touchscreen controls).
I downloaded each from the Google Play Store: when you first install BlueStacks it’ll ask you to login with a Google ID. According to an email alert I got from Google, BlueStacks identified itself as a OnePlus 5 smartphone. That seems like an interesting choice… but it’s one that should allow you to download most Android apps and games.
BlueStacks also includes its own app store if you want to use that for some reason. But selling apps an games isn’t the only way BlueStacks makes money: you can also upgrade to a premium account if you want access to features like the ability to personalize your wallpaper, get premium support, or get a system-wide ad blocker.
A BlueStacks Premium subscription costs $4 per month or $40 per year. But all the basic features are free if you just want to be able to run a few Android apps on your PC from time to time.