Tuesday, January 15, 2013

BlueStacks Review

Just a while ago I heard about an interesting software called BlueStacks which lets you run Android apps on your Windows (or Mac). Before this, I've tried a couple of Android emulators. One from Samsung and the other from the official Android Software Development kit. These emulators are intended to help developers testing their own app. So they don't provide access to Google Play, thus you can not download your favourite apps into the emulators. You can only install an app if you have the installation package (the apk file). I'm sure there are ways to circumvent that, but it's not going to be easy. Furthermore, the performance is sluggish. You'll notice some lag in the GUI responses to your touch (or mouse clicks to be precise). You just can't expect smooth experience using these emulators.

BlueStack, on the other hand, provides access to Google Play (also Amazon's app store, and a couple other app stores which I've never heard of). So it really opens up the possibilities.

BlueStack GUI

Although it doesn't claim to be a full fledge Android emulator, it does spent some effort to make it's GUI feels like an Android. It has the familiar home, back, and menu buttons

Downloading app is not very smooth. Probably due to my intermittent Internet connection, it often got interrupted, and when it does it won't resume. I had to start all over. Nevertheless, I managed to download some game apps in it.

Playing Games

Fruit Ninja is playable using a mouse. The GUI is quite responsive, although not as smooth as when playing in the real device. Note that I'm using a Core 2 Duo CPU -- a rather old processor, but still gets the job done.

However, when I try it on my other PC that has Intel Atom processor, it is unbearably sluggish.

If you try playing Angry Birds, then you start seeing the problem of running Apps on your PC. Without the ability to pinch zoom, you cannot really aim. I guess this problem would disappear if I had a notebook that supports multi-touch.

But the problem becomes really apparent when you try playing Raging Thunder.
Help, how do I turn?
What Do I need BlueStacks for?
So, realistically speaking, there aren't so many use cases for running android apps on your PC/notebook. As someone mentioned to me, you can use it to run WhatsApp using an account which you have registered in your phone before. Running WhatsApp in PC has a benefit since you can use the keyboard so you can chat faster. However, this benefit is not applicable for other instant messaging apps (Line, Facebook Messenger, Yahoo, etc), because they all have PC/Web client. So you can just install them without the need for BlueStacks.

Other than that, I can't think of any use cases for BlueStacks.

What I hate about BlueStacks
Granted I don't see much use of this software, but what really annoys me is that this software is not well-behaved. I see evidences that this software is trying to take root deep in your system.
  • On start up the software always attached itself to the windows task bar. Most software will give options to disable auto start feature, but not this one. 
  • It doesn't give a link for uninstalling. You have to go to Control Panel to do that. 
  • Even after you uninstall it from the Control Panel, it won't uninstall cleanly. Its files are still in Program Files folder. Also, It still has two services that starts automatically when your computer boots up. I had to disable it manually.

I thought I had totally get rid of BlueStacks from my system. I was wrong. It still has a program named HD-Agent.exe which starts automatically at boot time. I had to remove this manually from Windows registry. 

Don't waste you time. Stay away from this. In the meantime, Android apps should stay in real Android devices.

1 comment:

  1. As of the current version (downloaded Sep 06) the uninstallation seems to be performed a bit more cleanly. On my system, there were no services left, and HD-Agent was gone too. Nothing started up at boot time anymore, and the program files themselves were deleted. The only thing that was left was a folder in ProgramData which contained the OS image it downloaded during installation (~110 MB).