BlueStacks 5

  • Popular Android emulator BlueStacks just launched the latest version of the software: BlueStacks 5.
  • The company says this is a complete rewrite from the ground up making it faster and more stable than previous versions.
  • Unfortunately, the system still emulates Android 7.1.2 Nougat from 2016.

If you want to emulate Android on your PC, there are few systems out there as robust as BlueStacks. The totally free emulation suite gives you the ability to access apps and games from the Google Play Store right on your Windows 10 or macOS machine.

Related: 15 best Android emulators for PC and Mac

Today, the company is formally launching BlueStacks 5, the latest iteration of the software. This is a follow-up to BlueStacks 4, which first launched in 2018.

According to the company, BS5 offers significantly faster boot, installation, and launch times when compared to BS4. This is due to the app being a “complete rewrite” of the previous system. Unfortunately, the operating system the game emulates has not been updated. Just like with BS4, BS5 is based on Android 7.1.2 Nougat — the 2016 iteration of the Android operating system.

BlueStacks was kind enough to give us a beta version of BlueStacks 5. We tried it out for a bit and have some thoughts on it below. If you want to give BS5 a shot for yourself, you can download the software here. Please note that the US version of the app won’t launch until February 16, 2021, so you might need to wait to grab it.

BlueStacks 5: Gets the job done

BlueStacks 5 Android Nougat

When you first open BlueStacks 5, it’s kind of like you are first starting a new Android phone. It takes the software a bit of time to “boot” the phone, and then you need to use your Google account to log into the Play Store. Once you’re in, you can start downloading Android apps, which will then appear in your “app drawer” within BlueStacks.

The way the company designed and promotes the software makes it clear that its primary focus is gaming. In fact, BlueStacks 5 comes with pre-loaded custom keyboard/mouse mappings for many popular games. If you want to play a game that doesn’t have custom mappings already, you can always create them yourself.

You don’t need to be a gamer to use BlueStacks 5, though. You can download productivity apps, email clients, social media apps — whatever you like. Of course, those apps will need to work well with Android 7.1.2 Nougat. If they don’t, the user experience could be limited.

See also: The history of Android: The evolution of the biggest mobile OS in the world

All in all, my time with the beta of this software showed that it’s slightly better than BlueStacks 4. I think the layout of BS5 is superior and I appreciated how tweaking settings, macros, graphics properties, etc., is much more straightforward.

However, I didn’t feel it was faster or more stable than BS4. Some of my apps crashed and the emulated Play Store tried to make me re-buy games I’ve already paid for. Additionally, it’s only a matter of time before serious incompatibility problems will occur with Nougat as the emulated OS. Eventually, BlueStacks will need to target a higher version of Android, which will make BlueStacks 5 obsolete.

Still, if you want to play games or use Android apps on your PC, BlueStacks gets the job done. It’s not perfect, but it’s free!