If you want to emulate Android on your PC, there are few systems out there as robust as BlueStacks 5. The totally free emulation suite gives you the ability to access apps and games from the Google Play Store right on your Windows or macOS machine.
In February 2021, the company formally launched 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.
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.
What’s an Android emulator?
Emulation is when one type of computer “pretends” to be another, wholly different type of computer. Doing so allows you to run applications that your system normally would not be able to run. An example of this would be using a Super Nintendo Entertainment System emulator to play SNES games on your Android phone.
BlueStacks 5 is an Android emulator that works on Windows-based computers (although you can use BlueStacks 4 on Macs). It allows you to emulate the Android operating system on your laptop or PC. With BS5 (or any previous versions), you can run Android apps right on your computer — no phone or tablet needed.
Why would you want to do this? The most popular reason is gaming. There are a ton of games on the Google Play Store, most of which have no Windows-based versions. If you want to play those games with a keyboard and mouse or just want to see them on your big, 32-inch monitor, an Android emulator is one of the easiest ways to do that.
BlueStacks 5: System requirements
You might be wondering if you need a super-powerful gaming PC to use BlueStacks 5. Well, you can rest easy that you don’t need an expensive rig for this software. In fact, even a potato-quality laptop would suffice.
The minimum system requirements for BS5 are:
- A Windows 7 or Windows 10 system (Mac users can use BlueStacks 4 only)
- An Intel or AMD processor (pretty much any model)
- At least 2GB of RAM
- 5GB of free disk space (you’ll need more for games and apps)
Note that there isn’t a graphics card as a requirement. You could buy a $100 used laptop from five years ago that would meet or even exceed those requirements.
Obviously, the more powerful of a PC you have, the better of an experience you’ll get from BlueStacks 5. You don’t need a beefy system, but if you have one, your games will run faster and smoother and you’ll be able to have more apps open at once without seeing lag.
What version of Android does BS5 emulate?
BlueStacks 5 emulates Android 7.1.2 Nougat. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because that is a very old version of Android. It originally launched in 2016.
Unfortunately, there is no way to update BlueStacks to a more recent version of Android. Considering BlueStacks 4 also ran on Android 7.1.2 Nougat, it is unlikely the company will offer a newer version for quite a while. It’s possible BlueStacks 6 could be based on something more recent, but that release is probably years away.
Granted, the version of Android you’re emulating shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Most games and apps on the Play Store will work just fine on Nougat. However, you might come across some applications that will look strange or have weird quirks. It is also possible you will find some apps that just won’t work at all.
Obviously, it would be great if BlueStacks came with the latest version of Android or at least allowed you to upgrade it manually. However, that is not a feature of BlueStacks 5.
BlueStacks 5: What’s it like?
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.
The bottom line here is that BlueStacks 5 is perfect for someone who wants to play an Android game on their PC. It’s also perfect for someone who wants to use a specific Android app but doesn’t have an Android phone. Ultimately, though, you’re still only emulating Android, so your mileage may vary.