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I’ve written about BlueStacks before as the program that lets you run 400,000 Android apps in Windows. Well, the list of Google Play apps is still growing and as of February 2012 there are 450,000 Google Play apps already. BlueStacks Beta 1 is now available and its compatibility with Google Play apps greatly improved. That is all that matters, really.

BlueStacks beta1 featuring AngryBirds Space

Yesterday I downloaded the 1st beta release of BlueStacks App Player and I was able to test it on my desktop computer. I was impressed because it has big improvements from the alpha version.

BlueStacks Beta New Features

You can download apps using one of the 3 app stores included  namely 1Mobile, Amazon Appstore and Getjar. Before, you have to do it with the BlueStacks Cloud Connect app only. The compatibility of apps also increased tremendously. The applications that I could not use in the alpha before are not fully functional.

There is now a home screen with all the apps that you  downloaded on your machine an app search engine. Whatever you searched and clicked using the app search engine will  be installed. It’s a bit odd because it doesn’t ask you for any permission before installation.

BlueStacks beta1 homescreen

The new BlueStacks beta included a new top dock for My Apps, the apps that you downladed; Popular Downloads, the apps that  are  most downloaded by BlueStacks users; Apps stores, the three default app stores that comes with the BlueStacks package; Lastly, Cloud Connect, the BlueStacks service that syncs your BlueStacks installation from your phone based whatever application you want to be installed from your phone to BlueStacks.

The dock is a welcome addition but it’s kind of annoying because you can’t drag where you want it. It’s not even customizable. You can hide it and it will be minimized as a smaller icon hovering somewhere at the top.

BlueStacks beta 1 dock

Notice that there is an  ”open folder” icon at the screenshot above? That is a new feature too. Your apps installed in BlueStacks can be opened directly from shortcuts just like a normal Windows application. It’s a very neat feature and it works seemlessly with the Windows paradigm. The only problem that I see here is the icons  are not smooth as they are not optimized for Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8. I am not sure why it it appears smooth in Android though.

Games Compatibility and Performance

Angry Birds is working out of the box, even the latest version Angry Birds Space. Some of my favorite games like Lane Splitter is now working too. Check the screenshot to see how you can control the tilting of device using the arrow keys.

BlueStacks beta 1 Lane Splitter

I tried using the current hottest game Draw Something (free version) but it is not working, unfortunately.

Out of curiosity I ran benchmark tools within BlueStacks beta 1 and I find the results interesting.

BlueStacks beta1 AnTutu

BlueStacks beta 1 BrowserMark

I know that there are more benchmark tools for Android but these are the two benchmarks that I am interested in. I used an Intel Core i5 2500 CPU at 3.30 GHz without a dedicated video card for the tests above. It’s a relatively fast CPU and it’s an unfair match even to the most powerful Android tablets out in the market today.

My goal here is to show that Bluestacks is has a very usable Android experience and it is a great alternative to try Android on Windows first before jumping on the Android bandwagon.

Conclusion

While BlueStacks is free now I believe that it will be a paid product after the beta period is over because if you check the task bar system tray options, BlueStacks explicitly mentioned “Free during beta” so it could only mean that after beta it is not free anymore.

I tested BlueStacks beta1, version 0.6.3.0686. I am sure that there are more features coming in. Beginning beta 1, it is starting to look like a finished product.

I was not able to test BlueStacks on a computer with touch screen so I could not rate how responsive it is to touch gestures and commands but overall, even if using a mouse to drag around the screen on an emulated tablet computer, BlueStacks is a very decent Android installation on top of Windows.

If you ask me whether it will be better than Windows 8 with Metro UI, I cannot answer that yet. What I know is that you can install BlueStacks on your Windows tablet computer and decide for yourself which is better. As long as BlueStacks can offer great compatibility with more than 450,000 apps it will be an unfair advantage for Android.

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