BlueStacks is an Android emulator that is available for Windows and Mac. It provides an environment that recreates the Android experience, letting you run your favorite apps just as you would on your smartphone or tablet, but using mouse and keyboard. BlueStacks works in windowed or full-screen mode, and the latest version has been improved for the Microsoft Surface Pro.
One of the big advantages of BlueStacks over other Android emulators is the ease of use when it comes to installing and setting it up. After a simple installation, the player will be up and running without requiring any additional configuration. Once it starts playing, it will show you in the main screen quick access to the app search, your favorite applications, and the list of the most popular apps. You can search for apps in 3 different stores: Google Play, Amazon Store, and 1-Mobile. It's possible to sync any app installed in BlueStacks with your mobile device using 1-Click Sync and use Cloud Connect to sync apps from your phone to your PC. Also, you get full access to the Google Play Store.
In my particular case, I used BlueStacks to test the apps I commonly use on my own phone: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Kik, and a couple of games. In the case of social apps, the application's performance was excellent, just like running them from a phone. With Instagram, performance was great too but pictures looked blurry when using the app in the tablet mode. Image quality improves when used in default mode, though. As for the games, the experience was not as smooth and fluid as I expected, since I experienced some lags and graphical glitches.
In the Settings section you will find a number of options; for example you can set up Google Connect, change the language and keyboard settings, manage apps and contacts, modify app size, etc. Using the Change App Size option, I could modify the aspect of any app and choose between the default (smartphone size) or tablet size.
All in all, if you need to test some apps on your computer and want a platform that is user-friendly, BlueStacks is probably the best alternative. I've been using it for a while now on a Windows 7 laptop and have no complaints. It is still in beta and is free, so let's expect more for this great Android emulator.