So I’ve Been Playing Android Games On My PC

By Alec Meer on March 12th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

I’ve cracked it! I’ve discovered the formula for eternal and invincible perversion! I have, this day, established a way in which PC gaming website Rock, Paper, Shotgun can post about intriguing mobile games without the slightest concern that we’re stepping beyond our self-elected remit! Well, maybe a little, occasionally, hesitantly, sideways.

Three exclamation marks in that introduction. That’s how pleased I am that a program called Bluestacks has meant I’ve spent the morning playing Android games from the big-screen comfort of my computer.

Now, Bluestacks isn’t new. I am not breaking any news here. I’m sure a great many of you will be familiar with it already, but please remember that won’t be true of everyone. Indeed, I was already aware of it too, but the last time I used it (over a year ago) it didn’t seem quite up to scratch. It’s not exactly aping a hexacore ARM processor in its current form, but it’s speedy enough to handle games.

I’d given Bluestacks another spin because I really wanted to play space survival sim Out There (think FTL with no combat, a crushing sense of solitude and a desperate hunt for fuel) but was disappointed to find there was no PC version. Sure, I could play it on my phone, but I don’t really get on with playing games on tiny screens any more. Also I’m an entitled little twerp who demands that every game is immediately available on his preferred platform.

Bluestacks did the trick, and there’s no illegal skullduggery involved. It hooks into my Google account and I can install any apps I’ve bought previously, or buy/install new ones, just like on a ‘real’ Android device. While Bluestacks is billed as an ‘app player’, the reality is that it’s running a barebones versions of an older edition of Android through assorted witchcract, so you can make your PC look and behave like an Android tablet if you so wish.

It can also be set to synchronise apps with your Android phone if you have one, and install them that way through than through Google Play or other stores.

Setup is essentially as simple as downloading and installing the thing, but here are a few tips to make it work and look better – particularly as it’s prone to not running its own post-install setup gubbins which hook it into a Google account.

First up, you’ll want to click on the clock at the bottom of the screen, click the settings icon, then Accounts & Sync, then Add Account – from there you can add/create your Google account in order to grab stuff from the Play Store. It may be that Bluestacks pops up a prompt to do this anyway, but that’s how do it manually just in case.

Similarly, it may offer the option to Cloud Sync with your phone, but if it doesn’t go to settings again and ‘Cloud Connect’ to set that up.

You’ll probably also want to install a different Launcher, as the homescreen in Bluestacks is nasty and basically trying to sell you things. If you go to the search icon at the top left, try typing in ADW, Apex or Nova, then clicking ‘Search Play for…’ and installing one of those, which will give you something which looks a lot more like an Android tablet. I haven’t established which of these is speedier yet, so see how you go.

Finally, if you’ve got a 1080p or better monitor, you’ll notice that Bluestacks is running rather low res. There’s no official way to fix that, and the only official method has partial results. Does broadly improve matters, though. To do it you’ll need to engage in a spot of simple registry edit. Hit Start, Run, type regedit, press enter then navigate to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
– SOFTWARE
– BLUESTACKS
– GUESTS
– ANDROID
– FRAMEBUFFER
– 0

Then double click on the entry marked ‘Height’, click on ‘Decimal’, then enter your vertical screen resolution (i.e. height) in Value data. Then do the same for ‘Width.’ If your screen res is 1920x1o80, it’s 1080 in height and 1920 in width, for example.

Like this, basically:

And done. Do expect some weirdness, as it doesn’t really want to be at that res, but most apps run OK and look rather nice – for instance, here’s Out There at 1440p (click to embiggen):

As well as games, I’m finding it useful for apps whose PC/web versions are a bit lousy. Comixology’s app is far superior to its browser version, for instance, and there’s a wealth of pretty Twitter clients to experiment with.

Oh, and F11 switches Bluestacks from Fullscreen to windowed mode if you’re having troubles accessing buttons/your desktop.

You’ll probably hit dozens of different problems that I didn’t. Hell, that’s part of the fun. I’m sure people below or on the wider internet can help out if you ask politely, though.

Also, once you’ve got this running, please play Out There. It’s smart, lovely and tense, and a great piece of survivalist sci-fi. A PC version is theoretically inbound, but this makes a good stopgap measure.

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103 Comments »

  1. KDR_11k says:

    Maybe I can play Blazing Star on a decently sized screen now…

    And while we’re suggesting obscure games, Templar Assault is that more advanced Space Hulk people have been complaining about not getting from the official Space Hulk game.

    • Halk says:

      You realise thats a neo geo game right?

      So you would be playing an emulated neo geo game in an android emulator (or vm or compatability layer, whatever) on your pc.

      There are neo geo emulators for pc you know.

      • Premium User Badge

        P7uen says:

        Translation for people who want to be nice:
        Hi friend! Since the original was on NeoGeo, you could also find a NeoGeo emulator and play it on your PC that way if you prefer, as it may be easier. Have a great day!

        • Premium User Badge

          jrodman says:

          I’m having trouble understanding this foreign word: “nice”. Can you translate that to internet?

          • Premium User Badge

            tigerfort says:

            As I understand it, “Nice” is a bit like sarcasm, but without the undertones. Think of it as a kind of trolling where the idea is to make the other person feel good about themselves.

          • Zeewolf says:

            But… why?

        • Benjamin Sherwood says:

          Logged in just to say – *love* this response :) pretty much exactly what I was thinking. Nicely said.

  2. GenBanks says:

    Does this pave the way for a roundup of Android games we want to see on PC?

    Personally I’d quite like a good 4X game for tablet.

    • Moraven says:

      Like a official port of Imperium Galatica 2?

      https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.digitalreality.ig2

      • GenBanks says:

        Thanks for pointing that one out to me, might buy it… I never played the original. I’m going to be a bit shallow though and say that the graphics are slightly off-putting…

        I recently got extremely addicted to a simple tile based strategy game, originally for PC, called ‘Slay’… I wish there were something similar but taken up a notch in terms of complexity.

      • felis says:

        Dosbox (I use the Turbo variant) works quite well in giving me MoO2 on my droid :)

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        I played IG2 on my Nexus 7 recently. It’s a good port, but some of the controls just don’t work that well on a touchscreen and it took me a while to figure out things like fleet movement, etc (I played the original on the PC, too)

    • LostViking says:

      Well, before that there is about a million old PC games I would like to see ported to Android..

    • Cousken says:

      Lower down in this thread i posted how you can play Civ 5 or any PC game on a table. Short answer: remote desktop.

  3. djbriandamage says:

    Bluestacks is very very good but it’s not perfect. Some games don’t work right though most look glorious and work wonderfully. Keep in mind that you won’t be playing anything requiring multitouch or tilt controls.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Certainly not perfect, it doesn’t work on my machine cause I can’t find a way to install it properly. I have an error during installation so I used this solution and now I have another your system has been upgraded issue.

  4. Moraven says:

    Will get it for my Tablet. Good to know more good games.

  5. pupsikaso says:

    Yep, I think pretty much everyone saw this coming.
    But why stop here? Why not just join up whatever network Kotaku and the rest are on and be totally free?
    I mean, that’s exactly what you want, no? To be a homogenous, generic website writing badly without much thought about games you like/dislike, thinking that you’re being funny when you write incomprehensible nonsense in the first paragraph of every article and try to make a pun on every single article title, but instead are just making fools of yourselves.
    You’ve grown too old or too tired or can’t be arsed enough any longer to do any proper game critiques or just thoughtful, provocative and insightful articles about gaming in general like RPS used to do in the past.
    Why would you bother when you’re probably rolling in cash now that RPS is considered a “mainstream” website.
    It’s not like you got all that attention and all these readers from not being afraid to be different and going against the grain and opposite to what everyone else was doing.

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      lasikbear says:

      lol

    • Premium User Badge

      AngelTear says:

      AngelTear is left speechless, and is trying really hard to concentrate and understand where all the rant came from.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        This may cheer you up
        http://www.nataliedee.com/index.php?date=052810

        • Premium User Badge

          AngelTear says:

          :D
          Thanks, I actually needed to be cheered up <3

        • Houghtezo says:

          I would also like to post my thanks, that is jolly good

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          Glad to be able to share the Dee :)

        • TWChristine says:

          I wasn’t in need of cheering up, but I surreptitiously clicked on it anyway. I thought it was funny. I like cats. Were you the one that posted that Weiner-wings video of hers? We still laugh about that every now and then, especially when our cats are being loud and we say “Shut up, cat!” in a Southern drawl.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Heh yeah. I try to shoehorn in some Natalie as often as I can :) Glad DADDY’S WEINER WANGS gave you a chuckle

    • Premium User Badge

      X_kot says:

      “We can’t bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell them stories that don’t go anywhere. Like the time I took the ferry to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. Give me five bees for a quarter, you’d say. Now where were we? Oh yeah. The important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones.”

    • TWChristine says:

      I’m not a fan of the “Don’t the door hit you in the ass! LOLOL!!” attitude but I have to wonder why, if you seem to have such pent up frustration with this site, the direction they go, etc, that you would bother still stopping by and commenting? I can understand stopping by every now and then to see if things had improved to your liking (ie, I got tired of PCGamer and cancelled my sub, and then a year or so later randomly bought a mag and saw the new editor had made things better imo and re-subbed. Then she left, and it went stupid again, and cancelled). I can also understand expressing discontent, but it sounds like you pretty much dislike all aspects of the site, which makes me wonder why you would even bother if it’s THAT terrible.

      Now, I just want to point out that I’m not trying to be inflammatory by questioning your motives, more-so I just wanted to pass on that I’ve led a (much) happier life in the past few years by looking at how really important things are compared to my emotional investment in a reaction. Personally, a website that I once enjoyed going down a direction I don’t care for (in my experience, that would be Kotaku) really isn’t worth getting upset and ranting about. Anyway, like I said, not my intention to be argumentative, and I hate to see people go but I do honestly hope you find a gaming home that you can enjoy. :)

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      You’re wrong – they’re rolling in cash not because they’re mainstream but because they’ve done like my sister’s brother nephew who makes a billion yen an hour by working on the internet thanks to the power of Second Life

    • Premium User Badge

      Craig Pearson says:

      “thinking that you’re being funny when you write incomprehensible nonsense in the first paragraph of every article and try to make a pun on every single article title, but instead are just making fools of yourselves.”

      Hey!

    • Premium User Badge

      psepho says:

      I feel for you Pupsiko — this must be even worse than that one time when your mum bought the wrong bog roll, breaching the unspoken covenant between parent and child and leaving you unable to wipe for a week.

    • Premium User Badge

      Sinomatic says:

      My favourite thing to do in response to comments like these is to have a quick look at the archives (the link is conveniently over on the right there) and pick some random months from RPS distant past to trawl through .

      And then I nod happily to myself, and continue to read today’s articles.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      And I thought I was feeling disgruntled toward RPS lately.

      This is one of those things that feels like a Poe and a real rant, and might just somehow be both.

    • Premium User Badge

      Foosnark says:

      I think I speak for the majority here when I say:

      “…what?”

  6. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Those Out There screens remind me a lot of Captain Blood on the Amiga.

    • Kefren says:

      Purple Saturn Day!

    • Premium User Badge

      strangeloup says:

      I really need to see if there’s a decent emulated version. I played it on the ST, and managed – once – to get to the end, by virtue of some exceedingly obscure directions scribbled down during a phone conversation with a friend.

      Always quite fancied trying the sequel, Commander Blood, which came out in the early to mid 90s I think. Little bit surprised that these never showed up on GOG or the like — intriguing little French gaming oddities, like Kult (aka Chamber of the Psi-Mutant Priestess, or something).

      • Kefren says:

        WinUAE plus an Amiga ROM is a good way to go. Captain Blood had such an amazing and alien atmosphere. I loved the randomised planet appearances; the blue vector landing effects; the aliens. “Ooorx landing!” I used to teleport randomly, just in case I found a new alien (never did, the universe was too big). I never got past the first few creatures.

  7. Heliocentric says:

    PUNCH QUEST!

  8. FuriKuri says:

    Don’t use this!

    And if you do, don’t hook it up to your main google play account!

    It adds all kind of garbage crapware (fucking casino/gambling games) to your account each time you use it, which you will find downloading automatically to your phone unless you explicitly stop google play from doing so.

    If there’s a way to get it to stop doing that, I must confess my patience wore out long before I found the option to do so.

    • Heliocentric says:

      So I just create a fake account fair enough.

    • The Random One says:

      Can someone confirm this? Sounds like a massive dealbreaker.

      • HothMonster says:

        Google didn’t turn anything up specifically for this app but if anything you ever associate with your account does this just update your account password in that app to bullshit, then it can’t install anything.

  9. Baggypants says:

    Download for Windows, Mac OS X and …er…. guys? are we not missing something obvious?

  10. mr.black says:

    I use Bluestacks for Simpsons (It’s a City-building game! City-building!) and to quickly try out something, and it does it’s job capably. Two serious remarks, though:
    Out-of-the-b.. server program is extremely intrusive into Windows integration. First of all, you can’t determine install folder. Then, and more important, without question it sets itself to autostart with Windows and there’s no option to turn it off. You’ll have to… … Well, I didn’t remember, so I copy-pasta’d this from yahoo answers:
    1+ 2. Find and run MSCONFIG.
    “3. On System Configuration tool, select Services tab,
    4. Uncheck : BlueStacks Android Service and BlueStacks Log Rotator Service — click Apply
    5. Still on system configuration tool, select Startup tab.
    6. Uncheck : BlueStacks — click Apply and restart computer.”
    Other thing – The native launcher service every so often downloads trash software onto your comp (and you can’t determine where that is). It’s extremely annoying and can make havoc with your data-spending plan if you’re on limited monthly budget, as I am. Some downloaded games are up to 40Mb large, so it can get unpleasant every 2-3 days.
    And lastly, an usability tip – you can simulate pitching gesture with holding Ctrl + mouse wheel.
    All in all nice piece of software, but it needs to increase it’s transparency immediately. I have it installed solely cause I’m a Tapped out fanatic, and I don’t have good enough reception to play it on my tablet.

  11. Premium User Badge

    amateurviking says:

    Alec did you try this on your Surface Pro? Seems like it would be a perfect fit. Or does it need some desktop grunt for the ARM emulation?

    I might give it a whirl and see what happens.

    • LostViking says:

      Perfect fit? Couldn’t you just buy a cheaper, smaller and lighter Android tablet that will give you better performance and longer battery life ;)

      Don’t get me wrong, I have the Pro 2 myself, but I use it for the PC capabilities.

      • Premium User Badge

        amateurviking says:

        Yeah I have one too, I just meant that using a windows device which also has a touchscreen and a gyro might make more sense for some android games designed around interfacing that way. I wasn’t suggesting say a Nexus 7 and the SP2 were really comparable. Saying that, the SP2 has broadly filled the tablet/laptop niche quite nicely for me and being able to play some of the stuff on my (android) phone with a bit more real estate, whilst also keeping the control systems intact sounded like a nice idea.

        It would also mean I could stop wringing my hands about the total lack of decent stuff on the Win8 App Store (not that I use it much, but *something* would be nice).

        This went on longer than I expected.

      • roryok says:

        An android tablet is obviously the smarter way to play android games. But then you wouldn’t be playing them on a PC any more, and we wouldn’t be allowed to talk about them on here.

    • Alec Meer says:

      Yeah, works pretty well, and touch translates basically perfectly. Whole thing’s a bit more sluggish than on my desktop PC though, as the CPU’s a bit of a tiddler really

    • Cousken says:

      You could run Remote Desktop on any tablet to you Win 8 Pc and then run BlueStack on that, voila, 3 os’s on one tablet.

  12. Jurple says:

    If I had picked up some android games here and there (say, through humble android bundles), but didn’t own an android device, could this be an entry point? How would I go about it?

  13. Zankmam says:

    Anyone know what the fastest Launcher is/best way to optimize the speed of this emulator?

  14. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    It’s worth noting it’s a dalvik virtual machine & most games are native code compiled to arm assembly, meaning it needs an emulator to run those which makes them dog slow and buggier than something that just runs in the vm.

  15. Inglourious Badger says:

    This seems like a good place to ask what good Android games people can recommend? Been enjoying Waking Mars on my tablet whilst pretending to socialise with the other half during the nightly round of soaps that end up on our tv. Tried Frozen Synapse, but it’s just too fiddly for touch screen. Anything engrossing enough to satisfy the typical RPS reader, but simple enough to work on a tablet? All the Android games sites I’ve ever found keep eulogising about awful shite like Temple Run. And I’m too lazy/impatient to keep looking.

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      I found that japanese-style puzzle games such as shikaku, slitherlink, picross, pathpix and the like are most satisfying to play on a touch screen. World of Goo is also fantastic. Besides that, Great Big War Game is a decent strategy game, Anomaly HD a nice reverse tower defense, and I found Doom & Destiny to be a rather playable JRPG, even though the story is a rather dumb parody. Delver is a pretty nice first-person dungeon crawler, I think the levels are randomly generated. Lastly the Transport Tycoon port looks pretty good, but I’m not convinced by the controls.

      Also if you own some DS games the DraStic emulator can run them at full speed on a Galaxy S4 or equivalent hardware. Works pretty well since many of those games are designed to work with touch controls.

      • Inglourious Badger says:

        Thanks, will take a look. Got Anomoly in a bundle at some point, Anomoly was cool, bit frustrating at times but a good balance of tactics/simplicity. And World of Goo I’ve played too many times on various formats. One of the best games ever but yikes, I don’t think I can bring myself to build any more wobbly bridges.

    • Premium User Badge

      Crimsoneer says:

      Wazhack and Pixel Dungeon are passably good roguelikes.

      • Inglourious Badger says:

        Ah, yes, Pixel Dungeon I’ve already played and loved on my phone. Brilliantly designed for small screen one button bashing whilst remaining suitably rogue-like.

        Will check out Wazhack. Have you tried Nethack on Android? Falls into the “far too complicated for tablet” category, but I love that someone ported it.

    • Cigol says:

      OLO – A simple, minimalistic multiplayer (local/internet) game where you basically play bowls with coloured shapes. It was recently in the Humble Bundle – might still be. Lyne – another minimalistic game, has wonderful animation and graphics and the puzzles get interesting quick – the control scheme is pleasing to use as well, just swipe. It’s the perfect mobile game. Quiz Up – lots of multiplayer quizzing on a variety of subjects.

      Those are the 3 that I’ve been playing lately, as well as the usual suspects that will go unmentioned for fear of a lynching.

      Also; 10000000, Faif, Heroes of Loot, Layton Brothers, The Room, The Curse, Zen Pinball HD… and more I guess.

    • Premium User Badge

      cpt_freakout says:

      Tales of Illyria! It’s pretty barebones but I loved the ideas that move it. It’s a fantasy-themed Oregon Trail kind of thing, with a lot of choose your own adventure elements (it’s got a ton of text, most of which is decently written) and an outsider art aesthetic that is so ugly it’s impossible not to think it’s kinda cute. The devs have recently released a second game in what now seems to be a series, and it’s supposed to have fleshed out some of the less fun gameplay mechanics of the first one, like its RPG level-up system. Haven’t played it, but I’m definitely going to get it once I finish the first game (which has lasted me, so far, about 20 hours or so).

      • Inglourious Badger says:

        Oh cool, if it’s like Oregon Trail I’ll dive in. Have you played Organ Trail on Android? That makes a cracking tablet game, forgot about that.

    • Premium User Badge

      P7uen says:

      I had never Battle for Wesnoth’d before I got a cleverphone, but I did really get into it. I have heard that there are two Android ports and one’s shite (apparently I had the random luck to have chosen the good version).

    • MattM says:

      I really liked Kingdom Rush and its sequel. Fun tower defense games. The sequel is a better game than the first so you may want to start there. There are some micro-transactions available, but it is a complete game even if you never pay anything other than the 99c for the game. In fact I recommend not even using the ingame money you get in the item shop. The levels are balanced around no item use and the items feel more like cheats than tools.

    • LogicalDash says:

      Rymdkapsel is nice if you like to relax and then in short order get really really mad because you’re rubbish at planning ahead when you actually relax

    • apa says:

      Another World, except that touchscreen makes it even harder than it was on pc & keyboard. Played it through anyway.

      Thanks for great recommendations on this thread! It would be awesome to read RPS level articles on mobile games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Foosnark says:

      Spirit Stones: while it has a lot of “social”/shop stuff in it, you don’t actually have to buy anything or connect it to a Facebook account to enjoy it. The art is eye-rollingly cheesecakey, but the gameplay is kind of addictive in a not-quite-mindless way.

      Threes: just game out for Android. There are web versions too.

      NemoNemo Picross: best of the picross games IMHO, but you’ll run out of content.

      Nonomatic: a pretty good Picross but I am still fighting with some aspects of the interface. (Interface seems to be the downfall of so many of these; none of them are quite as good as the Nintendo DS title.)

      Devilry Huntress: a decent match-three game.

  16. MellowKrogoth says:

    Well, you can also buy a little docking station and plug your large screen, keyboard and mouse into your Android phone. The experience will likely be better.

  17. DrGonzo says:

    But you can emulate all sorts on pc, you never speak about any of the rest of it! I beg you not to do this, you are a wonderful pc site that covers pc things.

    • The Random One says:

      No! Do speak of the Gamecube emulators! The world must know!!!

  18. mlaskus says:

    Speaking of Out There, I’m really disappointed with it. The theme is lovely but it’s a mess of random events prone to senselessly kill you at any point in time. You can’t even really prevent it, I’ve had it kill me by destroying both my engines and all of my iron and omega in a single random event.

    • DrollRemark says:

      If it’s the one I’m thinking of, that’s not a random event, it’s pre-set to appear after a certain number of systems.

  19. alexrok says:

    Thank you so much! I do not have an android device, and I had never heard of this.

    Out There is quite fun so far.

    And the fact that I can refund apps I don’t like within 15 minutes is also amazing.

  20. TechnicalBen says:

    So I’ve been playing PC games on my Android…
    Using a bluetooth keyboard a Splashtop (free for home networking, but use whatever you wish) is great.

    Let me put this clearly. I’ve only tried KSP so far, and it was great. I may try Crysis at some time, just to see someones face when I tell them my Android runs it (I’m allowed to be technical with the truth there ;) ).

    • grundus says:

      A while ago I set up my Raspberry Pi as a USB server and played Borderlands 2 on my iPhone using Splashtop and a 360 controller. It sucked (way too much latency) but it was funny to see it in action, similar to those tiny RC helicopters. BUT IT’S SO SMALL HOW DOES IT FLY

  21. Premium User Badge

    PikaBot says:

    Is the android comixology app better than the iPhone one? By which I mean, does it let you see the entire page instead of the ridiculous panel-by-panel view that is utterly unacceptable?

    • The Random One says:

      The Android app does let you switch off the ‘Guided View’. I’m aghast that the iPhone one doesn’t.

  22. BiggerJ says:

    This program doesn’t uninstall cleanly, and must be uninstalled using utilities such as those made by Revo and IObit, or through manual deletion of files and Ctrl-F-ing and erasure of registry entries. WHO THE HELL MAKES THINGS THAT NEED THAT?

  23. Freud says:

    Scan. Probe.

    Is that a dating game?

  24. eclipse mattaru says:

    I just can’t help pointing out that I’m writing vicious comments on somebody’s article about videogames. And making it sound like it’s some kind of moderately-sized deal, too.

    How haven’t I realised how desperately lonely and unhappy I am yet?

  25. jarowdowsky says:

    You know you can emulate nearly all PS2 games these days on PC?

    They are A LOT better than Android…

  26. frightlever says:

    This is going to piss off the guys who port their Android apps to PC and triple the price for much the same game. So that’s a good thing.

  27. Cousken says:

    I’ve recently installed the Remote Desktop app on my iPad, there is one for Android as well. Now i stream my Windows 8 to my tablet, and can play Civ V on it pretty well with minor issues. I also have BlueStacks installed on my PC, so basically i get all the 3 major tablet OS in one thanks to this trick :D