Featured: Intel’s x86 Android System Image Makes the Emulator Run at Native Speed

The Android emulator has been plagued by very slow speed from day one, and it only got worse when testing Android in the emulator with higher resolutions for the phones, and then even slower when it was tested for  tablets. Android developers have said before that there were 2 main problems: one was that since this was an actual emulator, emulating everything about the ARM architecture, and it was run on a x86 machine, that made things slower. The second part was that the graphics-heavy stuff was also emulated by the CPU rather than the GPU.

So in the past few months the Android developers have all but fixed these 2 issues. You can now enable GPU acceleration for ICS (only), which means that if you try to emulate a 3D game it will work a lot faster than before, and also the UI will be smooth and stutter-free as well.

When they launched the GPU acceleration, they also launched an x86 system image for Android, which means that the emulator could now run at native speeds on x86, rather than emulate ARM on x86. The only problem was that Intel only made that for Android 2.3 back then. But now Google has announced that the Android 4.0 x86 system image is finally available, so now developers can take advantage of both the native speed of their PC when emulating Android, but also of the GPU acceleration, so the emulator should work a whole lot better than before, and eliminate most complains about it.

Since this is a system image for Android on x86, I suspect the guys over at Android-x86.org will be able to take advantage of the compatibility and further optimization in it, to make their Android-x86 project work on even more laptops and PC’s. This could be the start of seeing Android on a lot more PC’s, especially if Google improves the experience for such machines with future versions of Android.

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