I'm not really skilled in Android development and I would like to
know if I can tweak the emulator to require less computational power.
There are a couple things you can tweak to make the emulator less resource hungry. The two most important knob is:
- RAM: the emulator always allocates all of the emulated device's RAM into the host's RAM even if it's unused by the emulated device. If you specify the emulated device to have a RAM larger than the free RAM that you normally have on the host without running the emulator, then the host OS will have to swap and invariably causes trashing.
- Screen size: use lower resolution screen, the default screen resolution for Android 3.x and 4.x is way too high to run smoothly in even high-end hardware.
I've been able to successfully develop several simple apps on my old laptop, a 1.8Ghz dual core with 1GB RAM. After proper tweaks, the emulator still feels slow and laggy, but it's usable.
Also, I haven't tried it yet, but you might want to try Android-x86 in VirtualBox or QEMU. The emulator that comes with the SDK emulates ARM architecture, therefore there is an overhead in translating ARM to x86 instruction; most Intel and AMD CPU used in laptop uses the x86 architecture and have support for x86 emulation to significantly reduce emulation overhead. If your app runs on Dalvik, and doesn't use the NDK, then theoretically you should have no problem using Android-x86.