Wine, the popular multi-platform compatibility level for Windows, has been officially available for Android since early 2018. However, it only translates API calls. there is no built-in emulator for converting x86 instructions for ARM processors. ExaGear is a paid emulator for Android that tries to solve this problem by adding an x86 emulator to a modified version of Wine.
The current price of ExaGear $ 29.99 does not seem unreasonable to me, especially since it is the only Windows emulator in the Play Store with anything close to decent performance (CrossOver aside, which only works on x86 devices). ExaGear does exactly what it claims to do, but there are many missing features and playing computer games on a smartphone screen is not exactly enjoyable.
The ExaGear interface is quite naked. The side menu includes desktop shortcuts, the Start menu, installing a new application, and managing virtual containers. Like some other Wine interfaces, ExaGear splits each application into its own Windows virtual installation, but it still merges all the Start menu items into one easily accessible screen.
If you are familiar with Wine, you can change various settings from Containers Manager. Here you can open File Explorer, install additional packages (fonts, .NET, etc.) or change the display options. However, there are still some missing options that can affect compatibility – more on that later.
Installation of applications
To actually install a Windows application, you have two options: select one from a predefined list or select an .exe file from the Downloads folder. The list of officially supported games and applications is very short – We counted 25 since this review was written. This is the biggest problem I have with ExaGear, as well as other wines (like CrossOver, WineBottler, and PlayOnLinux) typically have hundreds of supported applications. Most of the options are older games, such as Civilization III, StarCraft and Fallout 2.
The wine compatibility level is an incredibly powerful tool, but almost every program needs at least a few minor tweaks to work. This usually means installing some frameworks (such as .NET) and one or two fonts. In extreme cases, more intrusions are required – such as changing the version of Windows, installing certain components of Windows (such as Internet Explorer), and more. ExaGear has only four optional packages that help with compatibility – Core Fonts, Tahoma Font, .NET 2.0 and MS Jet 4.0.
If your game or application is not on the official list, there is a good chance it will not work at all, even if you put in the work to find what packages you need. There is also no way to change the version of Windows or skip the DLLs, as the main wine control panel is missing. Finally, there is no option to mount ISO as a D: drive
So in short, if you want to install something outside of the extremely limited library of supported applications, expect to do an uphill.
I tried ExaGear with a handful of Windows applications and games, and in my experience, it has about the same level of compatibility as Wine on the desktop. I first tried Microsoft Word Viewer 2003 (from here), since it was on the list of supported applications, and it worked fine.
Fallout 1 is also supported, but the installer will not open. In fairness, I was trying to back up the original Windows installation disk, not the GOG version of ExaGear.
Then I tried Firefox, which also failed to install. Then I gave Photoshop CS (since 2003) a shot, which He made You installed successfully, but it was incredibly slow for my Samsung Galaxy Tab S. 2014. That’s where the limitations of the x86 emulator start, but if you have a newer phone / tablet, you can see better results.
Finally, I installed Sim City 2000, which almost worked – except that the sidebar disappeared when I clicked anywhere on the map. So close!
Do you have to buy it?
Probably not. ExaGear is definitely impressive from a technical point of view. It is the only wine port for Android that can run standard Windows x86 software on ARM devices. CrossOver for Android is a much better product, but it only works on x86 Android and Chromebook devices. The wine itself is now available for Android, but there is no built-in emulator, so ARM devices can only run Windows software designed for ARM.
Aside from technical advances, I do not understand why anyone would buy it unless you have a large Android tablet with a keyboard (or if you are still making an HP Slatebook 14). Windows applications are impossible to use on phone-sized screens, and even when mounting on a tablet, you have to deal with wine compatibility.
If ExaGear could add more apps and games to the supported list, the $ 29.99 price could be more easily justified. As such, the application is more of a technical demonstration than anything I would like to use on a regular basis.