ExaGear Desktop 2.0

Eltechs’ ExaGear Desktop is an application that installs a x86 architecture guest on your Raspberry Pi, allowing you to use x86 applications which may not have an ARM architecture compatible version. The latest version of ExaGear Desktop now supports OpenGL and DirectX, enabling it to run even more applications or games.

The software does require you to purchase a license, which is currently available at €25 (April 2017), but I’ve been given one for free for the sake of this review.

In this post I set up ExaGear on the Raspberry Pi 3 and play a game with it, giving you an idea of how it works and performs.

Preparation

To get started, you will need a Raspberry Pi 3 running PIXEL, with a large enough SD card to install some applications and/or games.

You can follow my guide on setting up your Pi, here: Headless Raspberry Pi Setup with Raspbian Jessie

Be sure to install the full version Jessie, not the Lite version. I’ve used the version from 2017-03-02.

Installation

OpenGL

The first step is to activate OpenGL on the Raspberry Pi using the raspi-config utility.

  • go to menu “7 Advanced Options”
  • go to menu “A6 GL Driver”
  • select option “G1 (Full KMS) OpenGL desktop driver with full KMS”

When finished, reboot your Pi to apply the changes.

ExaGear

Next, the ExaGear software and x86 guest need to be installed.

Start by uploading the ExaGear package and license file to the Pi, using SCP or similar.

Then, log in to the Pi and install the application.

Once installed, enter the guest environment.

You can verify the architecture has changed by running the “uname” command.

With a more common architecture now available, let’s take it a step further and make it possible to run Windows applications.

Wine

Wine is a compatibility layer which makes it possible to run Windows applications in other operating systems like Linux. It needs to be installed in the x86 guest.

The installation takes several minutes, after which we can start running Windows applications and installers.

Test

Time to run a game and test the performance!

Unreal Tournament

I’ve picked Unreal Tournament 1999 for this test, as it is one of the games I used to play a lot at LAN parties when I was younger. My skills are rusty, but aren’t completely gone.

The installation of the game is done using wine, takes a rather long time to finish, but finishes successfully.

Once installed, I configured the game to use the OpenGL driver and launched it. The intro is played in full screen and is choppy, but playing the game in windowed mode works quite well!

Here’s a video demonstrating some gameplay:

Conclusion

It works as advertised.

Even though there are free alternatives out there like QEMU, the simplicity of the installation and ease of use compensate for the affordable one-time fee. I was pleasantly surprised at how playable Unreal Tournament is, without any fine tuning. By tweaking more settings like the swap file size, video memory ratio, etc … it could probably be improved even more.

One slightly negative point would the lack of a trial version of the software, which would allow more people to evaluate the software and confirm it suits their needs before purchasing a full license. The fact that the software can’t be downloaded from the website (as far as I could see), is also a minor annoyance for those that do own a license.

An interesting bit of software which easily extends the Pi’s capabilities.

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