Altium Designer Vs EAGLE | What’s Best For PCB Designing [2020 UPDATED]

Given the many variants of PCB designing software available on the market today, which one should you select? Which application will help your needs more? Here, we do a detailed comparison of Altium Designer vs EAGLE, two of the popular options.

We have taken some of the most important design and layout parameters to compare, and even factors affecting your design to production process-flow.

In this Altium vs EAGLE comparison, you will find different pricing plans, best features, pros and cons of each application, as well as a conclusion to tell you which software works best for you.

Since both of these are high-level PCB designing software programs, some of their features are similar. However, the quality of those features and the performance is what makes them different.

Altium Vs Eagle PCB Designer Comparison

Altium Designer

Altium Designer 20 is the latest installment in the Altium PCB Designer series. With increased possibilities for the best in electronics designing, almost no design is impossible to create with this.

With the all new interactive routing engine, tuning and filtering capabilities and user-interface which offers simplicity and streamlined work-flow.

3-D CAD modeling with fast rigid-flex design and MCAD integration allows you to check clearances of the PCB with interacting environments.

Features such as fast PCB layout and documentation, accurate simulation, and sequential schematic display allow you to design your circuits with higher efficiency. Read on to find out more about why this is one of the most popular and capable PCB design software today.

Compare Altium Designer Vs Eagle

KEY FEATURES:

  • Instantaneous Supply Chain Management: With Altium Designer 20, generating a Bill of Material (BOM) for your project is easier. ActiveBOM uses predictive suggestions based on the components in your design and directly offers part info from the manufacturers.
  • Cloud-based Collaborative Working: For projects that require multiple team members to work on a single project, Altium offers Cloud-based remote working. Through this, members can design and edit files over the internet.
  • Schematic driver design rules: While designing the schematic for a project, certain rules need to be followed. With Altium, you can set and define rules and constraints which are automatically checked against your schematic for accuracy.
  • ECAD/MCAD Support: To ease the process of collaborating on electrical circuit design with your mechanical counterparts, Altium has ECAD/MCAD integration. This allows syncing with CAD platforms such as Creo, Pro/E, SOLIDWORKS, and Autodesk Inventor.
  • High Speed and High Density Design: This application has powerful tuning and filtering options. The EM solver has capabilities to handle complex features like propagation delay impedance measurement. Now you can also integrate HDI structures into your project.
  • Conversion to Hierarchical Design: Complex and advanced designs can be simplified into smaller logical based layers which are easier to work with. Hierarchical design tools let you convert multi-channel designs into step-wise design units.
  • Advanced Interactive Routing: Complex routing is easier than ever with Altium’s new interactive routing engine. You can now use powerful tracing and routing features like walk-around, differential pairs, obstacle-ignore, hug and push and push and shove.
  • Draftsman Functionality: The Draftsman feature makes it easier to create professional PCB documentation. This in turn helps in creating PCB fabrication and two-dimensional assembly drawings.

Why Choose Altium Designer? (PROS)

  • Get production-ready designs with Advanced Supply Chain Management.
  • Team members can now have active discussions using the online centralized Communication Centre.
  • Clearances from a mechanical enclosure can be checked using Native3D visualization.
  • Design data for each project can be shared within a team securely, to make edits and improvise remote working.
  • PCB designs can be integrated and synced with mechanical designs thanks to the MCAD features of Altium.
  • It is now easier to get prices and details of components instantly from manufacturers with ActiveBOM.

CONS

  • The license costs are high and hence might not be affordable for everyone.
  • Simulation features in Altium are not refined and need to be improved.

What is unique about Altium Designer?

Altium Designer 20 displays a live presentation of the design outset and provides crucial supply chain information. It also offers features such as cost estimation and availability of components for your project board.

This is possible thanks to the real-time BOM management system, called ActiveBOM. Using information and predictive technology, the software also informs you in case of a risk in the supply of a certain component.

With ActiveBOM, you can suggest alternative components that are pin-compatible, so in case the selected part is not available, ActiveBOM will automatically search and provide details of the nearest best alternative that is compatible with your project.

Who’s it for?

Individuals or businesses which are looking for a platform that allows collaborative work between team members, for mid-size to large-sized businesses, can use Altium Designer 20. Or if you design from a production point of view, or if you are required to work on multi-layer designs or many projects simultaneously, go for Altium.

Supported Platforms:

  • Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition (64-bit)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)

System Requirements:

To install and run Altium Designer 20 on your computer, the following minimum system requirements have to be met:

  • Intel Core i5 processor or equivalent
  • 1600×1200 or better screen resolution
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3 GB DDR4/DDR5 Video Memory
  • 12GB storage space SSD recommended
  • Internet Connection
  • Microsoft Excel required for BOM
  • Microsoft Access required for DbLibs

PRICING: 

Below are the pricing plans for Altium, since this is a license based software application:

  • Altium Designer offers a 15-day free, full featured license for all users after they complete their registration.
  • For eligible students, a 6-month license is available free of cost.
  • Pricing plans for Altium Designer 20 start at $7245.00/year.
  • Full version costs $9890.00/year.
  • There is no free-version available.

Is Altium Designer worth it?

With its advanced features, it can be used by professionals; and the friendly user-interface makes it equally usable by beginners and students. Hence, if you can afford it, Altium Designer is the software to go for.

Altium Designer offers capable and powerful editors, less navigation thanks to a high level of integration; Individuals or businesses looking to expand production and undertake production or research with industry-level standards can opt for this.

Autodesk EAGLE

Autodesk EAGLE is one of the most efficient and powerful EDA (Electronic Design Automation) software available out there. EAGLE is an acronym that stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor.

Originally, it was developed by CadSoft Computer GmbH, which was acquired by Autodesk in 2016. Since then, a lot of changes have been made in terms of performance and functionality.

EAGLE provides users with a multi-window GUI and a system that PCB designers can use for project management, layout editing, and setting various design parameters. The software also allows users to script recurring commands to save time and automate some tasks.

Now it is available as a product with Autodesk Fusion 360, in the EAGLE 8 series rather than as a standalone product. It is still compatible with files created in older versions such as EAGLE 7 series software.

Autodesk EAGLE is very capable of handling multi-layered single/double-sided boards. The schematic and board design editors are easy to use and effective. Component placement is also easy with EAGLE.

Comparison between Autodesk Eagle Vs Altium Designer

KEY FEATURES:

  • SPICE Simulator: With EAGLE, SPICE integration is included. This allows designers to test different ideas and optimize their design to the maximum. They can also validate the performance of the circuit with the SPICE simulation features.
  • Modular Design Blocks: Design blocks once created, can be made into modular objects that can be reused as drag-and-drop features between different projects. In addition, schematics can be synced with the design blocks and PCB circuits.
  • Electronic Rule Checking (ERC): A necessary and essential feature in modern PCB design applications, EAGLE has a complete set of defined electronic rules. These rules can be used to validate the schematic design to give an error-free PCB.
  • Obstacle Avoidance Routing (OAR): It becomes easier to route complicated and advanced PCB layouts with the new OAR technology. EAGLE’s OAR allows you to maneuver around the circuit and take the trace to where you want it to be.
  • High Speed Design: With high speed design capabilities, it becomes easier to route interfaces like DDR4, DDR5, PCIe and USB. This can be done with the help of differential pairs, length tuning and even blind and buried vias.
  • 3D PCB Models: This feature allows you to check multiple 3-D models of enclosures to ensure that your board fits the enclosure with accurate and adequate tolerances and fits as required for the PCB design.
  • Manufacture-ready Parts: EAGLE has a vast array of component libraries with direct links to manufacturers and suppliers. With the help of these, you can place orders according to your requirements and avoid having to make design changes later on.
  • Advanced BGA Fanout: This new and advanced algorithm allows designers to save their time. Instead of manually fanning out ball-grid-array nets, the inbuilt algorithm solves it and does it for you.

Why Choose EAGLE? (PROS)

  • Fusion 360 Integration allows you to design directly in Fusion 360 and sync bi-directional edits effortlessly.
  • Simple Design Reuse helps you cut out repetitive steps by making the designed circuitry easily reusable.
  • Multi-Sheet Schematics enable you to have control over complex projects and keep your layouts and schematics neat and organized.
  • Dynamic Design Synchronization is a feature that syncs all the edits and changes between schematic and layout, for convenience in designing.
  • Great Affordability and different plans so that each user can get a license on a need-basis.
  • Dynamic online libraries allow easy download-and-use components from a variety of manufacturers.

CONS

  • As this is subscription-based software, the initial cost is low, but recurring costs are very high, and an annual maintenance fee has to be paid for updates.
  • CAD models from other platforms have to be converted manually in the older versions, and the mCAD features are a bit difficult to use.

What is unique about EAGLE?

EAGLE is a highly effective PCB design solution. It has been in use for quite some time now, and Autodesk has greatly improved its functionality.

Features such as Fusion 360 integration and sending designs to suppliers to get quotes quickly.

This is not just a good choice for layout, but also schematic generation and SPICE analysis operations. This makes EAGLE unique.

This software is also efficient and offers lot of online libraries and forums where you can discuss and resolve issues. Element14 offers consolidated EAGLE libraries, which saves time and reduces effort while PCB designing.

Who’s it for?

EAGLE is an affordable solution with high-quality 3-D CAD modeling and rendering, which makes it a great option for small businesses.

With features like Scriptability, bill-of-material generation can be automated and input into databases for assembly and release packages.

Beginners and students can use it as well, and for people who are looking for production-focused PCB designing.

Supported Platforms:

  • Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit)
  • Mac OS (64-bit)
  • Linux Ubuntu (SSE, 8bpp)

System Requirements:

Autodesk EAGLE can be run on all the following consoles, if they just meet the minimum system requirements as given below:

Windows

  • Operating System: Windows 7 or newer
  • CPU: 64-bit processor
  • Memory: 3GB RAM (4GB recommended)
  • Internet: DSL internet connection or faster
  • Storage: At least 650MB of free space

Mac

  • Operating System: OS X Yosemite (10.10.x), El Capitan (10.11.x) or MacOS Sierra (10.12)
  • CPU: 64-bit processor
  • Memory: 3GB RAM (4GB recommended)
  • Internet: DSL internet connection or faster
  • Storage: At least 650MB of free space

Linux

  • Operating System: Intel PC-based Linux with 2.6 kernel
  • CPU: Needs to support SSE
  • Graphics: X11 with a minimum colour depth of 8 bpp
  • Libraries: libssl.so.1.0.0, libcrypto.so.1.0.0
  • Internet: DSL internet connection or faster
  • Storage: At least 650MB of free space

Note: For the 64 bit version of Autodesk EAGLE, you’ll need libc.so.6 with subversion GLIBC_2.14 or higher.

PRICING: 

EAGLE is provided by Autodesk as a bundle integrated with Fusion 360. So prices below are for the entire package:

  • Free Version is available: (Limited Functionality)
    • Included with a Fusion 360 for personal use subscription, EAGLE free download is a limited version for hobbyists including 2 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers, and an 80cm2 (12.4in2) board area.
    • Available for 12 months.
  • A full-featured free trial is available for 30 days.
  • Monthly Subscription: $60.00
  • Annual Subscription: $495.00
  • Three-Year Subscription: $1335.00

Is Autodesk EAGLE worth it?

Autodesk EAGLE proves to be great software for PCB designing and editing. It makes getting manufacturing information easy right in the designing process so as to save design changes and avoid the risk of parts running out of supply.

Considering the pricing plans and student/educator versions, this software can be used for various applications and interests, on all major computing platforms.

Main Differences Between Altium Designer Vs EAGLE

[1] Altium gives advanced filters to simplify and modify user selection. This helps designers select editing options more intuitively and allows. The net names also appear automatically on the PCB pads in the editor.

[2] EAGLE offers backward/forward annotation between PCB and schematic. This is a highly time-saving feature. Designers don’t have to edit/annotate labels in both places manually, as the PCB and Schematic have backward-forward annotation capabilities.

[3] Altium’s UI is easier to use than EAGLE for beginners. The Ease of Setup and Installation as well as Ease of Use is better with Altium Designer. EAGLE on the other hand is slightly more difficult to learn to use and although has intuitive options, the learning curve is a little steeper as compared to Altium.

[4] EAGLE is subscription based whereas Altium is license based. One of the main differences between the two applications is this. EAGLE is a subscription-based product. Meaning, the subscription has to be renewed after the initial period ends. Altium has license based options, including a perpetual license that does not have to be renewed, except for updates.

[5] EAGLE has more powerful simulation tools compared to Altium. Simulations are performed better in EAGLE and faster. Altium also has decent simulation capabilities, but the accuracy is better in EAGLE.

[6] Altium gives production details in real-time with ActiveBOM. If production is your focus, Altium Designer will provide a better supply chain management experience as compared to EAGLE, which also has similar features but not at the same level of functionality.

[7] Pricing Plans are a major difference. While EAGLE is a subscription-based program, it costs much less on a per-month basis. Altium costs much higher but recurring costs are very low, as compared to EAGLE, which has an annual maintenance fee to be paid for new versions.

[8] Platform Availability: While Altium is available only on Windows based computers, EAGLE can be used on computers running Windows/ macOS / Linux Ubuntu. This means you can continue using the same software even if you change your device/computer.

Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, Altium Vs EAGLE

EAGLE has better options for open/free hardware based projects, or where a team needs to collaborate on a project. It is easier for team members to build on one project in a shared mode in EAGLE. Altium, on the other hand, is comparatively more powerful and has a smoother interface.

Altium has a better set of advanced features like multi-layer high speed digital processing. Design rule checking is better in Altium with regex, priority etc. And routing and accommodations for radio-frequency and fast digital are better as well.

Altium Designer Vs EAGLE: Who’s the Winner?

That again focuses on your requirements. Library handling and creating your own components can be a bit of an issue when it comes to EAGLE. These things are better done in Altium.

On the overall, Altium proves to be a more capable option for you to select, if you can afford it. That being said, it does offer better performance and more advanced editing features, not to mention all the database storage and handling efficiency it has.

However, if it’s a matter of running simulations, you could look at EAGLE with its fusion 360 integration; in this area, EAGLE can give Altium a run for its money. So choose wisely based on your requirements.

So, Which One Should You Pick?

Which PCB designer between Altium vs EAGLE is the best for you?  EAGLE has been known as a reliable software, but as compared to Altium, some of its features are now slightly out-dated, or are available in other entry-level programs.

However, the fact remains that EAGLE is still a high performing software program with a good editor and strong simulation capabilities. And this comes at a lower initial cost.

But if price is not your major concern, you can opt for Altium Designer, as there is almost no function you cannot perform in it, and it is highly recommended for people or businesses that are looking to meet production or manufacturing targets.

Apart from this, we have compared all the major features, so if you have some specific requirements from the software, you can decide based on its performance in that particular sector.

Hopefully, you have found this Altium v Eagle comparison guide worthwhile and it has helped you to make an informed choice about these two PCB Design Software.

Additionally, you can also check out our comparison of DipTrace vs Eagle and OrCAD vs Eagle, if you are still not quite settled on a solution.

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