Since the onset of EDA, or Electronic Design Automation, numerous PCB design software programs have been developed and used by engineers all over the world. To create any PCB hardware in today’s age, PCB design programs have become the standard.
Given the multitude of PCB design programs available, it can be quite a challenge to pick one. Different features, performance, pricing, platforms and so on- there are a number of variables involved in the decision making process.
In this article, we have done a comparison between Autodesk Eagle vs. Fritzing. These are two popular programs, and provide all the essential design tools. To help you select which one is right for you between Fritzing vs. Eagle, we have compared them on all major technical and consumer aspects.
 Major Differences Between Fritzing Vs Eagle
These two programs have a lot of differences, especially since one is a paid package and the other is free of cost. We have listed below, the 7 main differences between Fritzing vs. Eagle.
The points below describe the differences in detail, and cover system compatibility, performance of the software for various tasks, features offered, the pricing plans and more.
 Schematic Editing
The schematic is an essential part of the design process for a PCB. This is one of the first things you will be working on, during a project. It also influences the following stages in the design process.
In Fritzing, you get a well-designed user interface for schematic editing. The workspace has indicative icons to represent the tools they allow you to access. Fritzing puts the focus on a fast and basic editor, which provides all the tools you may require.
You can also export the files in all major formats. The editor also contains functions like part list magnification, drag and drop features, faster loading for imported files and so on. Overall, the work experience is good, although you might face some difficulty working on more complex projects, due to limited advanced features.
Eagle provides users a range of schematic editing features with a host of import and export options to make the file exchange process faster and smoother. The DDS or Dynamic Design Sync tool lets you perform edits simultaneously between the layout and the schematic.
 Layout and Routing
Creating layouts for a new circuit requires attention to detail, and routing the board also needs a good sense of electronics design and general awareness of manufacturing and assembly procedures.
Now since paying attention to every little detail all at once is not so feasible for one single designer, modern PCB design software has certain features to automate certain tasks or help the designer by providing suggestions and more.
Fritzing provides both manual and autorouting features. You can start by creating a layout file, and then switch to the breadboard view. Here, you have to manually draw and connect wires and components. The autorouter is available only in the PCB mode.
Manual routing is basic, yet works well and can get the job done fast. There are limited advanced features, and although interactive routing is not available, the system allows you to do double-sided routing and even lay curved traces.
Eagle, on the other hand, puts special focus on the layout and routing processes. Autodesk has designed a new routing engine which is available in the recent versions of Eagle, and it now features various tools such as interactive routing.
You can use the obstacle avoidance routing function, which makes it easier to trace using alternate paths by staying clear of obstacles on the board.
 Part Creation and Management
The process of creating components and footprints or symbols in any software can turn into a long and tiring task without the right tools. Although all programs have libraries which contain ready to use parts, sometimes you may need to make custom components.
For this, Fritzing has a part creator with all the essential tools, and also allows you to edit parts imported from libraries or other projects. Additionally, you can use the Mystery Part function which can be used for defining new components with their connections.
You can also keep track of the editing history and access earlier edits. To modify and edit the parts you are working on, you can use the Palette windows and panels to find the required tools.
Eagle has a great feature related to part creation. Firstly, you get a trusted design platform, with the Autodesk standards. Along with that, Eagle has a component management system, where you can easily keep track of all the parts available on your system, and links to libraries for additional parts.
Eagle also provides a design reusability feature. With this, you can store design blocks and shapes created in the software as modular units and reuse them in different designs.
They can be easily accessed and used in the project through simple drag and drop functionality.
 3D Visualisation
Although 3D model generation is a comparatively new feature in PCB design software, it has become really important in the process of design inspection and creating a dimensionally accurate design in a reduced number of iterations.
Fritzing does not offer 3D visualization features as of now, but you can save your PCB files in compatible format and try to open them using external CAD programs. There are community forums where users have submitted requests for 3D generation and modeling in future versions.
Eagle has a comprehensive 3D functionality suite. Eagle comes as a package inclusion with the Autodesk Fusion 360 software bundle. With this, you can easily convert 2D drawings into 3D models and generate models using drawing data from external sources as well.
Additionally, the MCAD compatibility ensures that you can check your board with its mechanical components such as the enclosure and mounts. This helps you validate the dimensions and tolerances given during the design process.
 Performing Simulations
Before sending the board for production, it is a good practice to analyse the performance and behaviour of the board by running a simulation and testing the model by emulating its real life operational conditions.
This can test the board for a variety of parameters. Eagle uses the popular SPICE engine for simulations, which stands for: Simulation Program with Integrated Circuit Emphasis. With SPICE, Eagle offers analyses such as AC and DC analysis, transient and noise analysis, and much more.
With Eagle, you can carry out digital, analog and mixed-signal circuit analysis. Additionally, you can choose to export netlists in all major compatible formats and perform the simulation in external applications if required.
Fritzing does not offer simulation functions as of now, but it can be expected that upgraded versions in the future might have them.
 Operating Systems and Supported Platforms
Before purchasing any PCB design software, or in fact any software program in general, you should check the compatibility of your device with the software requirements.
In this case, we will look at Fritzing and Eagle. Fritzing is an open source application, which means its source code is available for free and legal public use. Software developers can use the code to identify bugs, fix them, add features and improvements, and work on releasing updates faster.
It can be run on all major platforms such as Windows, Mac OS X and Linux as well. Fritzing can be downloaded and installed easily; for assistance you can ask doubts on the forums and online discussion groups which can be accessed from within the software.
Eagle is developed and published by Autodesk. Earlier it was available as a standalone product, but is now included with the Fusion 360 software suite.
It can be run on 64 bit operating systems, and works on Windows, Mac OS and Linux Ubuntu. As compared to Fritzing, Eagle requires more resources to run, such as higher memory and processor requirements.
 Pricing Plans
While purchasing any program for PCB design, it is important to know the pricing plans and the versions available, so that you can decide which one best suits your requirements.
Fritzing is a free and open source program, and it can be downloaded, installed and used without any payment. Future versions and upgrades can also be downloaded for free.
Eagle, on the other hand, is paid software. You can purchase it with the Fusion 360 from Autodesk on a subscription basis. They offer a free version with certain limitations, with a 12 month validity period.
To purchase a monthly subscription, it will cost $60.00 per month. The annual subscription costs $495.00. There are other pricing plans available, which can be obtained from their website.
 Additional Features
In this section, we will take a look at some features provided in the programs we are discussing, which help improve the user experience and design process. These features may or may not be required during every-day designing, but can come in use occasionally.
Fritzing includes a special feature with a focus on Arduino and Rasberry PI boards. You get a code interface, where you can write code for the mentioned boards from within the software itself, and export the file of the PCB along with its code.
Fritzing also offers content libraries that deal specifically with Arduino and Rasberry PI boards. Users also get the option of working with the breadboard view instead of the regular diagram view, and the software on a whole is pretty easy to use.
Eagle contains features to help you with high-speed design. It also has tools that can be used while working on HDI (High Density Interconnect) structures, and even features for BGA fanout routing efficiently.
And since Eagle comes with the Fusion 360 bundle, you also get ECAD-MCAD collaboration support. With this, you can check the PCB’s interaction with mechanical components; measure required dimensions, check clearances and much more.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, Fritzing Vs Eagle
To speak in terms of PCB designing functionality, the better option would be Eagle, considering the better performance, more tuning options and more features that it offers.
Fritzing also is a very capable program, with some limitations, but it can get the job done fast. It is more basic as compared to Eagle, and hence in some ways, can be quicker. It is also open source, and hence developers can release their own versions with upgraded features and more.
The schematic and layout features in Eagle are well designed, and the routing functions reduce process time and help in more accurate routes with the integrated rule checks.
Autodesk Eagle Vs Fritzing: Who’s the Winner?
With all technical factors considered, let’s take a look at compatibility and value for money. Fritzing is a completely free to use program. So, for beginners, or users who want to use a PCB design program only for basic designs or casual designing need not spend money purchasing software.
They can download Fritzing for free and use it. On the other hand, if the requirements call for slightly more advanced features, you can consider purchasing a subscription for Eagle.
Autodesk Eagle is one of the cheaper paid programs available, and one that still provides a great set of features and performance. The user interface is not too difficult to understand or work with, although absolute beginners will require some time to get used to it.
Considering all of the above factors, Eagle seems to be the better option of the two, and also since it is available on a subscription basis, you can pay for it for as long as you need to use the software.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
This question has a simple and different answer for everyone. All designers can have different requirements and design methodologies. The software that suits one designer may not be the preference of the next designer.
Hence, based on your requirements and constraints, you can select the software which best fits your work description. To pick one between Fritzing Vs Eagle, the main differentiator is the pricing and feature set.
If the projects you work on don’t require high level features, then Fritzing can actually be a better option for you as you may be able to get your work done faster in a more basic yet functional workspace. Otherwise you can opt for the Eagle free trial, and purchase it if you feel it works for you.
Hopefully, you have found this Fritzing v Eagle comparison guide worthwhile and it has helped you to make an informed choice about these two PCB Design Software.