KiCad Vs EAGLE | What Is The Features And Differences [2020 UPDATED]

PCB designing is an engineering and design discipline of great importance in today’s world. With chips and boards becoming smaller, designers today face great challenges in optimising the PCB and extracting better performance and results from the electronics.

To help them with this, software developers are constantly improving their EDA (Electronic Design Automation) platforms. Out of the numerous options in the market today, we have selected two popular choices to compare: KiCad vs EAGLE.

In this comparison between Autodesk EAGLE vs KiCad EDA, we have looked at major factors such as technical performance, features, ease of use, pricing, platforms supported and so on. Read on to find the detailed comparison.

KiCad Vs Eagle PCB Designer Comparison

KiCad EDA

For PCB designing, KiCad is one of the best free software programs, which in fact offers even better functionality than some paid programs. KiCad has been developing and publishing their EDA application since 1992, and has considerably improved over time.

Since this is an open-source platform, software developers can access the source code of KiCad and debug it, improve it, optimise it and add features that may be required as per use. Another advantage is that KiCad runs on all major operating systems.

KiCad provides its users some great features for schematic capture, layout, routing and even functions for handling DFM (Design for Manufacturing) tasks. KiCad consists of five sub-modules:

  1. KiCad: (Project Management)
  2. Eeschema: (Schematic Capture and editor)
  3. Pcbnew: (PCB layout solution, with 3D capabilities)
  4. GerbView: (Gerber viewer)
  5. Bitmap2Component: (Image to PCB footprint conversion)

All of the above programs are available as a single, integrated software suite with KiCad, as a free bundle download.

Compare KiCad EDA Vs Eagle

KEY FEATURES:

Below are mentioned 8 highlights and key features of KiCad.

  • PCBNew for Layout and Routing: The layout and routing module of KiCad is known as PCBNew, and it helps you to make layouts and route your board faster than before. Moreover, it offers interactive routing features such as push and shove routing, and obstacle avoidance. The software can also automatically re-route to avoid obstacles.
  • Eeschema Schematic Capture: For your schematic capture tasks, KiCad provides a simple and efficient solution in the form of Eeschema. This package offers a clean and functional UI, to enhance productivity. It also allows you to export files in PDF, SVG, HPGL and Postscript etc.
  • Hierarchical Schematic Features: For complex designs that involve multi-sheet and multi-layer schematics, Eeschema can simplify those projects for you by converting the schematic into a hierarchical structure on single sheets, which makes it easier to understand and work with them.
  • Design and Electrical Rule Checking: Rule checking is an important factor while designing to ensure a valid design process. KiCad provides a fast DRC system that works for both design and electrical processes, and checks for errors such as missing driver, unconnected pins, output pin conflicts and more. Format support for exporting netlists includes: Pspice, Cadstar, PcbNew and XML.
  • 3D Rendering: KiCad’s 3D viewer allows users to display their 2D drawings as 3D models in various views with a single click. Designers can also view 3D models as 2D plane-wise drawings and interact with various components of the drawing.
  • Intuitive UI: With a focus on productivity and to reduce navigational efforts, KiCad provides designers a simple and efficient user interface with intuitively placed toolkits. This program is easier to learn and use as compared to a lot of others in the competition.
  • Free, Open Source and Cross Platform: KiCad is completely free to download and use. Moreover, it works on Windows, macOS and Linux operating systems as well. Being an open-source platform, developers can constantly improve this program and release updated version with glitch fixes and performance/feature upgrades.
  • Online Library Import and Export: To save you the trouble of having to build parts and shapes from scratch, KiCad has libraries with thousands on online components, ready to use for your project. You can also import parts from external sources and save them in the libraries for future use.

Why Choose KiCad? (PROS)

  • Gerber file support in GerbView works with canvases such as OpenGL and Cairo.
  • Users can define their own shortcuts and hotkeys for quicker workflow.
  • KiCad also offers SPICE simulation support with Eeschema.
  • You can control and change internal environment variables with the EVE or, environment variable editor.
  • It’s free of cost and open source, hence regular upgrades and bug fixes will be available.
  • The partial clipboard function allows you to move symbols and nets between hierarchical sheets.

CONS

  • KiCad does not offer auto-routing or tools for design of high speed features.
  • The older versions are not optimised for hardware or GPU acceleration on macOS devices, which might result in slightly slower performance occasionally.
  • The library management features need improvement and need to be centralized. There is limited part availability while working with newer or less common components.

What is unique about KiCad?

KiCad is one of the, if not the best free PCB designing platforms available to the users today. It has no hidden charges, no additional downloads or adware and provides a vast range of great features that allow you to work on most designs easily.

Performance wise also it works well, and can be run on almost all major operating systems. With features like 3D viewing, hierarchical conversion and more, this is definitely a great choice for circuit and board designs.

Who’s it for?

Ideally, this program is best suited for individuals and small to mid-sized businesses. Novice users will find this a good place to start designing and learn this skill. Expert users might find certain features missing, so this might not be a great choice for them.

Supported Platforms:

  • Windows 7, 8, 8.1, 10, Server (2012, 2016, 2019) Editions.
  • Apple macOS 10.12, 10.13, 10.14.
  • GNU/Linux: Ubuntu 16.04 onwards up to Ubuntu 20.04 (LTS).
  • Fedora 29 – 32.
  • Debian 9, 10.

System Requirements:

The following are the minimum software and hardware requirements for running KiCad EDA on your designing system.

  • Supported Processor Architectures: Intel (or compatible) 32 and 64 bit | PowerPC 32 and 64 bit | ARM 32 and 64 bit | MIPS 64 bit
  • 1GB RAM (2G RAM recommended)
  • Up to 10GB available hard disk space
  • Screen resolution of 1280×1024 works but 1920×1080 or higher is recommended, with at least 16K colors. At lower resolutions toolbar buttons may be hidden but corresponding commands should be reachable via menu.
  • Graphics card with OpenGL 2.1 or greater that supports hardware shaders.

PRICING: 

KiCad is a completely free to download and use software program and can be installed using the setup package from the KiCad website. There is no additional payment even for future upgrades.

Is KiCad EDA worth it?

KiCad is a powerful design solution for EDA and allows you to carry out all major tasks such as layout, schematic capture, editing and also gives some advanced features for professional users. Given that this is a free program, it is definitely worth trying.

Autodesk EAGLE

Autodesk EAGLE is an EDA platform initially introduced and developed by CadSoft Computer GmbH, and acquired by Autodesk in 2016. Autodesk has improved the program and added some feature changes and performance upgrades.

EAGLE actually is an acronym that stands for Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor. EAGLE has some productive and efficient tools to help you perform your designing tasks with ease. It offers a multi-window GUI (Graphical User Interface), a project management system, fast schematic capture and so on.

EAGLE 9.6 is the latest version, and is only available with the Fusion 360 software suite.

Autodesk has created a design cloud, with format interchange options and support for older file formats. It also has integrated its mechanical CAD design environment features with its EDA platforms, resulting in the best of both worlds.

Comparison between Autodesk Eagle Vs KiCad EDA

KEY FEATURES:

Here are 8 of the main highlights in terms of features offered in the EAGLE PCB design application.

  • Advanced ERC and DRC: EAGLE users get a new and improved rule checking engine. This covers both electrical and design rules. Additionally, it can also be extended to cover certain other constraint modules to provide a valid and error-free design process.
  • New Routing Engine: Another great feature that EAGLE provides is the new router that has an obstacle avoidance routing technique. This makes it easier to move around the board quickly and trace the way you want to make more optimised routes.
  • Design of High-Speed Features: High-speed design comes into the picture when the physical constraints of the board start affecting signal and electronics performance. To help you with such complex projects, EAGLE includes tools for diff pairs, length tuning, blind & buried vias and other such design features.
  • 3D Viewing Capabilities: EAGLE also offers 3D viewing and rendering capabilities that allow you to see the board for specific details. Furthermore, you can import the project into Autodesk’s MCAD platform viewers to check for clearances and fits with the board’s enclosure.
  • Supply Chain Management: To reduce your design to production times, EAGLE contains vast libraries with parts that can be directly ordered and supply information that can be obtained from the manufacturers. This also helps to avoid issues with part pricing and availability later on in the process.
  • BGA Fanout Router: For those designers working on boards for advanced and compact technologies, you will encounter HDI (High Density Interconnect) structures and shrinking board sizes. To deal with these complexities, EAGLE provides tools for BGA (Ball Grid Array) fanout routing, microvias and more.
  • Reusable Design Blocks: To make the design process more efficient, EAGLE allows you to create design blocks and shapes and store them as modular units, which can be reused for multiple programs. They can be placed using a drag & drop function into the project workspaces.
  • SPICE Simulation: EAGLE provides high performance simulation and analysis. This permits design validation and the option to check if the circuit is performing as required. This can be done via the SPICE simulation module and features.

Why Choose Eagle? (PROS)

  • DDS (Dynamic Design Synchronisation) syncs changes you make between the schematic and layout.
  • Automation and design reusability allows users to avoid repetitive tasks and save time.
  • Users can keep their projects organised and arrange complex schematics onto single sheets for easier processing.
  • Fusion 360 offers an entire range of design solutions and allows users to exchange files between different programs.
  • EAGLE offers various subscription options and pricing plans to meet a variety of requirements for different users.
  • Online libraries contain a wide range of components with their details and can be used directly for your projects. Custom parts can also be uploaded to the libraries for future reference.

CONS

  • The annual maintenance costs of an EAGLE subscription are high, and a fee has to be paid for subsequent updates.
  • CAD model conversion needs to be done manually in case you are using the MCAD features for dimensional checking.

What is unique about Eagle?

EAGLE is an efficient and powerful program for handling PCB designing tasks and creating advanced circuits and boards. It is integrated with Fusion 360 software suite by Autodesk, which provides a complete design-to-production solution.

EAGLE also contains libraries and links to forums where you can communicate with other users and discuss ideas and issues, and also find solutions to problems you might be facing. Elemet14 also hosts a variety of EAGLE libraries that can be used as an external source for obtaining components and so on for your projects.

Who’s it for?

Designers with various levels of experience and expertise can use EAGLE, as it caters to both novice users and advanced users. Its tutorials help beginners gain a better understanding of the software. The pro features allow experienced users to work on more complex projects and designs.

Supported Platforms:

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

System Requirements:

Autodesk EAGLE can be run on the following operating systems with 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, the libc.so.6 with subversion GLIBC_2.14 or higher will be required.

PRICING: 

Autodesk EAGLE is offered as an inclusion with the Fusion 360 bundle. Prices indicated below are for the complete Fusion 360 package

  • A free version is available with limited functionality (Available for 12 months): Included with a Fusion 360 subscription for personal use, EAGLE free download is a limited version for beginners including 2 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers, and an 80cm2 (12.4in2) board area.
  • 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 is a capable PCB design software application. The schematic and layout tools are efficient and well developed. Production related info can also be easily obtained from the part suppliers and manufacturers.

There are various pricing plans as well, to suit different requirements. It also offers a free trial, so you can use it and see if it meets your designing needs.

Main Differences Between KiCad Vs Eagle

Here the main differences between KiCad and EAGLE have been highlighted.

  1. EAGLE provides users with the option to create annotations and edits with backward/forward sync, which makes the change in both the board and schematic.
  2. KiCad has a much easier learning curve. The user interface is also simpler to understand and navigate around as compared to EAGLE.
  3. While KiCad is completely free of cost, EAGLE has a subscription based pricing plan.
  4. EAGLE provides a better 3D platform, with its support for MCAD viewing, which allows users to check clearances and the PCB’s fitting with its enclosure.
  5. KiCad allows designers to convert multi-sheet schematics into a hierarchical form for easier processing and working.
  6. Performing simulations and analyses works better in EAGLE as compared to KiCad, even though both use similar spice platforms.
  7. Design of high-speed features is possible with EAGLE for complex boards; tools for this aren’t available in KiCad.
  8. EAGLE also provides tools for BGA fan routing and other such features for HDI structured and compact boards. KiCad does not have features for such tasks.

Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, KiCad Vs Eagle

When it comes to designing circuits and PCBs, the right software is very important. For users who are working in teams or on projects that involve multiple members, EAGLE is the better design option, given its shared mode editing, which allows team members to actively work on projects and share updates dynamically.

On the other hand, KiCad provides some great features for designing and has a much simpler and user-friendly interface. Moreover, KiCad is completely free to use and works great even on low-end computers and devices.

Autodesk Eagle Vs KiCad EDA: Who’s the Winner?

Between KiCad vs EAGLE, the answer would vary based on your skill level and your requirements from the software. Professional users might prefer EAGLE and novice users might opt for KiCad.

Making custom parts is a bit difficult in EAGLE and it takes time. KiCad provides a better workspace for this purpose. EAGLE however, does provide top class simulations and CAD support by involving both mechanical and electrical parts of the design.

Both of the programs can run on all major operating systems and platforms. However, KiCad is open source, and hence it will be easier to obtain upgrades to this program. EAGLE has a subscription based license and you will be required to pay for upgrades.

So, Which One Should You Pick?

This answer also depends on the parameters that suit your requirements best. Whichever software program can provide the features and performance you need according to your project is the one that you should pick.

Since KiCad is a free program, you can give it a try; the learning curve is also not steep and it should be easy to use the software, even with little experience in PCB designing. The features are well developed, and the performance of the system is up to the mark as well.

For designers looking to work on projects with a higher complexity level, EAGLE might be the better option. Its features are more suited to professional users. Still, the decision between KiCad vs EAGLE remains a matter of personal preference.

Hopefully, you have found this KiCad EDA 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 EasyEDA vs Eagle and Fritzing vs KiCad EDA, if you are still not quite settled on a solution.

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