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Altium vs. EAGLE Autodesk — Your Complete PCB Design & Layout Comparison Guide

Carol Cameron
altium vs eagle

If you’ve been researching PCB design and layout programs, you’ve likely come across Altium and EAGLE, the latter of which was acquired by Autodesk a few years ago. These are two of the more popular options on the market. Keep reading to see how these programs stack up; plus learn tips on how to select the right software for your next project.

Tips for Selecting the Right PCB Software

There are dozens and dozens of free and paid PCB design software programs on the market — so, what are the major differences, and why is it important to select the right one from the start? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but here are a few important tips to consider:

  • Free programs typically provide fewer capabilities and are often scaled-down versions of paid software.
  • Free programs may not be compatible with other programs and services, but can be a good choice for hobbyists.
  • A good software program can cost around $3,000, but many offer discounts and promotions.
  • Some programs charge subscription fees for annual maintenance and service.
  • The right program will provide you with the features and capabilities you need to complete your project on time and on budget.

Now let’s take a closer look at Altium and EAGLE (Easily Applicable Graphical Layout Editor).

Altium vs. Eagle Comparison Table

Altium Eagle
Pricing Altium offers two subscription plans — standard and pro.  Altium Designer starts at $325/month (for one seat) with a 15-day free trial. An annual license costs $3,850 per seat for the standard plan or $4,845 (per seat per year) for the pro plan. Altium CircuitMaker is a free PCB design tool. EAGLE offers a free version for personal use. This limited version includes 2 schematic sheets, 2 signal layers, and an 80 cm2 board area.Regular pricing for EAGLE/Fusion 360 is $1,555 (paid every 3 years), $545 annually, or $70 per month. Discounts may be available.
Customer Service Every subscription level comes with Altium Support, which includes support tickets, a chat function, documentation center, access to Altium community forums, and more. Eagle’s support and learning resource page includes tutorials, documentation, troubleshooting information, and more. Users also have access to the Customer Success Hub.
Ease of Use Easy to use. Includes a lot of built-in wizards and helpful functions. The library creation process is fast and intuitive. Visually intuitive UI. Easy to use and intuitive.
Component Libraries Altium offers a Database Library, SVN Database Library, Database Link, Integrated Library, Schematic Library, and PCB Library. More information can be found here. Component libraries include symbol, footprint, 3D model, and parametrics.
Ease of Setup Software installation assistance is included in the purchase of a license. For more information: Installing, Licensing and Managing Altium Designer Easy to install on Windows, Max, and Linux. More information can be found on EAGLE’s installation page.
User Interface  This software program has an easily configurable UI in which you can rearrange panels to your preference. EAGLE’s UI allows you to customize the appearance of the layout, schematic, and library editor windows.
Inputting Design Rules  Organizes rules into a hierarchical folder structure, which makes it easy to see your design rules at a glance. Ability to create your own design rules but can download one that are already established.
Controls and Key Bindings Controls and keybinds are  similar to most software programs on the market. Numerous controls and key binding shortcuts are available.
Part Creation  Intuitive; utilizes a more visual process within the same window and workflow. Libraries and parts are connected in a simple hierarchy. Datasheets are helpful in creating parts.
Error Checking Supports real-time design rule checking (DRC), as well as batch DRC. Uses design rule checking. Includes a DRC Errors dialogue, if errors are found. More information can be found here.
Compatibility With Other Software Many automatic functions and add-ons are available that make it easier to convert layouts. There are utilities that can convert layouts between Altium and Allegro, but they may require review to ensure they convert fully and correctly. Compatibility depends on the other software.

Altium Designer Overview

Altium is a global software company serving the electronics industry with “innovative PCB design software.”

Altium’s most popular product is Altium Designer, but other Altium products include:

  • ​​Altium Concord Pro
  • Altium 365
  • Altium NEXUS
  • CircuitMaker
  • CircuitStudio
  • Octopart

Altium CircuitMaker is a free option that provides you with up to 16 signals and 16 plane layers plus no restrictions to the PCB dimensions. The software also includes non-commercial clauses and offers a library with hundreds of thousands of components.

Altium Designer provides the capability to solve complex engineering problems and create new electronic devices. The software combines schematics, ECAD libraries, rules and constraints, BoM, supply chain management, ECO processes, and world-class PCB layout tools.

Altium Designer Specifications

Altium offers a number of features and capabilities, as detailed on the company’s website, which include:

  • Schematic capture
  • Unified library management
  • Board layout
  • Interactive routing
  • High-speed and high-density design
  • Data management
  • Mixed simulation
  • mCAD collaboration
  • Fabrication drawings
  • Manufacturing outputs

Pros & Cons of Altium

  • Easy to learn and visually intuitive UI
  • Includes many built-in wizards and helpful functions
  • Library creation process is faster and more intuitive than other programs
  • Includes Draftsman — a mechanical drawing drafting tool
  • Integrates natively with version control such as git and subversion
  • 3D view for rendering entire board built into software with the ability to export STEP 3D models of the PCB/assembly
  • Includes helpful features for planning and visualizing rigid-flex designs
  • Yearly updates add new features and refine existing ones in new major versions of the software
  • Full-featured Altium Designer license is expensive
  • Very large and dense designs require more system resources, and can run more slowly
  • Some features are not compatible between major versions of Altium, i.e. NEXUS vs AD22 vs AD21
  • New features may take a few version updates before they operate reliably







Who Is Altium Best Suited For?

Altium is a solid choice, but at the end of the day, it comes down to preference, which software ecosystem you want to invest in, and which workflow/UI you prefer.

Eagle Overview

EAGLE, which has been around for years, is an industry staple because it’s compatible with paid design software. If you download EAGLE for free, you will work with a limited version that includes two schematic sheets, two signal layers, and an 80 cm2 board area.

Eagle Specifications

According to EAGLE, software features include:

  • Flexible 3D modeling and design
  • Innovative generative design
  • Unlimited hierarchical schematic
  • Interactive assemblies
  • Unified electronics and PCB design
  • Sheet metal part creation

Pros & Cons of EAGLE

  • In general, reviews of Autodesk EAGLE seem to be quite favorable
  • Free with an affordable paid version available
  • Good option for hobbyists
  • Excellent customer service
  • User-friendly interface
  • May not be as advanced as other software programs
  • Initial costs are low but other periodic costs may be high




Who Is EAGLE Best Suited For?

EAGLE’s free version is an ideal choice for hobbyists or anyone looking to dabble and experiment in PCB design without the cost. If you’re looking for advanced capabilities, features, and support, consider investing in EAGLE’s paid option, which is typically more affordable than other paid PCB software programs.

Questions About PCB Layout and Design?

If you’re looking for more information about Altium or EAGLE, or PCB design software programs in general, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our engineers have decades of experience developing layouts with numerous software platforms, which means we’ve seen it all. We look forward to answering your questions and working with you on your next project.

written by
Carol Cameron
Senior Layout Manager

As the Senior Layout Manager, Carol Cameron is responsible for all aspects of PCB layout design, including providing quotes, interfacing directly with customers and engineers on requirements, and executing project management. Having worked in the electronics industry for more than 30 years, Carol has embraced the opportunity to grow and broaden her PCB layout skills and industry knowledge from expert engineers. She has witnessed firsthand the evolution of PCB technology, and she understands the nuances and intricacies that come with precise layout and fabrication. She currently resides in New England.


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