Autodesk EAGLE PCB Design Software, Premium (1yr) - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: Autodesk EAGLE PCB Design Software, Premium (1yr)

Author: gelmi

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: KiCad, CircuitStudio

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Licence and routing engine

Detailed Review:

1. Project description


I was selected as a roadtester for the Autodesk EAGLE PCB Design Software. I have been using Eagle CAD for some years now as a hobbyist and also at work. I have been through many Eagle changes and transformations, both from technical and business level side. However, none of the previous changes even came close to the v7 to v8 transition. We had 8 weeks to test the newest version. I have chosen to do this on the project I wanted to do for some time, instead of just checking new features on theoretical level. And this is how it went.



2. Installation & setup (v8.2.0)


My daily driver is linux, so I do not have much to choose from in terms of PCB design software. At the moment I only use Eagle and KiCad. Installation of Eagle v8 is simple and straightforward. You just download the package from the Autodesk website, uncompress it and put the eagle directory to i.e. home directory and you run the application. You have to register and create account to be able to move forward. Your license (both professional and free one) are linked to your account. I had some problems with my license, but I will mention this issue at the end.Then the familiar Eagle Control panel pops up. For me setting configuration is only to add projects and libs directory and I am good to go. Nothing much has changed here. So far, so good.



3. UI


User interface in schematic and PCB view looks pretty much the same. I can see some new buttons due to new functionalities, but besides that, no surprises here. There are still the same unintuitive move/copy group schemes when you want to transfer schematics from one sheet to another, but if you are used to this, it is almost easy to use image One thing that I noticed that bugs me is when you select a group of components and copy them as a group everything is fine, but when you want to make the same copy, you have to click copy icon one more time and then select copy group again. I believe in previous versions after a group move or copy the selection icon had not been chosen by default. This causes me wanting to copy again when no copy tool is selected. Old habits die hard. Another this is then you are moving an element or component and you want to choose more dense grid with ‘Alt’ key, the tool won’t allow you to do that. You can move on the alternative grid, but when you want click to place the components, the item snaps back to the original grid. I know that this issue is only on linux version (Windows version is fine), but for me it is very annoying.



4. Schematic


Same old same old. It is still snappy tool and straight forward, even for beginners. Once you get along with mouse and keyboard, you know how to scroll and zoom, everything is easy as pie. However, there is one very new thing: block design. But I will write about this below.

5. ERC


Error checking in schematic looks the same. Some things you have to remember when you create new parts (pins) to avoid pins incompatibility issues, but you can always approve errors and warnings in small projects. It is not a good practice but saves you some time when you create one of your first boards.


6. PCB design and new routing engine


This is what I have been really excited for. Maybe I had too high hopes, but for me this new engine is slow and glitchy. I would have to check if it is only linux version problem, but it was really hard for me to route a trace in a place where I wanted it to go. I have played with different configs and parameters - no improvement. But I see where are they going with this. If the routing trace didn’t jump from one place to another every couple of seconds, this tool would save me a sweet load of time.

7. Modular design


Oh, this thing is a beauty. Hobbyists and professionals are going to love this feature - this is a time-saver. Whenever you design a monolithic block, i.e. USB (connector with IC ESD protection) or a small DC/DC converter, you can now design it once and if it is right you will use it on other projects. No more copying and pasting from different files and slicing traces. Beauty!



8. ULP


It is always good to have some kind of integration capability in the software. Eagle User Language Programs have been saving me some time since … ever. From panelizing the PCBs to importing board logo from BMP file and creating BOM list. There has been a push from the community to ‘kindly ask’ Autodesk decision makes to switch from ULP current syntax to python. As far as I know, at the moment there is only a wrapper written by a community member, but switching to python would bring some more users - that is my guess.



9. Libs & footprint editor


In this topic there is not much change from previous versions. You are not allowed to update Managed Libraries by default, but other things are pretty much the same. There is no dedicated footprint generator, but you could use ULP for that.

10. Licence & pricing


This is probably the biggest issue I have with Eagle software under Autodesk wings. I understand that subscription is their new model, but software like Autocad, Inventor or 3DS Max are used by so many people and I think Eagle won’t gather that amount of users. Eagle was mainly used by hobbyists, makers and small/medium businesses - and that was for a reason. Do I think that it is safe to go with subscription model software for electronics design? No, not if I do not have an option to freeze the version I bought. What will you do when you have to maintain some design for 5 years and in 4 years Autodesk decides that Eagle is no longer profitable or not aligned with company’s future and shut the project down? Because of this your business can suffer from paying fines for contract breach. When I started this roadtest, it took almost 2 weeks to figure out why my licence is not visible under my account - I could not use premium version. What if I bought this subscription and I could not fulfill my job contract because of some license glitch? Regarding pricing, I believe both Standard and Professional pricing options are fair for the features they provide. Monthly pay option is awesome for electronics weekend warriors. Also, I have to mention that 50% off for legacy Cadsoft customers is a really nice touch. Thank you for that.


11. Is it worth to upgrade?


That is tough to decide. If you are a new user than you do not have a choice, since you cannot buy 7.x or previous versions anymore. If you are a hobbyist - go ahead, use free non-commercial version or buy a standard version if it suits your needs.

If you are a business client and you still have your <8.x versions, I would stick with them. You could always subscribe to 8.x and beyond and still feel safe until i.e. 7.x and 8.x versions are compatible - that can change in the future. There is always an option to make some projects in Eagle and those designs that you have to maintain for long years, you can use KiCad for them and create a VM snapshot for future use - just to be on the safe side.

Good advice - know at least two CAD suits for PCB designing. Then it is always faster and safer to switch when needed.






Thank you Randall for your help during licence issue.