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Best PCB program under $500?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Diptrace vs Eagle vs Kicad vs PCB (gEDA) vs whatever I missed.

Kicad is free but I get frustrated with it. I couldn't figure out, for example, how to drag multiple pads at once: selecting pads only allows move, not drag WTF?! I asked on their fairly active Yahoo group and got no reply.

gEDA is also free but seems overly complicated and runs on Linux only. This leads me to believe that open source PCB CAD programs are mostly useless.

Eagle seems to be popular and I've used it before. Not great but it's OK. Compared to some other stuff (Altium) it's cheap.

Diptrace seems to have great reviews and is also cheap. This is probably my current bet but I want to get some feedback and see if other programs can be suggested.

I prefer people that post here to have used more than one PCB program, otherwise a comparison is meaningless.
post #2 of 26
Ha ha oops... should read the question properly before replying
post #3 of 26
eagle standard without the auto routing was my choice (autorouting is useless to knowlegable analog designers)
somewhat "non-windows" feel to the selection/manipulation but lots of tech forum comments, useful user files, tons of usable part footprints
I went from cold start to finished 200+ component smt both sides, 4-layer board in less than 2 weeks with only 2 or 3 phone calls to the dealer for help I didn't find online

I tried a few of the free options - Vutrax looks very powerful and has generous free/demo limits but I just never "got it"
KiCad was too new when I looked, I would hope it has matured some
post #4 of 26
Eagle as it has the greatest availability of tutorials. User interface is abit weird but I got the hang of it in the end (apart from copying which is just stupid). Still needs UI work, but my first PCB should be with me next month so it works (although I aggree the auto route is not good apart for low speed digital designs where I only want to connect things not too bothered about VIAS aiming for minimum board size). As I understand it in very expensive PCB programs the autoroute is still not very good and most PCB's are partialy autorouted (in the easy bits) and the harder bits done by hand.
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
I'll be working on both low speed digital/analog, as well as some microcontroller and DSP stuff.
post #6 of 26
Thread Starter 
post #7 of 26
My vote goes to Sprint-Layout, 40 Euro = 62 USD. Intuitive and easy. Nothing for German technocrats. They'll find it's too simple, "hey, anyone could make a board with this, not good". Perfect for the audio amateur.

As pointed out there's no schematic capture function, but that's fine with me since I only make schematics in LTSpice nowadays, and I can't capture those schematics to Eagle anyway, I think.
post #8 of 26
Thread Starter 
Not exactly amateur any more LOL... else I wouldn't be considering "buying"
post #9 of 26
The way I see, it, it's either go for the free stuff or the really nice expensive stuff. I don't have that sort of budget, so I go for the free stuff. Looking at the diptrace licensing options, I don't really like the "pin" limits (especially if i'm paying $400 already for a license). I haven't actually tried it, though. Kicad confuses the heck out of me. The new EAGLE 5.0 has made the UI a lot better, and I'd probably recommend that the most (even the freeware version is pretty darn good)

The autorouter on eagle is indeed quite worthless if you're doing analog.
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
The problem with the really nice stuff is that the really nice stuff is Altium Designer and that's about $12,000. :/

As for autorouter, it'd be nice for the digital stuff but I guess not the most important thing. I'd say the interface (both ease of use and power) and parts libraries are the main things for me.
post #11 of 26
While I've only ever really used Eagle, that gets my vote as I've never heard anything good said about the other program choices and Eagle has been pretty popular around the community
post #12 of 26
Altium is an Eagle users wet dream.... very nice if you disregard the pricetag.

Look and weep:
Welcome to Altium's DEMOcenter
post #13 of 26
Thread Starter 
Some people voted for "Other" but didn't bother to post what they were thinking of :|
post #14 of 26
There was another similar thread recently (I mistakenly thought they were one and the same). To do a quick cut-and-paste:

Originally Posted by FS2 View Post
I currently use Eagle freeware myself. It has a steep learning curve, but it can get the job done.

I've heard near fanatical praise of Pulsonix from someone on another forum. It's priced out of the reach of hobbyists but apparently it's built on Easy PC. Given the recent price hike in Eagle pro with the v5 release, Easy PC is actually cheaper. I've never used it before though.
I think any of the pro stuff, eg Altium, OrCAD, Pulsonix would automatically be priced out of reach of the home user simply because it's "pro" sutff. That leaves us with free/open source, gEDA/PCB or KiCAD, or in-betweens. To be fair, Eagle is very powerful for an "in-between", and they do offer a range from free to "more than I can spare".

EDIT: I didn't vote as I don't have any experience with the other packages.
post #15 of 26
To be honest, I just use a pirated copy of Altium. Eagle is pretty nice, but it just can't compare.
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