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Help choosing between Altium 6.7, PADS, OrCAD

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Aug 23, 2007
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altium autorouter

I’ll try not to make this a “this package is better than that one…” thread.

We need help in selecting a schematic package, PCB layout (with autorouting), and signal integrity analysis tool(s).

We did a lot of simple board layout in the past (2003), but lately have either used outside service houses, or let our clients handle board layout. We now need to purchase an updated set of tools. We last used OrCAD Capture 9.1 and PowerPCB 5.01 (with BlazeRouter). We are looking at spending nearly US$10k on most options, so some current user feedback would be appreciated.

We are evaluating:
1) Altium DXP 6.7
2) PowerLogic bundled with PowerPCB (2007 version) – no added SI tool
3) The new OrCAD bundle – Includes Capture, PCB Editor, SPECCTRA, and PSpice A/D

Note that these packages are actually fairly close in price (the Mentor/PADS bundle is a bit cheaper because we’re an existing customer – an “upgrade” price).

I have just spent several days evaluating Altium 6.7. I have been comparing the Sidus autorouter to BlazeRoute, and come to the conclusion that Sidus isn’t nearly as good as BlazeRouter (even my OLD version). I’m guessing that it compares even less favorably with SPECCTRA.

So – questions 1 & 2:
1) Which autorouter will provide the best overall performance of the three (Sidus, BlazeRouter, SPECCRA)?
2) Will the difference be VERY significant or only marginal? Note that the OrCAD bundle includes a layer limited (6 signal layer) version of SPECCTRA.

An option for the Altium path might be the inclusion of Electa to get better autorouting performance.
3) How does Electra compare with the other 3 (Sidus, BR, Specctra)?

I need to do significant manual routing – particularly of high-speed (>500MHz) LVDS pairs. The promised (6.8 – in a few weeks according to Altium sales) service pack for Designer should have differential length tuning. It doesn’t appear that PADS offers this.

3) How useful is automatic length tuning operating on multiple differential nets (note Altium doesn’t actually HAVE this feature yet, so I’m not sure exactly how it will work)?
4) What does OrCAD offer by way of differential signal length control?

The package from Mentor (Logic + PCB) includes NO signal integrity (SI) tool. They can only offer their Hyperlynx (which is WAY out of my price range). In fact, PowerLogic apparently doesn’t even have the ability to pass high-speed design rules to PCB (the sales guy said I’d need DxDesigner to do that?!?).

Some general observations:
I find the Altium UI and integration FAR superior to anything else I’ve used. Then again, I don’t layout boards for a living. Also, Altium’s integrated FPGA flow (extra cost option) may be useful since we do mostly FPGA boards.

5) What are the learning curves like for the 3 tool-chains?

Altium claims that Designer 7 will be out by Dec/Jan, and will include a much improved version of Sidus. I anticipate only using the autorouter for non-critical areas. Much of our designs contain high speed LVDS and DDR2 signals from FPGAs, which must be length and impedance controlled. The SI tool in Altium appears adequate for up to 500MHz (the support guy I spoke with at length claimed that it starts to err at 800MHz). As stated, Hyperlynx is a FAR too expensive option in the Mentor/PADS chain (and we don’t do any RF anyway). So far, Altium has bent over backwards to win my business. Mentor (even though I’m a licensed user) doesn’t really seem to care. OrCAD isn’t even supported by Cadence directly (only through their 3rd-party reseller).

Q6, 7:
6) What kind of support (based on past history) would I expect to get from these 3 vendors?
7) Is the 3rd-party OrCAD support going to be a problem?

Finally, it appears that while the “low-end” (hard to call it that at about $10k list) tool customers are Altium’s bread and butter, Mentor and Cadence are looking for bigger fish with deeper pockets! Any comments?

Added after 33 minutes:

OOPS! The Altium autorouter is "Situs" not "Sidus" as I wrote - hey, what's in a name.

schematic powerlogic viewer altium

Geee, I'm a big fan of altium. And altium has all the requirement that you said are not available. I've used from the cheapest like eagle onto the expensive Orcad or Altium... I still prefer Altium.

Nah, its just a matter of beliefs. For 10Grand, I'll choose Altium.

buy used orcad

I have worked with OrCad and Altium, both are good and more or less at the same level. Personally for schematic editing and manual routing I vote for altium and for spice simulations and auto routing I vote for OrCad but I repeat both softwares are professional and more or less at the same level.

price of altium, pads & cadence

Orcad layout is being discontinued.
Allegro will be used by Cadence.

situs vs specctra

I'm quite sceptical about signal integrity and Altium....

At the same price I cound suggest you to looking for Zuken Cadstar with
product Silver S (3500pins) or Platinum S (No pins limitation).
IBIS Model-DifferentialPair-Length Route-Order Nets-Shielding tool and so on....

I hope to have been by


difference between orcad and altium

Schematics = Capture

comparison eagle cadence altium

Check also Zuken I don't know how are the Orcad Family or Altium. When I evaluated some years ago they didn't like me. But probably they are much better now.

I would check that they have a powerfull central library management.


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