Altium vs. OrCAD PCB Designer – Who’s the Winner?

Today there is a vast multitude of options when it comes to choosing software for PCB designing. While all software comes with its own set of features, we have performed a detailed comparison of two of the best: Altium Designer Vs OrCAD PCB Designer.

This Altium Vs OrCAD comparison will be useful for selecting the right option for your requirements. Many technical aspects have been considered, and pricing plans have been discussed as well. Altium Designer and OrCAD have been in the market for many years and are trusted PCB design applications.

Between Altium Designer and OrCAD PCB Designer, we have compared the most important parameters in detail, so this guide will help you select which software is better for your requirements.

Altium Designer

Altium Designer is considered by many to be high-level industry standard software. It offers a high level of functionality and new features for precise and accurate PCB design.

Maintaining a perfect balance between performance and usability, it is extensively used globally. With features such as fast PCB layout and documentation, accurate simulation and sequential schematic display, it allows you to design your circuits with higher efficiency.

The new user-interface offers simplicity and streamlined work-flow. Three-dimensional modelling and sturdy, flex free circuit design and clearances of the PCB can be checked with the mechanical design.

Frequency connectivity with equivalent length is made more functional and easier in multi-layer projects. It also comes with a Bill of Material (BOM) calculator and editor.

Compare Altium Designer Vs OrCAD PCB Designer


  • MCAD Collaboration: This feature allows the electronic parts of your project to be synchronised easily with the mechanical components through bi-directional integration with native CAD platforms such as Creo, Pro/E, SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor.
  • Hierarchical and Multichannel Design: Altium Designer Hierarchical Design tools offer the functionality to simplify designs that are complex and multi-channel designs can be converted into more logic-based manageable units to work with.
  • Remote Working: Being a cloud based platform, Altium Designer offers fast and efficient remote working capabilities, with seamless file changes and construction and editing possible from anywhere in the world.
  • Interactive Routing: PCB layouts with high quality can be designed in minimal time periods using Altium Designer’s new and updated interactive routing. The advanced engine offers powerful routing options including walk-around, differential pairs, obstacle-ignore, hug and push and push and shove.
  • Real-Time BOM Management: BOM (Bill of Material) generation and editing can be simplified using ActiveBOM, which automates the process by supplying important part info from the suppliers selected, such as pricing and availability of required parts.
  • Draftsman Functionality: Professional PCB documentation is possible with Draftsman, which makes it easier to create PCB fabrication and two-dimensional assembly drawings.
  • Schematic driver design rules: A schematic is the base of any design. Considering this, Altium allows high-tech definition of interfaces and setting constraints using the new and updated schematic editor.
  • High Speed and High Density Design: An all-new powerful engine for tuning that can work with complex patterns. The pre-bundled EM solver helps with accurate propagation delay and extracting impedance. Integration of HDI structures also becomes easier with the Altium Designer.

Why Choose Altium Designer? (PROS)

  • Advanced Supply Chain Management
  • Real-time pricing from suppliers with ActiveBOM
  • Cloud-based All-In-One Communication Centre
  • Native3D visualisation with Mechanical clearance check
  • High Security and Centralized Design Data
  • Streamlined ECAD/MCAD Collaboration for integrating mechanical design with the PCB design.


  • The high cost might not be affordable for everyone.
  • Occasional reports of glitches/crashes while running on low spec computers.

What is unique about Altium Designer?

The feature that sets Altium Designer apart from the other software is its real-time BOM management system, called ActiveBOM.

It displays a live presentation of the design outset and provides crucial supply chain information. It also offers features such as cost estimation and availability of components for your project board.

This translates to more efficient order management and target price defining. Using information and predictive technology, the software also informs you in case of a risk in the supply of a certain component.

ActiveBOM also allows you to specify pin-compatible backup, which almost eliminates risks related to supply chain while manufacturing. With this data, you can design boards more efficiently and reduce time between designing and production, hence boosting sales.

Who’s it for?

Altium Designer is best for medium to large sized businesses and industries. It can be used in the fields of: aerospace, electronics, automobile, defence and various engineering applications.

Supported Platforms:

  • Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition (64-bit)
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)

System Requirements:

The following are the necessary minimum requirements your console must meet to run Altium Designer…

  • Intel Core i5 processor or equivalent
  • 1600×1200 or better screen resolution
  • 4GB RAM
  • 3 GB DDR4/DDR5 Video Memory
  • 12GB storage space SSD recommended
  • Internet Connection
  • Microsoft Excel required for BOM
  • Microsoft Access required for DbLibs


  • Altium Designer offers a 15-day free, full featured license for all users after they complete their registration. Click Here To Get Your Free Trial
  • For eligible students, a 6-month license is available free of cost. Get Your Free Trial
  • Pricing plans for Altium Designer start at $7245.00/year.
  • Full version costs $9890.00/year.
  • There is no free-version available.

Is Altium Designer worth it?

If you are an individual/business looking to expand production and undertake production or research with industry level standards, this product is for you.

Fast and powerful editors, less navigation thanks to a high level of integration; Altium has features to automate a majority of the design tasks and allows you to focus on optimizing the design.

With its advanced features, it can be used by professionals; and the friendly user-interface makes it equally usable by beginners and students. Hence, if you can afford it, Altium Designer is the software to go for.

OrCAD PCB Designer

When it comes to PCB design, OrCAD is a highly popular piece of software. It is a multi-layer, scalable design application that provides hi-tech solutions and flows.

OrCAD delivers good performance while running tasks like schematic capturing, using librarian tools, editing and routing in a PCB editor, checking integrity of the signal, autorouting, and even simulating mixed or multi-signal circuits.

Being comparatively affordable software, it is majorly used by beginners and students across the world, but that does not mean its capabilities are limited. This is still a very powerful software application with an advanced rigid flex design system.

Furthermore, OrCAD is available in different levels of functionality. OrCAD Standard, Professional and then Allegro PCB, the highest-tier of EMA’s PCB design range, used for enterprises and industries.

The user also gets investment protection as this is scalable software. With rising requirements, a user can upgrade to the Allegro PCB program from the OrCAD program with the same database, hence without losing or compromising on any data or information.

Comparison between OrCAD VS Altium


  • Schematic Entry System using OrCAD Capture: Being one of the world’s most widely used tool for circuit diagrams, the OrCAD Capture schematic entry tool is highly efficient. It uses hierarchical or flat schematics, and these can be thematically managed according to functional blocks from the navigation panel.
  • SPECCTRA automatic routing: The powerful SPECCTRA auto routing option provides assistance with PCB routing with no layer limit. A variety of parameters can be adjusted to influence the layout. High speed rules like propagation delay are also taken into account by the OrCAD professional auto router. Quick feasibility studies give a signal if routing the board with a certain number of layers is possible.
  • Physical Layout PCB Editor: In the new PCB Editor, drawing the PCB layout becomes much easier. Using various new automated functions, it is possible to create a physical design with planes, traces, holes and component footprints. To implement the design quickly, rule checks are done in real-time to get the design production-ready.
  • Constraint Manager: Assigning topologies and defining rules becomes easier with a centralized Constraint Manager. Rules can be defined according to the hierarchy and assigned to multiple nets simultaneously. Physical as well as electrical rules are supported. Rules once defined can be imported and used in consequent designs as well.
  • PSpice Integration on OrCAD PCB flow: PCB flow offers basic functionality of PSpice. A Pspice simulation can be driven using the design created in the schematic entry tool of OrCAD Capture. The PCB Editor works on the generated data to perform checks while routing and placement.
  • Electrical Rules Check (ERC): This feature helps the designer identify and fix potential errors quickly without any external setup, using online databases or user-defined inputs. Following the routing geometry and PCB stack-up, an electrical rule check may be performed even if no simulation model is present. Discontinuities in impedance or parallel traces being coupled can be identified and repaired/redesigned with this.
  • Signal Integrity Simulation: Default Cadence models or IBIS models can be used for analysis and simulation. Selecting a net in the schematic can run a simulation to check for signal integrity, avoiding errors in the later stages of development. The length or impedance can also be changed for analysing the signal quality.
  • High-Speed Constraints: An extra set of rules can be allotted for high-speed signals. They have to follow the design rules for transmission lines. These can be defined in the Constraint Manager and can be substantiated during layout by DRCs. Factors such as min-max length, differential impedance, routing layers etc. can be covered by the DRCs.

Why Choose OrCAD PCB Designer? (PROS)

  • Fast and effective routing with Constraint Driven Interactive Routing.
  • Automated CDIR feedback helps reduce design errors.
  • Easier to create and manage shapes while routing and editing.
  • MATLAB designs can be opened and simulated in OrCAD.
  • Auto-Assisted BGA Fanout Routing
  • Simplified circuit designing with Via Creation feature


  • Relies on standalone applications, and the low level of integration makes it slightly cumbersome to work on complex projects.
  • Only limited libraries are available free of cost. No 3D modelling in older versions.

What is unique about OrCAD PCB Designer?

OrCAD PCB designer provides fast and intuitive schematic designs. Using PSpice, OrCAD allows you to simulate designs made in MATLAB/Simulink. This makes it unique from other software available.

Real-Time Feedback with ECO helps to keep data in sync between your CAD tools, which automatically identifies and resolves errors.

The DRC, if active, will detect and notify if there is an issue with the design. It also makes it easier to compare and analyse data between the canvas and the PCB editor.

Who’s it for?

OrCAD is recommended for designs that involve bigger boards, like server boards or require a higher number of simulations. Students, research clubs, instructors and even professionals use it.

OrCAD also has a large number of datasheets and reference designs from manufacturers, so for those who have to work with bigger boards, OrCAD will save you time and money.

Supported Platforms:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, Ultimate or Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Windows 8 (64-bit) (All Service Packs)
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)
  • Windows 2008 R2 Server
  • Windows 2012 Server (All Service Packs)

System Requirements:

Below given are the minimum hardware and software requirements for running OrCAD PCB Designer on your computer:

  • Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon XP 2000 with multi-core CPU
  • 8 GB RAM
  • Virtual memory at least twice physical memory
  • 50 GB free disk space
  • 1,024 x 768 display resolution with true colour (16-bit colour)
  • Broadband Internet connection for some services
  • Ethernet card (for network communications and security hostID)
  • Three-button Microsoft-compatible mouse


  • OrCAD provides a free trial for 30 days
  • There is an OrCAD lite student version available, free of cost.
  • $1300.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Standard (1 Year License)
  • $2630.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Standard (Perpetual License)
  • $2300.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional (1 Year Lease)
  • $7,040.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional (Perpetual License)
  • $3600.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional with PSpice (1 Year License)
  • $11,250.00 for OrCAD PCB Designer Professional with PSpice (Perpetual License)
  • For the exact pricing, according to your needs, a quote can be requested from the official website.

Is OrCAD PCB Designer worth it?

OrCAD PCB designer is one used all over the world across a variety of fields and applications. If you are looking to work on a server board, motherboard or other such large projects, OrCAD will provide an effective solution.

Also has better debugging and easier user component placement. Considering the pricing options and scalability, OrCAD PCB designer is a worthy option and you should definitely consider it while selecting software.

Main Differences Between Altium Designer Vs. OrCAD PCB Designer

To decide one from Altium Designer and OrCAD Designer, some of the main feature differences are highlighted below. Although both softwares have some similar functions, there are the following 6 focus-points which can help you select which software works best for you:

[1] User Interface and Navigation: Altium has a highly integrated user interface, which provides all the tools and editors under one central location. OrCAD relies on standalone application. Hence it is easier to navigate in Altium.

[2] Simulation accuracy and results: OrCAD provides more efficient simulation results as compared to Altium, and performs faster simulations.

[3] 3-D Visualisation: 3D modelling and visualisation is low-resolution and comparatively slower in OrCAD, and only available in the new versions. Altium is a better alternative here.

[4] Schematic Library Editor: Altium allows better editing and placing of electrical components such as wires and ports as compared to OrCAD.

[5] Integration with PCB footprint and library: Defining connection types, multi-layer schematics and adding simulation properties becomes easier with Altium.

[6] Net Management and Database Management: OrCAD provides powerful solutions for information storing and transfer, making it easier to work on multiple projects with the same dataset.

Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, Altium Vs OrCAD

Let’s start with the basics. When you have to work on a project for many days, a neat and colour-coded schematic is one of the factors you would want to consider.

Altium directly shows the labels on the components at a glance, whereas in OrCAD, one needs to hover the mouse over the component/trace to display its label.

Net-colouring is easier with OrCAD. Making personalised views is effortless with Altium. OrCAD uses prediction to highlight filtered elements, and Altium has a smarter filter tool which you can use to build queries to edit your design.

Altium Designer Vs OrCAD PCB Designer: Who’s the Winner?

It all depends on the way you work and the parameters you focus on while designing your PCB. Both software applications have their pros and cons, and only you can decide which one is best for you. There isn’t a winner.

In terms of features and functionality, Altium is the clear winner. But this also comes at a much higher price.

For user-friendliness and simulations, OrCAD takes the prize. But again, with a low level of integration which leads to a lot of navigation and tab-switching.

So the verdict depends on your usage and requirements from the software.

So, Which One Should You Pick?

To select which software is best for you, you can follow our guide to compare various parameters. For beginners, enthusiasts or small businesses, the cheaper versions are more feasible. Comparatively, and with the scalability of OrCAD, such people can select OrCAD PCB designer.

Professionals or large companies that are looking to work on bigger projects can go for Altium Designer. OrCAD also offers enterprise editions, which can also be used by industry level designers and producers/ manufacturers. These versions cost more and offer higher functionality and more powerful performance.

Altium has the edge over OrCAD in certain areas, with a powerful layout editor and easy usability; although the fact remains that an Altium license costs much higher than an OrCAD license.

Hopefully, you have found this Altium v OrCAD PCB Designer 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 OrCAD vs Allegro PCB Designer and Allegro vs Altium Designer, if you are still not quite settled on a solution.

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