How does one select the right PCB designing software from the hundreds available on the market today? In this guide, we are comparing Cadence Allegro Vs Altium Designer, two high-end, advanced designing applications.
We have considered all of the important factors: layout editing, capturing, routing, simulating and so on. Read on to see which PCB application from Altium vs Allegro is better for your projects.
Both of these software programs are used globally by professionals, and have been in the market for over a decade now. We have compared the latest versions of Cadence Allegro vs Altium Designer, including their pros and cons, unique features and pricing plans.
Cadence Allegro PCB Designer
Cadence Allegro PCB Designer is the flagship PCB designing program from Cadence, the maker of OrCAD and other such products. Allegro has all the top-of-the-line features and high-performance design computing capabilities.
Allegro can be used to take your simplest and most complex designs from scratch to a complete manufacturing level. Designers can use Allegro’s Scalable technology to meet their requirements for current as well as future technical and methodological needs.
Using the in-design analysis tools of Allegro, a designer can run basic simulation and analysis studies on the current design in the background and compare it with the previous design without taking up too much computing resources.
This program is also the first PCB design and verification flow in the industry to receive a Fit for Purpose – Tool Confidence Level 1 (TCL1) certification.
With the latest design and layout features for high-speed design, RF antenna, flex-circuitry, and design for manufacturing (DFM) technology, Allegro PCB Designer gives you all the possible tools you need to create your design perfectly.
The reusability and productivity features improve the efficiency of your project and save time by automating routine tasks, reducing the time between design and manufacturing.
- Scalable PCB Layout: The Allegro PCB Design Flow provides users with a high performance layout editing experience. Designers can run power and signal integrity checks in the PCB tool itself. For accurate virtual measurements, SI, PI and RF simulation tools have been directly integrated.
- High Speed DRC: Including the new High-Speed package, the existing Constraint Manager system can now work with advanced high-speed interfaces such as RAM boards (DDR2-5), PCIe, USB 2.0 and 3.0.
- Allegro Miniaturization: This feature focuses on part embedment into the PCB. It checks the required cavity space, clearance, part height vs layer stack-up and so on. It also checks additional design rules for HDI like the µ-via rules.
- Documentation Editor: The Allegro Manufacturing feature-kit includes a documentation editor. This tool creates systematic documentation and files for manufacturing details, production data and assembly info automatically.
- PCB Library Creator: With the Library creation feature, it is now easier to design 2D footprint drawings or 3D models simultaneously. The library has both MCAD and ECAD models ready to use, and you can also create new 3D packages from templates and upload.
- Analogue RF with Allegro: Now you can use normal schematic elements with parameterized layout elements. These include filters, couplers, transmission lines etc. You can also edit their connectivity in the PCB editing workspace. These features are available with the Allegro/RF option.
- Symphony Team Design: With Allegro Symphony Team Design, team members can collaborate on a single layout. The design gets divided, so each member works on their section. Simultaneous working on the same database is also possible through an online symphony server.
- FPGA System Planning: Since programming the field programmable gate array (FPGA) is a long process, and assigning pins is also not an easy task, Allegro gives a FPGA planner tool. This helps designers keep track of FPGA, HW and layout design changes, so that all designers can stay in sync.
Why Choose Allegro PCB Designer? (PROS)
- Allegro has auto-interactive commands that help in delay and phase-tuning. To simplify high-speed interface layouts, the overlays are colour-coded.
- To simulate and optimize the design, an interface to Keysight ADS is included.
- The Allegro Automation system handles document edits smoothly and consistently. Drawing details, file edits, annotations etc. are all tracked and can be viewed easily.
- With DesignTrue DFM technology, design and manufacturing rules can be checked and viewed quickly and easily.
- Users can set custom design constraints and automate the checking process to get real-time feedback on their design’s validity.
- Interconnection planning and routing are easier with the high-speed interface for complex designs.
- It takes a significant amount of time to create library symbols.
- Setup time is quite high for Allegro, and the learning curve is somewhat steep as well.
What is unique about Cadence Allegro?
Allegro PCB Designer has some great cloud-based working features. With Symphony Team Design features, team members around the globe can collaborate on a project.
There are two ways to use this: Concurrent and Partitioned Canvas.
In the Concurrent method, the shared canvas can be accessed by all the designers and their edits are synced to everyone else.
Using the Partitioning method, the design is worked upon individually by several team members and this speeds up the process and reduces time to complete the layout.
This dynamic platform is truly a well-developed system and improves the working efficiency of the team by a lot.
Who’s it for?
Engineers, designers, professionals, students- Allegro PCB Designer is software that can be used by everyone. It will especially appeal to businesses and industries with global employees who can work remotely using Allegro.
Learning to use this platform might be slightly difficult for beginners, but with guided tutorials, it can be managed.
The following platforms are supported to run Allegro PCB Designer:
- 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)
Mentioned below are the minimum software and hardware requirements for running Allegro PCB Designer.
- Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon XP 2000 with multi-core CPU
- 8 GB RAM
- 2GB Video Memory Minimum
- 50 GB free disk space
- 1,024 x 768 display resolution with true color (16-bit color)
- Broadband Internet connection for some service
- Ethernet card (for network communications and security hostID)
- Three-button Microsoft-compatible mouse
Pricing plans for purchasing an Allegro PCB Designer license are given here:
- A student version is available as a free trial for 30 days.
- The cost for an annual license for Allegro PCB Designer is approximately $2800.00 to $3000.00, with extra features billed additionally.
- For the exact price, a quote can be requested from the official Cadence website.
- There is no free version; however, a demo can be requested.
Is Allegro PCB Designer worth it?
Allegro PCB Designer is one of the best PCB design applications in the market currently. It offers all the advanced features needed for working on complex boards and circuits.
In addition, it has 3-D views, offers fast simulations with a good accuracy rate, and is used by leading companies all over the world for their projects. In its price range, Allegro has other competitors, but it performs better than most of them, so yes, go for it.
Altium Designer 20 is one of the most high-tech enable PCB design software in the industry today. It offers high-performance functionality and advanced features for working on the most complex boards with ease.
With Designer 20, Altium continues to maintain a perfect balance between user-friendliness and performance. With features such as interactive routing and DRC, it allows you to design your PCBs with pinpoint accuracy.
The new UI is customisable according to each user’s preferences. 3-D capabilities have been improved after user-feedback, and your ECAD design can also be checked with its enclosure’s MCAD file.
To make matters relating to production easier, active supply chain management features supply designers with information about hardware directly from the suppliers to avoid any potential hassles.
We will now discuss some of the highlights and features of Altium Designer 20 in detail.
- Design of High Speed Features: High speed designing begins when the physical limitations of your board start affecting the signal integrity. Altium Designer 20 has powerful tuning and filtering options to help you with this. Designing high speed features into your project is now easier.
- Active Supply Chain Info Relay: Select the parts for your project and Altium Designer will give you all the details directly from the suppliers. ActiveBOM generates your Bill of Material and keeps track of all part-related updates. Pin-compatible backup is also offered.
- Extensive Library Access: Altium Designer 20 gives designers access to growing content libraries of over 400k+ components, which you can use for your project. Users can also create components using templates from here and upload their designs.
- Schematic Design Rule Checking (DRC): While designing the circuit for a project, users might violate an electrical rule. With Altium, you can have real-time detection of electrical rule violations, plus you can set and define constraints which are automatically checked against your design.
- ECAD-MCAD Integration: Now, you can easily check the fit and clearances of your board with its enclosure. Altium Designer’s MCAD integration helps with this. This includes syncing with platforms such as Creo, Pro/E, SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor.
- Multichannel and Hierarchical Design: Working on advanced hierarchical and multi-layer designs is easier with Designer. It simplifies the multiple layers into more readable sheets which can be divided on this basis of: Structural relationship or Electrical
- Interactive Routing Engine: Altium’s routing engine allows users to define paths to connect the nodes in each net. Designers can now use powerful routing features like walk-around, differential pairs, obstacle-ignore, hug and push and push and shove.
- Draftsman Documentation: The Altium Draftsman feature lets designers place a variety of automated production drawings directly onto a Draftsman drawing document. The Draftsman features are available through an Altium application extension.
Why Choose Altium Designer? (PROS)
- Altium’s hierarchical and shape-based routing features allow topological routing, obstruction-avoidance and circumnavigation.
- Real-Time Extensive (DRC) helps designers check batch, online, basic routing and basic electrical, and indicates any error detected in designing.
- Customizable UI –The user interface and workspace windows are user-customizable, which reduces navigation while designing.
- A centralized content exchange and communication centre allows team members to connect and share documents and conversations seamlessly.
- With Altium Designer, users can check the fit of their board with the enclosure through MCAD integration.
- ActiveBOM helps solve your part orders and production issues quickly.
- The simulation results are not as precise as software in this price – range should give.
- License costs for Altium are extremely expensive, and might not be affordable for everyone.
What is unique about Altium Designer?
Altium Designer can handle projects that involve circuitry with multiple layers or PCBs with high-speed features and other such tasks without much difficulty. The 3D features of Altium are also considered the best in the industry.
For users looking to go to production, the active supply chain management gives live pricing and details of project-related parts for a smooth design-to-manufacture process.
And making a Bill of Material (BOM) becomes easier with ActiveBOM. This tool helps users generate, edit and share BOM files with manufacturers, and the pin-compatibility feature selects backup components that are design-compatible if primary components are not available.
Who’s it for?
Altium Designer can be used by new and inexperienced users to professionals; medium to large sized businesses and industries. Designers working on complex boards or even students working on a school project can use this software.
If designing from a production aspect is your priority or if you are required to work on multi-layer designs or many projects simultaneously, Altium Designer is a great choice.
- Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition (64-bit)
- Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
- Windows 10 (64-bit)
- Windows 8 (64-bit)
These are the minimum hardware and software requirements to run Altium Designer 20 on your device:
- Windows 8/ Windows 10 (64-bit)
- 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
The following are the pricing plans for purchasing an Altium License for Designer 20:
- Altium Designer offers a 15-day free, full featured license for all users after they complete their registration.
- For eligible students, a 6-month license is available free of cost.
- Pricing plans for Altium Designer 20 start at $7245.00/year.
- Full version costs $9890.00/year.
- There is no free-version available.
Is Altium Designer worth it?
Altium has been making PCB design software for over a decade now and, they have reached a product that is very efficient and is used by most industries and professionals across the globe today.
The pricing plans might be a bit expensive, but the features provided and ease-of-use justify the high cost. Hence if you can afford it and you really require all the functions it provides, then it can be a great option for your business.
Main Differences Between Altium Vs Allegro PCB Designer
Below, some of the main differences between Allegro and Altium Designer have been mentioned. Their costs are highly different, but their performance is still comparable.
 Altium makes a single file that contains all the footprints of a given library; while using Allegro, users create one file for every component and every pad.
 Net Colouring: In Allegro, users can select a tool, pick the colour and apply it to the net, changing its entire colour. Altium applies the colour change to individual units instead of the entire net.
 Altium’s 3D views and modelling are much better in quality than Allegro. This is an important factor while checking the minute tolerances of the board for production.
 Creating Personalised Views: Selecting what you want to view in your workspace clears the clutter and makes it easier to focus on the important things. This can be done much more easily with Altium.
 Selection filters: While working with highly detailed PCBs, it helps to pick a mouse filter for faster mouse movements and precise control. Allegro has this feature.
Altium will simply open a pop-up window with options asking what you wish to click on. This might become tiring for extensive projects.
 Allegro also provides a command console to view recent actions, redefine features and customize what shortcuts and hotkeys do.
 The price range of Altium is almost thrice the price range of Allegro. So it is up to the user to see if they find Altium’s features worth their money.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, Allegro Vs Altium Designer
For Schematic editing and making layouts, Altium provides a more feature-rich work-flow, with automation to handle most of the routine tasks.
But if you are a designer who likes to work on every detail themselves, Allegro gives more personalised options for setting the workspace and connecting parts in the circuit.
Altium can work with more third-party software and extensions, whereas Allegro has most of what it needs built into one application, but this limits its functioning when working with multiple members who might be using different software.
Cadence Allegro Vs Altium Designer: Who’s the Winner?
There really isn’t a winner between Allegro vs Altium since these two have similar features and functions, but the pricing difference obviously means Allegro has some limitations as compared to Altium Designer.
Even so, there are no important tools that are not available in either. As a PCB design engineer, you can get your job done in both. Altium will just prove to be easier and might get your work done faster.
In the end, it is a matter of personal preference and what you feel comfortable working with while making a layout or creating new shapes, debugging or personalisation.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
Considering the vast price differences between Cadence Allegro Vs Altium Designer; I would say go for Allegro if you are looking for a value-for-money program. This also gets the work done without much of a hassle.
However, if money is not your concern, Altium does prove to be stronger and more capable software, with tools to handle all kinds of projects; you will not have to look anywhere else for your designing and manufacturing needs.
And both offer free trials, which you should check out before purchasing the software to see if it meets all your requirements.