Today we are discussing and comparing two high-end PCB design programs: PADS Vs Altium Designer.
These software have been around and been used by professionals globally. They both have certain advantages and drawbacks. We will look into these parameters in detail in our comparison between Mentor PADS Professional Vs Altium Designer.
Altium Designer 20 is the latest version of Altium’s PCB design programs. It is a capable and powerful application, which can handle even the most complex PCB designs with great ease.
On the other hand, we have Mentor’s PADS Professional edition. This is a PCB design solution aimed at individual designers and small-sized businesses. This is a scalable version which can be upgraded to the Xpedition Enterprise edition for large businesses or industries.
Let’s get into the comparison.
Mentor PADS Professional
Mentor PADS (Personal Automated Design Solutions) Professional is an all-in-one, integrated PCB design solution for electronics engineers and mid-size businesses. This is a Siemens run company.
This version from Mentor allows you to design, validate, and produce complex PCBs. PADS is a cutting-edge program that delivers Xpedition technology to freelance engineers and professionals.
PADS Professional is a capable, yet easy to learn and use program. All of this at a price this is decent and affordable. Its design gives professionals all the high-performance tools they need, but it can also be used by casual or beginning users to accelerate their progress.
PADS lets you design PCBs with complex architecture and even offers FPGA designing. It provides users with a variety of tools and libraries to help migrate from other PCB design platforms.
Moreover, it is a scalable program. The Professional version is built with a focus on being a design solution for individual engineers or small-scale businesses rather than enterprises. However, it can be scaled up to the Xpedition Enterprise edition as and when required.
Here we will discuss in detail about some of PADS Professional’s highlights and key features.
- Xpedition Technology Foundation: PADS Professional is built on the same foundation as Mentor’s flagship design products, which has been improved and optimized over time; it has all the features for designing advanced boards and is a highly integrated platform.
- Advanced Schematic and Layout features: PADS offers hierarchical schematic and table-based design creation with intelligent part selection and verification. Logical and physical variant management, rigid-flex design capabilities and other such features are also available in Professional.
- Scalability: PADS Professional can be scaled with your design needs. As technological requirements and design complexities continue to expand, additional functions can be added to the program to ensure the software is able to keep in-sync with your design needs.
- Component Information Management: PADS makes it easier to track part numbers, details and more. The starter library contains 11,000+ parts and a variety of device types and well-defined partitions for easy navigation. The library standards are also IPC-7351B compliant.
- Variant Reuse and Management: The Variant management feature of PADS Pro allows users to reuse a single schematic for different design iterations, and this works for layouts as well. Designers can save time by reusing even parts created once in multiple projects.
- FPGA I/O Optimization: An automated FPGA symbol generation process saves as much as 30X vs. traditional processes. PADS Professional offers FPGA integration, reducing time-to-market and manufacturing costs by reducing layer counts and via counts and design cycle time.
- Extensive Electrical Rule Screening: PADS Professional includes a powerful and fast design rule checking (DRC) tool that checks and validates complex design rules that are not easily simulated, such as rules for Electromagnetic interference/compatibility (EMI/EMC).
- Analogue/Mixed-Signal Simulation: PADS Professional includes advanced circuit simulation with comprehensive analysis, so that designers can simulate analogue, mixed-signal, and mixed-technology PCB circuits.
Why Choose PADS Professional? (PROS)
- Thermal Analysis: PADS Professional incorporates thermal analysis to allow engineers to analyze board-level thermal mapping and problems on your design.
- Power Integrity Analysis is a great feature with which you can identify power distribution problems even prior to layout. You can also identify IR drop
- The PADS Professional Multi-Trace HSD works great with high-speed design features and automates tasks to reduce design time significantly.
- PADS has an online AMS Cloud simulation system which gives accurate results.
- It also offers 3D modelling with DRC and rendering with STEP file import/export support.
- Mentor PADS’s PartQuest library with over 450k+ components. This saves time and is a great resource for designers.
- This software can’t be used for large organizations or teams looking to collaborate through remote-working.
- The perpetual license cost is quite high, and there is an additional cost for upgrades.
What is unique about PADS?
PADS Professional is one of the most efficient and clean software when it comes to the core of PCB designing layouts. It brings you the industry’s most powerful PCB layout technology, all within a single, integrated editing workspace.
Xpedition technology is used to design the world’s most advanced boards that include constrained topologies and power distribution, differential pairs, wide busses, HDI, flex and large, fine-pitch BGAs.
Who’s it for?
PADS Professional is software specifically built for individuals. Engineers, professionals, students, anyone can use it thanks to the easy learning curve, and the availability of all advanced designing features.
It is not recommended for businesses or large organizations.
- Windows 10 (32/64-bit)
- Windows 8.1 (32/64-bit)
- Windows 7 SP1 (32/64-bit)
The following are the minimum system requirements to run PADS Professional on your computer:
- Hardware platform: PC
- 32/64-bit Operating systems
- Physical Memory: 8 GB RAM (minimum)
- Disk space requirements: Download ~4.5 GB, Installation 14.8 GB
Below are the pricing plans for Mentor’s PADS professional edition.
- A full-featured free trial is available for 14 days.
- A student version license can be availed for 1 year.
- PADS professional perpetual license starts at $8995.00.
- Note: Annual upgrades cost additional.
Is PADS PCB Design Software worth it?
PADS Professional directly meets your technical challenges and provides the tools and platform to solve them. It helps you accomplish aggressive design schedules, and helps you stay ahead of the curve.
With PADS, you can be confident that you have the right product and tools, not just to meet your current requirements, but also to serve you in the future, as your requirements and challenges grow. So this is a great option for designers who are just starting out in the field.
When you look at some of the most popular PCB designing software from the past decade, you will see Altium Designer as a constant name on that list.
Altium Designer 20 is the new and most advanced version of Altium’s PCB design series. With industry-leading features and tools developed after feedback from professionals worldwide, Altium Designer 20 is one of, if not the best PCB design programs in the market right now.
A new simulation workspace, interactive routing engine, advanced tuning and filtering tools, 3-D modelling and design of high-speed features- these are just some of the features you’ll find in the program.
Altium has design solutions for everyone, be it students and beginners or professional companies looking to go for mass-production. The software can be used by anyone thanks to its all-in-one integrated design packaging.
This program is towards the high-end pricing range, in fact one of the most expensive applications for PCB designing; but use it and you will see that the price is rather justified by its ease-of-use and quality performance.
Here we’ll look at some of the highlights and new key features of Altium Designer 20.
- Integrated Design Interface: Altium provides its users an integrated design solution, with all layout editing and schematic capture tools under one workspace, reducing time spent navigating.
- Advanced Routing Engine: Altium Designer 20 has a new and intuitive routing engine. This allows faster layouts using features such as hug&push, push&shove, obstacle-ignore, differential pairs and so on.
- Centralised Content Management: Altium’s libraries are extensive, with over 400k+ components from suppliers, with linked data as 3D models, datasheets and links. There is also a central communication centre which stores all conversations and data exchanges in one place.
- Real-Time Supply Chain Management: Designers don’t have to worry about production hassles anymore. Altium’s ASCM (Active Supply Chain Management) system provides users with part details and info in the design phase itself. It also provides users with pin-compatible backup components.
- Electrical and Design DRC: Altium features a powerful Design Rule Checker, which can detect and indicate design or electrical rule violations, preventing any further errors in your project.
- Cloud based remote working: Team members can work on projects remotely. Members can edit and share projects over the internet and make changes in real-time. Altium’s servers are highly secure, and Designer provides an all-in-one solution for remote working.
- ActiveBOM System: Altium Designer 20 gives its users a system for generating, editing and sharing the Bill of Material for their project once their design is ready for manufacturing. This system is called ActiveBOM.
- MCAD Support: With Altium Designer 20, you can check electrical part compatibility with the mechanical enclosure for your PCB. Altium supports bi-directional sync with major mechanical CAD platforms such as SOLIDWORKS, Pro/E, Autodesk Inventor and Creo Parametric.
Why Choose Altium Designer? (PROS)
- High-Speed feature designing is easy and quick with Altium. Its EM solver helps in extracting impedance and finding trace length from time delay values.
- This platform can support multiple members working together on a project remotely. The experience is majorly free of latency and glitches.
- Fit of the board can be checked with its enclosure through MCAD support, helpful in avoiding design changes later on.
- Hierarchical design and multilayer designs can be simplified on single sheets through Structural and Electrical partitioning.
- The user-interface is entirely customisable according to the user’s preference. Designers can also change settings for shortcuts and re-assign hotkeys to get their work done quicker.
- Altium provides 24/7 support through email and phone to solve your doubts and answer queries.
- The license costs are quite expensive, and buying individual licenses might not be affordable for everyone.
- Simulation iterations don’t always give completely accurate results.
What is unique about Altium Designer?
One of the unique features Altium Designer 20 has is its ActiveBOM system.
In the design to market process, the bill of material is one of the first documents created. As the initial project pricing estimate is prepared, components are listed and their prices are checked against the budget.
The bill of material is only finalised after completing the assembly and final manufacturing instructions. And that BOM also includes the details of every sticker, standoff, screw, heat-sink and other items required to finish the sub-system the PCB will be a part of.
ActiveBOM is a powerful system that manages mapping from the design to the parts to be purchased for production. It also sources other pin-compatible options in case the primary design selected part is not available.
Who’s it for?
Altium can be used by almost everyone; it has a user-friendly interface, and all the advanced features a professional designer might need. So beginners, students, and even professional designers working for industry-level production can use it.
- Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition (64-bit)
- Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
- Windows 10 (64-bit)
- Windows 8 (64-bit)
Below are the minimum software and hardware requirements you will need on your PC to run Altium Designer 20:
- 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
- Internet Connection (512Kbps minimum recommended)
- Microsoft Excel required for BOM
- Microsoft Access required for DbLibs
Here you can find the pricing plans for purchasing an Altium Designer 20 license.
- 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 of Altium Designer 20.
Is Altium Designer worth it?
Altium Designer 20 is one of the best and most popular PCB designing software programs and is used widely in many applications. It contains some great editing and designing features to help create even the most complex boards.
It also offers fast and precise layout editing tools and options to personalize your own workspace. For users involved in production, their active supply chain management features can be a great solution.
The license costs are high and might not be affordable for everyone. Despite that, it is a highly capable program and can be considered worth the investment.
Main Differences Between Altium Vs PADS Professional PCB Designer
Here we have discussed some of the main differences that can be used to compare Altium Designer vs. PADS Professional PCB design programs through 8 major differences.
- PADS Pro provides thermal analysis of your boards, while Altium provides electrical simulations only.
- PADS has HyperLynx Signal Integrity Analysis, another useful feature. Altium does not have HyperLynx support.
- Altium gives users their ActiveBOM system, an industry-leading Bill of Material management system.
- PADS Pro can be used on 32 bit and 64 bit Windows systems while Altium runs only on 64-bit operating systems.
- Altium can be used by large businesses and industries, while PADS is focused on individual users and mid-size businesses.
- Altium has a vast library of ready-to-use components, and it is slightly easier to make custom shapes and components as compared to PADS.
- The user-interface and navigation in PADS is not nearly as good as that Altium provides.
- Simulations can be performed better in Mentor’s PADS as compared to Altium Designer.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, PADS Vs Altium Designer
Mentor’s PADS Professional is an advanced and capable PCB design application, with features such as SIA, thermal analysis, AMS Cloud circuit online simulation and more such. In short, it has all the features you might require for making any sort of advanced or complex design.
But when it comes to the core of designing, making your layouts and schematics, users prefer the ease and personalisation features Altium provides. Altium’s simulation properties are not as optimised as PADS’. So depending on the tasks, both programs have their advantages and disadvantages.
PADS Professional Vs Altium Designer: Who’s the Winner?
Both Altium and Mentor are experienced companies and have been making design products for a while now. Even so, when it comes to PCB designing and all factors considered, PADS feels a little out-dated and is not very intuitive.
The work-flow and navigation can be still improved and the overall user-experience for designing is not up to the mark considering the cost of the license for PADS.
Meanwhile, the Altium experience was certainly a bit better. The integration and custom options make the task of a designer much easier. There are limitations and still a lot can be improved in Altium as well, but on the whole it performs a little better.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
Which one you should pick between Altium Designer vs PADS Professional is a matter of personal preference.
There is no overall winner, but as stated earlier, the design experience is smooth and optimised while using Altium. PADS still has powerful simulation and analysis features that work really well, and are state-of-the-art.
Mentor has provided ample features to justify the price of PADS Professional, and it also comes with translator libraries to help users who might want to migrate from some other EDA (Electronic Design Automation) platform.
Both of these software are in the higher pricing range and are not small investments, so it is recommended to take their trial versions before purchasing the license.