OrCAD Vs Allegro PCB Designer | What’s The Difference & Which Is The Best? [2020 UPDATED]

When it comes to PCB Design software, selecting the right one for you is crucial. To help with that process, here we are comparing OrCAD Vs Allegro PCB Designer. Both of these are powerful programs from Cadence for fast and accurate board and circuit design.

OrCAD offers various sub-products and features such as OrCAD Capture, OrCAD PCB Designer Pro and the OrCAD PCB Promo Bundle, which is an entire suite with all the above programs included.

Allegro is Cadence’s flagship PCB design editor. It is a scalable, full-featured design solution. Since they use the same libraries and database, most of their features are similar. However, Allegro offers additional features that might be needed for more complex routing and projects.

Below is our detailed Comparison between OrCAD vs Allegro PCB Designer.

OrCAD Vs Allegro PCB Designer

10 Major Differences Between OrCAD Vs Allegro PCB Designer

Since OrCAD is primarily used for schematic capture and design, and Allegro for PCB layout, both have certain differences in their functions.

It is advisable to start with OrCAD for basic to intermediate projects and scale up to Allegro for more complex projects involving large teams that might need to work remotely, or businesses that are focussed on production.

Since the publisher is the same, certain interface features are similar. Hence, learning any one program makes it much easier to work with the other program as well. However, beginners might find OrCAD easier to work with.

Below are the top 10 differences between OrCAD Vs Cadence Allegro PCB Designer

1. Allegro Miniaturization

One of the most important differences between OrCAD vs Allegro is the miniaturization feature, available only in Allegro.

This function is related to part embedment into a PCB. Miniaturization deals with downsizing of the components. Smaller hybrid microchips can be used in a variety of low-weight applications such as medical, and wearable-tech.

The Allegro PCB Miniaturization Option supports space-saving stacking of vias. With the constraints in production of layer structure, the software suggests combinations of blind and buried vias to switch between layers for denser packing, taking up less space.

It also checks required cavity space, clearances for proper fitting of the part, compares part height with the layer stack and checks the validity of the design through DRC for High-Dense-Interconnect (HDI) boards.

2. Allegro Analogue/RF Feature

The Allegro PCB Designer Analogue/RF feature is an RF design solution for the various challenges faced by designers while integrating RF circuits on mixed signal designs.

This feature integrates the functionality of both Allegro and Agilent ADS design environments to help designers create a mixed-signal design within a production-ready board design workspace. It does this using the Allegro Design Entry-HDL (DE-HDL) and Allegro PCB Editor.

The Analogue/RF includes a set of functions: parameterized etch element generation, quick placement, RF-style routing, editing RF etch elements; and it also allows the placement of via arrays along user-specified objects such as an RF component, a connect line, or a discrete component.

The generated etch elements are categorized as RF components with parameters. The parameters can be changed and the software will re-generate the modified elements accordingly.

3. Component Information System

All the features related to the component information systems are optional in OrCAD and have to be purchased separately as additional packages. These are included with Allegro PCB Designer.

These packs include features such as: Centralised part information system, ODBC-compliant database support, Crystal Reports for advanced PCB documentation, intelligent database query, graphical preview, unlimited assembly variant support and more.

These features are integrated with the Allegro Designer, but not with OrCAD Designer Standard or Professional versions.

4. Component Placement Functions

Cadence Allegro PCB Designer offers advanced Placement features for faster and more precise circuit structures. Some of the features that are available in Allegro but not in OrCAD for placement are as follows:

FPAM: Flow planning application mode, a feature that allows quicker and smarter flow planning for your circuits. This helps avoid design changes or errors later on.

Once you have fixed a placement pattern, Allegro allows you to save the placing order and apply it to other boards as well, with the Placement replication feature.

Another helpful feature in Allegro is the real-time DFA (Design for Assembly) rule checking. As the user places the component, the software dynamically checks the validity of the placement in real-time against DFA and indicates any violations, helping you make an efficient and valid design.

DFM (Design for Manufacturing) is a separate field which also has major importance in PCB designing. Both Allegro and OrCAD offer DFM features, although Allegro has a few extra features such as Bill of Material generation and documentation creation.

5. Advanced Routing

When it comes to PCB designing, routing is one of the most important aspects of a good design. To help you make well-routed circuits, Cadence offers a variety of features in both OrCAD designer and Allegro designer.

However, there are certain additional features that Allegro provides to help users deal with complex routing challenges. Some of these features are: Contour Routing (Flex), phase-tune bumps and interactive delay tuning.

Allegro also allows users to resize/re-space diff pairs while routing, shape-based curve fillet support and tapered traces for advanced designs. It also allows users to spread lines between Anti-pads and segment over void detection.

For improved efficiency and ease of routing, Allegro also offers a dynamic Heads-Up Display (HUD) which displays important parameters and information in real-time.

AutoRouting: OrCAD Designer Professional Edition and Allegro both provide certain auto-routing functions to help solve complex routing challenges.

These features are not available in OrCAD Standard Edition.

Key features in this aspect include the ability to work with 6 signal layers simultaneously, with no limit on plane layer or number of pins. Shape-based or gridded routing, SMD fanout, interactive floorplanning and 45-degree/memory pattern routing.

Allegro users also get online design rule checking (DRC) and the ability to trace width by net and net classes. Additional features, some of which are only available in high-end programs such as extended component interaction (flip, rotate, align, push and move) and crosstalk controls.

6. Constraint Manager

Constraint Manager is a user-based constraint setting system. It works by allowing users to define hierarchical rules and apply them to an entire structure or network, and to form a bus, differential pair or a pin pair.

Constraint Manager is available in Allegro Sigrity SI (Signal Integrity) Base. OrCAD also has a Constraint Manager system available, but has some limitations as compared to Allegro.

These include: dynamic phase control for diff pairs, region rules, single line impedance rules, min/max propagation rules and relative propagation rules. With Allegro PCB Designer, custom constraints can be set for all of the above.

Moreover, an Electrical constraint rule set (ECSets) is also available in the Allegro program. Advanced constraints and electrical rules such as formulas, relational, reflection, timing and crosstalk can also be checked.

7. Pricing Plans

OrCAD PCB Designer is available in two versions, Standard and Professional. The prices of OrCAD and Allegro are very different. Allegro is much more expensive as compared to OrCAD.

Both the programs offer limited period free trials, which can be availed after registering on the Cadence website. The developer also offers extended trial versions for students and teachers, which can be downloaded after registering.

The cost for purchasing an OrCAD Standard Designer Annual License is approximately $1300.00, with optional packages billed additionally.

To purchase an annual license for the latest version Allegro PCB Designer, it will cost approximately $2800.00 to $3000.00 for the basic edition. Additional options can be added, which will cost extra.

For the exact pricing, according to your needs, a quote can be requested from the official Cadence website.

Both of the plans include a one-year maintenance contract, which ensures a free upgrade to the next version.

8. Signal Integrity and Simulation

Allegro offers advanced simulation and SI (Signal Integrity) features as compared to OrCAD PCB Designer.

Allegro provides single net extraction and post-route signal integrity analysis in addition to the simulation features provided by OrCAD such as lossy transmission lines and diff-pair exploration and simulation.

The SI functions are extremely important while working on large and complex projects involving multiple layers and a high number of parts and pins. The SI features help the designer ensure that the performance of the board is not compromised in any way due to the routing and packing.

Allegro also automatically recognises, extracts and analyses interconnected differential signals, and networks which lead across discrete components (x-nets).

FPGA Design: Allegro allows users to swap pins based on FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) rules while editing. It also has the functionality to re-optimise pins on an FPGA following related rules using the FPGA System Planner option.

9. Learning Curve

This is where OrCAD trumps Allegro PCB Designer. OrCAD is widely considered as much easier software to learn and to use.

Novice users who have little to no experience in designing might be intimidated by the complex functions and workspace of Allegro. OrCAD, on the other hand, has a much simpler interface and intuitively placed controls.

OrCAD PCB Designer also offers tutorial videos and graphics within the software, as well as helpful guides and user-manuals. These greatly help new users to start designing and working on projects much quicker as compared to Allegro.

However, for those who do invest the time to learn Allegro, it can be helpful later on. As this is a scalable platform, small businesses that start out with OrCAD can later scale up to Allegro.

So it is better to learn to use Allegro’s advanced features as well because any designer who wants to be a professional will someday have to work on more complex boards with high-speed features, multiple-layers and RF/Microwave modules etc.

10. Advanced Features and Design Intelligence

Finally, after having discussed all the core features for PCB designing, we will take a look at additional advanced features that greatly improve working efficiency and save time while designing.

Allegro PCB Designer offers some amazing features under Design Intelligence, such as: TimingVision advanced timing closure engine, X-nets creation, F2B reuse modules as well as the ability to define region rules by layer.

Rigid Flex Design options: Allegro gives extended rigid flex features which include: Inter Layer DRC, dynamic zone placement with auto drop-down, the ability to create curved fillets and contour routing while shoving arc routes.

To help designers working on projects with HDI structures, Allegro also provides functions like Microvia database element, which are used as interconnects between layers, DRC for stacked micro vias and the ability to remove unused vias from the stack.

Users who need to work on embedded component designs can find some helpful features in Allegro Designer, such as the ability to directly / indirectly attach embedded components, check for maximum cavity size using DRC, and perform cavity height checks.


Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, OrCAD Vs Allegro

The right answer to this depends on a lot of factors that vary with each designer.

If the features and functions are to be looked at, the answer would be Allegro PCB Designer. It gives some of the industry’s best features and a fast and powerful design engine that makes working on the most complex designs easy.

However, if simplicity and ease-of-use is looked at, the decision would favour OrCAD PCB Designer. It is much simpler to use this software, and beginners would find the learning curve much less steep as compared to Allegro.

Experienced users, who are not worried about the price, can definitely consider Allegro; it is currently one of the leading PCB design software in the market.


So, Which One Should You Pick?

This also depends on your requirements. For businesses or projects that involve large teams and require cloud-working facilities, Allegro offers those with its Symphony Team Design features that allow remote-working and real-time updates. The downside to Allegro is its high cost.

If you do not require software for specifically advanced designing, you can easily go for OrCAD; this also offers a lot of the higher-level features for more complex designing, with a much easier learning curve, and at a much lower cost. Hence, deciding between OrCAD vs Allegro PCB Designer is a matter of individual design needs.

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