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Altium vs Cadence vs Mentor

A direct comparison of features is the best way to choose the right PCB design program for you

With the right EDA software, you can expedite innovation, create high-quality circuit boards, and maximize development profitability and ROI. With the wrong software…well, you will likely find it difficult to overcome PCBA development challenges like supply chain issues and excessive costs. But, how do you know which software program is the best for you? 

At the heart of PCBA development is the design program. In fact, your EDA solution is defined by the choice of this foundational software platform. A direct comparison of features provides you with a wealth of information on which to base this determination. This technique is put into practice below to compare industry-leading PCB design programs from Altium vs Cadence vs Mentor Graphics, which is now Siemens EDA.

Comparing Altium vs Cadence vs Mentor

Although there are many PCB CAD programs, the software tools available from Altium, Cadence, and Siemens rank at the top of the list due to the many benefits they offer designers and engineers, irrespective of design scale and industry application. As each company offers multiple PCB design program options, it is necessary to select comparable tools for an accurate comparison. Altium Designer, OrCAD, and PADS meet this criterion and are contrasted below on important attributes for users.

Altium vs Cadence vs Mentor Comparison


(Siemens EDA)

Software ProgramAltium Designer1OrCAD2PADS3
Learning CurveModerateModerateModerate
ConfigurabilityModerateHighly customizableModerate
MCAD CollaborationYesYesYes
ScalabilityAverageVery GoodGood
Compatibility (with other EDA tools)GoodGoodGood
CostFairly expensiveCost-effectiveCost-effective

1In addition to Altium Designer, Altium also offers lower functionality software programs CircuitStudio and CircuitMaker.

2Cadence also offers Allegro X, which includes additional advanced PCB design features and integration tools.

3Siemens offers an enterprise software, Expedition, that is geared towards team product design.

All three programs far exceed the PCB design program essentials; therefore, these basic capabilities are omitted from the comparison above. Instead, factors that affect workflow effectiveness and development efficiency are evaluated. As shown, each tool has its pros and cons, which are discussed in more detail below.

Altium Designer: Pros and Cons

Altium Designer is a very popular PCB design program that is relatively intuitive and therefore easy to use. The program also supports import/export for a wide range of formats. However, specific data files, such as schematics, are restricted and not directly usable even with some of Altium’s tools. Additionally, the number of advanced simulation and analysis tools available is minimal.

Notable Features: AD offers users a unified model platform where schematic and/or layout changes are updated universally. Altium’s ActiveBOM was one of the first EDA tools to integrate real-time component data into its design platform, which greatly aids in avoiding supply chain issues.


🟢 Easy to learn

🟢 Visually intuitive

🟢 Unified CAD design

🟢 Real-time component data

🟢 Advanced automated routing capabilities

🔴 Lack of advanced simulation and analysis

🔴 Limited user configurability

🔴 Relatively expensive

OrCAD: Pros and Cons

OrCAD has been a favored EDA program among PCB designers and engineers for decades. The software includes in-design analysis. This real-time feedback enables users to quickly address errors and avoid DFM issues during design. Additionally, the program integrates with PSpice, the industry standard for electronic circuit simulation and analysis. Due to its advanced functionality, OrCAD can be challenging to learn, but the trade-off is that users have a high degree of flexibility to create their own workspace.

Notable Features: In-Design Analysis capability offers users the ability to perform important simulations during design when it is easier and faster to make corrections. In addition, the industry standard for mixed-signal analysis, PSpice, there are a wide range of simulations that can be performed to verify design compliance prior to manufacturing, eliminating wasteful respins and excessive costs.


🟢 Highly scalable

🟢 Advanced simulation capabilities

🟢 Includes PSpice

🟢 Cost-effective

🟢 Multi-tiered training and support

🔴 Complex

🔴 Learning curve can be steep

🔴 Additional cost for some functions

PADS: Pros and Cons

PADS, which was developed by Mentor Graphics, is Siemen EDA’s EDA program for individuals and small teams. The program is favorably priced and well-liked by many PCB designers and engineers. The program is relatively easy to use and does offer some advanced capabilities; such as SI and DFM analyses. For non-PADS users, getting up to speed may be a challenge and advanced capabilities are limited.

Notable Features: 


🟢 Good usability

🟢 High-quality PCB design

🟢 Cost-effective

🟢 Component distributor integrations

🟢 Good support

🔴 Advanced functionality is limited

🔴 Moderate user configurability

🔴 Basic collaboration capabilities

Choosing the Best EDA Tool for Your Project

When comparing Altium vs Cadence vs PADS–or any other PCB design software–it is important to compare apples to apples. For example, both Cadence and Siemens EDA offer enterprise packages geared toward large teams, including where members are located remotely from each other. Altium, however, offers two lower-level PCB design tools, including a free version. None of these were considered in this comparison. Instead, the flagship programs that meet the functionality and capability requirements of most engineers and PCB designers are evaluated, guided by consideration of important factors that will help you make the best choice for your current and future workflow and project needs.

EMA Design Automation is a leading provider of the resources that engineers rely on to accelerate innovation. We provide solutions that include PCB design and analysis packages, custom integration software, engineering expertise, and a comprehensive academy of learning and training materials, which enable you to create more efficiently. For more information on making the best EDA choice between Altium vs Cadence vs Mentor and how we can help you or your team innovate faster, contact us.


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