Compare Altium Designer® vs. PADS®
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Provides the most advanced PCB tools required by large teams and experienced professionals, yet still intuitive for new designers and students.
Hierarchical schematic capture with integrated analog mixed-signal simulation
PCB editor with industry-standard CAD tools and routing utilities
Built-in 3D viewer with support for STEP models
Intuitive interface for CAM file generation
Extension for high-quality fabrication and assembly drawing creation
Built-in component libraries with symbols and footprints
Realistic layer stacks and a modern field solver for accurate impedances
Advanced interactive routing features with built-in signal integrity tools
Quickly generate ECOs, reports, and documentation
Component and BOM management features with real-time supply chain data
Requires additional add-on with monthly fee
Ability to collaborate with other users in a secure cloud platform
100% backwards compatible with files from all previous releases
100% forwards compatible with future product releases
(active since 2000,
formerly Protel 1985-2000)
Last Release November 2020
(active since 1985)
Integration with Other Design Tools
Export design data for use in advanced field solvers and SI/PI/EMI simulators
Cloud integration with MCAD tools and simulation applications
Multiple importer utilities to convert files from other ECAD platforms
Board Size & Layer Limits
100 in. by 100 in.
Signal and Plane Layers
32 signal + 16 plane + unlimited mechanical
PADS Standard - 186 combined signal & plane + 64 mechanical
PADS Professional - Unlimited
Access all design and manufacturing features in a single application
Ideal for new designers
Ideal for experienced designers
per Glassdoor Dec. 2021
Average Base Pay of Users
per Glassdoor Nov. 2021
$64,307 per year
($40k - $104k)
Not enough data
Ideal for service bureaus
Ideal for start-ups
Ideal for enterprises that need collaboration and integration
Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition (64-bit)
Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
Windows 10 (64-bit)
Windows 8 (64-bit)
Windows 7 or newer
OS X Yosemite (10.10.x)
El Capitan (10.11.x)
MacOS Sierra (10.12)
Intel® Core™ i5 processor or equivalent
Intel Dual Core processor or equivalent
4GB RAM, 3GB DDR4/DDR5 Video Memory
8 GB RAM
12 GB disk space recommended
14.8GB disk space
Microsoft Excel required for BOM,
Microsoft Access required for DbLibs
Microsoft Excel required for BOM
Starting at $325 / month
Multiple annual subscription levels for different features:
PADS Standard: $300 + $1,096 for annual support
PADS Standard Plus: $12,500 + $2,175 for annual support
PADS Professional: $10,344 + $2,096 for annual support
PADS PartSource: $59/month, billed annually
Lower subscription levels contain fewer features
Perpetual license option
Multiple subscription options
Altium Has Been Enabling Engineers
To Unify Their Design Environment Since 1985
- Unify your entire PCB design environment via one platform
- Enjoy the #1 PCB design solution in the world
- Interact and collaborate with mechanical designers like never before
- Route it your way, faster than ever
- Altium Designer includes all the critical design features hobbyists and professional designers need.
- It’s easy to convert projects from other software into Altium’s file format.
- Altium Designer sees the highest demand by employers and industry leaders.
- A complete toolset helps users take products from concept to high-volume production.
- Altium’s design features are the most intuitive and easiest-to-use.
- Individual engineers and large enterprises look to Altium to help them stay at the cutting edge of technology.
Trusted by over 20,000 companies, including
Since 1985, we have been developing, creating and selling award-winning electronic design tools (software and hardware) that help electronics designers harness the latest devices and technologies, manage their projects across broad design ‘ecosystems’, and create connected, intelligent designs.
Which is better: Altium Designer or PADS?
The biggest advantage for Altium Designer users is the powerful electronics development features and the ability to access all the essential PCB design features in a single program. In contrast, PADS users must purchase licenses for multiple programs at high expense to have the same capabilities. Large teams and experienced professionals trust the intuitive interface and complete set of design tools in Altium Designer for their projects:
- Comprehensive multichannel, hierarchical schematic capture
- Altium Designer’s integrated analog mixed signal simulation engine includes SPICE capabilities and IBIS model support
- Schematic entry tools give you access to comprehensive component libraries managed locally or in the cloud
- Multiple features make project, file, and design reuse quick and easy.
- Altium Designer’s layer stack calculator includes a built-in field solver for highly accurate impedance calculations
- Altium Designer’s PCB routing tools are easier to use than PADS and will keep you productive
- Access aggregated real-time sourcing data with PCB library data inside Altium Designer
- Collaborate with your team and share design data through the Altium 365™ platform
Your PCB design software should help you stay competitive and productive, so you need everything to produce a new design and build in a single program. PADS still uses an outdated application structure, where important features are divided into separate programs and must be purchased piecemeal. Altium Designer is different, providing the same advanced tools found in PADS, but in a single application with a professional interface and easier learning curve. Don't pay more for fewer design tools in PADS, start using the software demanded by industry leaders and professional PCB designers.
Switching from PADS to Altium Designer?
If you're an existing PADS user, it's easy to make the switch and start designing from Day 1. Altium Designer includes conversion tools for importing your old libraries and projects into Altium’s file format with minimal effort. All Altium Designer users can take advantage of free online resources to learn more about Altium's leading-edge design tools, basic principles, advanced techniques, new capabilities, and everything in-between. Altium Designer is the only solution built by PCB designers for PCB designers.
If you’re comparing Altium Designer vs. PADS, invest in a complete best PCB design software package with advanced layout and management features. Get access to the easiest to use and most powerful design software by making the switch to Altium Designer.
* Siemens PADS®,PADS®, and logo are registered trademarks owned by Siemens Industry Software Inc.
Try Altium Designer Today!
#1 in Electronics Design