Ian Wilson wrote:

I am very interested in this but the numbers seem hard to come by. Can anyone give a purchase and annual cost for other packages that include Sch capture, PCB, autorouter and simulation? It may be instructive to try to set up some sort of table to collate this stuff.

When I got fed up enough with Altium, I looked into PADS (from Mentor Graphics). I was quoted several packages/options, ranging from US$3,500 (basic PCB & schematic) to $15,000 (simulation, autorouter and lots of other stuff). The maintenance was generally 15% of the purchase price.

What really impressed me about PADS was the VAR support. The VAR was an independent agent who was local and had a huge incentive to keep me happy for his own long term prosperity. He actually knew how to use the software and was willing to come onsite and do hands on training. In contrast, Altium's approach was "we do not have the manpower to train" Even if you could convince them to send someone onsite, the person was going to strictly follow the agenda of their training class and was not going to do anything besides that. To me, that is huge red flag. It appears that the "trainer" actually does not use the system or know much about it. They are just trained monkeys reciting the training syllabus and hitting the right buttons at the right time.

Even though I have forked over the $2K to buy DXP (I would not insult anyone's intelligence by calling it an upgrade), I have decided to stick with 99SE. The Altium sales person's claim that there is virtually no learning curve and that most people are as proficient in DXP as they are in 99SE within one week had a lot to do with the decision. I also really wanted a few feature, like support for dual monitors and selection filters. However, these are all "nice to have" and not "must have." However, when I got into it, I found that there were many new "features" that were a severe detriment to my productivity. The global edits are a big one. I use global editing all the time in 99SE and while it is not as powerful as it is in DXP, it is very quickly accessible and handy. I can edit a part, with two or 3 mouse clicks and a few keystrokes, I can do what I want and I am done. Doing the same in DXP takes a lot more. A hell of a lot more in may cases.

As I look back over my 8 years of working with Protel, I realize that they have a very consistent track record of putting out complete crap every other release. While I have always upgraded to every new version going back to version 2.8, I have only actually used half of them. Some of the great "features" that have prevented me from using the intermediate releases have included a lack of undo button in the library editor (we found that no one used it so we did not implement it), the inability to change anything about a footprint after it was placed on the PCB (enforcing good design practices), the crazy DDB database (again enforcing good design practices) and everyone's all time favorite: frequent crashes. While I continue to do all my work in 99SE, I am forced to use DXP because I am mentoring a friend who does not have access to any other package besides DXP. Therefore I get to use DXP frequently enough to really get to dislike it from hands on use rather than hearsay.

If I had to endure the learning curve of learning a new package, I would most probably opt for PADS, in a large part due to the support available through VARs. I have let Altium know that and they do not seem to care.


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