The 'best' program out there by popular opinion... I hate to say this... Is
supposedly Mentor Expedition. 

Now that being said... the reason it's the 'best' is not its ease of use. 
It does gate and pin swapping. It has a first class interactive autorouter. 
It can interface with REAL GOOD simulation tools and they can do simulation
based upon the board geometry. The design team at Qualcomm was using Mentor
to do the cell phones that they are so famous for... but it took having a
Mentor rep onsite to deal with the issues that they had... and a lot of
custom programming... it was not cheap.

I taught a PCB design class at Palomar using Mentor... What a pain ... 
Mentor set us up with a minimal system... ala the PADS story...( see
previous e-mail) 
 
They have a similar sales philosophy at Mentor, (may be why they bought
PADS), add on modules that you need so you can customize 'till the cows come
home'.... it's a very 'feature rich' environment... But... with that comes
great difficulty in use and lots of time on the tech support hotline trying
to figure out what went wrong... and why this thing here crashes, and what's
this error code mean? Etc.. etc..

They have pretty good phone support for paying customers. Colleges, well
they don't support the colleges as well as paying customers. They are a big
company, and they make millions every year. The software costs about 40K a
seat. Figure to spend a year to get it to the productive level you would
expect it to be at for a design team. It's a big investment of man hours and
money, but I hear once you get it up and running smoothly it's a performer.
Also expect to pay your designers 100k or more a year. That goes with the
territory as well, so I am told, unless you outsource to India.

Our sister company used Mentor Board station and upgraded to Expedition...
after a year and a half they couldn't seem to get any more productivity out
of it and shut it down due to the oppressive maintenance cost. They are
shopping their boards outside to a guy that uses PADS that gets them what
they want quickly with out the large maintenance fees that Mentor charges
for support. We use Protel here.. and so far, Altium does not charge us for
support... 

I could set up a design group of 5 guys on Protel for the cost of one Mentor
seat and maintenance.  

So if you have a year and half a million to spend, you might be able to get
the 'best' for your team. And that might be an option for you, if it is, I
can put you in touch with a good friend of mine who is the regional
tech/sales guy for the whole southwest.... I know he will treat you and your
company very well. Some folks need the capabilities that are not available
in Protel and can afford to buy them. For the rest of us, there is Protel.


Bill Brooks 
PCB Design Engineer , C.I.D., C.I.I.
Tel: (760)597-1500 Ext 3772 Fax: (760)597-1510


-----Original Message-----
From: Ray Mitchell [mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED] 
Sent: Friday, April 09, 2004 7:42 AM
To: [EMAIL PROTECTED]
Subject: [PEDA] Good schematic/PCB development suite recommendation?

Our group has used Protel for years.  I've tried to get everyone to change 
to something else for most of that time but the resistance has been fairly 
great.  It seems that the the philosophy has been that pain you know is 
preferable to the pain you don't know.  However, with the introduction of 
DXP/2004 everyone is starting to realize that a good tool is needed.  Is 
there something that is generally considered to be the best?  I realize 
that some of the tools cost significantly more but when the frustration, 
poor results, and wasted time are considered, it may not actually be that 
expensive.  One of the guys here uses PADS and really likes it.  If we make 
a change we don't want to make the same mistake we made with Protel again.

Ray Mitchell
Engineer, Code 2732
SPAWAR Systems Center
San Diego, CA. 92152
(619)553-5344
[EMAIL PROTECTED]  


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