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5x Why choose Altium Designer for Electronic Hardware Design

I have been designing electronic devices for more than 11 years. During this period I have used several systems and:

“If I was thinking to buy a software for Electronic Hardware Design I would choose Altium Designer.”

– Robert Feranec, FEDEVEL Motherboard, Processor and Microcontroller Board Design


Why ?

1) Optimum ratio between Price / Performance
You can design ANY board in Altium Designer. For advanced boards (e.g high speed designs) the PCB layout process may take a little bit longer as it would take when an another advanced tool such Cadence Allegro is used (a few days or weeks more), BUT you will save time on other things – such component management. Also, Altium Designer costs $5000 what is much less then Cadence Allegro which, as I know, starts somewhere around $25000 plus fees for every year. (Just for information full PADS price is around $15000, a cheaper tool like EAGLE costs around $1500)

2) Great Component Management
By using Variants in Altium Designer you will save a LOT of time. A board has many times more then just one variant – board with different memory sizes, different range of input voltages, different resistor settings, … Just generating all the manufacturing information for all this variants takes a lot of time (BOMs for purchasing, BOMs for manufacturing, Assembly drawings, Schematics, …) and then … a hardware change needs to be done and re-generate all the information again … and again. In Altium Designer, once everything is set up correctly, it takes only few clicks. Read more about how to use variant manager here or learn how to create useful Assembly drawings here.

3) Excellent Schematic Browser
You always want to be sure the schematic is correct. No one wants to have swapped receive and transmit signals, two outputs / inputs connected opposite of each other, using wrong power rail, forget pull up / down resistors, …. Altium Designer provides an excellent schematic browser what allows you easily check connection for EVERY pin in your schematic. It’s my favourite feature. See comparison between Orcad and Altium Designer Schematic browsing here.

4) 3D visualisation and output
The 3D feature of Altium Designer is SO SIMPLE TO USE. Clients love 3D outputs. They can see the product weeks or months before it’s physically on their table. I use the visualisation to check component placement and it’s especially useful when board is being designed for a bigger system. See 3D model and real PCB side by side here or learn how to create 3D models here.

5) Support
It’s a very well known software used by wide community. The Altium Designer Help pages are good written and save a lot of time. Usually it takes no longer then 5 minutes to find and use a new feature.

Altium Designer is All in One solution and if you are in process of selecting new software for your Hardware Design team, then consider Altium Designer as one of your options.

What do you think about Altium Designer? What do you like and what not? Leave a comment.

Note: This post is not an advert. At the time of writing this article I even didn’t have my own Altium Designer licence, but I do have now :)

Learn Advanced PCB Layout ONLINE

You will learn how to do Advanced PCB Layout (DDR3, PCIE, SATA, Ethernet, etc.).

How to register for this online course?

Step 1: Register & Login at FEDEVEL Academy website – Click here
Step 2: Select your course (you will need to be logged in) – Click here

Find out more about this course in this short introduction video

Learn Advanced Hardware Design ONLINE
Starting next week. Don’t miss. Register here >>
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This course will show you how you can design boards more effectively and produce professional results. It provides you tips and tricks to help you to design boards that work the first time.

The course is practically based and will teach you everything by actually doing it. Anyone who is interested can work on his/her own project during the course. By the end of the course you will have learnt how to create professional manufacturing output which you can then use to build your own board.

How to register for this online course?

Step 1: Register & Login at FEDEVEL Academy website – Click here
Step 2: Select your course (you will need to be logged in) – Click here

Find out more about this course in this short (2 minutes) introduction video

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  • Christiam Franco

    I like the 3D too. It saves a lot of time when doing the mechanical match with PCB.

    • http://www.fedevel.com Robert Feranec

      Yes and it’s surprisingly easy to get nice and useful 3D model.

  • Mirsaeed Safari

    I have been using Altium designer for a long time but recently I did some high speed projects and used its signal integrity tool. Although in most cases it helped a lot but not being user friendly enough (I mean the SI tool) and the lack of some freatures such as delay calculation on parallel bus is a little bit annoying, but I’m sure they will develop it in future. BTW, I would be very glad if you tell me a trick how to calculate delays on Data/address/or… bus?


    • http://www.fedevel.com Robert Feranec

      Hi Mirsaeed, 

      my trick in SI is in following design guides. Cadence Allegro supports length matching by delay, but from my real world experience that still not guarantee design without problems as there are many other influences.

      What I normally do, I use same topology for all signals in the bus, route them same way and length match them (e.g.  all signals in the bus starts on layer 1, then go to layer 3, then layer 5 and then to layer 1). In this case I don’t need to consider delays for length matching as the signals travels same way, through same number of vias and same length in vias. For very high speed signals, I also length match the segments on particular layer.

      I do agree Altium is not very good in length matching, but as I mentioned in the article – it’s a compromise between price and performance. It is still possible to length match signals, it just takes a little bit more time.

      – Robert

      • Mirsaeed Safari

         Hi Robert,

        Thanks for your reply, In fact the procedure you mentioned is what I follow in my own design too, which seems very reasonable and also no other option available!, BTW thanks for your kind replay.


  • Blindvia

    From my experience designing 20-30 layer boards with Altium.
    It takes soooooooooooooooo long to repour polygons.

    It costs less, and you get what you paid for. 
    Don’t expect an exceptional performance from this tool. 
    I would recommend PADS or Allegro.

    • http://www.fedevel.com Robert Feranec

      I believe you. The truth is I had to buy a latest computer to work on advanced boards when using Altium Designer. The new computer helped and I have no problem to use Altium with 12 layer boards (I don’t normally use more layers, as most of my clients need cost effective PCBs). I do polygons at the end of design process. It still takes time to refresh them all, but it is acceptable … and of course HW design is not only about repouring polygons.

      I would disagree on “you get what you paid for”.  I actually believe you will get much more than what you paid for. I have been working with a lot of different softwares and as I said in the article – There are better softwares for Advanced PCB layout and Simulations as Altium designer is, but in total value I am still convinced Altium designer is the best deal for HW design (including Advanced HW design).

  • Kien

    i have a license code Altium Designer. But i don’t use it. Who want to buy it. Email me: trungkiena6@Gmail.com. I sales off 50%. My license is 1 year.

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