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user experiences of Altium Designer?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by megoodsen, Feb 27, 2006.

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  1. megoodsen

    megoodsen Guest


    I'm seeking out a new PCB design package, and have been pointed to look
    at Altium Designer from someone in the group.

    On (digital!) paper, it looks excellent, ideal in fact.

    But I would like to hear from real users, as our current system
    (EasyPC) although lacking in many areas being bottem end, still lets us
    down in areas it shouldn't because some areas of it are very buggy.

    Is Altium Designer stable, and does what it claims to well?

    What about support response?

  2. OBones

    OBones Guest

    It used to be called Protel, and is definitely very good. It's very
    stable and I can't recall the last time I crashed it.
    I like it quite a lot, especially the "mouse less - alt less" access to
    menus feature.
  3. They have a support forum, available at the
    altium website. Even though you have to sign
    in, you should ask and listen there. This is
    the place where the problems are discussed
    and solved.

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  4. megoodsen

    megoodsen Guest

    Thanks for the reply.

    Yeah I saw the forums, but call me a cynic, but I'm always a little
    dubious of manufacturer owned boards, all too easy to moderate in a
    biased way.

    But I will check them out after all to see what's there.
  5. megoodsen

    megoodsen Guest

    Or I would if I had an eval number...

    Guess its time to speak to Altium...
  6. Joerg

    Joerg Guest

    Not always. The Cadsoft forums are rather non-censored. Well, maybe not
    if someone would let off a political rant or something.

    They should offer a demo pack to test drive it. Also, check out Cadsoft
    Eagle. Very favorable pricing. I defected from OrCad to Eagle last year
    and the only bug I found so far is that the print routine hangs at
    times. Not badly though, deselecting and then again selecting the
    printer gets it going. This company is also very good about listening to
    customers. One of the line items on my "Dear Santa list" will be honored
    in the new release. All it took was one mention and a brief discussion
    on one of their forums.

    Regards, Joerg
  7. megoodsen wrote...
    We get most of our support straight from Altium's phone-support
    guys. Their annual maintenance fees are fairly high, and one
    doesn't necessarily get a software update every year, so they
    have to provide good support to justify the charges. For the
    most part the programs work well (we use their PCAD products),
    and the support is only needed to explain something that's not
    obvious in the manual. Or, perhaps I should say, not obvious
    until *after* you understand it.
  8. megoodsen

    megoodsen Guest

    hi Win,

    Do you have to take the subscription to annual maintainance?

    Define "fairly high" please.

    Our Solidworks one's are about 1K per licence! But we do get any new
    versions and service packs that come out in the term. When we bought SW
    was v2005, we got 2006 'free' when it came out.
  9. With Altium, you have two options. Either to have
    the subscription which costs a yearly fee and
    includes every upgrade to a new version, or you
    just pay for the new version when it comes out.
    The servicepacks are free. A subscription is in
    the order of 1100$ plua VAT. The last standalone
    upgrade was in the order of 3200$ plus VAT after
    a couple of years free servicepacks.

    The prices are available at the countries distributor

  10. megoodsen

    megoodsen Guest

    Hi Rene,

    The subscription sounds like the Solidworks one.

    I'd have to disagree with your last statement. I've found that these
    higher end re-sellers rarely state a pricing structure, preferring you
    to contact them for a quote. Then they can badger you every few days to
    see if you're gonna buy yet.

    For example, from the altium main site I found this:

    leading me to here:

    from which I couldn't detect any link to pricing numbers.

    With google I did manage to find this:

    which at least told me what ballpark figure we were looking at.

  11. True. On the other hand you can try to bargain the
    price lower each round by complaining on how you
    gonna pay for it with the meagre income.
    These numbers refer to new purchases. What is interesting are the
    upgrade costs, and in what time intervalls they are due.

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  12. megoodsen wrote...
    Yes, in the high four-figure, low five-figure territory.

    You can save a lot by going with their lower-priced Protel
    PCB-design program. While it's nice to have the PCB-board
    layout program know automatically about any pin changes in
    your cPLD or FPGA, the price increment to get this feature
    is high enough to keep me transferring that information by
    hand. I've had enough bad experiences with cPLD and FPGA-
    design programs created by someone other than the original
    IC manufacturer (remember the old Data IO / Scenario / ABLE
    mess?), that I'm skeptical of the wisdom of that approach;
    ditto for its cousin, the manufacturer plug-in. The Xilinx
    WebPACK cPLD and FPGA development program I like is free,
    and it doesn't talk to Altium's Designer, SFAIK.

    Another prime element making up the Designer package is the
    integrated Spice analysis, but again I object, pointing out
    that the PCB schematic does equal a proper Spice schematic.
    Spice analysis needs selected parasitic elements explicitly
    added, and benefits from having the irrelevant items removed,
    to help Spice converge and to keep the CPU time reasonable.
    In the end for a skilled designer there's often little direct
    match between a PCB schematic and the corresponding optimized
    Spice circuit. And there's also little match between Spice
    model libraries and PCB pattern libraries, BOM descriptions,
    etc. Trying to press these items together is asking for some
    real malfunctions and lots of extra pain, in my experience.

    But, if you get Altium's Protel PCB package, you'll at least
    be able to upgrade to Designer at a later time if my analysis
    above turns out to be wrong, without being forced to leave
    your past finished designs behind.

    The one extra feature I could be persuaded to spend serious
    money on would be better PCB libraries and BOM capabilities.
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