With the multiple options for PCB software in the market today, it is imperative to select the right one for you. So today, we are comparing DipTrace vs Altium Designer, two of the most capable PCB Design solutions.
With features that appeal to all sorts of designers, these programs are used in many fields and industries. Altium Designer is considered among one of the best design applications, but it is highly expensive and extensively detailed.
In our comparison between DipTrace vs Altium, the former is the cheaper software, but is still a very capable design solution with many great features. What’s more is that it supports three major OS platforms.
Read on to view the detailed comparison between Altium vs DipTrace.
DipTrace PCB Design Software
DipTrace is an EDA (Electronic Design Automation) software program for creating schematic diagrams and printed circuit boards. DipTrace provides a clean and functional multi-lingual interface with guides and tutorials (available in 22 languages).
DipTrace PCB Designer has 4 sub-modes: SC (Schematic Capture) editor, PCB layout editor with inbuilt shape-based auto-routing features, component editor, and pattern editor.
With diff pair features, you can define differential pair and its rules; automatic or manual defining of paired pads; paired routing and editing of differential pair; single-track differential pair routing and editing; phase tune tool (place custom / regular size meanders); real-time control of phase and length tolerance; differential pair manager; support of differential pairs for external autorouters, recognition of paired traces.
In the latest version of DipTrace (4.0, May 2020 Release), a lot of new and upgraded functions have been provided. To make the work experience easier, it supports custom user-defined hotkeys for toolkits and commands.
Some of the new features include ODB++ (7.0) and Gerber X2 manufacturing output, DRC with constraint management, tree view of 3D models with easy sorting options. The updated libraries contain 8143 new components and 5694 new STEP models for 3D.
Here we will look at some of the highlights of DipTrace 2020.
 Multi-Level Hierarchical Schematics
With DipTrace Schematic Capture, users get advanced circuit design tools with multi-sheet and multi-level hierarchical schematics. This provides various features for visual and logic-based pin connections.
Thanks to cross-module management, users can convert principal circuits to PCB, back annotated, or import /export them from other EDA, CAD, and net-list formats. Full project analysis can be performed with SPICE export for simulation.
 Avanced Routing Capabilities
DipTrace PCB Layout is a high-level solution for board design with smart manual routing of high-speed and diff signals, shape-based auto-routing, and multiple import/export features. Design requirements can be defined by net classes, class-to-class rules, and settings by object types for each class or layer.
Users get real-time DRC, which reports errors dynamically. This system can also predict potential errors. The PCB can also be previewed in 3D and exported for MCAD modeling.
 Library Creation and Management
The latest version includes a cross-module library management system with component and pattern editors with direct import from external sources. Component and Pattern editors support a smart library structure and quick component creation using integrated templates.
Features such as bulk pin naming, pad numbering and editing help the designer build multi-part complex components and patterns with a large number of pins, quickly.
 3D Modeling
This great feature is integrated with the PCB Layout and Pattern Editor. The 3D module permits the user to preview the PCB, rotate and orient it in real-time thanks to hardware acceleration.
The PCB model can be exported as a CAD (STEP, VRML) file. DipTrace supports formats such as 3DS, VRML, STEP, and IGES files. More than 11,000 models available in the library.
 Faster ERC (Electrical Rules Check)
With the new DipTrace version, users get an improved ERC system. ERC ensures that the design engineer works in an error-free and valid design environment. Electrical Rule Check comes with detailed customization and identifies short circuits, superimposing and unconnected pins, one-pin nets, checks connections by pin types, and so on.
 Pattern Editor
This DipTrace module allows the user to draw patterns with different shapes, make footprints and, manage libraries. The included pattern generator creates patterns and supports 3D Models up to IPC-7351 Standard, based on certain parameters.
Users also get a variety of standard and custom templates to help speed up production. DXF import functionality makes it easier to create complex layouts.
 Component Editor
Allows the user to manage component libraries and create single or multi-part components by picking a template by the dimensions, defining visual and electrical pin parameters, setting up a SPICE model, and attaching the pattern with a 3D model.
BSDL import, bulk pin /naming, and pin manager tools create an intuitive UI and make it easier to manage pins and buses.
Users can also import libraries from various EDA formats; and they can use existing shared or components made on earlier software.
 High-speed and Differential Signaling
DipTrace provides efficient length-matching capabilities, such as real-time length comparison tables, rule checking for length-tolerance rules, and meander placement tool which help the designer achieve accurate timing for high-speed nets and buses.
It also becomes easier to route diff pairs with advanced phase and length parameters with double/single-track routing modes. Precise and fast phase shift corrections can be made using the phase tuning tool.
Why Choose DipTrace? (PROS)
- Pricing: This is one of the cheapest software in the market with great functions and multiple features.
- Simplicity: DipTrace is amazingly easy to learn and use, and provides guides and tutorials for beginners to easily master the software and use all the features.
- 3D Modelling features and previews are available with an extensive part library.
- MCAD format support allows users to export their designs to mechanical CAD software and check fits and tolerances.
- The integrated part libraries contain over 160,000 components and part details, ready for use.
- Complex routing for boards such as random access memory (RAM) boards is slightly difficult and time-consuming.
- 3D rendering is a bit slow on low-performance computers. The hardware acceleration could be improved.
What is unique about DipTrace?
A common consensus regarding DipTrace is that it is one of the easiest software programs to use for PCB designing. Given the amount of features it offers, with its fast performance and simple user-interface, DipTrace proves to be value for money.
With a range of pricing plans and versions, PCB designers of all kinds can use this software.
Who’s it for?
DipTrace offers non-commercial as well as commercial versions.
Hence this can be used by individual designers, businesses, institutions, and so on.
A wide range of pricing plans and versions makes it accessible to everyone, from students to professionals.
- Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8 / 8.1 / 10 (32, 64-bit)
- Mac OS X
The following are the minimum system requirements to run DipTrace on your device.
- 1 GHz Pentium III processor or equivalent
- 1 Gb RAM
- 0 Gb hard disk space
- 1024×768 screen resolution or higher
- OpenGL / DirectX 9.0 or higher
- DipTrace offers DipTrace Lite for free to students and academic institutions.
- A free trial version is available.
- DipTrace Starter (300 pins, 2 signal layers): $75.00
- DipTrace Lite (500 pins, 2 signal layers): $145.00
- DipTrace Standard (1000 pins, 4 signal layers): $395.00
- DipTrace Extended (2000 pins, 6 signal layers): $695.00
- DipTrace Full (Unlimited pins, Unlimited signal layers): $995.00
Prices for businesses, commercial ventures and academic institutions are different and can be obtained from the DipTrace website.
Is DipTrace worth it?
This is an extremely capable software and also offers a variety of advanced features at a meager price. Additionally, users with little to no experience can also easily use this program, thanks to its intuitive UI and simple toolkits.
DipTrace also provides optional tutorials to help novice users improve their skills. The end-to-end process, from designing to production, is quick and efficient, and the affordable pricing options put this program within the reach for most designers.
In the world of PCB designing, Altium Designer is a software program that is at the very top of the list. With state-of-the-art features and powerful performance, it is often considered among the best PCB design software apps currently.
Thanks to its various design and editing capabilities, it is used widely all over the world. It has a perfect balance between performance and user-friendliness.
This software offers some great features such as 3-D modeling, rigid-flex and design of high-speed features, fast layout and easy schematic capture abilities.
In the latest version, Altium has provided multiple improvements and upgrades, such as constraint management, real-time supply chain management and an extensive design rule checking system that predicts possible design invalidations and suggests corrections beforehand, allowing you to design more efficiently.
With features for users of all fields and experience levels, even the most complicated circuits can be created and manufactured with Altium Designer. It includes auto-routing features and MCAD integration, which makes it easier to check the fit of the board with its enclosure.
 Advanced Hierarchical Designing
Designing structures with multiple layers and sheets become more efficient with the hierarchical designing offered by Altium Designer. This is a function that splits complex designs into smaller, logical units that makes it easier to understand the schematic and design with.
 High Speed Feature Design
Altium Designer 20 provides advanced tuning and filtering features for design of high-speed features. This is needed in projects where the physical constraints of the PCB start affecting signal integrity. This is a challenging design feature and Altium makes it easier.
 Auto-Routing and Interactive Routing
The new interactive routing engine in Altium Designer 20 allows users to mark and define paths for connecting nodes in each net. In addition to auto-routing, users also get functions such as hug & push, push & shove, obstacle-ignore, differential pairs and walk-around for easier manual routing.
 Extensive ERC and DRC
To promote valid and accurate designs, Altium Designer includes an advanced ERC and DRC system. These features detect and identify any electrical or design rule violation in real-time, so that they can be corrected before any other dependent parameters are built using that configuration.
 Library Content Management
Altium includes extensive content and media libraries with over 400k+ components from various suppliers. These contain 3D models, datasheets, documents and links. The libraries are integrated with the software and can be accessed from the workspace itself.
 PCB Documentation
With Altium’s PCB documentation and drafting features, users can export sets of automated production drawings directly to Draftsman documents. The Draftsman program can be opened through the Altium window itself.
 Team Design Functions
For projects that involve large teams or members working from different locations, Altium has a cloud-based working platform. With this, multiple designers can work together in real-time and save all the updates online.
 Supply Chain Management
While designing for manufacturing, certain part supplies have to be arranged beforehand to avoid component related issues later on. Altium does this using its active supply chain management program.
Why Choose Altium Designer? (PROS)
- ActiveBOM functionality generates Bill-of-Material files and even provides information on compatible backup parts from suppliers.
- Altium has a great 3D modeling and rendering. The MCAD integration makes the design validation process easier.
- Communication center stores all messages and files shared between team members for easy access 24/7.
- UI Personalisation: The user interface is customizable and allows users to place their toolkits where they like for easier navigation.
- Altium’s EM solver offers powerful performance for finding trace length from time delay and impedance extraction tasks.
- Running heavy simulations gives results with a slight error on Altium Designer.
- The cost of purchasing an Altium license is very expensive, even for the basic version.
What is unique about Altium Designer?
For users who work in industries or businesses and are designing for production and manufacturing purposes will find Altium’s ActiveBOM features quite helpful.
This program helps in creating, editing and generating a Bill of Material; which is essentially a list containing every single part used in the component and its cost and other details.
It also contains design guidelines and other important manufacturing information. ActiveBOM handles all the above tasks and furthermore, has features to supply part information and its availability in the design phase itself.
Who’s it for?
Due to its high pricing, it might not be within the reach of everyone, but based on its user-friendliness and performance, it can be used by beginners to professionals, without any issues.
There are multiple tutorials to help the novice users and enough advanced features to help expert users take on the most complex designs with ease.
- Windows Server 2016 Standard Edition (64-bit)
- Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit)
- Windows 10 (64-bit)
- Windows 8 (64-bit)
This section provides information on the minimum system requirements required to run Altium Designer on your computer.
- Windows 8/ Windows 10 (64-bit)
- Intel Core i5 processor or equivalent
- 1600×1200 or better screen resolution
- 4GB RAM
- 3 GB DDR4/DDR5 Video Memory
- 12GB storage space
- Internet Connection (512Kbps minimum recommended)
- Microsoft Excel required for BOM
- Microsoft Access required for DbLibs
Below are mentioned the pricing plans for an Altium Designer 20 license.
- A free trial is available with all the features, for a 15 day valid period.
- Academic trials are available for a 6-month period for free, to eligible institutions and students.
- Altium Designer 20 (Base version): $7245.00, perpetual license, can be paid in 12 monthly instalments.
- Altium does not offer any free version.
Is Altium Designer worth it?
Altium Designer is powerful and one of the most capable PCB designing programs currently. It offers great features and a customizable user interface for simplicity.
Designers globally use this software for their circuit and board designing and editing. It is used in many industries as well. Although the license costs are very high, the features and performance justify the costs.
It provides some of the industry-leading features for schematic capture and layout construction and editing. Designers of all fields, from research to businesses, can use this software.
But unless you have to deal with highly complex boards or design for a huge quantity of production numbers, or work with large teams, it might not be worth spending so much, and your requirements might be satisfied by some of the other, lower priced software.
Main Differences Between DipTrace Vs Altium Designer
Below are some of the main differences between Altium Designer and DipTrace based on all main parameters.
- DipTrace has platform support for Windows, macOS and Linux. Moreover it also supports both 32 bit and 64 bit systems. Altium only works on 64-bit Windows devices.
- The pricing plans for Altium and DipTrace are very different. While the base version of Altium costs more than $7k, DipTrace starts at $75.
- Altium provides production-related features such as supply chain management and ActiveBOM; DipTrace does not have these.
- Ease of using DipTrace is better as compared to Altium Designer, but the latter also offers a lot more features.
- Component libraries are well integrated and contain over 400k+ parts and information in Altium. DipTrace currently offers around 160k in its libraries.
- System requirements for running DipTrace are much lower as compared to Altium, and hence can be run easily on most computers.
- Altium Designer has a more powerful routing engine, and makes working on even the most complex boards and high-speed features a lot easier, as compared to DipTrace.
- 3D features, along with MCAD / ECAD collaboration, give Altium an edge over DipTrace in the design validation and checking aspect.
Which Software Is Best For PCB Designing, DipTrace Vs Altium Designer
If the design you are working on involves multiple layers, high – speed features, and complex routing processes, Altium will provide enough functions to get your work done. Hence, for complex and advanced designing, Altium is the better option if efficiency and time from design to production are crucial factors.
However, if your requirements are different and you don’t have to consider the production of advanced PCBs, or if you want to work on complex projects but speed is not the primary concern, then DipTrace is also equally good.
DipTrace Vs Altium Designer: Who’s the Winner?
The winner depends on the categories or criteria of your work. Both Altium and DipTrace are popular programs because they offer quality services and PCB design solutions.
Altium is the winner if features are to be considered, but looking at the pricing point, DipTrace is also a worthy option, with its simplicity and powerful performance, at a much lower price.
So, Which One Should You Pick?
Design engineers have various specific design needs from their PCB workstations. Hence the software they use will also be different. Between DipTrace vs Altium Designer, the differences are clear such as supported platforms, pricing and functions.
For more advanced designing, or for companies with global employees, Altium will prove to be a better option.
Students and individuals can consider opting for DipTrace with its range of prices and capabilities. It is also the easier software to learn, so novice users should definitely try working with DipTrace. The final decision again is yours to make.