Why Would Anyone Migrate from Xpedition Enterprise to Altium Designer?

May 17, 2017 Mark Forbes

 
Many users of Xpedition Enterprise didn’t choose it: it was inherited in an acquisition or packaged in a bundle with other products. Now they find they have expensive support costs and many features that they never use. Plus, the tool UI are old and tired, making design more time consuming than it should be. Moving to Altium Designer gives you a modern, efficient and unified UI, fast and efficient routing, and superior data management.

A few years ago, I bought a heavy-duty diesel pickup truck. I was sure (well, hoping) that we would buy another travel trailer and I’d need the bigger truck. As time passed, it was clear that we would never do that. What I didn’t realize for the first few months was that it wasn’t just the cost of the truck (and I got a really good deal!), I was now discovering the much more expensive maintenance costs. Oil changes are three-to-four times more expensive and then you need expensive urea and other additives. So, I was stuck with a truck that cost too much to buy, cost too much to maintain, and had expensive features that I never used. After two years, I gave up. I traded it for a standard-duty gasoline-powered truck that got a lot better fuel mileage and costs much less to maintain. Plus it has a modern touch screen with apps and is much more fun to drive.

 

A lot of Xpedition® Enterprise users are in the same boat. Many of you didn’t even choose Xpedition...you inherited it in an acquisition or it came bundled with other products and was a “good deal”. You’ve learned that many of the features that set Xpedition apart are ones that you never use; worse, the features that you frequently use are not as efficient as you know they could be.

 

When your support comes up for renewal, you might be stunned at that 20% cost...not 20% of what you paid, but 20% of the list price. Now, you’re thinking there must be a better way...and there is. Maybe that gasoline-powered truck really does let you do everything you need, but in an easier, more efficient, and less expensive way.

 

Up Front Cost

The up-front cost of a typical Xpedition system is north of $70,000. If a company is buying a portfolio of products, Xpedition is often heavily discounted, providing a false sense of value. List prices of systems with all the add-ons easily cross into six digits and could be as high as a quarter-million dollars.

 

Altium Designer® presents the modern engineer with a modern, up-to-date user interface that is much more efficient and “fun to drive” with a price starting at around one tenth of Xpedition. That’s a startling comparison. “Surely”, you think “there must be value for that wide difference”, and there is. The features that drive the cost of Xpedition up so high are ones that have the fewest applications...more on that later.

 

Support/Subscription

Support is an annual fee that Mentor® charges Xpedition users for software updates and application engineer support. The rate is 20% per year of the list price. With list prices of typical configurations in the six-digits, that is quite a bit of money and a substantial commitment.

 

Altium uses the term “subscription” for updates and support. With Altium Designer, the subscription is a fixed cost and also fixed across the different licenses at again, less than one-tenth of the cost of the Xpedition equivalent.

 

Unused Features

Like my diesel truck, one of the most frustrating things about owning an expensive tool like Xpedition are those expensive features that almost never, or never get used. It turned out that I really didn’t need 440 HP and the capability to tow a medium-size house. Most Xpedition users find they will never use the (very expensive) Team Layout feature, and most are not designing a lot of boards with lightning-quick DDR4 memory either.

 

Lost Efficiency

One thing we hear more often than any other comment from users is how much more efficient they are with Altium Designer. The modern UI that is consistent throughout the entire schematic-to-manufacturing flow makes it quick to learn and easy to master.

 

Here is what PCB Designer Nick Bates of Roke Manor Research told us about moving from Xpedition to Altium Designer:

 

“With the previous tools you had various tools that you’d keep going in and out of all day. Now we’ve just got one tool. Being able to do a very simple thing like adding a resistor or capacitor on the fly is much easier. You’ve got two screens in Altium Designer: PCB on one side and the schematic on the other. It might take 20 minutes before. Now we do it on the fly.”

 

Let’s Migrate!

Migration is never easy, and I’m sure not going to tell you it is. It takes planning, commitment, and re-learning. But, moving from Xpedition Enterprise to Altium Designer is at the easier side of that scale.

 

 

Griffin first board.jpg

This was the first board that Griffin Adams, electrical engineer at Engenious Designs designed using Altium Designer.
It has 8 layers, blind vias, 0.5mm BGA and DDR routing. After migrating from another tool, he learned Altium Designer and then took only 3 weeks to design this complex board.
Note also that the board is not a rectangle: the edge to the right is radiused and there is a notch on the top left.

 

First, Altium Designer is one of the easiest PCB design tools to learn. The modern user interface that is consistent throughout the flow is a big aid to learning as well as long-term efficient design. Second, Altium support engineers are here to help with your migration and setup. Plus training is available on-site, remotely, and on-demand.

 

For all those designs in your archive, Altium offers translation tools that bring you Xpedition designs into the Altium environment in an almost-pain-free process.

Contact Altium or download and explore Altium Designer today.

 

 

About the Author

Mark Forbes

Mark Forbes graduated from Bradley University with a BS in Electrical Engineering and has been in the EDA industry for over 30 years.

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