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Review of Sedra / Smith: Microelectronic Circuits

Oxford University Press, 1456 pages, 6th edition, 2009

Microelectronic Circuits by Sedra / Smith is one of the standard textbooks for EE students. Among other things it covers the most important electronic devices like Op Amps, MOSFETs and BJTs, a comprehensive discussion of standard amplifier configurations including their frequency response and the concept of feedback, filters and signal generators, digital logic circuits and memory. Like for all books at this level, a prerequisite is a good understanding of Basic Linear Circuit Analysis.

The reviews at Amazon are mixed, probably because reading the book is obligatory for many students (as opposed to other books that they would only buy if someone had recommended them). Also many people who are dissatisfied with the book have been exposed to the subject for the first time, maybe it is more the subject than the book that they find hard to understand. If you look at the discussions on general electronics forums, it seems that most engineers or advanced students actually like it. Personally I think that the explanations in the book are clear and not too hard to understand, the calculations are carefully developed, showing enough intermediate steps. But I have first seen the book long after I learned about most of the subjects that are covered, so it is hard for me to tell how a novice would see it.

Sedra / Smith is big and contains an awful lot of information. For the beginner it is probably difficult to see which of the information is the most important one. A (partial) solution to this problem would be to look at Kovacs free EE113 Course Notes Electronic Circuits in addition to Sedra / Smith. Kovacs very clearly points out the key points that have to be understood and remembered. It is only a partial solution because Kovacs course notes cover only a small part of all the topics that are covered by Sedra / Smith. But they show his sense of humor - this may help if you get bored by the sober textbook style of Sedra / Smith (this is not meant as a criticism of the book, I guess 95% of all textbooks don't contain much humor).

A big plus of Sedra / Smith are the many exercises and examples that are integrated in the main text. I would advise you to work through all of them as soon as you encounter them when reading the main text, this will give you confidence that you have really understood the topic. Several reviewers have complained that the problems at the end of each chapter are too difficult and that the text does not really prepare you to solve them. In my opinion, some of these problems are indeed difficult to solve for the novice. But the step from reading a text to applying your new knowledge to a problem is absolutely necessary, and is one of the central parts of studying. It is not the fault of the book that this is difficult. My advise is this: First try to solve these problems on your own. If you don't succeed, don't give up but ask for assistance: Two good places on the web to ask are the edaboard (depending on the problem, either in Electronic Elementary Questions or in Analog Circuit Design) and the Physics Forums (in Homework Questions / Engineering). There are a lot of people in both forums who are familiar with Sedra / Smith.

NOTE: This review is based on the 5th edition of the book, I have not looked at the current 6th edition yet (I will probably do so in a few weeks and then update this review). Judging from the information at Amazon, the most important change seems to be the integration of the Frequency Response material into one chapter, which seems like a very good idea to me.

UPDATE (08 / 14 / 2011): I finally had a look at the 6th edition. What I have said above about the 5th edition is still true in the 6th edition, but there has been a major reorganization of the book, and new material has been added. For example, there is now a (very good) separate chapter on semiconductor physics. The discussion of the frequency response of the different amplifier configurations has been moved into a seperate chapter. Even more examples, excercises and problems have been added. The authors have made some laudable efforts to make it easier for the student to navigate through this 1456 pages work. The sections that contain "specialized" material (which can be skipped during the first reading if you want to focus on the indispensable material) have been marked with a "+" sign in a circle. It would have been even more useful if all pages which contain the specialized topics had been marked. A nice feature is the "In this chapter you will learn" section at the begin of each chapter - it sums up the content in a few short sentences.

You might also be interested in some other Resources on Analysis and Design of Electronic Circuits.

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