What are the cases where one should avoid using a breadboard? e.g. high frequency, noise prone circuits etc.
Areas where the common breadboard does poorly:
- High voltage
- High frequency (above 10MHz)
- Where the additional breadboard capacitance would present problems (oscillators, etc)
- Where glitches due to poor wire connections would result in poor operation
- Where most of the parts are not through hole 0.1" (2.54mm) centers
- For anything but on-the-bench prototyping (ie, don't take it out of the lab and expect it to work)
- Sensitive analog electronics, such as sensor usage
Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would be when IS it ok to use a breadboard. I'd say if the following cases are true it's probably ok to use a breadboard.
- Rapid prototyping (not built to last)
- Few connections external to the breadboard
- Mostly thru-hole components
- Low voltage <= 12VDC
- Low frequency <= 10Mhz
There are a few exceptions for example you can have more external connections if you use cables with multiple wires and good thru-hole style connectors like ribbon cables. Don't try running lots of jumper wires from the breadboard to other devices or you will spend lots of time checking for broken connections. Many SMD -> thru-hole adaptor boards are available online that will allow you to use SMD parts with a breadboard. This also helps with the frequency issues as the clock circuit can be built on the SMD board while only the low frequency analog/digital circuits are passed to the breadboard.
- When you want to use surface mount parts
- When you want something that won't fall apart
- When you've only got one breadboard...
I use breadboards to help with circuit design, then make a PCB at home when I'm confident.
For surface mount parts, I often make adapter boards which can go into a breadboard.
I try to avoid them all the time. I have found when I use the breadboard I spend 90% of the time troubleshooting the breadboard. I like to use Vectorboard and hardwire the circuitry. It does not take too much longer. An advantage is that Vectorboard is inexpensive enough so that you can leave your circuits assembled. See my Breadboard hints for an example and a list of supplies.
I would avoid a breadboard for all of the examples you listed -- high frequency, low-level signals, high impedance nodes. I would add power applications.
Anything more than maybe 100mA of current. You could probably push an entire amp through if you had to, but with just those little spring-grippers for contact, you could get some hot spots.
Mainly though, if your circuit can't take noise introduced by loose wires, a breadboard is not the right medium. When I see a blog with an entire 8-bit micro wired up on a breadboard, I have to marvel at the sheer tenacity involved.
I'd agree with many of the above, although breadboards are useable for low-power mains voltage applications with suitable external safety precautions (isolation, current-limiting/fusing).
One thing you really shouldn't try to use them for is any sort of switching regulator. SMD is asily handled with breakouts - SM discretes can be easily soldered to 0.1" pin headers.
The probability of dodgy connections means that larger designs are more prone to problems and should probably be avoided, but BBs are the ideal way to check out small bits of circuitry that you're not sure about.