Top 8 GPIO Breakout Boards

Navigate your GPIO pins with this selection of breakout boards

When you start working with the Raspberry Pi GPIO pins, you'll need to get familiar with the pin numbers. Navigating the Raspberry Pi's 40 GPIO pins, finding the right pin number, and identifying which pin supports SPI, UART, I2C, or other functions can be difficult.

Breakout and label boards are must-have tools if you're thinking of using the GPIO. Some offer printed labels of each pin number and function, some come with different connection options, and others combine this with additional features such as breadboards.

01
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Mayhew Labs Pi Screw

Mayhew Labs Pi Screw

Mayhew Labs

What We Like
  • No need to solder.

  • Includes terminal block labels.

  • Comes with display and camera connectors.

What We Don't Like
  • The header for pins is somewhat short.

  • Some access to terminal screws can be awkward.

Jumper wires are great, but these aren't the only way to wire a prototype. Sometimes you need to use a regular piece of wire. That's where a breakout board such as the Pi Screw comes in handy.

The Pi Screw breaks out each GPIO pin to an angled screw terminal. This is handy for projects that involve things like motors that don't usually come with jumper wire ends.

Each GPIO pin is clearly labeled on the terminal blocks. Plus, the board comes with a bonus prototyping area where you can add components.

02
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RasPiO Portsplus

RasPiO Portsplus

Alex Eames / RasPiO

What We Like
  • The ports are clearly labeled.

  • Very thin, with lots of room for wires.

  • Very inexpensive.

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn't fit in the official Raspberry Pi case.

  • Requires jumper wires to connect the power bus on both sides of the board.

One popular option for identifying GPIO pins is the Portsplus from Alex Eames (RasPiO), who also writes a popular Raspberry Pi blog at RasPi.TV.

It's a small PCB that fits over the GPIO pins, showing the pin numbers next to each one. The PCB is thin enough to use jumper wires with the board fitted and is gold plated (ENIG), which resists corrosion.

As a bonus, it can be used as a key ring, for all you mobile makers.

03
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Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler Plus

Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler

Adafruit

What We Like
  • Pin information is stenciled on the board.

  • It's designed to attach using the ribbon cable.

  • The header arrangement provides better access.

What We Don't Like
  • The connector can be connected backward.

  • It's somewhat pricey.

The T-Cobbler Plus from Adafruit fulfills two roles. It breaks out the GPIO pins to a breadboard and labels the pins at the same time.

Your Pi is connected to the cobbler using a GPIO belt and sends each GPIO pin into a breadboard lane. While this is handy for wiring projects, using the belt takes up more space than other options. Still, you can't ignore the benefit of having port numbers next to your breadboard.

04
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Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout

Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout

Abelectronics

What We Like
  • It's inexpensive.

  • The pin pads are well organized.

  • Has a 40-pin header.

What We Don't Like
  • It requires soldering.

  • It requires a mount kit pack to mount to the Pi.

The Pi Plus Breakout mixes GPIO reference card style with breadboard ability, allowing you to choose which type of header to solder to the board depending on how you intend to use it.

You can fit it to a breadboard by soldering the specific headers and attaching a GPIO belt cable. You can also solder a female GPIO header and use it like a reference card—except with more spaced out pins to make things a bit clearer.

The board also has upper HAT mount holes for a secure fit to your Raspberry Pi.

05
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Pimoroni Black HAT Hack3r

Pimoroni Black Hat Hack3r

Pimoroni

What We Like
  • Includes a 40-pin ribbon cable.

  • All the pins are well labeled.

  • Includes rubber, non-stick feet.

  • It's very well made.

What We Don't Like
  • Must be used in one orientation only.

  • Requires fine soldering skills.

The Black HAT Hack3r is a new take on the GPIO breakout/labeling norm ​and offers a useful dual-GPIO feature.

The board allows you to fit a HAT or add-on board on one set of GPIO pins and leaves a second set free for connecting other components or devices.

There's also a smaller version available: the Mini Black HAT Hack3r.

06
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RasPiO Pro Hat

RasPiO Pro HAT

RasPiO

What We Like
  • Has well-labeled sockets.

  • Current limiting resistors are built in.

  • There's a protection circuit on each port.

  • No soldering is required.

What We Don't Like
  • It isn't appropriate for advanced projects.

  • No soldering means loose connections.

The Pro HAT, from the maker of the PortsPlus, is a handy board that offers a helpful way of laying out GPIO pins and makes prototyping easy. GPIO pins are laid out around the outer edge of the HAT, surrounding a small breadboard in numerical order. This order means no more confusing random pin layouts.

Another smart feature of this board is the protection it offers. Each GPIO pin is hooked up to clever circuitry that protects against wiring mistakes that could lead to over-current or over/under-voltage.

07
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Adafruit GPIO Reference Card

Adafruit GPIO Reference Card

Adafruit

What We Like
  • It's inexpensive.

  • Fits only one way.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like
  • It's a low tech solution.

  • Has a low profile.

This is a GPIO label card offering from Adafruit in their iconic blue PCB color.

While the RasPiO Portsplus focusses on showing all GPIO numbers, the Adafruit board highlights the different GPIO functions available, such as SPI, UART, I2C, and more.

Depending on what you'd rather see from a label card, the Adafruit board offers a different way to identify GPIO pins.

08
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RasPiO GPIO Ruler

RasPiO GPI Ruler

RasPiO

What We Like
  • It's inexpensive.

  • Multiuse it as a regular ruler.

  • It's small and easy to store.

What We Don't Like
  • A low tech solution.

  • It's small and easy to lose.

Here's another product from the GPIO labeling geniuses at RasPiO. It can't be omitted from this list because it's a unique product on the GPIO labeling market.

The RasPiO GPIO Ruler gives you the usual straight edges you desire from this classic pencil case item but with a useful twist. The ruler features a similar GPIO labeling section to the Portplus before it, alongside some commonly used code examples for using the Raspberry Pi's GPIO with Python.

A 12-inch version was released on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, which features GPIO Zero code examples.