10 Really Useful GPIO Breakout Boards

Navigate your GPIO pins with this selection of breakout boards

In our last article, we gave you a guided tour of the Raspberry Pi's GPIO pins. That showed you what each type of pin did in terms of functionality, but as soon as you start working with the GPIO in your projects, you'll need to get familiar with the pin numbers.

Navigating the Raspberry Pi's 40 GPIO pins is a bit of a burden on the eyes. Trying to find the right pin number, or identify which pin supports SPI, UART, I2C or other functions can be difficult.

As always, when life has a problem, there's always someone that will design a solution.

Breakout and label boards have swamped the Raspberry Pi accessory market as they're somewhat a must-have tool for anyone 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. There's a board for everyone!

I've rounded up what I believe to be 10 of the best options on the market today.

Mayhew Labs Pi Screw
The Mayhew Labs Pi Screw. Mayhew Labs

Jumper wires are great, but they're not the only way to wire your prototype. Sometimes you need to use a regular piece of wire - and 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, 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, and the board comes with a bonus prototyping area to add components to. More »

RasPiO Portsplus
The RasPiO Portsplus. Alex Eames / RasP.iO

One of the most popular options for identifying your GPIO pins is the Portsplus from Alex Eames (RasPiO), who also writes a very popular Raspberry Pi Blog over at RasPi.TV.

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

Bonus feature - it can also be used as a key ring, for all you mobile makers out there! More »

Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler
The Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler. Adafruit

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

Your Pi is connected to the cobbler via a GPIO belt, and then sends each GPIO pin into a breadboard lane.

Whilst this is handy for wiring up projects, the use of the belt takes up more space than other options, but you can't ignore the benefit of having port numbers next to your breadboard. More »

Willow Components Breakout Pi H
The Willow Components Breakout Pi H. Willow Components

Relatively small supplier Willow Components offer this interesting H-shaped breakout board for your Raspberry Pi.

Similar to the Adafruit T-Cobbler Plus, the board fits onto a breadboard and uses a belt to attach to your Pi.

The unique feature of the PiH is the additional section that breaks out power to the breadboard's outer lanes, which will reduce the number of wires on your project, making prototyping just that little bit easier. More »

Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout
The Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout. Abelectronics

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

Users can choose to fit it to a breadboard by soldering the specific headers and attaching a GPIO belt cable, or opt to solder a female GPIO header and use it more like a reference card - albeit with more spaced out pins making things a bit clearer.

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

Pimoroni Black Hat Hack3r
The Pimoroni Black Hat Hack3r. Pimroni

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

The idea of the board is to allow 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'. More »

RasPiO Pro HAT
The RasPiO Pro HAT. RasPiO

The Pro HAT, from the maker of the PortsPlus, is a handy board that offers yet another helpful way of laying out GPIO pins whilst making prototyping easy at the same time.

GPIO pins are laid out around the outer edge of the HAT, surrounding a small breadboard in numerical order - which 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. More »

Adafruit GPIO Reference Card
The Adafruit GPIO Reference Card. Adafruit

Another GPIO label card offering, this time from Adafruit in their iconic blue PCB color.

Whilst the RasPiO Portsplus focusses on showing all GPIO numbers, the Adafruit board instead 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 your GPIO pins. More »

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52Pi Multiplexing Expansion Board

52Pi Multiplexing Expansion Board
The 52Pi Multiplexing Expansion Board. 52Pi

Another add-on that offers multiple break-outs of the GPIO - the 52Pi Multiplexing Expansion Board offers no less than three GPIO headers!

It's hard to think of why you might need three breakouts, however, when considering some of the smaller add-ons that could be fitted on top of this board, the use case becomes clear.

The layout and labeling are somewhat unconventional, but it should still be a helpful tool for those of you that need all of those pins!

RasPiO GPI Ruler
The RasPiO GPI Ruler. RasPiO

Yet another product from the GPIO labeling masters at RasPiO, but one that can't be omitted from this list as it's a very 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, however with a very useful twist.

The ruler features a very similar GPIO labeling section to the Portplus before it, alongside some of the most commonly used code examples for using the Raspberry Pi's GPIO with Python.

A new 12" version has also just been released on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, which this time features GPIO Zero code examples. More »

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