Top 8 GPIO Breakout Boards

Navigate your GPIO pins with this selection of breakout boards

Circuit Board and Binary Digits

Corbis / VCG / Getty Images

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!

of 08

Mayhew Labs Pi Screw

Mayhew Labs Pi Screw
The 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
  • Header for pins is somewhat short.

  • Some access to terminal screws can be awkward.

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.

of 08

RasPiO Portsplus

RasPiO Portsplus
The RasPiO Portsplus. Alex Eames / RasP.iO
What We Like
  • Ports are clearly labeled.

  • Very thin, lots of room for wires.

  • Very inexpensive.

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

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

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!

of 08

Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler Plus

Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler
The Adafruit Pi T-Cobbler. Adafruit
What We Like
  • Pin information stenciled on board.

  • Designed to attach via ribbon cable.

  • Header arrangement provides better access.

What We Don't Like
  • Connector can be connected backwards.

  • Somewhat pricey.

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 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.

of 08

Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout

Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout
The Abelectronics Pi Plus Breakout. Abelectronics
What We Like
  • Inexpensive.

  • Well organized pin pads.

  • 40 pin header.

What We Don't Like
  • Requires soldering.

  • Requires mount kit pack to mount to Pi.

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.

of 08

Pimoroni Black HAT Hack3r

Pimoroni Black Hat Hack3r
The Pimoroni Black Hat Hack3r. Pimroni
What We Like
  • 40 pin ribbon cable.

  • All pins well labeled.

  • Includes rubber, non-stick feet.

  • 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 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.

of 08

RasPiO Pro Hat

RasPiO Pro HAT
The RasPiO Pro HAT. RasPiO
What We Like
  • Well labeled sockets.

  • Built-in current limiting resistors.

  • Protection circuit on each port.

  • No soldering required.

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

  • No soldering means loose connections.

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.

of 08

Adafruit GPIO Reference Card

Adafruit GPIO Reference Card
The Adafruit GPIO Reference Card. Adafruit
What We Like
  • Inexpensive.

  • Fits only one way.

  • Easy to use.

What We Don't Like
  • Low tech solution.

  • Low profile

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.

of 08

RasPiO GPIO Ruler

RasPiO GPI Ruler
The RasPiO GPI Ruler. RasPiO
What We Like
  • Inexpensive.

  • Multiuse as a regular ruler.

  • Small and easy to store.

What We Don't Like
  • Low tech solution.

  • Small and easy to lose.

Here's 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 but 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.