Alienspec sent me a protoboard for review some time ago – this highly overdue but hey I suppose the Croydon Raspberry Pi Jam has taken some of my time 😛 . So without further ado lets dive into the Alienspec Protolab and its capabilities. I’m not going do an ‘unwrap’ here – the protoboard comes fully assembled with a few extras in the pack; a rubber foot and a GPIO pin extender. At first glance the board is a no frills ‘breakout board’ with screw terminal blocks as connectors and a GPIO extender for stacking. What immediately struck me in handling the Protolab was the quality of manufacture  – and although ‘only’ Black & White, a cool and striking silkscreen artwork adorning the reverse. So  at £12 this still falls in to a reasonable breakout board – but a good value for money at that.

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The Alienspec Protolab development is an incredibly well engineered protoboard with solid screw terminal blocks – no soldering required – that is unless you want to make use of the SOIC breakout.

Hey Jarle – are you on a commission here – I hear you ask ?? ( . . .tumbleweed . . .)
Nope – let me point out the very good reasons as to why I think this such a clever breakout board:  All terminal blocks are numbered and ‘gathered’ in groups i.e. i2C, GPIO, UART – and  . . .drumroll .  . . SOIC breakout !!
Ok  a bit dramatic but the inclusion of a 14 pin SOIC breakout is pure genius for the price –  uuhhh  SOIC ??  so what ??  Here’s what !!
OK so SOIC  is basically a small Integrated Circuit – 14 pins means we can do things like measuring temperature or lighting up a massive amount of LED’s if we want – and RGB LED’s as well !!  AverageMan’s blog has got a brilliant piece on SOIC’s etc – but a user trip of Protolab is coming up soon here.

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Reverse side of Protoboard reveals a rather cool Alien Artwork – pin extender attached.

Reservations ?? Well no BUT I would like to see a better solution to the additional PIN extender included in the pack – this is obviously a joint engineering / manufacturer issue that hopefully will be solved in coming developments. The board is full size i.e. covering the the whole of the Raspberry Pi ‘surface so a few compromises had to be made. There are more ‘slimline’  solutions to breakouts such as the PiCrust , but that does not include the SOIC breakout, nor does it use terminal blocks. As mentioned the manufacturing quality is tremendous and the size of the board allows for a 1/4 size breadboard to be mounted in-between headers.

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Alienspec Protoboard mounted on ERaspberryPi Model B rev2 (note use of GPIO pin extender ).

I have also tested the Protolab with the new Raspberry Pi B+ and the board fits nicely on to the new model, what is more it looks stunning in combination with Pimoroni’s Pibow Coupè . The backwards (forwards??) compatability  is great – I think the B+ will be a great platform for development of new and exciting features on a range of development boards.

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OK so not a  ‘slim package’ but oh so capable – I am looking forward to a proper road test.

So worth £12 I hear you ask ? Yepp – if you have ventured above the basic level of
‘Pi-competence’ and are ready  for intermediate to advance level tinkering and development – this is the board for you. I would even go so far as to say that you are unlikely to ever need another board for a  very long time. The inclusion of the SOIC header is in my eyes actually quite an understated feature of the Alienspec Protolab .

Ohh please – one last thing guys – please round the corners of the board – makes it easier to handle 😛 .

 

Stay Tuned for Part 2; Road Test (including mini breadboard) !

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