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The Top 10 HATs and pHATs for Raspberry Pi

7/12/2018 | By Staff

While Raspberry Pi computers are great for everyday tasks, including programming, word processing, internet browsing, and multimedia, they are also fantastic hardware controllers. Thanks to their GPIO headers, most Pi computers can connect to devices called HATs, which stands for Hardware Attached on Top. So, let’s see the top 10 HATs for the Pi!


This article will include both HATs and pHATs, which may leave some viewers wondering, “What exactly is the difference?” The answer is very simple; HATs are designed to work with standard Raspberry Pi computers (such as the Model B 3), while pHATs are designed to work with the Raspberry Pi Zero.

1. Sense HAT

If you are interested in recording both positioning and environmental data, the Sense HAT is a famous choice. Containing many sensor ICs, the Sense HAT can record orientation, acceleration, pressure, humidity, and temperature. However, the sense HAT also includes an 8-by-8 LED matrix with individual LEDs, and the whole board can easily be programmed using Python, thanks to the AstroPi libraries (available for free).

Sense HAT


Image courtesy of Pimoroni.

2. Mini Black HAT Hack3r

This HAT will allow programmers to access all GPIO, even when another HAT is plugged in, and all of its GPIO are labeled with their respective pin numbers, functions, and BCM pin numbers. So, imagine a scenario where you are having trouble getting the Sense HAT to work and need access to the GPIO to see what signals are being sent. With this HAT, you have immediate access to all the GPIO while the HAT runs, so you can probe, check, and make changes as necessary! This HAT would hugely benefit from a logic probe with at least eight channels so multiple signals could be recorded at once.

Mini Black HAT Hack3r

Digi-Key's Mini Black HAT Hack3r

Image courtesy of Pimoroni.

3. Adafruit 16-Channel PWM/Servo HAT

While Raspberry Pi computers are useful in many different applications, they are often found in robotic applications. Therefore, one HAT that comes immediately to mind is the Adafruit 16-Channel PWM Servo HAT, which can control multiple servos simultaneously. This HAT can work with any Raspberry Pi, so long as a 2-by-20 header is available (Zero, A+, B+, etc.), can control 5V servos, and accepts 3.3V level signals.

Adafruit 16-Channel PWM/Servo HAT


Image courtesy of Adafruit.

4. RobotHAT

Speaking of robotics, it would be unfair to not mention the RobotHAT. This HAT contains everything you could possibly need to make robots, including high-efficiency dual H-Bridge motor drivers (for two DC motors), six 5V level shifted GPIO GVS inputs (ground voltage signal), four 5V level shifted GPIO GVS outputs, a four-pin male header for directly connecting to ultrasonic distance modules, optional separate power for motors, and freely available Python libraries.



Image courtesy of Pimoroni.

5. AutomationHAT

If your plan is to automate your home by controlling lower-powered devices (less than 24V), such as a sprinkler, fish feeder, or even a blind opener, then this HAT is a must. Onboard are three 24V at 2A relays, three 12-bit ADCs @ 24V, three 24V tolerant buffered inputs, three 24V sinking outputs, 15 channel LED indicators, a single 12-bit 3.3V ADC, and Python libraries to help you get started. However, do take caution when using this HAT, since it’s not designed to work with mains voltage—so only use power devices that use a supply voltage of 24V or less!


1778-1003-ND - Discontinued

Image courtesy of Pimoroni.


The Raspberry Pi has an I2S output, which can be thought of as an audio version of I2C. This means that the Pi can use this bus to output audio, and this is what this pHAT is designed to take advantage of. The pHAT, powered by a MAX98357A, has dual DAC amplifiers, 3W per channel, two push fit speaker terminals, mono and stereo options, 16 RBG LED pixels for use with VU meters, push buttons, software installers, and Python libraries.


1778-1103-ND - Discontinued

Image courtesy of Pimoroni.

7. Red Bear IoT pHAT

The Raspberry Pi B comes with internet capabilities, and the latest model, the 3, also contains Wi-Fi. The Pi Zero, however, lacks this feature, which can be somewhat limiting. However, the Red Bear IoT HAT provides the Zero with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, without needing to use the onboard micro USB slot. Suddenly, the Zero not only has internet capabilities, but it can now be used in various projects, including ever-famous IoT applications such as smart sensors, home automation, and monitoring.

Red Bear IoT pHAT


Image courtesy of Adafruit.

8. Pimoroni Enviro pHAT

One major challenge that humanity faces as a whole is climate change. While this HAT may not solve it, you can use it to monitor the weather and environment using a Zero. Its features include a BMP280 temperature and pressure sensor, a TCS3472 light and RGB color sensor, two illumination LEDs, an LSM303D accelerometer/magnetometer, and an ADS1015 4 channel 3.3V ADC.

Pimoroni Enviro pHAT


Image courtesy of Adafruit.

9. Pimoroni Touch pHAT

For those who are interested in creating projects that require a touch interface, then the Touch pHAT may be what you need. This pHAT contains 6 capacitive buttons that also have bright LEDs. The LEDs are mounted underneath the buttons in the PCB, helping the smooth buttons shine for a fantastic user experience. You can also note each button’s function with a dry erase marker, and their performance will not be affected.

Pimoroni Touch pHAT


Image courtesy of Adafruit.

10. HyperPixel 4.0-inch (Touch)

Many projects require some form of display, and when it comes to the Pi, there are usually two options. Firstly, a PC monitor or TV could be used, but these are very large, they are very bulky, and they require cables. The other option is some kind of display module, but these are usually small, low-speed, and monochrome. However, one HAT, called the Hyperpixel, is rather unique, with its small 4.0-inch display that is 800 by 480 pixels, 18-bit color, 60FPS, and capacitive touchscreen. This model’s display is multi-touch, which allows for some advanced user control.



Image courtesy of Pimoroni.