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Protoboard vs Breadboard: What are the Differences and Similarities

In the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) market, some terms can be confusing. Two of such terms are protoboard vs breadboard. For some, they are one and the same, but to others, there are also differences between the two.

This article explains the differences and the similarities between the protoboard and the breadboard.

What is a Breadboard?

Let’s go back in time. The term, “breadboard,” was originally used to refer to the board upon which bread is laid for cutting. In the modern electronics industry, the meaning has been expounded to mean the construction base or platforms for making prototypes or earliest designs of electronics.

What is Protoboard?

The full name is prototyping board. As the name suggests, it is the board upon which the prototypes of electronic devices are made or built.

What is the Difference between Prototyping Board vs. Breadboard?

Solderable Breadboard

In electronic circuits, the difference between protoboard vs breadboard is not always easy to decide. According to Wikipedia, the breadboard is also known as the protoboard and solderless board. As such, it infers that protoboard is the same as a breadboard and vice-versa.

When to Use Breadboards or Protoboards

From the definitions, you can see that both the protoboards and the breadboards refer to almost the same thing. However, they can serve a single purpose – enabling the making of earliest designs of PCBs or electronic circuits.

Here are some of the instances of when you need to use the breadboard or protoboard:

Circuit Building/Development

The primary function of the breadboard is to enable the prototyping or making of the earliest designs of Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs).

The beauty of the process is that you can do all these without necessarily soldering. You will learn more about how this works in this article.

Circuit Board Design Learning

The use of protoboards or breadboards also paves the way for the circuit board learning process to be easier. Due to the reusability, solderless process and zero track destruction; it makes a good learning tool for PCB enthusiasts.

What Makes up the Protoboard?

An ideal breadboard or protoboard is made up of some elements. Understanding how they all stack-up and work is a major step to understanding how the different parts combine to boost the board’s function.

Plastic Socket

The first thing you will notice is the perforated block of plastics that make up the solderless board. It is common for the plastic socket to comprise of the following:

  • Several alloy spring clips are located underneath the perforations. These clips can be derived from either the tin-plated phosphor bronze or the nickel silver.
  • The alloy spring clips also serve as the tie points, i.e., the contact points for the fabrication.

Interconnecting Wires

Wires used for interconnection are often used to fill-up the free holes located at the centerline of the block. They are being inserted to straddle the block.

Metal Strips

The metal strips are used to make a pin-to-pin connection on the protoboard. Depending on the specifics of your fabrication, the boards can be clipped together as a way of forming a bigger protoboard/breadboard.

Bus Strips

This is the third type of strip used in a breadboard. The function of the bus strips is to provide power for the electronic components mounted on the protoboard.

The compositions of the bus strips include:

  • One column delegated to serve as the supply voltage.
  • Another column used as the ground for the board.

Sometimes, there are disparities as to how these compositions are made. For example, you could find some bus strips with a red marking denoting the supply voltage and the column intended for the ground marked either in black or blue.

Jump Wires

Breadboards also use a variety of jump wires. Popular options are manually-manufactured and ready-to-use variants.

While you can find the manually-manufactured variant difficult to use with larger circuits, the ready-to-use variant offers more versatilities.

Types of Protoboard


You will find two major types of protoboards. These are the soldered and the solderless. While the former can be soldered, the latter doesn’t necessarily need to.

Let us see how they compare:

Soldered Breadboards

This type of breadboard or protoboard requires the use of solder to fit each of the leads or jumper wires into the designated holes.

Solderless Protoboards

Since they don’t rely on the use of solders, the solderless protoboards can be easier to use. In place of the solders, the boards use a metal clip attached to the hole for capturing either the jumper wires or leads when any of those are inserted.

Differences between the Soldered and Solderless Breadboards

The major differences are:

  • Soldered protoboards use solder, while the solderless doesn’t.
  • In terms of performance, the soldered breadboards are high-performing, due to the permanent capture of the leads.
  • In terms of versatility, you will find the solderless protoboards a better option. This is because of the reusability – a feature the soldered breadboards don’t support.

Why Do We Need Breadboards?

You need to use a breadboard if you want to reduce the risks of designing circuit boards that end up having one design issue or the other.

You also need to use one of these boards to meet the following needs:

1. Temporal Circuit Design

You need the breadboard to make a temporal or prototype design of your electronic circuit.

2. Faster Prototyping Process

You will find out that, in some cases, you may end up processing the electronic circuit’s prototypes faster with the use of breadboards.

It is obtainable due to the zero use or demand for advanced tools, such as a CAD software. Besides, it is more of a hands-on process.

In extension, you will save costs in terms of not manufacturing several PCBs at once. You also save costs due to the use of manualized processes, other than paying for a CAD software or any other advanced/automated prototyping tool.

3. Adaptive Circuit Design

A Printed Circuit Board (PCB) is said to have an adaptive design if it supports the detection of issues, the real-time implementations of changes and making repairs, where necessary.

Since the entire circuitry is open, you can make these changes almost at the same time.

4. Flexible PCB Probing and Testing

Detecting and fixing the issues relating to how a circuit board is designed is also another reason for using the breadboard.

The outlined process allows you to have a full glance of all the components and to make an unrestricted probing of each of them.

Moving from a Breadboard to Protoboard

Do you know that the major difference between a breadboard and a protoboard is not the name differences? It is indeed in how they function. Although they are used as a sort of “building block” for the first set of electronic circuits, they can sometimes be independent of each other.

You can move from a breadboard to a protoboard when it is time to make a detailed prototyping of the board.

Here are some of the reasons why a protoboard (also called a prototype PCB layout) is better than the breadboard:

1. Connection Solidity

The connections and interconnections on a prototype PCB layout are more solid. This is because of the permanent capture of the leads. This way, you are assured of the fact that the leads wouldn’t slip out during the prototyping process.

2. Improved Signal Integrity

While trying to keep the board’s performance optimal, you also want to be sure of the signal’s integrity. The signal is greatly improved when using the protoboard, thanks to the absence of higher parasitic capacitance and inductance – a feature common with the solderless (breadboard) board design.

3. Copper Durability

In place of the jumper wires and metal connections used in the breadboard; copper is used for the protoboard.

4. Custom Prototype PCB Design

By default, the breadboard has a definite size, which you are expected to use for the prototype. On the contrary, this limits you to work within the ambient of that real estate.

On the other hand, the protoboard offers the flexibility that allows you to create custom PCB prototype designs and sizes.

5. Voltage and Current-Carrying Capacities

The capacities of the current and the voltages are higher in the protoboard. This is possible because of the adjustability of the metal area fills or power traces when designing for optimum width.

6. Flexible Component Usage

Protoboards also make the temporal electronic circuit design fun due to the flexible support for component usage.

Ideally, you wouldn’t be restricted to using one type of component (usually, the through-hole components).

This time, you can choose between the through-hole and Surface Mount Devices (SMDs) for the prototyping.

5. Circuit Board Replication

The Printed Circuit Board (PCB) needs to be replicated in due time. For example, you may want to make variations of the prototype. It is a herculean task to do with the use of breadboards.

This is why you need to use an advanced and almost automated process, as the protoboard presents. This allows for the faster replication of the prototyped boards.

6. Cost Implementations

The manualized or breadboard process of prototyping a board is quite expensive and not time-critical. You spend a lot of time making a temporal design of one of the boards, and at the same time, would spend more to make copies of it.

The reversal is the case with the automated and scalable architecture of the prototype PCB layout board.

Limitations, Downsides and Disadvantages to Breadboards

Protoboard for pcb
Protoboard for pcb

The solderless (breadboard) approach to making circuit board prototypes comes with a lot of disadvantages.

1. Risks for Complex Electronic Circuits

You may not encounter major problems when working on less-complex circuits. But when working on the complex electronic circuits; the challenges triple.

Here are some of the considerations:

  • The large amounts of wiring used in the breadboards can make the management of complex circuits almost impossible.
  • The risks of contact resistance development are higher.
  • Signal integrity and overall reliability of the system/circuit is at the mercy of the flexible connection methods. You are just one plugging and unplugging away from distorting the entire process.

2. Component Preferences

Solderless boards or breadboards work best with the through-hole electronic circuits. The preference for this is largely attributed to the challenges experienced with using components with wider spacings, of more than 2.54mm. This is the reason why the Surface Mount Devices (SMDs) are not a popular choice for this process.

The inability of the electronic components to match the specifics of the Dual In-Line layout is also an issue. In this case, it is almost impossible to provide the accurate electrical conductivity.

3. Limited Operations

Do not expect the solderless boards (breadboards) to function up to a certain limit. This is because of the limited operations – a derivative of the high inductance and larger parasitic capacitance.

The following are examples of the limitations:

  • The operations of the breadboard are limited to certain low frequencies. These can be as low as less than 10 MHz
  • Limited voltage and current-carrying capacities.
  • “The relatively high and not very reproductible contact resistance” can also pose a challenge for some Direct Current (DC) and low-frequency circuit boards.

Conclusion: How Do Breadboards Compare to PCBs?

The main purpose of breadboard is to simplify the process of making temporal designs of electronic circuits. These designs allow for the early-stage testing, analysis and fixture of the different issues before the mass production begins.

When compared to the Printed Circuit Board (PCB), prototypes help to save both money and time. You can always detect and fix the issues in good time, as compared to going back to the “drawing board” to map-out how to fix those issues after the board has been produced in the quantities.

Besides, using either breadboards or protoboards helps you to get acquainted with what it takes to make circuit boards. You will find out the technicalities, be able to master the design concept and create better electronic circuits.

Rayming Technology helps you note the design issues, and test the circuits to be sure they are in good working conditions. With an extensive experience and industry-leading equipment, we will make prototypes of your circuits and ensure that everything works as they ought to.




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