The original Game Boy Advance screen is so dim that it’s hard to see it property even in a brightly lit room. I remember as a kid mostly playing with a special external light that clipped around the case. It had two arms that shone light down onto the display. Even with that, it still wasn’t great!
It also has a kind of ‘screen door effect’ between the pixels, so it looks pretty grainy.
I still love playing retro games from time to time, so I recently kitted out my Advance with an upgrade.
There have been a number of screen mods available for the GBA over the years. For a long time, the best improvement was to switch the screen out for the backlit screen that’s used in the Game Boy Advance SP. More recently, a better alternative has emerged: a large, even brighter IPS LCD panel.
The larger LCD requires some areas of the inner case to be cut out to make space for it. I didn’t fancy trying to do that, so I ordered a special pre-trimmed shell from RetroSix, along with the screen kit. RetroSix manufacture their own GBA shells ready for the new LCD (they said most aftermarket shells aren’t very high quality), along with optional modifications to fit a USB-C battery pack. If you’re in the US, I’ve heard that Retro Modding are a good parts supplier.
Installation involved opening up the Game Boy, disconnecting the screen and discarding the old shell, connecting the new screen, mounting it with adhesive and a 3D printed bracket (to get the correct positioning), screwing it all back together, and installing a new glass lens over the top.
RetroSix’s own instructions were fairly barebones, but I found a couple of different tutorials online that helped to guide me through it. The most problematic parts were:
- Correctly aligning the screen when installing it. Now that it’s complete, I can’t help noticing that it’s a fraction of a millimetre down on one side.
- Installing both the screen and the glass lens without getting any dust in between them. I did a decent job, but I can see one tiny speck under there. I think compressed air could help here.
- The 3D printed bracket wasn’t super precise. I had to file down some parts of it, and I ended up removing one piece altogether as it was pressing into the back of the screen and causing a light area to appear.
Overall though, I’m very happy with the outcome!
The screen is just in a different class to the original. It’s really bright, very clear, and has nice vibrant colours. The RetroSix shell is also very good, although I wouldn’t say quite the same quality of the original – it doesn’t feel as solid, perhaps. I love the gold holographic detail on the screen lens.
Here’s some very short videos showing each screen in action:
It’s also possible to solder in a couple of extra wires to allow for setting the brightness level of the screen by holding a couple of buttons down. I don’t currently own a soldering iron, so I’m saving this for another day!