Game Boy Advance IPS Screen Mod
In this guide, I will be showing you step-by-step how to backlight your GBA by installing an IPS screen. The original Game Boy Advance has the better form factor when compared to the GBA SP and Game Boy Micro, however, lacked a backlit screen making some games almost unplayable.
In the past we have had GBA backlight mod installs using screens from the backlit SP variant AGS-101. These screens have become much harder to find (and therefore, more expensive!), luckily, cheaper backlit IPS screens are now available and are relatively easy to install.
As the GBA IPS screens are a little larger then the original screen, I highly recommend purchasing a pre-cut GBA shell, You can cut it down yourself but you will save you self a lot of time if you get one that is ready to go!
Game Boy Advance
GBA IPS screen (Comes with IPS screen, ribbon and self-adhesive tape)
Tri-wing and Phillips head screwdrivers
Optional (But recommended):
Soldering Iron (Needed for brightness controls only)
Flush Cutters (If cutting original shell)
Plastic Brackets (If using original shell)
**You can pick-up a pre-modded Shell, IPS screen, Lens new buttons, screwdrivers etc all in one package here, you just need to provide a GBA**
How to install a backlit GBA IPS screen (Steps)
Gather all the supplies you need for the mod. In this guide I will be showing you how to install your GBA IPS mod using a pre-cut shell and backlight kit available here, I will also touch on what areas you need to cut if using an original shell.
First, up your will want to turn your Game Boy Advance over and remove any batteries installed.
On the back of the GBA, there are 6 x tri-wing screws we need to remove, as well as one small Philips head screw hiding in the bottom the of battery compartment. Remove these screws and set them aside, you may find having a magnetized screwdriver here will help with the removal of the screws but is non-essential.
With the screws removed we can separate the shell into two halves.
With our GBA open, you’ll need to remove the 3 x Phillips head screws that hold the GBA’s motherboard in place, Un-screw these and put the screws aside.
One last step before we can free the motherboard from the GBA’s housing, Locate the ribbon cable connector at the top of the motherboard. To remove this ribbon cable, we need to loosen the clasps locking it into place, with your fingers or screwdriver, gently put this up. As one side lift’s the other side usually closes slightly, so you may have to work it up slowly.
Gently pry the ribbon cable out of the connector and we will be able to completely separate the motherboard from the GBA shell.
*This Section only applies if using original shell* if you are going to be using your original shell you will want to remove the screen. This can be done by gently flexing the shell until the screen ‘pops’ out. Push through the screen lens and it should come out the GBA’s shell easily.
Using flush-cutters, you’ll need to remove the areas marked out below, once that is done, we can continue with the installation: –
Locate your GBA IPS screens ribbon cable, we will want to test our screen before putting it all together in the new shell as removal is practically permeant once fully installed.
These newer ribbon cables come with a connection for both 32-pin and 40-pin Game Boy Advance models, so no need adapters like we needed with the old AGS-101 mods. This model I have here is a 40-pin GBA.
Connect your cable into the GBA’s motherboard, shiny contacts should be facing towards you as you do this, and you’ll need to push down on the brown tabs once again to lock it into place.
With the ribbon cable flat, you want to connect the small brown connector on the screen to the ribbon cable, they just clip into place.
Place the GBA motherboard into the shell and give it a quick test with some batteries.
Mine works great, somehow, I lost the picture showing it working, you’ll just have to trust me!
Next, we want to give the screen install a dry run, just to make sure everything lines up. This shell fits everything in place nicely, if you are using a 32-pin GBA model, you need to fold the ribbon underneath, so the black tab is facing towards us. Everything fits perfectly!
Next, we’ll want to check out our pre-cut shell. This one will work very well with a GBA rechargeable battery mod as there is no cutting of plastic required inside the battery compartment. Place the front half of the shell face down.
Find the double-sided tape included with the IPS screen and make sure it lines up. If you are using your original shell, you will want to locate the plastic spacing strips included with the screen, the large one goes at the bottom and a smaller on to the left side of our screen.
This, to me, is the most nerve-racking part of the install, the installation of a doubled sized tape. Push the middle portion of the tape through we only need the edge. Carefully, line up the tape the with shell and remove the bottom part being sure to make sure none is overlapping with the viewable windowed in the middle. If some does overlap slightly, you should be able to push it into place from the other side.
Remove the remaining tape facing towards us, remove the plastic protective film on your GBA IPS screen by pulling down toward you. Be careful not to touch the screen or get any dust or dirt on it.
Line up your screen and put your screen into position, if you are using your original shell spacers should be in position at this point to line your screen up.
Some people like to do this next step last, however, I am paranoid about dirt and dust. Grab your replacement GBA IPS screen lens and remove the adhesive tape on the back. This needs to come off both the bezel of the lens and clear viewable part. Check for any dust or dirt on the screen before dropping this into place. It is self-adhesive and you can gently push it down to install it.
The GBA IPS glass lens lines up perfectly with the shell and we managed to get no dust under the screen, success!
Now, the hard part is over, all that is left to do is to put everything back together but before we do that, we will want to install a couple of cables to control our IPS screen’s brightness. This is optional as the IPS will default to a mid-brightness.
On your ribbon cable, find the pads ‘SEL’ ‘R’ & ‘L’, we need to solder a wire from each of these points. Heat your soldering iron and add a little flux to each of the pads if you have any. You’ll only want to quickly touch the soldering iron to the pad briefly with a little solder. Once you have all three wires fixed into place, we need to begin soldering them to the motherboard.
This is a good time to reinstall the D-pad, Start and Select & B and A buttons back into the shell. Just sink them in and put the rubber membranes on top once done like below.
On the motherboard locate pad TP2, just above where the Start and Select button pads are located. Solder the wire coming from ‘SEL’ to TP2.
Before placing the motherboard into the shell, put some tape around either of the remaining wires so you can differentiate them. If you are using your own wire, used different colours if possible, it will make it easier!
Place the motherboard into the shell and tuck the two ‘L’ & ‘R’ wires through the middle.
Now, we need to solder the ‘L’ & ‘R’ wires to the points below, with L being the left button and R being the right. Be sure to get them the right way around! ‘R’ is fixed near SW3 on the board and ‘L’ is fixed near SW2.