The Game Boy Advance is still my favourite handheld, even though the Switch is a good contender. The best way, in my opinion, to play GBA games is on the GBA SP. The SP was the last Game Boy capable of playing GBA, GB & GBC games. I’ve got a GBA SP modded with an AGS-101 screen and it has been my go-to for some time.
Luckily for me, Funny Playing sent me one of their new IPS screens to install and test out.
So, why should you install an IPS screen into your Game Boy Advance SP? The GBA SP IPS Screen is far superior to even the AGS-101. The IPS screen is brighter, has better viewing angles and better contrast between colours. The IPS screen is a 4 times pixel integer compared to the original screen, This means for every pixel the original screen had, the IPS has four which results in a much cleaner image.
Funny Playing ship their screens in a rather fancy box, this is great as it affords a great deal of protection to the contents.
Inside we find: –
1 x GBA SP IPS Screen
1 x Ribbon Cable
1 x Foam Insert
1 x Wire
Note: I have a more in-depth article on how to reshell your GBA SP in which I go into more detail on how to disassemble and re-assemble the GBA SP which you and find here.
If you get stuck during the reassembly process, please refer to that article but I will try to be as thorough as possible!
We will next be removing the Philips head screw that holds the battery compartment together. Remove the battery and put to the side. With the battery is removed, we will remove the 6 tri-wing screws. Use your tri-wing screwdriver to remove the screws and do not forget the screw inside the battery compartment.
*Make a note of these screws are some are slightly different sizes!*
You will now be able to pry apart the two halves of the GBA SP’s Shell. Separate the top from bottom and move the bottom halve to one side. We going to be focusing on the motherboard next and will need to change over to a small Phillips head screwdriver. We want to remove the three screws that hold the motherboard in place.
With the screws out, gently lift up the motherboard to find the ribbon cable that is attached to the board. The ribbon cable is held in by two clasps you need to push up on each side of the connector.
You should now be able to remove the ribbon cable. You will now be able to remove the motherboard from the shell. The rubber membranes and buttons will likely fall out at this point, but that is perfectly OK. If you are reusing your current shell keep these safe, if you are replacing the housing like I am, you usually get a whole set of spares which I will be using.
Lift out any remaining buttons and the speaker (It just lifts out!). Next, lift up the ribbon cable and find the ‘secret’ Phillips head screw.
Remove the tiny screw and the hinge cover will come off, set this aside if you are reusing your current shell.
Open the shell of the SP & remove the rubber pads from around the screen bezel. if you are reusing yours you have to be careful as they are quite fragile. I used a pair of ESD tweezers and they came off just fine!
Underneath these pads is an additional 5 tri-wing screws. We need to remove these to get at the screen.
The top of the shell will now be able to be lifted off. giving us access to the screen.
Step 5 is the hardest step in taking the GBA SP shell apart, we need to remove the hinges from the original shell.
For a long time, removing these hinges was necessary, the replacement shell does not come with replacements.
Luckily, you can now buy replacements online and they are quite cheap, I used the ones below, But I would say if you can use the originals, they have a slightly better feel to them.
To remove the current hinges you have to apply pressure with a screwdriver from the inside, pushing out. You might not seem like you are making any progress, but with enough force, you will get them out.
Once they are out you will be able to remove the caps if reshelling or leave the current ones if you keeping it original. They are easy to remove, they just slide off.
*WARNING!! You need to use a lot of force to push these hinges through, be sure not to injure yourself in the process!*
Now, on to the GBA SP IPS screen itself. We want to connect the funny playing’s ribbon cable to the connector on the back of the screen. This is super simple as it just clips in. You will notice that the lens protector is already installed which saves a lot of time and rules out the risk of dirt or dust getting caught underneath the lens. With the cable installed, bend the ribbon back like in the picture below. You can secure the ribbon cable to back of the screen with some tape if you like.
With the ribbon installed, I would recommend testing the screen before proceeding any further. Connect the ribbon cable to the motherboard port and hold the battery in place to test. As you can see, our screen fires up perfectly!
Now to install the IPS screen either back into the original shell or into a replacement like I am doing. The screen fits perfectly into the front half of the shell, you don’t need to add any spacer as you do in the GBA IPS mod.
The top half of the shell causes a little trouble, the inside of the shell needs a very small modification in order to close with the new screen and ribbon cable installed.
We will need to trim the inside of the shell as outlined in the below picture. This is very easy to do but might be a little time consuming if you are a perfectionist. You can use a rotary tool like a Dremel or even some flush cutters. Remove the area I have marked out and this will allow room for the shell to close.
Once finished, we will be able to put the two halves together. Inside the Funny Playing box, you will remember there was a foam cut out, this cut out sits behind the screen to stop it and the ribbon cable rattling around. Remember to put it in place before closing the two halves. You will also want to bend the ribbon cable around so it doesn’t get caught in the shell.
After this, screw the two halves together with the 5 Tri-wing screws we took out earlier (Replacement shells usually come with there own set).
We can now attach the screen portion of the case to the bottom. Line it up into place and pass the ribbon cable through the slot. Next up, find your hinges and slide the new caps on to the. Holding the two halves of the shell together its time to reinstall the hinges. They go back in a certain way, I cover this in my GBA SP reshell guide here.
Be sure to screw the small philips head screw in to attach the hinge cover.
Attach the ribbon cable to the motherboard being sure to pull down on the clips each side to secure it into place.
Now we are about to solder the included wire to allow us to control the brightness. This is optional, but I would personally recommend doing if possible. It’s quite straight forward to do.
We want to solder from point Q12B to the point on the ribbon cable. Add some flux to your points and you really only need a tiny amount of solder. You can tin your wire with a little flux and solder to make things easier and when ready just touch your hot soldering iron to the points.
With the brightness control wired up, we will have 6 different levels of brightness! Just be sure to not dangle your wire across where any of the button pads are going to go.
We can now install all buttons, rubber pads and speakers back into place. You may need to line up the volume & power slider also. Once they are in place we can sink the motherboard back into the shell. once the board is back in the shell you can screw it down with the 3 Philips head screws from before.
Locate the tiny square-shaped washer, This fits in the back part of the shell. Without this washer, we would not be able to screw together the battery compartment. Push it into place and we can finally put the GBA SP back together.
Install all the screws we took out and don’t forget the rubber pads around the screen bezel, they just push in.
Now you are finished you should have a fully working GBA SP with a very vivid IPS screen!
Below are a few comparision photos with the AGS-101 vs the IPS. As you can see the IPS is much brighter, with better colours. Being an IPS screen it benefits from a much larger viewing angle than the 101 screens and doesn’t look as washed out.
The original models of IPS screens from funny playing had an issue with screen tearing, but I am glad to say that these problems have been ironed out for the SP version.
For a long time, the AGS-101 screen was the king when it came to GBA mods, with supply drying up these screens are starting to become quite expensive. Luckily Funny Playing has stepped in and have given us a fantastic product with their IPS screen. This truly is the best way to play our old Game Boy Advance games!
If you are still interested in the AGS-101 screen, please check out my other guide where I installed an AGS-101 screen into an original Game Boy Advance.
I wish all old handhelds had IPS screen alternatives, fingers crossed for a Sega Game Gear IPS!