Boxy Pixel Aluminum Game Boy Advance Assembly Guide

This is a working document, describing the basic steps to transform a stock Nintendo Game Boy into a custom Game Boy Advance with a backlit LCD

Items Needed:

Testing

Prior to disassembly of the donor game boy, insert batteries and a game cartridge. Turn the volume wheel all the way up, and switch device on. 

  1. Listen for a chime at startup
  2. Confirm that all buttons (including triggers, start and select), function well. 
  3. Wiggle the power switch to ensure it stays powered on
gameboy advance mods

Disassemble stock Game Boy Advance

Remove the six tri-wing screws from the back housing (shown circled in yellow). Remove the last fastener shown (circled in red), this uses a Phillips screwdriver. 

gameboy advance mods

Once open, remove the four fasteners holding the sheet metal, circled in red. Use the smallest Phillips screwdriver. Keep this sheet metal, dispose of the screws that you removed. 

gameboy advance mods

Remove the plastic power switch by pulling up. Remove L and R triggers. 

gba buttons

Release the flex cable by carefully prying up simultaneously on the two small brown tabs (shown by arrows). They will pop up a few millimeters. Do not pull with too much force. Then, pull up on the flex cable to release it. 
 

modded gameboy advance

Remove 2 fasteners holding the PCB with a small Phillips screwdriver. Lift up to remove the electronics (Nintendo PCB). Be careful with speaker wires, to not break the solder joints. Do not lose the small clear diffuser in the front housing-- keep this for future use

modded gameboy advance
gba light pipe

Next, remove the two battery terminals.Turn over the PCB and heat the solder from the back side. Carefully push or pull the terminals out, using pliers. 

modded gameboy advance

Clean all gold colored contacts with alcohol. Clean the power switch by pouring a few drops of isopropyl alcohol into the switch.  Switch on/off a few dozen times and use compressed air to dry out prior to putting PCB in shell.

modded gameboy advance

 

Verify the aluminum shell does not have blemishes.  Check for bends or distortion  on the area around the screen. Verify the plastic fixture does not have any debris on the soft surfaces that could scratch the housing. Place the front aluminum housing face down in the fixture.

modded gameboy advance

 

Prepare GBA Buttons

If using metal buttons, it’s a good idea to remove the sharp corners from the legs of the buttons. It does not take much at all to run a razor blade, a flexible nail file, or very fine sandpaper to areas shown in red. This is done to ensure buttons actuate up and down smoothly.

gba buttons

 

Drop in your directional keypad and A/B buttons. The two buttons can only be placed in one orientation, as shown.

gba buttons

 

Next is to install the conductive silicone set. Drop in the silicone over the buttons, and D-pad, and start/select. Note: You may choose to install the original silicone on the D-pad. This has a different feel than the aftermarket ones.

gba buttons

 

Drop in the clear diffuser at the location shown at left.  Notice the orientation rotationally.  

gba buttons
 

Prepare to connect the LCD to the orange flex cable. 

Make the connection by carefully aligning and pressing the parts together. This flex cable areas circled is VERY fragile!

gba ips screen

 

Remove the screen protector.  Do your best not to touch the front surface of the screen.

gba ips screen

 

Place the screen in the housing. Move it up and to the right. CAREFULLY fold the flex cable up as shown below.

gba ips screen

 

Add the 3d printed “L” shaped spacer as shown below.  It fills the space to the left and to the bottom of the LCD screen. Add soft foam to the back of the LCD 

gba ips screen

 

Solder a thin wire to TP2 shown below.   Add a small amount of solder to the gold pad first.  Then introduce the wire. Do Not leave the solder iron on too long! 2-3 seconds is enough.

modded gameboy advance

 

Add Kapton tape to help relieve strain on the wire and keep it in place.

modded gameboy advance

 

Prepare the orange flex cable by adding solder to 3 locations. SEL, R and L as shown at left.  Do Not leave the soldering iron on too long! One second is long enough. 

gba ips screen

 

Solder the wire from TP2 (previously soldered to PCB) to the SEL on the orange flex cable at left.

gba ips screen

 

Cut two thin wires to length. Note: Some LCD screen kits have these wires already included. Strip both wire ends.

gba ips screen

 

Solder Wires to Flex Cable

  1. Attach one wire to the location labeled L on the orange flex cable.
  2. Attach the other wire to the location labeled R on the orange flex cable
    gba ips screen

Connect Flex

The PCB is now ready to flip over. Before doing so, note that the orange flex cable has two possible ways to connect. Option 1 is at the top, and Option 2 is at the bottom. This is due to Nintendo making two versions of the PCB. You will need to determine whether your console has Option 1 or Option 2.     

Caution: if you find the need to use option 2, be VERY careful.  You will need to bend the flex in such a way that will put stress on the flex.  
Add Kapton tape over whichever option you did NOT use.

gba ips screen

 

Carefully begin flipping the PCB over.  

Ensure the orange flex is not getting trapped on top. Make sure the start/select silicone stays in place. The Flex can tear! Use caution!

gameboy advance mods

Carefully continue to flip the PCB over. Connect the flex cable. Guide the two black wires such that they are out of the way.

gameboy advance mods

 

Ensure the orange flex cable is fully seated as shown at left. Lock the flex cable by pushing down on the two brown tabs.

modded gameboy advance

 

Fasten PCB

Be sure the black wires are not being pinchedFasten the PCB in place at locations shown.

modded gameboy advance

 

Solder the Battery

Solder the wire coming from the L to location shown by the green dot. Notice the red filled rectangles at left. These are a keep out zones for the wire routing!  

modded gameboy advance

 

Solder the L and R Wires

Solder the wire coming from the R to location shown by the green dot. Notice the red filled rectangles shown at left. These are a keep out zones for the wire routing! 

modded gameboy advance

 

Power Circuit Overview
Next is to solder the battery, diode and power board.  At left is a general diagram.  Note the orientation of the diode.  Detailed steps to follow.

custom gameboy advance

 

Assemble Power Board
Slide the micro USB board (or type C) into the 3d printed piece.  

modded gameboy advance

 

Cut two wires and strip wire insulation.

modded gameboy advance

 

Solder Connections

Bend and solder the diode in place.  Note the grey end of the diode. Make sure it sits flat.

Solder a black wire from Out (-).

Solder a red wire to the diode and a black wire to the out (+).

Add solder to both the wire and diode.  Then, solder together.

modded gameboy advance

 

Lastly, solder the battery wires.

  1. Red battery wire to B+
  2. Black battery wire to B-
    custom gba

Solder to the PCB

Solder the Red wire from the diode to BT (+) on the Nintendo PCB.  This was previously where the battery terminal was removed.

Solder the Black wire from Out - to the BT(-) on the Nintendo PCB. This was previously where the battery terminal was removed.

Tip: Use plenty of flux 

gameboy advance mods

 

The diode, and all wires should fit in this area denoted in red. This leaves room for the battery to sit on top.

gameboy advance mods

 

Battery Install

Place the battery in position.

gameboy advance mods

Add a THIN piece of foam to the back of the battery or the housing to prevent rattling. It is recommended to instead add this foam to the inside of the rear housing. 

modded gameboy advance

 

Test the unit powers on and that the dimming function works by holding the select button and using the shoulder (trigger) buttons.

Some plastic triggers may be problematic. They may need to trimmed. 

gba buttons

Trigger Installation

Add the triggers by sliding the metal piece down in the channel shown.

As you slide it down, compress the metal slightly to move the trigger to its final location.

gba buttons

 

gba buttons

Power Switch Install

You may need to wiggle the switch L to R into position.

gba buttons

 

Secure Sheet Metal to Rear Housing

Set the sheet metal part previously removed from the donor GBA.  Fasten in place using two 4mm long fasteners.  These are shorter than the typical 6mm long fasteners.  

Note the orientation of the shield.  

modded gameboy advance

 

Closing Shell

Carefully bring the rear housing into position.  You may have to wiggle a little.  

Using fasteners in included zip lock bag (found with every aluminum housing), Install four M2x6mm long fasteners. Do not overtighten.

Caution! Ensure plastic power switch is lined up.  Also ensure battery and wires are out of the way before bringing down the rear housing.

gameboy advance mods

 

Testing 

Insert a game.

Test:

  1.  Front button function
  2. Top trigger buttons function
  3. Screen brightness functions by holding select and simultaneously using the top trigger button
  4. Triggers actuate smoothly
  5. Sound works

Final Touch

Flip Game Boy over, clean all surfaces, and install the front screen protector. 

Using a humid environment helps to minimize dust caught under the screen.

custom gameboy advance

 

Enjoy your newly modded Game Boy Advance!

 

For a printable version of this guide - click here