A GameBoy Advance Backlight Mod with No Shell Trimming or Soldering

A GameBoy Advance Backlight Mod with No Shell Trimming or Soldering

It can be quite frustrating trying to play your old GBA for a quick kick of nostalgia only to find the display so challenging and frustrating to see even under direct light. You might think that you must be a tech wizard to be able to install a modern display into the device, but in reality, it can be done quickly and easily in minutes without the need of any soldering or altering the original GBA shell in any way. 

What You'll Need:

Aside from a working GameBoy Advance system, below are links to the kit and tools you'll need to complete this build. The links below are affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission if you purchase using the links below. 

Just make sure you use proper safety protocol for the entirety of this modification. Myself and Vetro Gaming will not be liable if any harm or damage occurs in any capacity. But with all of that out of the way, lets dive right into the tutorial! 

Step 1: Disassemble you Game Boy Advance

To install the backlight mod, we first have to open up the console and pop out the original screen. You can watch this video tutorial if you need a visual demonstration of how to fully disassemble your GBA. To get started, use the tri-wing screwdriver to unscrew the 6 screws on the back of the GBA shell and use a Phillips head screwdriver to unscrew the one screw inside the battery compartment. From there, you should be able to remove the back of the shell. Next you want to unscrew the 2-3 Phillips head screws that are securing the motherboard to the front part of the shell. Once the screws are removed, you need to lift up on the bails on either side of the connector that is attaching the original GBA display to the motherboard to allow the ribbon cable to release and detach. You then want to remove the screen by gently twisting the shell like an ice tray and picking one corner to lift the shell up to kind of pry it out. If you feel like you are using too much force, you are. Be careful not to crack the shell by twisting too hard. You could also remove the lens since this kit comes with a glass one. You can remove the lens by pressing one corner from the inside of the shell to detach the lens from the shell. With the motherboard and shell  exposed, I would highly recommend cleaning it with some IPA. 70% or higher is most ideal. Make sure to get it on the button contacts, volume wheel, power switch etc. Congrats! You have successfully extracted the GBA motherboard and are ready to install the backlight kit! 

Step 2: The Backlight Installation Process

Remember that if you would find it easier for visual demonstration of the installation process, follow along with this video tutorial. To get started, grab the two ribbon cables that come with the kit. Mine's a 40-pin, so that's the ribbon cable that I'm going to use. Insert the ribbon cable into the PCB and close the tab down to lock it into place. Next, insert the ribbon cable into the Game Boy and close the two bales down to secure it. Now, grab the LCD and insert the cable into the connector all the way and push the tab down to lock it in.

Now I'm going to use the back of the Game Boy shell to slap some AA batteries in to power it on. I'm checking to make sure the screen lights up and that there are no dead pixels and that the brightness sensor tab functions as it should. This thing is in good shape, so let's confidently install it into the Game Boy.

I installed the glass lens first, but that is recommended after installing the adhesive gasket so that you don't get fingerprints or anything on it. The side that is thicker goes on the right, and let's get that set in. Now let's use the two acrylic spacers and put them on the bottom two corners to help align the display. Before installing the display, I'm going to use some low Tac tape to make sure that there are no dust particles on the lens. I would avoid using the tape on the display, however, because the display is quite fragile, and you don't want to damage it.

Now it's time to peel off the adhesive film, but don't throw it away. Let's set the LCD into the bottom right of the shell. Use that adhesive film from the LCD and put it on the back of the LCD for insulation. Connect and secure the LCD to the PCB. Secure the ribbon cable to the PCB board and then to the motherboard. Make sure to tuck the brightness sensor away. The rest of the installation is quite literally putting the buttons and screws where they were to begin with. So basically, watch the first minute of this video in reverse if you need help reassembling.

To adjust the brightness, tap the touch sensor and then press and hold for a second or two to cycle through the black and white and pixel modes.

Final Thoughts on the GBA Drop-In Backlight Mod

For those who want to use the original GBA shell and do not want to solder or trim anything, I don't believe that there is any better kit out there for the GBA than this one. Now, if you are willing to use a new shell, then there are arguably better kits out there, but the major plus that this kit has that you really don't find elsewhere is how simple it is to install and it is completely reversible since you don't have to cut up your original GBA shell to make it fit. 


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