Game Boy Advance with 40 pin LCD display cable has more reflective, viewable display

You might have remembered a thread made earlier this year pondering the differences between Game Boy Advance systems with LCD displays made by Sharp and newer systems with LCD displays made by Panasonic.

I still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it, but it seems likely both companies made screens to the same spec. What is more significant that I was not previously aware of, is the substantial differences in display quality between early GBA systems that shipped with a 40 pin LCD ribbon cable, and later systems with a 32 pin LCD ribbon cable.

Exhibit A: an interesting reddit post:

The early 40 pin GBA boards had much better screens, brighter/clearer reflective backs due to different polarizers used with panels for the more common 32pin boards.

Comparison picture, out of 20 something systems in this lot I got a few years ago, all the 40pin panels were nicer than the 32pin ones, all 32pin ones were darker and with a warmer less neutral polarizer tint. The polarizers are different, you can tell by how they react if you face the GBA against an LCD (polarized light) and turn the system around, the polarizer behavior between 40 and 32pin is different.

Conclusion: The polarizers are better in the 40 pin systems.

Exhibit B: Power consumption tests: Imgur: The magic of the Internet

Conclusion: 32 pin systems consume significantly less power.

Last, a video demonstrating the differences between both:

Hope that helps! I’ve ordered a 40 pin system from Japan, will compare it against my SP. I now wish I hadn’t sold my European launch GBA…

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I cannot imagine ever using a non-backlit GBA ever again, but interesting nonetheless.

I guess it made the SP even more needed. Never before have I felt a console upgrade like the SP!

An original GBA on a sunny day…

This is a launch unit, so it has a 40 pin cable, as per the OP.

Photos are unedited.

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The pixel grid looks so good.

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Hear, hear! I was baffled when I saw Digital Foundry claim the Steam Deck OLED was the most significant mid-generation hardware upgrade ever…despite the welcome display upgrade it’s basically the device Valve should have launched with.

The Game Boy Advance on the other hand was a complete overhaul, it’s crazy to me that it’s the same thickness as a GBA when folded, it brought a new design language to the table, it added built-in rechargable batteries, it was Nintendo’s first system with higher quality clicky microswitched buttons and D-Pad, there’s the front-light…there’s a reason it won a good design award in its launch year.

I still remember my kid brain being blown away by that frontlight, it opened up so many new places to play which were previously off limits.

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My 40 pin Japanese Game Boy Advance arrived today! Was originally purchased in July 2001.


I tested it both indoors and outdoors, pitting it against the Famicom colour Game Boy Advance SP, front light off, of course.

At first I thought the GBA SP had the clearer, brighter display, but that’s not true…it depends on where the light source is:

  • With the SP, the light source being from the left and right sides is more beneficial to visibility.
Comparison


  • With the original 40-pin GBA, the light source being in front of the screen is more beneficial.
Comparison


  • Now this one is odd, as the colour profile differs. The launch GBA seems to exhibit brighter hues for yellows, but the rest of the colour gamut is similar. No weird oversaturation. Maybe this is why FF Tactics Advance has LCD A and LCD B video options.
Comparison


  • Finally, the SP has wider viewing angles - dark scenes are visible from more angles, whereas on the original GBA the colours invert to black from the lower-right side

This makes sense as it’s easier to angle a GBA in that way, compared with the flip-top SP. Both screens have the same clear response times, though the GBA exhibits noticeable flicker in some scenes if you look for it.

So not the slam dunk I was expecting, but interesting nonetheless…

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