Lustworthy Aluminum Shell Turns the GBA SP Into a MacBook-Inspired Original Game Boy

Despite being considered one of the greatest handheld consoles of all time, every version of the Nintendo Game Boy Advance had a problematic design flaw, from missing headphone jacks to screens that were either too small or dark. They can now all be fixed with mods, and a new aluminum housing from Boxy Pixel can even make the GBA SP match your Apple MacBook.

Of all the versions of the GBA that Nintendo released, the company seemed determined not to make it look anything like the original Game Boy. The closest version was the folding clamshell GBA SP, and if you happen to have one of those still lying around, Boxy Pixel’s new Game Boy Advance SP Unhinged housing is about the closest you’ll ever get to a Game Boy Advance Game Boy—or a GBAGB, for short.

Illustration for article titled Lustworthy Aluminum Shell Turns the GBA SP Into a MacBook-Inspired Original Game Boy
Image: Boxy Pixel
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The housings are milled from solid blocks of aluminum using a CNC cutting machine in a similar process to how Apple currently makes its laptops and mobile devices, and while you can get anodized colored options of the Unhinged case in red, blue, pink, and black, it kind of feels like a crime to go with anything other than the natural aluminum silver. At $94, plus $20+ for a matching set of machined metal buttons, it’s not a cheap mod considering it’s also BYOGBASP, but you’ll also never have to worry about an aging hinge snapping ever again.

YouTuber Macho Nacho Productions managed to get their hands on the Unhinged housing and shared a detailed how-to for anyone looking to tackle this mod. themselves According to Boxy Pixel, if you’re starting with a stock version of the GBA SP (even one with an upgraded screen) you can drop all of the parts into the aluminum housing without the need for any soldering, although everything except the shoulder buttons will need to be upgraded, and you’ll need a special 3D-printed adapter to securely hold the original battery in place.

But if you’re looking to make some other upgrades in the process, which can include enhancements like a larger battery, a USB-C port, a wireless charging coil, and a proper headphone jack, you’re going to need to break out the soldering iron and make some small modifications to the housing. (Which shouldn’t be that difficult, it’s aluminum, not vibranium.) If you’re going to all the trouble of sacrificing a GBASP and giving the Game Boy Advance a much-deserved OG Game Boy facelift it seems like you might as well go the extra mile and upgrade everything you can.

And while it’s waiting to first fill all the pre-orders for the Unhinged housing, Boxy Pixel has revealed that it will most likely eventually offer customized pre-built units as well, just don’t expect them to be in any way cheap. Buying a fully-upgraded Game Boy Advance (backlit screen, speaker amp, rechargeable battery, etc.) with a plastic housing can cost you upwards of $500, so expect an aluminum version to creep closer to the cost of a smartphone.

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DISCUSSION

I remember when the SP came out. Aside from the backlight, which was a game changer, the clamshell design was one of the highlights. It made the whole thing way more compact to store and travel with than the previous consoles, and being able to adjust the angle of the screen was surprisingly useful. As nice as this is, I don’t understand why someone would want to intentionally remove that feature.