GBA's Dark Side
Review by: Hairball (

Editorial Posted: September 29, 2001

There is no doubt that the Game Boy Advance is indeed the best portable video game system ever. But there is one problem that tends to hurt it more than anything. The screen on the GBA isn't all that great, and unless you're sitting under the sun, or in a well-lit room, under a perfect lighting angle, yes perfect, chances are you're not going to see the display very well.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the GBA does not have an internally lit screen, meaning that you can only see it if there's light reflecting it, since it's a TFT reflective screen. It's not like a TV or computer monitor that emits its own light.

Fine, most of us live in some place with light anyways, so that shouldn't be much of a problem. But, the screen tends to cause many problems indeed. The screen is extremely hard to see, unless you are at the perfect lighting angle. Because of this irritating screen, it totally downgrades the greatness of the GBA.

But you are probably thinking, "I'll just adjust the system so it faces the light", well that's the only real way to solve the problem. This means that the GBA causes you to have bad ergonomics. To play, you have to find a light source, adjust the system to the light, avoid the glare, and then sit down in an uncomfortable position.

From my own personal experience, I find that it hurts my neck after sitting in this strange position too long, and it doesn't feel too good. Some owners of the GBA might have already experienced this, and it isn't pretty. But because the screen is like the way it is, you can't really do much about it. Try playing on a car, bus, or subway, it gets rather difficult. Even on an airplane it could get challenging because some planes have lights that are "angled", and it will really get you in an awkward position to see. You basically have a choice here, sit uncomfortably and play, sit comfortably and play with a horrible view, or heck, just not play at all. must be wondering, how come the screen is so "dark"? Well the answer is, the screen isn't dark, if you have the perfect lighting conditions, and you're going to have a vivid picture on the GBA. But if you're not in perfect lighting, you aren't going to see where you are going, except maybe down to video game hell.

Is it the system that is not up to par? Yes, since Nintendo basically has a monopoly on portable video games, they are probably thinking "Why the hell should we spend more money on a backlit system when they're just going to buy it anyway?" That's the problem with having a monopoly, companies will not care as much about the customers, and more often then not come out with crappy and lame products, and become money hungry, much like the way Microsoft is like. Nintendo has claimed that having a light in it would make the screen harder to see (?), the system will drain batteries horribly. First off, many of us use our TV's (that emit its own light) with the lights on, is that really a problem, not really, so how would that be bad for the GBA? How much battery time would you lose, maybe 2 or 3 hours (out of the current 15 that they claim)? That isn't a big deal, but to Nintendo, it seems like it is.

Hold on second, aren't there external lights out there for the system? Well yes, there are, but think about this for a second. If a product requires that you buy an add-on to get the best experience, doesn't that mean there is a problem with it? And if that is ok, the lights aren't exactly that great either, like the Worm Light, it causes major glare, and it doesn't even light up the entire screen very well. These devices would probably drain as much, if not more than internal lighting in the system.

Don't get me wrong, the Game Boy Advance has great games. It's just the screen isn't all that great, and it's all because of lack of innovation. The screen has low quality, but if there was an internal light then it would work. A site called Portable Monopoly has successfully installed a light inside the system, and this may cause Nintendo to rethink its decision about not lightening up the GBA.

-- Hairball (