The gbaHD is an awesome open source project that turns the Game Boy Advance portable into a home console. It’s a project created by Zwenergy, who developed the FPGA core to make this mod possible. Both ManCloud89 and BBsan2k also contributed to the project with work on the controller interface and web interface respectively.
gbaHD is an open-source consolizer for the GBA with different options to build one. I created this small infographic to roughly sum up the current options, estimated costs and required skills.
Obviously, my graphical skills suck 🙃. pic.twitter.com/E4kyOnOl5J
— zwenergy (@zwenergy0) January 18, 2022
Because this is an open source project, one would typically have to source all the induvial parts themselves making it a very involved project. There wasn’t a readily available kit that one could simply buy to make one. That is until now! The folks over at Consoles4You in Switzerland put together a custom gbaHD kit that the general public can purchase. They call it the “Upcycle Shield”. The reason they call it “upcycle” is the hope that we can take damaged GBA’s and salvage their working parts (CPU, RAM etc.) to make a new working GBA home console!
gbaHD Upcycle shields are now additionally available as diy kits. https://t.co/sSwdTuc7jh
Time to upcycle one of those gbas that hat batteries leak in them. pic.twitter.com/0K5xTEHhUX
— Consoles4You (@Consoles4You) October 24, 2022
You have the choice to buy either a DIY kit, or you can purchase a fully built unit if desired with no modding needed on your end. If you purchase the DIY kit, you will need to purchase a Spartan Edge development board separately as well and also provide your own donner GBA console. Now, while the goal is to use a badly damaged GBA as the donner, there is a risk that some of the components you need to salvage may also be damaged, like the CPU or RAM for example. In my case, as can be seen in the video, the CPU was unusable so I had to source another one.
You can purchase both the DIY and Pre-Built kits in the links below (The links are affiliate):
Now, while we have seen several consolizing kits for the Game Boy Advance, this one is different from the rest in several ways. First, it requires the removal of the CPU, RAM, and 2 choke filters from the doner Game Boy Advance console, which makes this project geared towards more experienced modders. Second, it uses a commercial off the shelf FPGA development board, the Spartan Edge. Third, it has integrated Bluetooth controller support. I was able to pair my PS4 controller to the gbaHD easily, however, I ran into some latency issues as well button presses that did not register which made the PS4 controller unusable (I am currently communicating with BBsan2k on this issue). Fourth, it supports resolutions of 720p and 1080p. believe this is the first GBA consolizing kit to support 1080p! And fifth, it can connect to your local Wi-Fi network and update itself over the air!
This fifth option is what really excites me about this particular GBA consolizing kit. Because it can connect to the internet and be updated so easily, I feel as though this project is somewhat future proof. Additionally because it is open source, I am curious to see what further enhancements the modding community makes for this project!
For a full tutorial on how to build the gbaHD Upcycle Shield, refer to the video linked above. And below is a list of features as shown on the Consoles4You website for reference:
- OSD, smoothing and pixel grid
- A 2-fold smoothing and a 4-fold smoothing can be activated. These are slightly modified versions of the Scale2x algorithm. Note: Smoothing is currently disabled for 1080p resolution.
- The pixel grid feature is also currently in an experimental state. Two different pixel grids can be applied, a “light” pixel grid (AGS feel) or a “dark” pixel grid (AGB feel).
- To enter the OSD, press L+R+Select+Up. Smoothing and pixel grid can be activated there.
- In Game Reset with L+R+Start+Select
- 720P/1080P switchable via web interface
- Bluetooth controller support with button mapping via web interface
- Firmware upgrade via web interface