Game Boy Advance vs GBA SP vs Game Boy Micro: Full Comparison

GBA console family

The Game Boy Advance (GBA) has one of the best libraries of any handheld console ever (especially when considering its backward compatibility with Nintendo's previous handheld models). But given all of the different revisions to the original Game Boy Advance hardware – GBA vs GBA SP vs GBA Micro – it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you.

What are the differences between the Game Boy Advance, the SP, and the Micro?

Game Boy Advance

  • The original model with ergonomic design
  • Backward compatible with Game Boy and Game Boy Color
  • Uses two AA batteries

Game Boy Advance SP

  • Revised clamshell design
  • Improved, brighter screen
  • Uses lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Plays same games as original GBA
  • Requires adapter connect to standard headphones

Game Boy Micro

  • By far the smallest console in the GBA family
  • Extremely bright and vivid screen
  • Customizable with swappable faceplates
  • Only plays GBA games

Those are the major differences between the three GBA consoles, but which one is better? Which one is right for you? Well, we might not be able to answer that last question for you, but we can give you a full break down of the pros and cons of each unit and allow you to decide for yourself.

Game Boy Advance

GBA opening screen
Game Boy Advance vs GBA SP vs Game Boy Micro: Full Comparison 6


  • Comfortable ergonomic design
  • Backward compatible with Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles
  • Doesn't require an adapter to use standard headphones
  • The cheapest model of the three consoles


  • Screen brightness doesn't compare to the SP or Micro
  • No rechargeable battery; uses AA batteries

Let's start off with what is arguably the original GBA's best selling point, its price tag. Now, pricing is always fluctuating, so please visit our continuously updated article – How Much Is A Game Boy Advance Worth? – to stay up-to-date on what the entire family of GBA consoles is going for today. Even with fluctuating prices, however, you can pretty much assume that the original Advance is going for much less than its revised counterparts are, on average.

Additionally, the original GBA gives you arguably the most comfortable design and full backward compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles at that lower price. So, it would seem like going with the original GBA is a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast. That display really needs to be discussed first.

GBA SP AGS 101 in box
Game Boy Advance vs GBA SP vs Game Boy Micro: Full Comparison 7

The difference in screen brightness and quality between the Game Boy Advance and its revisions is truly night and day. And since the display is the thing you're going to be looking at, it's hard to recommend the original console over the SP or the Micro.

That being said, there is some good news for tech-savvy (or friends of tech-savvy) people; there are a ton of written and video tutorials on swapping out the original display on the GBA for an improved backlit LCD screen. There are even tutorials on installing a rechargeable battery as well – fixing the model's other major flaw. Even for the not-so-tech-savvy, modded Game Boy Advance consoles with updated screens and rechargeable batteries are available to purchase online – but that does make this option quite expensive.

Bottom Line: The stock Game Boy Advance is by no means unplayable. The screen is serviceable, and the ergonomic design is generally considered the most comfortable out of the three GBA models. If you just want to get into the Advance's incredible library of games at the cheapest price, the original unit is perfect for you. Don't compare screens with SP or Micro owners and you'll be just fine.

Game Boy Advance SP

GBA SP red console
Game Boy Advance vs GBA SP vs Game Boy Micro: Full Comparison 8


  • Much brighter screen than the original GBA (especially with the backlit AGS-101 model)
  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • The clamshell design protects the screen and makes it easier to travel with


  • Requires an adapter to use standard headphones
  • Not as comfortable to hold as the original GBA
  • Hinges tend to wear down over time

It's nearly impossible to talk about the Game Boy Advance SP and not gush about its brighter screen. And Nintendo even released a new SP model near the end of the console's run – an even brighter backlit version. The frontlit and backlit SPs are nearly identical other than their respective displays, but we have a helpful guide – Game Boy Advance SP AGS-001 vs 101: What Is The Difference? – to help discern between the two models.

Thanks to its improved LCD screen and rechargeable battery, the SP is widely considered to be the definitive Game Boy Advance console. It plays all of the same games as the original unit, but with a much brighter display. Still, that is not to say that the SP is without its flaws.

The clamshell design is one that works well. In fact, Nintendo has continued to use it with its handheld consoles all the way through to the 3DS. It's great for keeping the screen in good shape, but the additional moving parts often need to be replaced over time. The hinges on the SP are fairly durable, but they do tend to wear down after continued use. Additionally, many feel that the SP isn't as comfortable to hold as the original GBA, but a lot of this can be left up to personal preference.

The only other real drawback to the SP is the lack of a standard headphone jack. And while this is annoying, a cheap headphone adapter (see link for pricing on Amazon) does solve this problem.

Bottom Line: In terms of display, the SP is a night-and-day improvement over the original GBA. Most fans consider the SP to be the definitive Advance console, and it's not hard to see why. If you have the extra money (or find a good deal), splurge for the SP and you won't regret it.

Game Boy Micro

Game Boy Micro console
Game Boy Advance vs GBA SP vs Game Boy Micro: Full Comparison 9


  • Even brighter and more vivid backlit screen
  • Its size makes it the most portable GBA
  • Customizable with swappable faceplates
  • Reintroduced the headphone jack to the GBA console


  • Not backward compatible; only plays Game Boy Advance games
  • Expensive
  • Requires an adapter to connect to other GBA consoles
  • Maybe too small?

The Game Boy Micro is a unique little handheld that released right at the tail-end of the Advance's run. It's seen today as somewhat of a collector's item, but that doesn't mean it doesn't pack a punch.

The Micro has the brightest and most vivid screen out of any GBA iteration. It's not a giant step up over the backlit SP (unlike the massive leap the SP is over the original GBA), but it's an improvement nonetheless. So, if the best display is what you are looking for, the Micro easily has that. And oh yeah, it has a headphone jack!

While the Micro did return the headphone jack to the GBA family of consoles, it requires an adaptor to connect to SP or original Advance handhelds. And unfortunately, that adapter isn't the easiest (or cheapest) accessory to find. We did manage to track them down on eBay, but they are going for quite a bit of money.

Perhaps the biggest knock on the Micro is that it is not backward compatible with Game Boy Color and original Game Boy games like the original Advance or SP. For those who don't care about backward compatibility, this isn't quite a major blow – but for other gamers, this might be a deal-breaker.

Lastly, the Micro is easily the most expensive console in the GBA family. With its incredibly small form factor and limited release, the Game Boy Micro is more of a collectible these days – and its price tag reflects that fact.

Bottom Line: The Micro is a bit of a novelty. The handheld is extremely cool and the screen is impressive, but its price tag and lack of backward compatibility make this hard to recommend for most gamers. If you don't care about Game Boy Color or original Game Boy games and have the extra cash to spend, then go for it. If that doesn't describe you (or if you have larger hands), maybe go for the SP or original Game Boy Advance.

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