The Nintendo Game Boy Advance Clone

I came across this a few months ago on DealExtreme. The Game Boy Advance was the first handheld I owned, my brother and I were driven up to Toys R Us by our Dad on the hot summer launch day back in 2001 and we parted with our hard saved cash to grab one each. I recall attemptingΒ  to play F Zero Maximum Velocity in the car on the way home and having a very hard time keeping the bright sunlight off the non-lit LCD screen.

So almost 10 years later, and with a promise of a fully working clone with a back lit screen (wooohooo) and the ability to load any GBA game I felt like I could not resist.

Before I launch into the review let’s note a couple of things about this machine.

  • 2GB of onboard storage for loading and deleting your own GBA roms, Mass Storage Device style.
  • There is no emulation going on here, the hardware inside this thing is expertly reverse engineered from the original GBA guts and recreated to play it’s games natively. As such it will not play any other games for other systems, aside from those that were emulatable on the original GBA hardware (ie NES).
  • Yep, it has a back lit screen which the original GBA was sorely missing. And it looks great.

Packaging –

The box is a reproduction of a U.S. GBA box. It’s quite obviously not a real box as the cardboard is cheap, colours are washed out and there is no glossy finish. It does look quite nice though, and theyve even added some of their own info to it.

1. a new generation high definition screen, colourful and clear image
2. improve control system, smooth and durable
3. built in direct save technology
4. built in clock supported for the seam convergence of clock games
5. built in real time save system
6. built in real time game guide
7. built in soft reset
8. built in multi languages
9. built in 2gb – 8gb FLASH
10. built in multimedia playback system
The GBA itself comes in a clothlike plastic sleeve, and has a thin plastic film covering the screen which I had to remove because it was all runkled up.

Accessories –

Aside from the gba, it comes with some instructions which are just a bad photocopy of the original GBA intructions. Also a U.S. mains adaptor that plugs into the ext port, and a usb to ext cable for both adding/deleting roms and charging the unit are in the box. It might be worth noting that the mains adaptor has the ‘Nintendo’ logo on it, and seems to be the same charger as the GBA SP uses (it says “for use with ags-101” on it). I couldnt get the battery cover completely off for whatever reason, but i managed to prise it open and can see that its the same as the battery from the GBA SP, complete with Nintendo branding.

Build quality –

Great… it looks and feels exactly like a real GBA. In fact, if it wasnt for what must be a modified battery compartment id be convinced it was a real GBA case. Maybe it is, who knows. The unit doesnt rattle or bend under pressure and it has logos and branding in all the same places as a real GBA. It’s not all good though. Firstly, the screen: GBA has a screen resolution of 240×160, but I believe this clone has a 320×240 screen in it, with slightly different shaped pixels. You can’t notice until you turn it on that the screen is actually fractionally too big for the window that it sits behind, thus 0.5mm of the picture is lost on some sides. Also, if youve ever played on a Dingoo or Wiz you’ll no doubt have noticed the slightly ugly scaling/filtering used to make the 240×160 image stretch to 320×240 – well its the same on this thing. The main menu is coded in 320×240 and the GBA bios splash is displayed at its original resolution (hence why it looks slightly smaller than usual) but the games are all stretched to fit. I dont think its possible to display in the original resolution (no notes in the instructins to say what buttons do what in game, and aside from the shoulder buttons (date and time / language) no buttons seem to do anything in the main menu). Secondly, the buttons are noticeably more stiff than the original GBA buttons. It’s not a problem, but its noticeable. the d-pad, for me at least, is really nice to use. Oh yes, the screen is back lit and looks wonderful πŸ™‚

Gaming –

A speed comparison of Gradius Galaxies (the only cart i could find for the time being) shows that the real GBA and the fake GBA run at the same speed for compatible games. I say compatible games because I loaded Tony Hawks 3 onto the device with the usb/ext cable and it doesnt really run at all. It stutters and jolts and is basically unplayable (I found this in the Dingoo emulator too, as well as on some GBA flash carts). The graphics and sound seem perfect in all the pre-loaded gba games that i have tested so far. I tested a save in Lord of the Rings and in Gradius Galaxies and both worked fine after restarting the unit. You can access the .sav files when you plug it into a pc. Holding select and pressing R opens an in game menu from which you can Real Time Save, soft reset or open a game guide (game guide doesnt appear to do anything, I assume you have to load the file manually before hand).

You can find a list of the pre loaded games here.
098 is the last GBA game, the rest are NES. I have the following games myself and they all appear to work just fine and at full speed.

Racing Gears Advance
Mario Kart Super Circuit
F Zero
Mother 3 (translated!)
GT Advance
Turok Evolution

I have noticed the occasional millisecond “glitch” in some games, where the game appears to freeze for a miniscule amount of time. The good news is that it only really happens in the game menus, and isn’t really noticeable anyway. It wasnt until today that it even registered that it was happening at all, and I’ve been playing everyday since it arrived.

Other bits –

There are ~490 preloaded games and 1 video. About 100 of the games are GBA, the rest are NES games (with a gba file extension) that run emulated under pocketnes. As such, quite a few ofΒ  the NES games dont run properly. The unit functions as a mass storage device when plugged into a PC, and you can add/remove/change the roms and artwork as you please. I did notice though that the roms appear to be sorted by “date modified”, as the ones I added myself did not sit in line with the rest of them even when numbered in the same way (that could get tedious…). There is a file called games.bin, which i assumed was the o/s but actually i think it contains the database that links rom titles to imagess… The rest, I think, is explained in the video. The battery does seem to only last for around 3 hours, it is a downside, but it’s not the end of the world. Lastly, the machine also plays GBA carts (but not Gameboy or any other previous iterations of Nintendo handhelds).

And here is the video

If you fancied indulging in one of these lovely machines, the only place I know of to grab one from is dealextreme.

75 Replies to “The Nintendo Game Boy Advance Clone”

  1. hey i need all the nes games that came on mine i accidently deleted them or does anyone know how to convert one by one the .nes rom to .gba rom please help me out anyone. my email is phantasystar27@yahoo.com. thanks

  2. Wanted to drop a remark and let you know your Rss feed isnt working today. I tried including it to my Yahoo reader account and got absolutely nothing.

  3. So what’s happening with the K-team one? Still not available through DX or any of the usual suspects?

  4. were the f can i get one of these i really want one!!!!

  5. I’ve been looking all over

  6. Anyone know where I can find just the usb to ext cable??
    Mine came without one.

  7. can u put cartridges in it

  8. I bought one last year and I felt in love with it!! The black one is way slicker and I owned the clear one as a kid but always wanted the black one so at last!!! Untill the damn usb port broke… Its hard and a little stiff to pull it off the console and it was just a matter of time :/ i figure ill just order another console just for the cord since i cant find out if the can sell it on the website

    Umm besides that im just wondering if I can fix the thing of not being able to play gameboy games in it??? Like uploading to it something ?? Someone knows??

    Also I’m thinking since ima have two systems ill just get the original gba and swap the screen so the original one will have the lidscreen, seems tricky but not imposoble…

  9. I bought one last year and I felt in love with it!! The black one is way slicker and I owned the clear one as a kid but always wanted the black one so at last!!! Untill the damn usb port broke… Its hard and a little stiff to pull it off the console and it was just a matter of time :/ i figure ill just order anoyher Umm just wondering if I can fix the thing of not being able to play gameboy games in it??? Like uploading to it something

  10. soo, hows that GBA progress (K Team)? in interested, but post some info please.

    1. Look up “the GBA is dead, Long live the GBA. That’s k team’s creation.

  11. So, what is the progress on the development of this new clone? I am extremely eager to purchase it.

  12. Hey stupid question here? What is it modeled after:the gba or the sp? And if u do colors will it be standard? I would like it in a orange skin and white buttons(like a surburt). πŸ™‚

    1. This one is the gba model. If you look up “gba” on dealextreme, you can find an sp model. Lotsa neat stuff comes along with the search. πŸ™‚

  13. I read some of the reviews on dealextreme for this device, and someone confirmed that it erases all the save data on a GBA cartridge upon insertion, and that games can only be saved in conjunction with roms loaded into the internal memory.

    Therefore, K Team is right: this is most definitely an emulator and not a reverse-engineered GBA. Whatever hardware professional said otherwise must be senile.

  14. Also, I think a great way to see if the GBA clone in this post is an emulator or not would be to see if it actually loads and saves directly from an inserted GBA cartridge. Does it?

    1. That’s correct. And you will even find emulators don’t even take enough cartridges.
      We had made one key feature that can help people differentiate K solution from emulators:

      Hot plug and pull your cartridge while power-on.
      Only K solution survives the plug and pull. Either way will reset the device without hang.
      Original GBA will simply hang because of data communication lost from cartridge.
      Emulators behaves differently depending on how they deal with the game loading. Stay tune here in a few days. You should be able to see the review in September, this month.

      1. Any more progress on this device?

  15. I, too, am interested in the K Team GBA clone. Please keep us updated as per the process of finding a retailer.

  16. is there only 2 gb of storage or is there more than that

  17. is it in brand new condition please reply

    1. Kevin, read first, ask silly questions later.

      Your question makes no sense whatsoever.
      It’s a brand new product that wasn’t even launched in the market yet.

  18. Another question, K Team, will your device be able to play any other gameboy games (gb, gbc) on it.?

    1. Unfortunately, no. It’s a pure GBA device. We didn’t manage to put Z80 CPU inside the clone. The reasons have been described in previous comments. The most important one is we think most famous GB/GBC games have GBA version already and it is not worthy to do it. Well, maybe in future version, if the demand is strong. Thanks for asking anyway!

    2. Can it also play hacked/modified gba files.?

      1. As long as the ROM is a GBA title. There’re lots of Chinese GBA file tested already. Also, multi-game-cartridge is also supported. Limited Flash card support (M3, old version E-Link, for example)

      2. sounds good, can’t wait. πŸ™‚

  19. hey K Team .. Problematic games like Golden Sun in battle, will run well on that console? As with emulators on consoles they run very badly.

    1. Every GBA game runs smoothly on the new clone. Official 2819 games + many homebrew GBA games. We can’t say we tested every single game with all stages but the confidence level is very high. So far, no one in beta sites report any incompatibility (Well, GB & GBC excluded.) The possible incompatibility may come from some rare cartridge like with solar cells or gravity sendor because we were not able to find them on the market now. But they might work as well. We just didn’t test them.

  20. so uh.. any news, K Team.? i want to get the gameboy before my birthday.
    i’d get 2 of them off your hands. πŸ™‚

    1. No news is good news. I am kidding anyway. πŸ™‚
      We are still at demo stage so you’d better not to wait if your BD is in Aug. We have to find some dealers who want to carry this product. Come back here soon (may be in 2-3 weeks) to see the real hands-on review.

  21. Well, as long as GBA games run perfect, the battery last a decent time (at least 5 hours), the hardware is solid and the price is acceptable, loosing GB and GBC is not the end of the world, even because i also agree that GBA games are the epitome of 16-bit style video games, and the handheld market as gone a bit astray since then.

  22. The cartridge-only version is available now and will need someone like DX to carry to overseas (Out side of China). SD/TF-card version should be ready for review in August. Come back here from time to time. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for the update.

      I’m going with the SD/TF-card version as i want to keep the entire library of games in a single flash card.

      I’ll use cartridges with my DS Lite, although i suppose i won’t have much use for it once i have you machine.

      BTW, there’s something we haven’t talked about yet which is GB games.
      Much of the reason why i wanted to find a GBA is the fact that it can also run GB and GBC games.
      You machine, being a Reverse Engineered product, should be able to run these games, but since you haven’t mentioned anything about it yet, i feel the need to ask you about this.

      Dealextreme is a good solution for the US market, but in Europe some other solution must be used, as products from outside the Euro zone pay a heavy tax.

      It must be a store that sells at the very least to the entire Euro Zone (and from within the Euro Zone), who deals with alternative consoles and are likely to be interested in selling your machine.
      It’s not a easy task to find such a store.
      From the top of my head, i can only think of GBAX.
      They have a very weird navigation on their site. Going trough the main url doesn’t get us inside the site itself which is weird.
      Here’s a link to the page for the Dingoo:
      http://www.gbax.com/a320.html

      Another solution might be E-Bay, as long as the products are shipped from a warehouse in Europe.

      I don’t know, i’m just throwing some loose ideas out there to see if we can think of a solution.

      1. Resev, many thanks for the info. And you really got me. πŸ™ No, the K solution will not support GB and GBC directly. The reason is just because we need to keep our development resource in a very concentrated way and we need to move forward quickly before the lousy emulators occupy the world in an intolerant manner.:-) We did consider to do it in future work. Thanks for asking. For now, we just make it pure GBA and maybe someone can find good GB/GBC emulators on GBA (like Goomba?).
        Oh, the other minor reason why we skipped GB/GBC is we think most GB/GBC games have a better version on GBA already and GBA is more than a legend and we worship GBA with our own ways.

        For the sales channels, thanks again for the info.

  23. It would be absolutely amazing to have one of these. I was only looking for screen mods when I came across this stunning machine. πŸ™‚

    1. Just to be sure, you do know that the machine you’re talking to ‘K Team’ about is not the same as the machine in this blog post. I don’t want you to end up buying one of these because of something ‘K Team’ says about his own device.
      If you want link port functionality and TF slot you’ll have to wait until their machine is ready for prime time πŸ™‚

      1. Oh, alright, thanks.!

  24. i really want one of these, is there no way of fixing the link port ( I read a comment that the ext port only works with the computer only) for example: playing pokemon against another person.?

    1. @Jason, Our solution supports the link port, we have tested some games using the link and proves to work very well. There might be some minor flaws but should be good enough. If you can specify some specific games, we can tested it in advance. Preferably, you can provide the id number of the game title using offline list number: http://offlinelist.free.fr/

      By providing us more testbench, we can make the solution even better.

      1. Well, pokemon games generally. specifically, leaf green, sapphire, fire red, Esmerald, ruby. Would those work.?

      2. 0898,0907,1636,1637,1986.

      3. @Jason, we tested 0898 using 2 boards, one with SD card, the other as slave. It linked and worked very well. We don’t have the real cartridge of these games to test so we used the SD card version of our solution. I think the cartridge should work too. (We have Mario Kart cartridge and it did work with cartridge and SD card)

        Thanks Alex’s reminder. Please be sure NOT to confuse the “K Team solution” with emulators. So far, you will not find any K Team Solution on the planet except in our lab. We hope we can deliver the samples to reviewers asap in this month. And we will also try to find some shops to carry the product so you can purchase it in a more convenient way. Stay tuned here.

      4. is there a set price yet.? this one goes for $50 bucks.

      5. and also, will the battery last longer on your solution than the one on DX.?

      6. @Jason: The power consumption is only half of the existing emulators. So the battery life will be 2X or so. The price set may be similar or slightly higher, I guess, depending who carry the product then.

      7. do you know when it may be finished.?

  25. K Team, personally i would be very interested in such a product, but you must give us some way of tracking the status of development and sale, because we have no way of knowing otherwise.

    It was completely by chance that i ended up visiting this blog, so were it not for this i would have no way of learning about it.

    Right now i guess all i can do is expect that you keep us posted on this blog page, which i will save to the favorites for that purpose.

    1. @Sesev:Sorry that we didn’t have a webblog or something like, nor we had sales channel right now. I will provide something to Alex, the web master of this blog, for him to post. That’s one thing we plan to do now. Or you can suggest some more ways. This solution has just reached to her production ready stage and the manufacturers should be able to bring them to Russia in this month, according to my last communication with them. We will try to put the solution to DX or alike websites for you to order.. For now, we can delover some samples to whom who can help us to expose to other forums. If someone commit, we can arrange the samples. But, Alex should be the First. πŸ™‚

      1. There are a few busy forums and gaming sites that I know would be very interested to see and hear an in depth review of it, so I will do my best to spread the word once more info is available. As far as sales goes, somewhere like DX would be ideal but even just an ebay account would work fine in the short term.

        I’m really, really excited for this product. I hope mass production goes as smoothly as possible for you!

  26. Hello, Maxd. The device is currently on final mass production stage now. I think it should be able to launch in July or August. I only have limited number of hand-made samples which were produced to verify the compatibility and other things. There will be 2 types of this device: (1) Pure cartridge based — The real 100% clone, except the screen will be 320X240. (2) With microSD/TF card slot that players can load homebrew games or their own ROMs.The TF card can also load your MP3s Or even a JPG viewer. Depending on the market demand. There will be more coming out (we hope~) with different form factors. If you have any good idea, let us know.

    Until now, we are still looking for online stores or distributors to carry the products although we have some traders who exported to Russia/Mid-east. But non of them are running something like Dealextreme. Maybe we will call DX to see if they want it. So I really can not say when you guys in non-Asia can find it~~ If you guys can introduce the distributors, that will be great for us. By now, all of existing such products are emulators, not a reverse engineering work. They consume 2X battery and can not play a lot of game cartridges. The reason why they built-in 2GB with game loaded is their poor compatibility. Not to mention they put a lot of NES games on it, not GBA. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, I love to hear your voice and know what do you want for this classic game device! Thanks!

  27. K Team – I cannot find any online reference to the console your team is working on. I am extremely interested in buying your product once it hits online stores. I know that the chiptune community would love to get a gander at this clone you are working on, so if you could please post a link on this page’s comments section when the product hits the market, it would greatly be appreciated. πŸ™‚

  28. The link you provided is the same solution actually. 99% chance it is a Jz74xx MIPS chip running emulators. Believe it or not, they are evolving. Initial version built-in 92 games and now they have 3000 built-in and put back the video and MP3 now… It was repeating duplicated game titles.. not really so many games. Some version can show a save/cheat pop-up menu when you press “R+SELECT”. Some may show a menu giving you an option to skip frames.. etc. Some version even let you hook on USB as a mass storage seen by PC… Not being able to do MP3/MP5 whatever did not mean they are not emulators. πŸ™‚
    I know this so well because I am in the business and know these guys in China. The other reason is we have been watching this market for several years so we think hardware clone is the better way to do it. Emulators can not solve some basic problems. Say they can not run Golden Sun very smoothly (if they didnt crash), either. There are basic limitations in emulation. For the NES part, they used PocketNES to wrap NES to be a GBA, that’s because it’s the best way to add NES games to GBA. Surely they can do NES native emulation as they have done it in some models already. πŸ™‚

    Anyway, if you are interested, I can send you our clone machine (REAL R.E.!) in the next few weeks. We have a clone now but it takes only cartridge (No enternal Flash storage). Later, we will have a TF-Card version letting players download their own games on the TF card.
    Oh, I forgot to mention. if you want to prove it is a RE or it is emulation, check the PCB and you will find the DRAM like the photo in your link (Winbond 128Mb DRAM). Real RE does not need a DRAM.

    1. I agree there will almost be always be some problems with emulators, even the best emulator for the PC has trouble with some ROMs. A true hardware clone that functions exactly like the original in every way (link up, backwards compatibility etc) but includes new features (back light, TF etc) would be amazing.
      I sincerely wish I still had my GBA clone to dismantle and check out. If you are correct and it is nothing but an emulator then I would be quite disappointed, all the info I gathered from the internet suggests it is RE which I found much more of an amazing feat, despite it’s flaws.

      Of course I would be very happy to review your machine, this blog is about strange and wonderful machines from China, and it sounds like you are making a pretty interesting one πŸ™‚

  29. I do appreciate your input and maybe you’re correct.

    The link you posted isn’t a great comparison to my machine, instead I’d say this is a more likely candidate:

    http://www.assemblergames.com/forums/showthread.php?p=354902

    If I have time I’ll do some rooting about and see if I can find the close ups of the mainboard inside the GBA. As far as I remember someone researched the processor and found it to be an ARM chip running at 17MHZ – making emulation an impossibility.

    Other things that point away from emulation:

    No ability to play MP3. If this was an emulator it could play MP3 no problem, and the manufacturer would have included it as an extra feature, just like on every other handheld out there.

    No ability to play video except for the GBA video carts that were officially released by Nintendo. Again, if it was an emulator it could play normal video no problem.

    The NES games included on the machine run under the NES emulator coded for the GBA. If this machine were an emulator they’d just include a native NES emulator instead.

    Obviously the reverse engineering attempt wasn’t flawess, you are correct, some games don’t run very well (not very many though tbh). As for the link up port, I don’t have another machine to test it with – but it’s certainly not a ‘fake’ port. It is used to connect to the PC and to charge the device. I would guess that it probably doesn’t work as a link up, but that says nothing other than the RE attempt had some flaws in its design. I don’t have mine anymore, which is a shame because I’d gladly tear it apart and try to read what’s on the chips. I’ll have to try and find the photos that someone else took instead.

    Cheers for showing an interest, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye open for your machine in the future. Do you have any more info on it?

  30. To give you more clue. I think what you have is just one of these :
    http://www.assemblergames.com/forums/showthread.php?p=481768
    And there’re tons of that kind of emulators in China Taobao (China’s ebay-like website), like this:
    http://item.taobao.com/item.htm?id=3136160369

    They are all made with MP5 chips. MP5 = MP3 + Video playback (especially rmvb file). So many of them can play video.

    If you think it is a reverse engineering work, try to connect yours with original GBA by GBA-Link cable. The connector in this machine is even fake, connecting nothing inside the machine. Or, you can open the box to see the DRAM and measure the DRAM clock, which should be higher than 100MHz. Main CPU clock in the main chip (MP5 chip) is higher than 300MHz or even higher in some models, depending on which MP5 chip they used.

    I don’t mean to argue but just want to deliver the correct message.

  31. The device is NOT a reverse engineering work. It’s emulator based on VBA or something like, running on a 360MHz Jz4725 chip. Our team has been working on a real clone now and should be out in the next few weeks. Stay tuned..

    1. I’m not sure. The machine is running on an ARM7 CPU and is, to the best of my knowledge, a reverse engineering attempt of the original GBA, this has long since been acknowledged by hardware professionals on a few gaming forums. The Ingenic JZ4725 is a MIPS processor, not ARM.

      Also I find it doubtful that VBA could run any GBA games properly on a JZ4725, let alone nearly ALL of them.

      1. well, I am not sure which forum or experts you mentioned has proved it is not emulation.
        I either didnt say VBA can play every GBA game, this clone one is not better than VBA. You may find the clone one cannot even play TonyHawk(and many others) in a smooth way. Try it. The splash screen also comes slower than original GBA Anyway, I am happy there are still GBA fans there.

  32. I change the extension of a avi file to gba will it play the video

    1. No. This isn’t an emulator, it’s a reverse engineered GBA with the same capability as the original GBA. The original GBA was nowhere near capable of decoding standard resolution xvid video.

  33. I heard the battery is a cheap copy of a Gameboy Advance SP battery. If this is the case, would I be able to switch this batter with a normal SP battery, and increase battery life that way?

    1. Yes, I’m pretty sure you can. I remember someone saying it on some website. You apparently cut some black wires holding it in then just put the SP battery in and it should work fine πŸ˜€

  34. I have the “solid blue” color version of this same handheld. I agree with everything in your review. This is a great clone of a GBA – except for one thing. The rechargable battery (apparently a copy of a GBA-SP cell) only holds enough power for about 2 hours of play before needing a recharge. To me that is barely acceptable. I’d really like to see a minimum of 4 to 5 hours of playtime between charges.

  35. Hey, do you know if this uses a reverse engineered/cloned bios? What does it sound like when it starts up? the same, or different?

  36. have you had any white screen errors …. ive heard there prominent in the black colored system

  37. no it doesn’t work with link cables unfortunately.

  38. does this thing work with a link cable???, i’m thinking about buying it to test my pkmn hacks and need to know whether trading works etc.. if it comes with a usb cable from deal extreme, ill get one from there.

  39. If i bought this on BestOfferBuy.com, would i get a usb cable. The webpage doesn’t say…

    1. no idea, i got mine from dealextreme. it came with a USB cable from there.

  40. Kyk ek het ‘n gba, maar die min gebruik dat hierdie ongewenste bring eienskappe soos die gebrek aan lig.

    Ek is mal oor hierdie gba gekloon, wil ek graag Paar as jy ‘speletjies en Game Boy kleur spel!

    PD: resp ‘n myl kanaal o’ n mi boodskapper

  41. nice, it has a backlight and it is probably better than the gba and the gba sp

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