BigBoy Advance - Bacteria's GBA portable with 8" screen

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BigBoy Advance - Bacteria's GBA portable with 8" screen

Postby Bacteria » Sun Jun 08, 2014 9:20 am

One of my first modding projects was to make a GBA portable (2007 I think I made it); used a GBA Transverter which worked well but got destroyed a few years later; system was crudely made, far too large, too heavy, wrong batteries and switches and buttons used; but it worked. Early projects are always learning curves after all.

This time, i'm using an 8" 4:3 format screen and using an AD Adapter which outputs composite in very good quality (similar to the RetroBit unit, looks the same, works the same but cheaper). Going to either use a PAL SNES board or most probably, the RetroDuo system I have as that is NTSC and the output of the AD Adaptor is NTSC (although should work on PAL units too). I have the components I need and tested the rig and all works fine.

The screen case is 183x140mm, the screen itself has visible area of around 167x130mm so a large screen. I am expecting the case to be therefore 270x145mm approximately; the extra width will be taken by the width of the speakers, and of course d-pad and other buttons. System will run on batteries (assuming final weight won't get too heavy) or mains. I only need 7.5v for the screen and 5v via a regulator for the RetroDuo; so voltages are simple too.

As the screen is large and might get damaged, going to incorporate a screen protector - not a screen cover (although might use one unless it is too shiny), but a panel held on with rare earth magnets to protect the screen area when system not being used. That also gives a nice area to slap on a decal too. I have already worked out the magnets work fine with 1mm thick styrene, so have bought some 0.5mm styrene sheets to make the screen plate.

As far as casemaking is concerned, going to curve the system to make it interesting, was toying with making a case with curves but not vacuum forming it, however probably makes sense to vacuum form it, even though I only have the need to make one case from the finished mold. Easy way to make a mold as such, given I don't have woodworking tools, is to make a container with the basic shape and fill it with quick drying cement, then when dried, can use my electric sander to form the curves and make the complete unit, for vacuum forming.

At the planning stage at the moment, just working out the thickness the system will end up being and also the front layout and case shape and design.
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Corvexicus » Sun Jun 08, 2014 3:23 pm

Can't wait to see its progress!
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Bacteria » Sun Jun 08, 2014 10:24 pm

Good - well, here's some:

Planned out the case, using some of the parts I will be using

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The speakers are good quality ones, the buttons are quite large but state "A" and "B" on them, and the d-pad is from an N64 SuperPad 64 controller.

Then put a piece of clear acetate onto the paper to use as a template. Cut out strips of pine and hot glued them to the perimeter, then cut out strips of acetate and hot glued those to the posts; then hot glued to seal the edges so the quick drying cement i'm using for the mold doesn't seep out.

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Then, reinforced the sides so they don't collapse under the weight of the cement - just cut out triangles and hot glued them to the sides

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No pic of this yet, will take one in the morning, but have filled the container with quick drying cement, used about 3kg of dry cement (pre-mixed), so the structure is probably about 4kg in weight. Holding fine. Idea is when I wake up in the morning it should be set rock hard, so I can then remove the block from the acetate, and set to work with my electric sander to make the shape and contours, to then do the vacuum forming. All going well, I should be in a position of doing the vacuum forming tomorrow; then when happy with it, making the holes for the system, sanding it down, then buying some spraypaint during the week.

The reason i'm using the pre-mixed quick drying cement is it is very strong, but a smooth surface, and also easy to sand by hand or electric sander.

One thing I learnt a while back is to make the whole case as one piece, and thicker than you need the system to ultimately be, so the case halves should then meet up quite precisely with less hassle. The case will end up around 30mm thick, so i'm making this around 40mm thick for that reason, after sanding it will probably end up 35mm thick anyway.

I will have to be careful not to over-sand the sides as the case will be quite tight in size as it is. If I do over-sand a bit, I can grind down the edges of the speakers a little, so have a little tolerance but not much; also if the d-pad needs to be further away from the edge, I can use a smaller d-pad if need to - I have quite a few in stock to choose from.
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Mozzi » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:35 am

So I'm still new to all this, but I was thinking today about how no one has ever made a GBA screen bigger because you can only order them in one size. but from what I see, and please correct me if I'm wrong, but are you using a SNES to play GBA cartridges? Is that what the concept is?
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Bacteria » Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:52 am

The GBA natively comes as the GBA or the GBA SP; you can also play GBA on the DS and DS Lite; all of which use the small screens, as the large DS XL console does not take GBA games. You are therefore given no option but to use a TV out method to play GBA games on a larger screen, or by emulation of course. The GBA Transverter was a very good unit (via RGB) in its day but impossible gadget to get now, the GBA Converter is easy to get but output is bad as the screen jutters all the time due to inconsistent and inaccurate pixel upscaling (and the image does not fill the whole screen); there is a Chinese GBA SP type unit, no idea the quality of the output from that (John Sparks might know); no other option.

Then came of course the GBA addon for the GameCube, the GBA Player - that looks very nice indeed and of course RGB output is easy, downside is you need the GBA plus disc drive to use it, and also does not fill the whole screen with the image either which is a shame. Then came along the Retro-Bit and the AD Adaptor - both of which are the same BTW - uses GBA hardware in a cartridge that has to connect to the SNES console; you use the SNES controller; output is composite only and via the game cart itself not the SNES; however the image quality is excellent, the composite output looks on par with RGB quality.

That's the gadget i'm using in this project for the 8" screen...
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Mozzi » Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:19 am

Bacteria wrote:The GBA natively comes as the GBA or the GBA SP; you can also play GBA on the DS and DS Lite; all of which use the small screens, as the large DS XL console does not take GBA games. You are therefore given no option but to use a TV out method to play GBA games on a larger screen, or by emulation of course. The GBA Transverter was a very good unit (via RGB) in its day but impossible gadget to get now, the GBA Converter is easy to get but output is bad as the screen jutters all the time due to inconsistent and inaccurate pixel upscaling (and the image does not fill the whole screen); there is a Chinese GBA SP type unit, no idea the quality of the output from that (John Sparks might know); no other option.

Then came of course the GBA addon for the GameCube, the GBA Player - that looks very nice indeed and of course RGB output is easy, downside is you need the GBA plus disc drive to use it, and also does not fill the whole screen with the image either which is a shame. Then came along the Retro-Bit and the AD Adaptor - both of which are the same BTW - uses GBA hardware in a cartridge that has to connect to the SNES console; you use the SNES controller; output is composite only and via the game cart itself not the SNES; however the image quality is excellent, the composite output looks on par with RGB quality.

That's the gadget i'm using in this project for the 8" screen...


Ah, I see. Thank you for your thought process. These sort of posts always help me figure out more about the modding world. It's quite an interesting project, and I can't wait to see what it's like in the future!
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Bacteria » Mon Jun 09, 2014 7:44 am

About to start sanding down the mold to make it look like a case mold, will take a bit of time; will give pics later on. If this fails, i'll make the case shell manually, however will end up looking a bit boxey, which I don't want, hence the vacuum forming.
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Akira » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:45 am

If there is a Retro-Bit inside. will you make a dual cartridge slot to play snes games and Gameboy series games?

also, don't put a and b like that, looks weird imho. angle them like at least like this :awesome:

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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Bacteria » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:41 am

Haven't worked out the placement of the A and B buttons yet until make the case, or their angle; the photo was for illustration.

Just keeping this system as GBA, going to hardwire the AD Adaptor to the system to conserve space.
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Re: Large screen GBA portable project

Postby Bacteria » Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:33 am

So, here's the slab of concrete cake, after leaving it overnight to set. It is quick drying, however thick so needs a few hours to set hard. The struts supported the construction well, did their job. The concrete must weigh over 5kgs I would guess, it's pretty heavy after all.

I could have used clay but clay is not only expensive but more importantly than that, shrinks; concrete does not, assuming of course your mix isn't too watery.

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I used acetate for two reasons - firstly it is clear so easier to know the parameters for making the case, but secondly, and this is the important one, it does not stick to the cement, so easy to remove; also of course, non-porous.

Turn the mold over:

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Lift off the backing sheet, lifts off really easily:

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...and then cut the side with scissors and remove that too.

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Result:

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Looks pretty crude to put it mildly, but at least pretty symmetrical.

Next job is to use an electric sander with large grains of sandpaper ideally, a sanding block and an electric drill with a sanding drum on it to make the shape curved and as wanted.

I have pretty much finished this process, after a couple of hours sanding outside (as the cement makes a lot of dust), will upload pictures of the finished unit when done.
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