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Many decried the original GBA's reflective LCD screen and its reliance on external light sources. The Game Boy Advance SP's main feature--optional built-in lighting--fixes this complaint nicely. The quality of the backlighting is very good; it's bright and clear when looking directly at the screen, though less so from other angles.
The SP comes with a power adapter that recharges a built-in lithium battery; our informal tests found that it takes about four hours to fully charge (you can play it while it's plugged in and charging), and the battery lasts about 11 hours with the backlighting constantly on. Using the backlighting less often will conserve battery power.
Size, power, and affordability don't come without trade offs, though. There's no headphone jack here--you'll need a separately sold adapter--and the system isn't very loud at its highest volume. The L and R shoulder buttons are a fraction of the size they were on the GBA, and thus are harder to hit, and the reduced size of the SP is slightly less comfortable for adult hands than the GBA. The cartridge port placement on the lower part of the console is fine for GBA games, since they are flush with the console body, but older Game Boy Color carts will stick out in a way that takes some getting used to.
Overall, the SP is a significant improvement on, and seems just as rugged as, its predecessor--which has proven to be very rugged indeed. --Porter B Hall
Speaking of power sources, the SP comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides between 10 and 18 hours of gameplay from a three-hour charge. Also, the new clam-shell design will offer protection for the screen from scratches when it's all closed up. As well as playing all your Game Boy Advance games, the system is backward-compatible with almost all Game Boy/Game Boy Color titles.
The styling and looks of the GBA SP are superb, it just looks nice and sits comfortably in the hand. I'd read some criticism about the shoulder buttons, but I find them to be in a good position, and don't have to fumble about to use them. It's nice and light and small too, and this truly does make it a proper portable handheld.
The backlight is a long overdue addition to the GameBoy range. I had used friends' original GameBoy Advance, and found it frustrating trying to see what was happening on the screen without a serious amount of lighting. Now, I can happily play in the dark. Which is nice.
The one factor which really made me cough up the hard earned cash for this was the variety and quality of games available. I'm currently working my way through Zelda-Link to the Past, and Metroid Fusion. The fact that I can link Metroid Fusion to Metroid Prime on my GameCube and unlock yet another Metroid game is just a nice bonus.
There's no doubt about it - this is a nice piece of kit which will provide me with hours of blissful gaming entertainment. All I wonder now is how the recently announced Sony PSP will compare ...
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