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Game Boy Micro vs. iPods (and nano) photos

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2005
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When Nintendo announced the Game Boy Micro ($99.95) back in May, some people understood why it was a good idea, and some people didn’t. For years, game consoles have been defined by horsepower, and the release of one new system necessarily meant the obsolescence of the last one. However, portable games, particularly the Game Boy family, have been nearly exempt from this rule. The original black and white Game Boys outsold color handhelds from Sega, Atari, NEC and a dozen others, ruling the roost for a longer period of time than any other portable console out there - despite serious challenges. And Nintendo’s followup platform Game Boy Advance (GBA) continues to exist today, even though the company has focused most of its attention on the more recent Nintendo DS platform.

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The reason to keep GBA around in some form is obvious: it continues to have an installed base greater than any competing (and still breathing) portable platform. More importantly, it has tons of software. There are over 700 Game Boy Advance titles on the market already, including some really good games. What a far cry from the olden days (see Mario’s Bombs Away from 1983 at left, below) when $50-100 would buy you a single Nintendo Game & Watch handheld that played a grand total of one game.

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That’s part of why Game Boy Micro makes sense. As a miniaturized GBA with an illuminated screen (like GBA SP), it plays a huge library of existing, under-$30 games that are ideal for short periods of time. But as the name suggests, it’s small - smaller than a full-sized color iPod, but with a wider (if shorter) screen that’s equally bright. And it has a speaker. And it has a headphone port (unlike GBA SP). And it has removable face plates for your choice of custom looks.

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No, it’s not smaller than the iPod nano (best of luck on that one, Nintendo). But as the photos you’ll see in Read More demonstrate, it’s as easy as an iPod mini to slip into your pocket. We’ll have more coverage of Game Boy Micro in the days to come.

Here’s the obvious comparison shot - Game Boy Micro versus mini and nano. Micro is thicker than mini and a little taller, but narrower. In a nice, 3G iPod-like touch, its bottom start and select buttons glow red when the power’s running low, and bright blue when the power’s recharging, or just turning on. We miss the 3G iPod’s glowing buttons - this is a nice and unexpected Nintendo design move.

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Thickness comparison and rear comparison shots. The only area where Micro suffers a bit - and then, not in a way that Game Boy buyers typically mind - is in its reliance on black plastic casing. It feels a bit like a micro cassette recorder in build quality, which contrasts with the solid GBA SP and Nintendo DS machines. But then, they’re a lot bigger, too.

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A shot without the face plate on. Nintendo has shown a huge number of replacement plates - the one we wish we had is a Japan exclusive that looks just like an original Nintendo Famicom (Japanese NES) controller, plus the alternate version that looks like the distinctive, microphone-equipped second Famicom controller. The release of both of these, particularly the latter, was genius. Wish we had a photo.

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Finally, there’s the screen. It’s really bright and surprisingly easy to read given its size. Even though we liked the SP a lot, we think that GBM will be replacing it without any question in our “light travel” bags. You give up relatively little to get something that’s easier to carry and enjoy.

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We’ll talk more about the internal rechargeable battery, control responsiveness, and other related issues in a follow-up piece in the near future. For now, we hope you enjoyed these shots.

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Comments

1

This is a great little comparison piece. I really hope you explain your opinion of the difference in screen size. I really want a Micro, but is the brighter screen really as comfortable to use as, say, the GBA-SP’s screen?

Posted by Lestrade on September 13, 2005 at 2:10 PM (PDT)

2

I may just end up getting one of these. I haven’t had a gameboy in forever, and though I want the DS like crazy, it may be too much (I already have the PSP) maybe the Micro would get me back on my GBA games. Maybe

Posted by urbandryad on September 13, 2005 at 3:15 PM (PDT)

3

I’m under the impression that the original iPod design was inspired by the original GameBoy form factor.

Ironically, it seems that Nintendo was inspired by the iPod mini when they decided to release a very small version of the GBA in an aluminum casing.

Also notable is the G4 Cube—> GameCube and Mac mini—> Revolution similarities.

The president of Nintendo, Mr. Iwata even quoted Steve Jobs at the Revolution unveiling last E3.

Posted by VL-Tone on September 13, 2005 at 8:30 PM (PDT)

4

After a bit of play time tonight, a few comments.

The difference in screens is going to be a matter of personal preference. When you hold them next to each other, SP’s screen is bigger. But it is neither as bright, or as crisp. It looks washed out by comparison, and as if every line of pixels has a black line of pixels next to it. DS’s screen is brighter than SP’s, but has the same washed out look. GBM’s is apparently brighter still, and looks crisper.

It’s a tough call as to which is the “best.” I personally think GBM is a bit overpriced, and makes DS look like a bargain (plays most all GBA games the same, has extra screen, includes stylus, more buttons, more power). But they are different products for different people.

Incidentally, I tweaked the explanation above of GBM’s colored start and select buttons to note specifically when the lights glow.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 13, 2005 at 8:58 PM (PDT)

5

urbandryad: Y’know, you could get a DS for just $30 more bucks than the GB Micro… although I could understand why you’re broke if you already bought the PSP raspberry

Posted by Pikachelsea on September 14, 2005 at 3:28 AM (PDT)

6

OK: dumb question: I’m not much of a gamer, although I do have a GBA, but what’s a “DS”?  And has the GBM been released yet? How much?  This might make me want to get out those games I haven’t played in ages!

Posted by Parrotthead Phan on September 14, 2005 at 7:42 AM (PDT)

7

I have a Nintendo DS (the “DS” in question, Parrotthead Phan) and a GBA-SP, which is why I’m asking about the screen. My GBA-SP is good to me, although I understand the washed-out nature of the screen. The DS’ screens are brighter, but the DS’ button placement makes GBA games hard to play (in my opinion).

So in this case, money isn’t a concern, because if I like the technology, I will get it regardless, and I own all the other options besides. grin

Thanks, Jeremy!

Posted by Lestrade on September 14, 2005 at 8:29 AM (PDT)

8

Can the gbm play gbc or gb-original game cartridges?  I still have my oldies which I still enjoy playing (still can’t beat Pokemon red/blue XD), but ah well. 

I only own a gba sp (nes-style), I just adore it as it reminds me of the nes.  Oh my, time is definitely our new enemy against the 80s kids. =P

Posted by Jessica on September 14, 2005 at 1:07 PM (PDT)

9

Something not many people are discussing is comparing the GBM and the play-yan micro in comparison with any of the ipods. Not as much space for music, but it eliminates using an ipod and a gameboy ... I still want an ipod nano though ...

Posted by sybrscribe on September 14, 2005 at 4:48 PM (PDT)

10

this thing doesn’t play vidios, does it? if not it’s not worth it to me. i’ve got the original gba.

Posted by ipodminilovr on September 14, 2005 at 6:06 PM (PDT)

11

Parrotthead Phan: DS is Nintendo’s most recent entry into portable gaming. It attempts to defy the way we play games and revolutionize the market by including two screens, dual processors, a touch screen, a microphone for voice recognition, and built-in Wi-fi technology for wireless local and, ultimately, online play. http://www.nintendo.com/systemsds

Jessica: The GBM will not play original GB or GBC games. The reason is because it has been designed solely for GBA games. The GBA SP is probably the last of the portable systems from Nintendo that will play these older games. (The selling point of already having instant access to 1000 games for the original Game Boy Advance is recreated because we are nearing that many games alone for the Advance series.)

VL-Tone: Those are some funky comparisons. I definitely agree with those who state Nintendo is the Apple of the video game market. The only significant product differences are that Nintendo creates far less expensive and ‘crappier’ (for lack of better word) products. Not that this is a direct negative - the video game industry is clearly a lot different to the portable music one. The proof is there that people will spend more on a solid music player, but there is no proof people will pay premium for a video game system that cost a lot more to manufacture. Probably because of the demographic difference.

Posted by Edward on September 14, 2005 at 8:12 PM (PDT)

12

the play-yan micro will play videos as well as mp3. the videos require a specific encode, to, i believe ASF. The micro has a better screen resolution and brightness than the SP. this isnt a micro article though - the micro with the play-yan micro is just a viable alternative to those who want to play mp3s and video games with one unit.

Posted by sybrscribe on September 15, 2005 at 3:32 PM (PDT)

13

Jeremy:  Is the Black body GBMicro anodized metal or painted?

Thankee sai.

Posted by DynamicStability on September 18, 2005 at 7:06 PM (PDT)

14

I have a NDS, PSP and my GBM is on it’s way from gamestop.com. I am giving My PSP& NDS to my sister. I sold all of my GBA games a week before hearing about the GBM, so I had to rebuy all of my GBM games back. I am gonna love my GBM , even if I can’t see the screen. It’s looks before function. I wight keep my PSP.

Posted by BJ on September 26, 2005 at 6:59 PM (PDT)

15

I saw a pic of the GBM compared to a battery. They’re the same height. I’m rethinking giving my sister my PSP, and my DS. Heh I’m only 13 what did you expect. I wish I didn’t have to buy my own stuff, like this $99 GBM, the $249 PSP, and the $149 DS. I’m just glad they were spread so far apart on their release dates. Gotta go clean up some cheerios.

Posted by BJ on September 26, 2005 at 7:09 PM (PDT)

16

bonjour

Posted by youcef on November 30, 2005 at 5:26 AM (PDT)

17

i think the game boy micro is way way way betterthan the rest of the game boys

Posted by d-dj on February 9, 2006 at 5:35 PM (PDT)

18

Thanks for the great pictures

Posted by K on February 13, 2007 at 2:41 PM (PDT)

19

I really like the game boy micro
im trying to find some football games but i cant email me if anyone find one. oh yel i think the game boy micro is better than all of the rest of the gameboys that is how i feel. thank you

Posted by doosie on January 25, 2008 at 8:37 AM (PDT)

20

i prefer the sp because it can play all gameboy games while the micro can only play gameboy advance games. but i guess the micros ok to have.

Posted by PXyang on March 31, 2008 at 5:44 PM (PDT)

21

hey i have a nds and a gba. I dont really play my gba anymore because I cant c the screen with no light. it stinks. im guna save it untill im like 50 and it will be extremly old then i can sell it. i dont know if i can get my parents to let me buy the micro though.

Posted by Rob on November 23, 2008 at 3:10 PM (PDT)

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