GBA and GP32 - Head to head


May 8, 2003
Leicester, UK
Now I've had time to get to know my GP32, I've been busy comparing it to the GBA. Now before I start let me stress that this is not some playground-style battle of 'which one is the best'. Although the two machines are aimed at different parts of the market, they are similar in many ways so it's obvious that they will be put head to head at some point. So here goes.


At first, I thought the GP32 was as sturdy as the GBA, but after going back to Nintendo's machine, I have to say that the GBA has the edge is this area. There's not much difference in the buttons but the microswitched stick on the GP32 is inferior to the digital pad of the GBA. I would have prefered GamePark to have gone with a digi pad. When gameplay gets a little frantic, the microswitched stick just isn't up to it. It also feels slightly cheap (although it's probably more expensive to make than a digi pad) and I often worry that it might break at some point. The GBA pad is much better in this respect.

The GBA is slightly more compact and 'feels' better, more sturdy. With the GP32 I often find myself cradling the machine because I'm scared that it might break. (I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the build quality of the GBA is better.) I'd say that they both fit in the hand fairly well, the GP32 is probably a little more comfortable as it has more rounded edges. After prolonged periods of play, both systems tend to give me cramp.


After playing on the GP32 for a while, going back to the GBA is very hard. The screen on Nintendo's machine simply isn't good enough. There's the infamous light problem, and it's far too small - the widescreen ratio design is a complete mistake, God knows what made Nintendo design it that way. The screen on the GP32 is better in almost every repect. It's bigger, has higher detail and seems to cope better in low-light situations. The only thing the GBA has over the GP32 in this area is the 'smudge' factor. The GBA screen is easier to wipe clean. I've got a couple of fingermarks on my GP32 screen and they're very hard to get rid of. The GBA screen can be cleaned in a single wipe but the GP32 one requires a little more work. Fingermarks seem to 'stick' on the GP32 screen, and wiping them with a cloth only seems to spread them out. I think a different kind of plastic has been used on the GP32 screen.

(The GBA SP has a backlight as standard, which is a decent addition. I have a standard GBA however and I have made my judgements on that model.)


It boils down to this - GBA: mono sound, GP32: Stereo sound (even if the speakers are the wrong way round). I've yet to hear what the commercial GP32 games sound like but the GBA's sound qualities are hardly amazing so it can't be any worse. I've always had an issue with the GBA's sound, it sometimes drifts into NES quality when it really should have sound as good as the SNES, if not better.


A difficult and largely pointless area to judge, because the GP32 can dip into the games of several consoles (including the GBA). However, there's one thing I dislike about emulation - you're not playing the game as it was intended to be played. Games work best on the hardware they were made for (obviously) so if you're a purist then having to mess with frameskips and sound channels might put you off. The GBA games look more polished because they are running on 'pure' hardware. For some people that might make the GBA better. For others, the sheer number of games playable on the GP32 will tip the balance in favour of GamePark's machine. For me, I'm still unsure. I'm playing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow at the moment on my GBA and nothing on the GP32 has hooked me as much...yet. Like I said, a difficult area to judge.


GP32 wins, hands down. The things you can do with this machine are amazing. A built-in MP3 player is a good start, but you can read books, watch videos and view pictures as well. The GBA has an MP3 player (it'll cost you extra though) but can't do half as much as the GP32. The GP32 can do all of these things out of the box, the GBA will always need extra hardware to do anything other than play games. Nintendo would argue that the GBA is a handheld console first and foremost, but you simply cannot ignore the fact that portable techology is converging (see Nokia's N-Gage for an example) and soon Nintendo will have to start including MP3 players and other extras as standard, or the Gameboy brand will be in danger of being left behind. There is no reason why the GBA could not have had an MP3 player from the start, the technology isn't expensive and I'm sure most people would have gladly paid a little extra for the feature.


It's a tough one. In a perfect world, everyone would buy both. Handhelds aren't that pricey anyway so anyone who takes games seriously should really invest in both machines. Personally I can see myself getting equal use out of the two machines, but I if I didn't have either, I'd probably suggest the GP32. It has so much scope and does so many things. It takes more effort to get working but it's more than worth it.

Basically they're both very worthy purchases.

(Sorry for the sell-out verdict.)
Very good report Duddyroar, i think on the most part i agree with what you said EXCEPT for these points....

When gameplay gets a little frantic, the microswitched stick just isn't up to it.

Just wanted to give my 2c, i think the joystick design is MUCH better then the GBA, purely because you dont get a stiff thumb while playing for a long time, the amount of times i cursed the cramp while playing Zelda on the GBA

I'm playing Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow at the moment on my GBA and nothing on the GP32 has hooked me as much...yet.

This i agree with to a point, but the problem for me is purely once you use a GP32 for so long, i CANNOT go back to that small screen, not for nothing, even tho i was a good goood way into all the Castlevania and a whole bunch of the RPG's. Sad but true, it just really puts me off.


It's a tough one.

naaa, screen size/res = overall betterness, simple and i know im not alone in saying that tiny GBA screen stops me dead the second i turn it on. Its a shame cause i do like a few of its games, roll on GBA emulation :p
Good review! If you don't mind, I'm going to add my $0.02 on each section:


I'd have to agree here. The GP32's a lot sturdier than I thought it would be, but the GBA SP is rock solid.


GP32, hands-down. The GBA SP is a tad brighter, but it's still easy enough to see everything on the GP32 screen. Plus, the proper aspect ratio of the GP32 is great for all that fullscreen emulation. ;)


This all depends on the software. I've heard GBA games that are absolutely mindblowing, as well as a few that are subpar. The GBA does have stereo sound, if you use headphones, of course. But then again, the best way to hear sound regardless is with headphones. If we're talking games, then the GBA's got it. If we're talking MP3s and such, then obviously the GP32 is the clear winner. So they're about evenly matched in this regard.


Commercial = GBA, homebrew/emulated = GP32. No other way to slice it.


GP32 again. There's not many GBA add-ons, and most of them are pretty lame.


I'm just glad I have both. ;)
I know what you mean Bonks. The GBA pad does tend to hurt your thumb after a while and the stick of the GP32 avoids this, but I still prefer the GBA pad. It just feels much better and when playing a game that requires quick responses and accuracy, it never lets me down (even if it does make my thumb hurt like hell after a while). I just can't imagine playing a game like Street Fighter Zero 3 on the GP32 pad. If it was the same quality as the NeoGeo Pocket stick (and sunken, like the NGP stick) then I'd be much happier.
These 2 systems ARE pretty hard to judge, especially since there are basically 3 versions of the GBA (remember the afterburner), and 2 versions of the GP32.

If you like old games, and have some patience, the GP32 is a better choice. It's also cheaper to own a large number of games on the GP32.

But the GBA is easier to use, hands down. Shelling out $30 bucks a game adds up pretty quickly, though.

To conclude, the GP32 is more rewarding in the long run. But for my 8 year old brother, the GBA is simply more ideal.
I think the decisions split on the Thumbstick on the GP I think its the best hand held control stick/pad out. It works great with doom and offers more precise control. where's other like the sturdy less responsive=less muck-ups, D-pad.

A year a go I would have said I was a Nintendo fan through and through. BUT this year I got an Xbox and a GP32 and haven't touched my GBA or Camecube(apart from playing Timespliters and worms blast with the mrs) in yonks (well the GBA in days since i got my GP) thanks to these two all singing, all dancing pieces of electronic goodness. Nintendo might prefer games quality over utility but the GP and Xbox have stunning titles (well the GP has other formats stunning titles ;) ) and Amazing utility, Xbox live is a breath of fresh air: Online gaming without all the bloody cheaters & the GP32 is mobile entertainment personified(or what ever the inanimate version of personification is :wacko: )

This post was (brought to you) by the society for the over use of bra(kets (thats the things either side of this sentence)
I wouldn't say that's strictly true.

They both have hard ware that has similar base functions.... Buttons and joypad/stick to control software. A screen for display. So I thinks its perfectly fair to compare them on this basis.

They also occupy the same spare time as each other... entertainment on the go. If your going on a 2 hr train journey what do you grab b4 you go? your GBA-SP? your GP32? your Palmtop? your portable DVD player? so as i see it its also fair to say "I would rather get my entertainment on
the go from ....."

Its not like we're comparing toasters & lawnmowers?

Ok it sounds like im pro-system war so ill go skulk of to my asbestos lined cave
My verdict is, who the hell cares about a gba, I have a gp32. Im not here to argue the stong/weak points between gp32 and gba, because they are different in too many ways.
Stupid dpad on the gba killed me countlesss times in Bomberman Tournament, it'd be sooo nice if this system had a gba emulator :D
Axeman posted on May 27 2003 said:
I still say there's no point comparing them. Horses for courses....

GBA - commercial games - plug and play niceness...

GP32 - Everything else :D
Exactly right.

But in the end, if my house was burning down and I had to choose - it would always be the GP32.
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If my house was burning, I'd throw both of them out of the window, and then run outside. But if I really had to choose, then that would suck cause I'd end up taking too long to make the decision, and I'd die :(
Granted, the two machines are different in many ways, but as JDUK points out, they are both aimed at gamers on the go and fall into the same hardware field - handhelds.

Like I said before, in an ideal world people could have both. At the moment my time is divided between Defender of the Crown on Castaway and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow on the GBA. I'm sure everyone has enough time to fit both into their lives. :)
No but recently I had to endure a 2 and a half hour train journey that turned into a 3 and a half hour journey, I kept myself sane by playing gp32 games then after a while switching to mp3s then finally watching a divx...if i had had a gba with me i would of smashed something
I can see why some are quick to jump in with "no no no they cant be compared because there not the same" statements. After all this is how huge, shit throwing, child like, arguments start. BUT unlike or forums people here seem very capable of saying "X console can do this better than Y" and still post sensible responses like "I agree" or "I disagree" not "Ps2/Nintendo 0wnz j00 sUx0rz!" (or what ever kids are saying these days). And while no bottles are being thrown out of prams I think its a legitimate comparison.
Shrike - That's where the GP32 really wins over the GBA - the fact that it can do so much more. Also, because you can fit several games on one SMC, there's no need to take cartridges around with you. And then there's the MP3 player and movie viewer. All things the GBA cannot do (out of the box).

Still, my GBA has gotten me through enough boring bus trips and train delays for me to know that it's still a machine worth owning. Hell, being able to play Zelda III on the move makes it worth buying. I know that the GP32 will soon have decent SNES emulation (fingers crossed not too long to wait now) but the GBA lets you do these things now and it is arguable that the GP32 will never run these games as well as the GBA does.

I know it seems strange that even though I've given my verdict that the GP32 is better I'm still standing up for they GBA, but I want the GBA to get a fair deal because it's a great machine. I'm a little worried by the outright dismissal of the GBA by some people on this thing you can't deny is that the GBA has some brilliant games, poor screen and lack of features aside.