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Reviews

Short Take: GBA Movie Player

By DickieAdams June 5, 2006, 12:00 am

INTRODUCTION


When purchasing a handheld gaming system, unlike PDAs, I don’t usually look for more functionality, but rather the available game titles and compatibility. But after watching a couple of interesting tidbits on a friend’s PSP, naturally, I was intrigued with the possibilities that could be obtained through my existing Nintendo handhelds. The GBA Movie Player (available through Lik-Sang) had an impressive list of options, not to mention that the box sad that it was "a good and cool device for your GBA". How could one resist such powerful advertising!? Always up for a good challenge, we now present a closer look at the device that is supposedly going "to make your GBA perfect." Read on for the Short Take!

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U PICK STORAGE


While there is both a SD and CF version of the GBA Movie player, the CF model (Figure 1) does provide the maximum capabilities (especially when using emulators). Relatively unadorned, and made of red and white plastic, the GBA Movie Player is solidly built.

Figure 1:The top of the GBA Movie Player cartridge.

Figure 1:The top of the GBA Movie Player cartridge.

Missing from the design are any guide tracks for the CF card (Figure 2). While you can’t really lock the card in place if it is facing the wrong direction, it would have been an easy feature to add. Once inserted, the card is flush with the rest of the cartridge.

Figure 2: Inserting a CF card into the cartridge.


YARR, THERE BE THE WHITE WHALE


Attaching the unit to your device, one quickly realizes how huge this cartridge really is. On the Micro (Figure 3a), it peeks out a little over an inch, and on the DS Lite (Figure 3b), a good inch and a half. Thankfully, it doesn’t impede on the controls for either device.

Figure 3a: The GBA Movie Player installed in a Micro.

Figure 3b: The GBA Movie Player installed in a DS Lite.

Compared to a standard Gameboy Advance cartridge (Figure 4), the GBA Movie Player seems almost freakishly large, even if its footprint is relatively small.

Figure 4: Side by side with a standard Gameboy Advance cartridge.

CONVERTED TO PLAY


Included in the package is the a CD containing conversion software (Figure 5). Ranging from movies, to audio and pictures, the conversion software puts your existing content into a format usable on the GBA Movie Player. A video, originally an hour long and 3.5 Gigs in size, was converted (in high quality mode, stereo) down to just about 192Mb for the audio and video GBS/M files. If you are limited on card size, you can actually break up the files into chunks for easier storage. Problem was, I couldn’t get the conversion software to work on my main PC (couldn’t detect DirectX, even after I reinstalled three times), but would work on my DVR PC. And unfortunately, there isn’t much help to be had from the manufacturers website.

Figure 5: The included movie conversion software.

After you’ve converted, copied, and launched the GBA Movie Player, you are greeted with a quick splash screen announcing that this is not a Nintendo licensed, sponsored, or endorsed product, and then are shown the main menu (Figure 6). There are six icons here, Movie, Music, Picture, Game, Book, and Setup.

Figure 6: GBA Movie Player main menu.

Entering into one of the content menus (such as Movie), you are then shown a list of available titles, as named on the CF card (Figure 7). One simply selects the title and the content appears.

Figure 7: The movie listing.

Looking first at the Movie content, I converted two types of video – a concert and some anime (Figures 8a and b). Overall, the quality was decent, but still was rather mottled and grainy. This was less noticeable in the animated content. The audio was average on both. Nothing spectacular, but certainly watchable in any respect. You can pause, restart, and fast forward/rewind (or skip), but you if you exit the video and return, it doesn’t remember where you left off.

Figure 8a: Video example on the DS Lite.

Figure 8b: Video example on the Micro.

The Music option was disappointing in most respects (Figure 9). While you could play the audio files while using the Picture or Book capabilities, the audio was sub-par. Not something that I would subject myself to over a prolonged period of times. The original 5.8Mb .mp3 became a 6.5Mb .gbs file in the conversion.

Figure 9: The "Now Playing" view.

The pictures were converted into .bmp files, which looked okay, but were obviously down sampled heavily. Lots of artifact and loss of color (Figure 10a and b) was evident, even when set to True Color format.

Figure 10a: An example picture on the DS Lite.

Figure 10b: An example picture on the Micro.

Loading up an emulator and a couple of original Nintendo titles was a snap (Figure 11), but due to the screen size difference, side-scroller games (such as Super Mario Bros. and Kirby) often looked rather funky, where games such as Bubble Bobble, etc were much easier to play (as the compression didn’t effect the gameplay as much).

Figure 11: The FC emulator running Kirby’s Adventure.

Finally, we have the Setup option, where one can set passwords, sleep mode, or even change the background (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Setup options such as password and the background image.

PURCHASING


You can purchase the GBA Movie Player here for $24.90.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple functions
  • Easy to use


CONS

  • Conversion software can be flaky
  • Mediocre audio/video quality
  • Comparatively HUGE

OVERALL
IMPRESSION


So the audio and video quality isn’t that great (compared to similar gaming devices), but at least you can add a bit of functionality that wasn’t available for your Nintendo unit right out of the box. And for the price, it’s even harder to pass up, even if it does look like a giant fin on the bottom of your system. But in reality, it feels more like a novelty than an impressive piece of hardware. All things considered, we give the GBA Movie Player the following score:

Figure 2: Inserting a CF card into the cartridge.


YARR, THERE BE THE WHITE WHALE


Attaching the unit to your device, one quickly realizes how huge this cartridge really is. On the Micro (Figure 3a), it peeks out a little over an inch, and on the DS Lite (Figure 3b), a good inch and a half. Thankfully, it doesn’t impede on the controls for either device.

Figure 3a: The GBA Movie Player installed in a Micro.

Figure 3b: The GBA Movie Player installed in a DS Lite.

Compared to a standard Gameboy Advance cartridge (Figure 4), the GBA Movie Player seems almost freakishly large, even if its footprint is relatively small.

Figure 4: Side by side with a standard Gameboy Advance cartridge.

CONVERTED TO PLAY


Included in the package is the a CD containing conversion software (Figure 5). Ranging from movies, to audio and pictures, the conversion software puts your existing content into a format usable on the GBA Movie Player. A video, originally an hour long and 3.5 Gigs in size, was converted (in high quality mode, stereo) down to just about 192Mb for the audio and video GBS/M files. If you are limited on card size, you can actually break up the files into chunks for easier storage. Problem was, I couldn’t get the conversion software to work on my main PC (couldn’t detect DirectX, even after I reinstalled three times), but would work on my DVR PC. And unfortunately, there isn’t much help to be had from the manufacturers website.

Figure 5: The included movie conversion software.

After you’ve converted, copied, and launched the GBA Movie Player, you are greeted with a quick splash screen announcing that this is not a Nintendo licensed, sponsored, or endorsed product, and then are shown the main menu (Figure 6). There are six icons here, Movie, Music, Picture, Game, Book, and Setup.

Figure 6: GBA Movie Player main menu.

Entering into one of the content menus (such as Movie), you are then shown a list of available titles, as named on the CF card (Figure 7). One simply selects the title and the content appears.

Figure 7: The movie listing.

Looking first at the Movie content, I converted two types of video – a concert and some anime (Figures 8a and b). Overall, the quality was decent, but still was rather mottled and grainy. This was less noticeable in the animated content. The audio was average on both. Nothing spectacular, but certainly watchable in any respect. You can pause, restart, and fast forward/rewind (or skip), but you if you exit the video and return, it doesn’t remember where you left off.

Figure 8a: Video example on the DS Lite.

Figure 8b: Video example on the Micro.

The Music option was disappointing in most respects (Figure 9). While you could play the audio files while using the Picture or Book capabilities, the audio was sub-par. Not something that I would subject myself to over a prolonged period of times. The original 5.8Mb .mp3 became a 6.5Mb .gbs file in the conversion.

Figure 9: The "Now Playing" view.

The pictures were converted into .bmp files, which looked okay, but were obviously down sampled heavily. Lots of artifact and loss of color (Figure 10a and b) was evident, even when set to True Color format.

Figure 10a: An example picture on the DS Lite.

Figure 10b: An example picture on the Micro.

Loading up an emulator and a couple of original Nintendo titles was a snap (Figure 11), but due to the screen size difference, side-scroller games (such as Super Mario Bros. and Kirby) often looked rather funky, where games such as Bubble Bobble, etc were much easier to play (as the compression didn’t effect the gameplay as much).

Figure 11: The FC emulator running Kirby’s Adventure.

Finally, we have the Setup option, where one can set passwords, sleep mode, or even change the background (Figure 12).

Figure 12: Setup options such as password and the background image.

PURCHASING


You can purchase the GBA Movie Player here for $24.90.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple functions
  • Easy to use


CONS

  • Conversion software can be flaky
  • Mediocre audio/video quality
  • Comparatively HUGE

OVERALL
IMPRESSION


So the audio and video quality isn’t that great (compared to similar gaming devices), but at least you can add a bit of functionality that wasn’t available for your Nintendo unit right out of the box. And for the price, it’s even harder to pass up, even if it does look like a giant fin on the bottom of your system. But in reality, it feels more like a novelty than an impressive piece of hardware. All things considered, we give the GBA Movie Player the following score:

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