If there’s one good thing about growing older, it’s that all the goofy stuff you liked when you were a kid is now prime nostalgia material. A framed poster for the original Power Rangers movie isn’t a sad obsession with a kid’s TV show, it’s retro chic! But there’s a difference between simply nailing up a bunch of old junk and decorating with intent. And the difference is, apparently, about two hundred bucks.
That’s cynical, especially for a man who actually does have Star Trek paintings in his house. But I have to admit, Grid Studio‘s loving presentation of old tech as art is incredibly appealing to me, and I assume, people like me. When offered a chance to review one of their framed, dissected gadgets, I leaped on the opportunity for the original Game Boy Advance, which I think has yet to be topped for both ergonomics and visual appeal.
Not quite museum-grade memories
The package came in a stunning presentation, wrapped in high-quality paper with a ribbon sealed in actual wax. If I didn’t know what was inside I’d think I was being sent a box of chocolates that cost more than my monthly car payment. Upon opening it I found a rather more down-market shadowbox, flat black processed wood, and plexiglass with a plastic shipping protector.
The unit they sent me looks identical to the presentation on the Grid Studio website, down to the Indigo color of the GBA itself and the printing of the Pokemon Ruby start screen. The various bits of the console are lovingly cleaned and meticulously placed, and are clearly a real Game Boy Advance that at one point bounced around a real kid’s backpack. The plastic screen cover might be replaced, but the rest has some faint wear and tear to show it’s the genuine article. That said, this GBA wasn’t abused — none of its imperfections detract from the piece as a whole.
The removed and stuck-on parts are aesthetically pleasing, especially the white PCB. Labels are hardly necessary, but they’re very cleanly presented in an appealing pixelated font to make you remember all those hours you spent blowing through AAs.
Though that’s a strange omission here: While I appreciate that sticking actual zinc batteries onto something meant for long-term display isn’t a great idea, there’s no mention of them anywhere in the labeling or fakes used in some of the phone designs. The LCD screen from the Game Boy Advance is also missing. That glimpse through the plastic cover is the only indication it was ever there, despite the fact that we’re looking at the front of the PCB. Other Grid Studio game presentations also omit the screen panel, and I’m not sure why.
Any color you want, as long as you want purple
These nitpicks aside, it is a very nice presentation, and the presentation is what you’re paying for. That being the case, I would have liked the option to choose my color for the Game Boy Advance body (matching the transparent Glacier Blue from my memory) and maybe a choice of game backgrounds or add-on cartridges (Dodgeball Advance is what I remember most). But as a product that must be made at least some volume in China, I appreciate they can’t be custom for everyone.
The shadowbox is a little on the cheap side for the price, especially considering the wrapping it came in, and the included hanging clips don’t inspire much confidence. It would be easy enough to move the backing to something more deluxe if you want — the pieces of the GBA remained impressively immobile during shipping.
A good splurge gift
All in all I’d say the GRID Studio presentation is extremely slick, cheap shadowbox aside. If your decorating budget can accommodate it, it would look excellent displayed in a series. The company offers more or less all the classic Nintendo portables, plus various generations of iPhones and other popular mobiles and a few oddball gadgets like the Apple Watch. Sadly, there’s no option for the original Zune.