Breathing New Life Into Your Sega Game Gear

Game Gear

Late last year I attended the World of Commodore here in Toronto and stumbled across one of my beloved childhood toys, the Sega Game Gear. The unit (along with 4 games and its external power supply) was just begging for me to purchase it, so I did.

Originally released in Japan in 1990 and in North America in 1991, the Sega Game Gear was Sega’s entry into the portable console market being dominated by Nintendo. With a measly 160 x 144 display and terrible battery life (5 hours off of 6 AA batteries compared to the Gameboy’s 30 hours off of 4 AA batteries) it did boast 4096 colours on screen compared to the 64 colours of the Gameboy.

When I got home and tried to relive my childhood with my newly purchased device I found myself fighting with being able to see anything on the screen. The dreaded white screen of death had set in. These units are nearly 30 years old and suffer from capacitor failures and leaks, my device was no different.

Luckily all that the unit needed was some new capacitors. Googling for replacement parts lead me to Console5 which offers replacement parts for every retro gaming and computer system imaginable. Along with a cap kit for the main board, audio board and the power supply board I decided to get a replacement screen lens as the one that came with the unit was heavily scratched.

In order to complete the task you will need the following:

  • 4.5mm Gamebit hexagonal screwdriver
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Desoldering tools (braid, desoldering pen, etc)
  • Hot-Air rework station (the caps are all surface mounted)
  • Cap Kit
  • A steady hand and lots of patience

The first task is to take the unit apart as see what type of damage was done.

After removing the Gamebit and phillips screws from the back and inside the battery compartments, gently pry the two pieces apart and disconnect all the wiring connecting the two halves together.

Now that you have the Game Gear apart, you want to remove the screws and cables that connect the main board to the audio and power supply boards. The latter two are located in the upper half of the Game Gear.

Game Gear Top Board
Pay special attention to removing the power supply board as you will also be removing two of the battery terminals with it.

Now that you have removed the three boards let the fun part being.

As you can see from the image set below, two of the boards (the main board and the audio board) contain surface mounted capacitors while the power supply board contains through hole capacitors.

The next task is removing the old caps and cleaning the contacts in preparation for the new ones. 

With the recap kit from Console5 came a guide as to which caps need to be removed and their values.

Game Gear Main Board Cap ListGame Gear Power And Audio Cap List

The caps on the main board and the audio board are surface mounted and thus need to be removed using a hot-air rework station.

Once you have the settings on your rework station dialled in (I have Sparkfun's 303D Hot-Air Rework Station and set my air flow to 50% and temperature to 360° but your millage may vary), carefully aim the nozzle at the cap you want to remove. Move the nozzle back and forth until the solder begins to flow (the solder should appear shiny and molten). Then, carefully remove the cap using tweezers by nudging or grabbing the part. Keep in mind that hot-air is, well, hot.

You can use your preferred method to remove the through hole capacitors on the power board.

Once you have the old capacitors removed, use some contact cleaner to clean the boards and add a bit of new solder to make soldering the new capacitors easier.

Decapped Game Gear Main Board
Old capacitors removed and extra solder added

The Console5 kit comes with through hole capacitors to replace the old surface mount ones.  I guess they do this to make the process of soldering new ones easier.

When soldering the new capacitors in place pay close attention to the polarity of the capacitor. You also need to make sure you don't obstruct certain areas of the main board as it will impact putting the two halves back together. The large copper filled circles on the main board need to be obstruction free

Now that the capacitors have been replaced, it's time to turn to replacing the screen lens.

As I mentioned above, the screen lens that came with the unit was heavily scratched and hazy.

Old Game Gear Screen Lens
Old scratched and hazy lens.

The lens is held in place with glue and came off quite easily by prying it. Once you remove the old lens, you need to remove any residual glue left behind on the Game Gear case as the new replacement lens comes with new adhesive on it.  

Remove the backing off of the new lens and carefully put it in place.

New Game Gear Screen Lens
The new Game Gear screen lens. Super clear and scratch free.

Your next task is to put everything back together and enjoy some Taz Mania.

Game Gear Assembled


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