The RhinoSkin is tough and beautiful, but is it the perfect case for your SP? Rick gives the case the "finger", find out the results!
The Game Boy Advance SP is a very slick little unit, but anyone who’s already managed to scratch that ultra-thin layer of paint will tell you that keeping it protected is a mammoth undertaking. In fact, many (including Planet GameCube) wondered aloud why the GBA SP case wasn’t made of anodized aluminum as many high-tech gadgets are these days. For those not familiar with anodizing, it's a process that hardens aluminum and adds a bright sheen through a combination of polishing, acid, and electricity. Anodized aluminum can be dyed to many different colors during the process, since the anodized layer is very porous.
Enter Saunders, known for their cellular phone cases, and now branching into protecting your other expensive electronics, namely your Game Boy. They’ve produced an anodized aluminum hard case for your GBA SP that both protects, and looks very slick. Installing the GBA is simple: open the SP, insert the top of the SP into the case, then press the bottom into the protective EVA foam. Once installed, you’ll find easy access to the various ports and switches that you need to use the unit.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the case adds a significant amount of weight to the GBA SP, making it tiresome to hold for extended periods of time. If you’re the type of person that rests your arms on your lap while you play, it should be a non-issue, but those that game standing up, or hold the unit aloft are going to have fatigue set in after a short period of time. Stylish and protective, but it’s like a lead weight in your pocket. It’s a good thing that this was meant to protect the handheld, because the extra weight could lead to a few drops until you get used to it. While it does great things for protecting your GBA, the case itself is still fairly fragile and prone to denting and scratching. Since the color gets embedded in the case during the dyeing process, light scratches won’t reveal anything but more color. However, dents are a fair concern.
The case itself appears to be fairly high-quality, but retains a handmade look, with tiny flaws that help the case retain some character. There are places where the aluminum doesn’t fit quite flush, or there are small bulges or dents in the metal, but nothing that screams "cheap". The "finger test" was employed, running a finger along the exposed edges of the aluminum case to ensure that there was no chance of cuts. While there are some edges that look like they might be sharp, it was impossible to draw blood on any of them, important for any mainstream consumer product. One shouldn't need to make sure they are up-to-date on their tetanus shots in order to put a case on their SP.
Due to the design of the GBA SP, there is a metal flap of sorts that pops up over the top of the case when opened, to accommodate the SP’s external hinge. This flap does have a small tendency to scratch the top of the case ever so slightly where the two meet as the flap comes up to clear the case, because of a tiny delay before the flap pops up to clear the case. It’s not a major issue at all, since the scratches are hardly noticeable, but it might be a minor annoyance for some.
Somewhat more of an issue is the back of the case, where the power and link ports are located. Saunders has thought to protect as much of the SP as possible while leaving access to these ports. Unfortunately, they covered the clip holes that the GameCube/GBA cable uses, making use of the Nintendo accessory impossible. Given Saunders promotion of a "play through design", you'll need to remove your SP to connect the Nintendo cable, which isn't nearly as simple as the installation process. The case also causes the shoulder buttons to be a little more recessed than is comfortable. It shouldn’t be a problem for anything other than a "binge" gaming session.
The Rhinoskin did make one thing perfectly clear, much like the AfterBurner did for those that invested in it. The GBA SP should have been made of anodized aluminum to begin with. The silvery metal of the case looks so much cooler than the painted plastic of the SP, and at a retail price of $14.99, it couldn’t add too much more cost to the product. For someone who values their GBA SP, the Rhinoskin aluminum hardcase is a great investment; the case is tough as nails, and attractive to boot. However, those who plan to make full use of the GameCube connection to their SP should hold off for another option.