A weakness of all Sega manufactured Game Gears is a particular type of electronic component used in various parts of the internal circuitry; the SMD (surface mount) electrolytic capacitor. Many years ago these components were a common cause of camcorder faults. Now, as Game Gears getting to be 15+ years old, they are suffering from the "bad cap's" phenomenon too.
The symptoms of faulty capacitors include:
- LCD Screen only looks good when viewed at an unnatural angle (anything other than 90 degrees).
- Bright parts of the picture create 'ghost lines' in the dark parts.
- Screen looks washed out, dim, and lacking in contrast.
- Turns itself off (in extreme cases).
- Problems are alleviated when unit has warmed up a bit.
Further confirmation can be had by opening the unit and examining the board area around the capacitors. Faulty capacitors will often (but not always) leak their corrosive electrolyte onto the surrounding board. This is a clear, oily substance which can may attack the cap's legs and surrounding components, leaving a green corrosion behind.
If one is faulty, the rest won't be far behind. Replaced them all at once!
These capacitors are glued and soldered to the board. To remove one, carefully rock it from side to side with a small pair of pliers until to feel the glue break, then desolder each leg from the PCB. When they're off, take the opportunity to clean up any leaked electrolyte and corrosion. Metho (rubbing alcohol to the Yanks) is good for this.
There are two versions of the Game Gear, the main difference being the main board layout. The later model also combined it's two ASICs (custom chips) into a single IC. There are other board layouts out there, if you have a Game Gear whose capacitor collection doesn't match the table send me a list and I'll update the page. Here is a list of all electro capacitors on the main board.
ONE ASIC GG
TWO ASIC GG
Audio Amplifier Board
Some things to consider when shopping for replacement capacitors:
- Replacements should have the same capacitance (in μF - micro farad) and the same or higher voltage rating.
- Standard RB/Radial (both legs poke out from the bottom) electrolytic capacitors are fine.
- Sub-miniature types are even better.
- If you cannot find the correct value then connect two small caps in parallel. Tolerance is typically +/- 20% so no need to be too precise. E.g. 47μ // 22μ in place of a 68μ value.
If you find the sound from the internal speaker to be missing or distorted then a faulty C7 (47μ) on the audio board is the likely cause. If there also distorted audio on from the headphone jack then you many need to replace all capacitors on the audio board.
Capacitors on the power supply board are generally reliable, not being of the surface mount type.