DS - and it's not even close.
(Note, I'm an oldtime gamer, I played all of Nintendo's handhelds extensively, and among the first games I ever imported was the English version of Final Fantasy Legend, the very first handheld RPG - GB didn't require a fire converter).
GBA was a bit crap, to be honest; it felt a little like "What if Nintendo didn't release the SNES until 1995?" rather than an adequate update. If you thought getting the right angle on original 3DS was bad, try getting the right angle of a lightbulb onto the GBA screen... especially with games like Circle of the Moon. I think people voting for the GBA are forgetting this frustration. GBA STILL needed you to replace the batteries!
GBA SP was a massive improvement, but the screen was still dim. Again, lighting was a big factor, as it had the opposite issue of the original GBA: if it were played in a sunlit room, the screen could not be seen. On the plus side, it actually had a rechargeable battery built in, although it was only about 5-8 hours despite being a fairly weak handheld... also you had to charge it for 3-5 hours (usually overnight) in order to get it up to the maximum; usually playing involved having it plugged into the wall. Last issue, the GBA SP looked like a baby DS, it was very small.
While DS wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing console, its screen was significantly better than the GBA, and it was substantially more powerful as a console with a significantly longer battery life of 2-4X the GBA. On the software side, it offered a much wider variety of games and was capable of polygonal graphics - launching with Super Mario 64 as a port, which was fairly fantastic at the time.
While DS Lite didn't have the same power-awe as the original DS, its screen was even better. The battery life was over 20 hours, the screen brightness had a wide range (brighter than the DS, you could light up a small room with it). It was sleek, the most attractive handheld gaming device of its time (arguably ever, though I'd be more inclined to argue the Switch in handheld mode). You might say it was liteyears ahead of any GBA model.
Last edited by Jumpin - on 31 December 2018