iPad heat: How hot is too hot, and other FAQs

Consumer Reports News: March 21, 2012 01:38 PM

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Our finding that the new iPad can heat up to as much as 116 degrees Fahrenheit when plugged in and continually running a game has prompted widespread coverage and comments, as well as questions from consumers on our blog post, Facebook page, and via Twitter.

Here are answers to some of the most frequent queries so far:

Just how hot is too hot for a tablet or laptop?
At this point, we don't believe the temperatures we recorded in our tests of the new iPad represent a safety concern. As we said in our initial post about the iPad's heat issues, the tablet felt "very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period."

We've concluded in the past that a laptop that heats up to 120 degrees or more could damage bare skin over time. While laptop heating was a problem during the infancy of the product, we discontinued our heat tests several years ago when typical temperatures came down to 110 degrees Fahrenheit or so.

In addition, a tablet computer is used differently from a laptop. Most people don't keep it sitting on their laps for long periods, but rather hold it in their hands, switch the location of their hands while holding it, and change the hand they're using to hold it. So you're probably not touching that one hot area for a prolonged period.

Is 116 degrees as hot as it gets?
We ran our tests in a room with an ambient temperature of 72 degrees, an optimal condition for operating a tablet. It's not clear how much more the iPad might heat up in a warmer environment.

Might the heat levels damage the device in the long run?
We can't say. Internal heat certainly isn't a friend to electronics gear. But companies work hard to minimize it without overly compromising performance. In a statement yesterday, Apple said the new iPad operates "well within our thermal specifications" and invited any consumers with concerns to contact Apple Care.

Will your findings affect your decision on recommending, or not, the new iPad?
Not likely. We expect to complete running the new iPad through our regular battery of tests for tablets within a few days, and to post the model to our Ratings of tablet computers late this week or early next week. The model has fared very well in preliminary testing, and its predecessor, the iPad 2, is currently among our top-rated tablets.

Will you be testing other tablets for their surface temperatures?
We are looking now at whether to do that. We're especially interested in whether other tablets that have a graphics processor of comparably high power to that of the new iPad also run hotter than most other tablets.

Donna L. Tapellini

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