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The new iPad can get very warm, further tests show, but is still safe

Consumer Reports News: April 02, 2012 01:08 PM

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Apple's new iPad, which we recommend in our new Ratings of tablets (available to subscribers), consistently reached surface temperatures that were 10 to 12 degrees higher than its predecessor, the iPad 2, in new Consumer Reports tests of a range of tasks, including some conducted at a high ambient temperature. But a number of Android tablets subjected to the same tests reached comparably warm temperatures at their hottest spots. And none of the temperatures we measured represent a hazard.

Those are the key upshots of expanded tests we carried out to further explore heat issues raised initially by owners of the new iPad after it launched on March 16 and that we tested soon after. We found that Apple's new tablet could get warmer than the iPad 2 when running a demanding game. Other reviewers covered those findings, with some raising questions and criticisms, like PC World and Wired—some of which we considered in carrying out our follow-up tests.

We also carried out further tests of a charging issue we noted soon after receiving the new iPad, with results that confirmed our initial findings but also suggest little cause for concern.

Here's what we did and what we found:

Temperature tests. We supplemented our original tests of the iPads, conducted at room temperature, with tests that simulated playing a sophisticated video game outdoors on a hot (90 degree) day, with the screen set to maximum brightness for visibility and the tablet running on the battery.

The new iPad reached a temperature of up to 122 degrees in its hottest spot after continuously running the game for 45 minutes. By comparison, the iPad 2 hit 112 degrees at its hottest location in the higher-temperature tests. That temperature difference is close to the 12-degree gap we found between new iPad and iPad 2 in our past tests, at 72 degrees.

But we also duplicated as closely as possible the iPad tests on two Android tablets, and one, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, had a 121-degree hot spot in the same conditions. (The other, the Asus Transformer Prime, reached about 117 degrees.)

With use of a laptop, evidence suggests that a temperature on the bottom of its case of 120 degrees risks damage to bare skin with prolonged contact. But we think the same temperature on a tablet is more a potential inconvenience than a concern. Tablets are typically held differently, with less prolonged contact to areas of skin and greater ease in avoiding the hottest spots.

Further, only serious gamers playing with the screen at full brightness are likely to hit those temperatures on a tablet. When we measured the new iPad playing a video in a 72-degree temperature, at full brightness and plugged into the charger, its hot-spot temperature reached about 105 degrees; and surfing the Web, it reached about 107 degrees. We then turned the screen brightness down to two-thirds instead of fully bright. At that setting, the new iPad reached only about 100 degrees when running the game and not plugged into its charger.

Charging tests. We also carried out additional tests of another observation we made in early tests of the iPad, one that was also covered (and sometimes challenged) by other websites: that the new iPad was not recharging its battery when running Infinity Blade II, a sophisticated game, at full brightness.

In further tests, we continued to find that the iPad would slowly lose charge with that game, even with the charger connected. But when running another challenging game, Shadowgun, which is available for both iPad and Android, the tendency was less pronounced; the battery did not run down but slowly recharged as the game ran.

There was no such issue with other tablets, including the iPad 2 and a selection of Android models. And with the screen brightness reduced to two-thirds, we found the new iPad slowly recharged the battery when running either game.

Bottom line: Our new tests confirm that the new iPad is indeed warmer in its hottest locations than its predecessor and a number of Android tablets (though certainly not all). And presumably due to its sophisticated screen and powerful graphics processor, the new iPad struggled to recharge its battery when running a demanding game with the screen at full brightness.

Our findings suggest that if you're a serious gamer, you might want to manage how you use the new iPad by reducing screen brightness when possible, which will not only reduce heat but increase battery life and facilitate full recharging. Other consumers should find little of concern in our extended tests, on either the heat or recharging issues.

Paul Reynolds

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