Confirmed: New iPad's heat a non-issue

Yes, the new iPad runs warmer than its predecessor. But it's no hotter than your average laptop, and not extreme enough to change our overall opinion of the device.

Seeking heat with the Heat Seeker, an infrared thermometer. James Martin/CNET

The new 2012 iPad runs warmer than the iPad 2, but it's no hotter than many laptops under similar conditions.

That's the conclusion after hours of testing in CNET's San Francisco and New York Labs, all of which are detailed below.

We're continuing to test a variety of aspects on the iPad, including heat output, wireless performance, and other features. But--so far, at least--the operating temperature is no reason for CNET to change its buying recommendation (the new iPad is currently the highest rated tablet on our site, and an Editors' Choice).

As always, there are myriad variables here--how you hold (or don't hold) the iPad, whether you use a case, what apps you run, and for how long.

If you're a prospective buyer and concerned about the issue, we'd suggest giving the iPad some hands-on testing in a retail store before committing to a purchase.

Editors' note: This story (and its title) has been updated several times since its original publication--including the addition of the new introduction above--to reflect new test results, and the resulting conclusions.

Numerous reports of new iPads getting unexpectedly toasty have plastered the Web today. CNET Labs ran its own, independent tests, and without too much beating around the bush, here are the results. All temperature measurements were taken on the back of the tablet and all are reported in degrees Fahrenheit.


Camera corner Opposite camera corner Speaker corner Opposite speaker corner Apple logo
New iPad (after power on) 82 84 81 82 85
New iPad (full brightness, after Infinity Blade 2 for 15 minutes) 89 89 82 94 92
New iPad (half brightness, Infinity Blade 2 for 15 minutes) 84 86 81 89 87
New iPad (full brightness, after Netflix movie on 4G for 15 minutes) 81 85 80 90 87
New iPad (full brightness, after Netflix movie on Wi-Fi for 15 minutes) 81 89 80 92 91
iPad 2 (after power on) 80 80 82 80 81
iPad 2 (full brightness, after Infinity Blade 2 for 15 minutes) 84 81 86 84 89
iPad 2 (full brightness, after Netflix movie on Wi-Fi for 15 minutes) 82 78 84 81 86

Camera corner  Opposite camera corner  Speaker corner  Opposite speaker corner  Apple logo 
New iPad (full brightness, after Infinity Blade 2 for 45 mins)  94 97 76 83 98
New iPad (full brightness, after Netflix over 4G for 45 mins)  97 95 91 82 86
New iPad (full brightness, after Netflix over Wi-Fi for 45 mins)  85 77 82 81 76
iPad 2 (full brightness, after Infinity Blade 2 for 45 mins)  90 91 75 76 93
iPad 2 (full brightness, after Netflix over Wi-Fi for 45 mins)  87 78 91 79 94

For comparison and to better establish context, CNET Labs also ran similar tests on three different laptops. All measurements were taken on the bottom of the laptops and all are reported in degrees Fahrenheit. All three laptops house Core i5 CPUs.

Laptops  Top left  Top right  Bottom left  Bottom right  Center
Dell Inspiron (full brightness, after Netflix)  79 77 84 79 99
Toshiba R835 (full brightness, after Netflix)  80 79 80 79 92
MacBook Pro (full brightness, after Netflix)  90 85 87 85 94
Dell Inspiron (full brightness, after Portal 2)  93 82 89 82 113

How we tested
We used Heat Seeker, an infrared gun-style thermometer that's useful when measuring heating ducts, car batteries, and electrical circuits. We tested both the new iPad and iPad 2, measuring each tablet's temperature at the four back corners, as well as the Apple logo in the middle.

First, we let each tablet cool down for about 20 minutes, then powered them on and took the initial measurements with the screen at full brightness.

Games
Thanks to their high processing-power requirements, games are the quickest way to sap your battery and generate heat. After the initial measurement, we played Infinity Blade 2 (arguably, the most graphically impressive iPad game to date) for 15 minutes with Wi-Fi on, before stopping and taking more temperature measurements from the same spots. We then turned off the tablets and let them cool for about 15 minutes before starting them again, adjusting the brightness to 50 percent and playing Infinity Blade 2 for another 15 minutes, taking more measurements after.

We continued our testing by running Infinity Blade 2 for a full 45 minutes at full brightness with 4G on and taking another measurement.

For laptops, we played Portal 2 for 15 minutes with Wi-Fi turned on, at full brightness in the balanced CPU power mode.

Movies
After allowing the iPads to rest for another 15 minutes, we watched a Netflix movie for an additional 15 minutes at full brightness. We used AT&T's 4G network, since in our experience, 4G devices have a tendency to get noticeably warmer than devices running on 3G networks. After 15 minutes of streaming, we took more measurements. After another 15 minutes' rest, we started the tablets up again and watched the same movie over Wi-Fi, taking even more measurements after.

We continued our testing by streaming a Netflix movie for a full 45 minutes at full brightness over 4G and followed that with another measurement.

For laptops, we streamed a Netflix movie over Wi-Fi for 15 minutes, at full brightness in the balanced CPU power mode.

So, is your coffee table in danger?!
The higher temperature generated by the new iPad compared with the iPad 2 was noticeable to the touch but not uncomfortably so. The warmest point we recorded on the iPad is the Apple logo on the back. In our tests it got up to 98 degrees, but it's important to put that number into perspective.

Ninety-eight degrees may sound high, but that's actually less than your normal body temperature. For comparison, the Dell Inspiron 14z's temperature measured 99 degrees after 15 minutes of Netflix streaming and 113 degrees after 15 minutes of Portal 2.

So, no. The iPad doesn't get hot enough to cook an egg on. It's not bursting into flames or smoking, and it won't burn an iPad-size groove into your coffee table or lap. With the tablet on your bare lap, playing a game for 15 minutes or even 45 minutes might begin to raise your body temperature to the point where you'd want to put it back on your coffee table; however, we didn't find it got as hot as a laptop does doing normal tasks. Also, at 50 percent brightness, after playing a game for 15 minutes, the new iPad averages about the same overall temperature as the iPad 2 after doing the same at full brightness.

That said, the new iPad does get warmer than the iPad 2 and the most likely culprit is the backlight. A higher resolution means more transistors, which necessitates more LED lights in order to achieve a brightness comparable to the iPad 2's.

Consumer Reports did its own testing and reported it today. By testing with a different methodology, CNET is not, in any way, attempting to refute Consumer Reports' test results. We plan to conduct additional testing over the next few days, so keep watching for that.

So far, this is much ado about very little ; however, we'll continue to evaluate the situation and will be sure to report any new findings.

Editors' note: This post was originally published on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 7:42p.m. PT and was updated at 11:58 a.m. PT on Wednesday to add temperature measurements for three different laptops to give more context to the iPad measurements.

This post was updated again at 3:10 p.m. PT on Wednesday to add temperature measurements for the iPads after 45 minutes of gameplay and streaming Netflix over 4G.

CNET Senior Associate Editor Jason Parker contributed to this report.

 

Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Don't Miss
Hot Products
Trending on CNET

HOT ON CNET

Mac running slow?

Boost your computer with these five useful tips that will clean up the clutter.