You need not fear heat blisters when handling the new iPad. Apple’s new tablet is neither a burn risk, nor even particularly hot in the grand scheme of competing devices.
We know because we tested the iPad against five other tablets.
Sure, the new iPad, like all electronics hardware, heats up when pushed to its limits. This is just a matter of physics. Processors, batteries and back-lit displays generate heat under load.
Consumer Reports proved this when it recorded a temperature of 116 degrees Fahrenheit on the back of the new iPad — this after plugging the tablet into a wall socket and playing a demanding 3-D game, Infinity Blade 2, for 45 minutes. This little stunt spurred a lot of online chatter, but it didn’t explain whether the new iPad’s heat generation is above and beyond that of other tablets on the market.
So Wired decided to investigate.
First we recreated the Consumer Reports testing scenario (though in our testing, we used an infrared thermometer instead of a thermal camera, as in the original experiment). After 20 minutes of intense Infinity Blade 2 action, we were able to get the iPad up to 100 degrees. After 45 minutes, the iPad hit 108 degrees at its hottest point on the back of the tablet.
We then turned our sights to other tablets — how hot would they get when running graphics-intensive games? Infinity Blade 2 is an iOS exclusive, so we needed to find a different control game, something that runs on all platforms, but also taxes a tablet’s processor and graphics engine. We ended up using Dead Space, a first-person shooter that’s available for most tablets on the market, and includes 3-D graphics.
We started our gauntlet of testing with the new iPad. Like all the tablets we cross-tested, we started with a completely cool device, and kept the iPad unplugged to more closely approximate a real-world use scenario. We played Dead Space for 30 minutes, by which point the iPad’s back-panel heat had already plateaued.
The result? The third-generation iPad reached just 94 degrees Fahrenheit in its hottest rear chassis location (slightly below, and to the right of, the Apple logo when the tablet is held in portrait mode). Ninety-four degrees is not an uncomfortable temperature in one’s hands, and it’s also well short of the alarming 116 degrees publicized by Consumer Reports, as well as our own 108 degree reading. Dead Space may not tax the iPad’s internals as much as Infinity Blade 2, but it’s still a demanding 3-D game in the tablet space, and will certainly evoke hotter run temperatures than a mail program, YouTube or Angry Birds during continuous use.
So that’s the new iPad — it spiked at a temperature that’s warm but not unseemly. And its heat generation isn’t even all that notable when compared against the pack. Now check out the heat generated by other tablets after 30 minutes of Dead Space action (degrees in Fahrenheit, from warmest to coolest):
ASUS Transformer Prime
Acer Iconia Tab A200
Not only was the new iPad merely tepid in terms of heat generation, it was also one of the cooler-running tablets in our test. But let’s take Consumer Reports’ 116 degree reading at face value. It may cause sweaty hands, but is it any danger to consumers?
Dr. Jeffery DeWeese works at the Bothin Burn Unit at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. He told us 116 degrees “shouldn’t be of any concern” for the average adult, and the temperature “isn’t going to burn anyone on contact.”
In the end, the new iPad wasn’t the hottest-running tablet, nor was it coolest. It landed square in the middle of a heat test that involved a variety of devices running the same app in real-world conditions. Computers, tablets, smartphones — they all get warm when pushed to the limit.