Reports that the iPad 3 heats up much more than its predecessor have sections of the press in a tizz. Consumer Reports said that their tests saw the iPad 3 hit 116F/47C when playing games, which was up to 13 degrees Fahrenheit, or about eight degrees Celsius, hotter than the iPad 2.
“The new iPad delivers a stunning Retina display, A5X chip, support for 4G LTE plus 10 hours of battery life, all while operating well within our thermal specifications. If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.”
Consumer Reports’ tests put the iPad 3 well outside of Apple’s thermal specifications range of 32-95F, or 0-35C.
But not everyone is convinced that this is as big an issue as parts of the media are making it out to be. Jason O’Grady from ZDNet called the furore ‘overblown’ and pointed out that Consumer Reports has a history of vocal criticism of Apple products. He also quoted Ray Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies Corporation who points outthat the iPad 3 screen has four times the number of pixels and twice the number of LEDs than the iPad 2. The new model also uses 2.5 times the power used by the iPad 2 to power the screen because it has more pixels per inch.
The additional heat given off by the iPad 3, say O’Grady and Soneira, is a result of the extra LEDs, the lower light and power efficiency of the Retina display, and the additional power required to drive the screen.
While there may be individual iPad 3s that are having problems with severe overheating, that’s to be expected of a new device. Rarely has a new laptop, phone or tablet been launched by the computer giant without some sort of flaw coming to light in the first few weeks.
With 3 mn iPads sold on the opening weekend alone, and a total of 55 mn have been sold to date, it should be no surprise if a few thousand are defective. According to Information Week, a thread about the issue on Apple’s support forum has over 150 posts, although most users say that their iPad 3 is “warm” rather than “hot”.
Some however insist the device is too hot to use comfortably. “The iPad 3 wasn’t hot, but warm enough to be uncomfortable,” said one person posting to Apple’s forum. “That plus the extra weight made it not worth the new display to me, as awesome as it is.”
So we have “some” iPad 3s getting too hot to handle out of 55 mn. Neither Tweakers nor CNet could achieve the high temperatures that Consumer Reports did. Said CNet:
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 on the iPad is definitely the corner opposite the speaker. In our initial tests it got up to 94 degrees, but it’s important to put that number into perspective.
Ninety-four 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.
It might be that there’s a bug in the way that power consumption is managed which Apple can fix through a software update. Or it might just be that if you play graphics-intensive games you have to live with a warmer device. For most, it seems, overheating isn’t a significant issue.
So should you avoid the iPad 3 if you value your thighs? At the moment, there’s no reason to believe that this problem is serious or common, though clearly that might change as it is investigated further. But if your iPad 3 does overheat, contact Apple for advice.