New iPad: heat test

Does the new iPad actually get warm when it's being put to heavy use? One blogger, a meat thermometer, an oven mitt, and a pair of tongs aim to find out!

Consumer Reports decided to see if it could once again repeat it's infamous iPhone 4 antennagate traffic and media bookings by cooking up a little new iPad controversy -- which we're dubbing warmgate. So, we thought we here at iMore, thought we'd test things for ourselves. Totally unscientifically, of course.

I grabbed a kitchen thermometer, and just in case the interweb linkbait was right, an oven mitt and some tongs to prevent burning or bursting into flame. Then I got to measuring. While a digital meat thermometer might not be the best way to track the heat radiating from a computing appliance, I figured at least it'd be consistently not the best. The thermometer started off reading 28° C (82.4 °F).

Over the course of 40 minutes I watched YouTube videos and 1080p iTunes movie trailers on both Rogers LTE and Wi-Fi, and I played first person shooters, racing games, and fighting games, both on the iPad itself and via AirPlay Mirroring to an Apple TV. While the temperate did rise from a cold start of 30° C (86 °F) to a high of 35° C, at most it was warm to the touch along the left edge (if held in portrait orientation with the Home button at the bottom). That while powering a 2048x1536 Retina panel, firing an LTE radio, and shooting graphics from a quad-core Apple A5X GPU, all in a package almost exactly the same size as last year's iPad.

To get a sense of how big of a deal those temperatures might be, I next measured an iPhone 4S that was tethering a MacBook Pro while also using Google Maps. After about 5 min it hit 35° C, the same temperate as the iPad had reached. (Anecdotally, I've had my iPhone 4S get much hotter after longer periods of tethering -- or when roaming and desperately trying to find usable radio signal.)

Lastly, I put my MacBook Pro down just for fun and started up a Flash video. Anyone who's watched any amount of Flash video on a MacBook of any kind knows the old joke about it being hot enough to fry an egg really isn't a joke. So it's no surprise the thermometer quickly hit 38° C. (Though the MacBook Pro feels much much hotter than either the iPad or iPhone.)

So what does this all tell me? The new iPad certainly gets warmer than the original iPad or iPad 2, but it's only because those past generation devices stayed so freakishly cool that I can even notice. The new iPad was no warmer than current or previous iPhones, and certainly nowhere near as hot to the touch (or the lap!) as MacBook Pros have traditionally been.

Sure, there could be outliers or defective iPad units out there that are getting way too hot, just like there are outliers and defective units of every device. This is especially true when first launched and manufacturing processes are new (if you have one of those, contact Apple customer care or make a Genius Bar appointment). However, While there have been a lot of jokes about the MacBook Pro playing Flash, and I'm sure people have noticed and noted the iPhone's propensity for heating up under high radio or GPS load in the past, the mainstream headlines about iPad heat issues come off as more than a little reckless.

Unless and until there are widespread, documented reports of the new iPad experiencing performance problems due to heat, this is a non-story and no one who wants one should hesitate to buy one.