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Consumer Reports: iPad runs 12 degrees hotter than earlier model

March 20, 2012|By David Sarno and Andrea Chang

The new iPad gets warm, Consumer Reports says -- very warm.

The hot-selling device -- 3 million in its first weekend -- can reach up to 116 degrees during intensive use, according to a test by the consumer magazine.  The test appears to confirm mounting consumer complaints that the new iPad runs hotter than its two predecessors.

The group ran a graphics-intensive video game for 45 straight minutes, and found that the device got hottest on its back panel, in one corner, likely near the computer processor.  It was hottest when plugged into an outlet.

But how hot is 116 degrees?

"During our tests, I held the new iPad in my hands. When it was at its hottest, it felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period," wrote Donna L. Tapellini of Consumer Reports.

Beryn Hammil, a San Francisco blogger and interior designer, got her iPad on Friday and noticed that evening that the device got quite warm when it was “just sitting there doing basic functions” such as email and running apps, she said.

“It wasn’t so hot that I went, ‘Ouch,’ like when you touch a hot pot,” she said. “But it was hot enough that I went, ‘Hmm, I don’t want to leave my hand here.’”

Hammil said her original iPad never felt unusually warm. She’s now monitoring blogs and news stories “to see if there’s a recall or a swap or something they’re doing to address it.”

Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said the new iPad operates "well within our thermal specifications," and that if iPad owners have concerns they should contact Apple customer service for help.  She did not elaborate on the device's precise thermal specifications.

In order to carry more power and last longer, mobile device batteries must pack more energy into the same space.  Apple says the new iPad's battery lasts 10 hours.  That's about the same as the earlier models, but the new device has a far more sophisticated screen and graphics processor, both of which require more power to operate than the earlier models.

"There's always a compromise," said Isidor Buchmann, the chief executive of battery diagnostics firm Cadex Electronics Inc. "Yes, you can pack higher capacities into a battery of the same size, but then the internal resistance goes up."  And with resistance comes heat.

During the last decade, the computer industry began calling portable computers "notebooks" rather than "laptops," in part because the increasingly powerful devices were becoming so hot that users could no longer comfortably situate the devices on their laps.

Marlyse Comte, a Web developer and designer, has owned all three generations of iPads. When the latest version arrived in the mail, she said she noticed that it got “really, really warm on the sides and on the glass surface."

“When I say it was really hot it wasn’t comparable to a laptop, but hot compared to any other iPad, where I never felt anything,” said Comte, 53. “My first thought was maybe by mistake I bought a lemon.”

Comte began searching online for a solution and came across an Apple message board where many people had posted similar overheating problems. The Kansas City, Mo., resident turned the iPad’s screen from 100% brightness to 85% and said “the problem vanished.”

“It’s so sharp and it’s so crystal clear that I’m fine with it, actually,” she said.

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