Everyone needs to cool down about the new iPad's heat

Reports of overheating aren't panning out, though intense gaming can make it run warmer

For several days, reports have been running rampant in the blogosphere about allegedly overheating third-gen iPads, released this past Friday. In typical fashion for all things Apple, passions run high, with people claiming several sorts of fears over the hotter iPads. Consumer Reports has thrown gas onto the fire with a report confirming the new iPad can run as much as 13 degrees hotter when used for intensive gaming for 45 minutes or more.

Already, the conventional wisdom is that the new iPads are overheating. I even was asked about that claim by a local radio station today. Let's be very clear: The new iPads are not overheating, though they seem to run hotter when used for processor-intensive tasks for an extended period -- just like a laptop or desktop computer does.

To put that heat into perspective, the previous iPad models ran at about the temperature as the human body: 98 degrees. The new iPad runs at about the same temperature as the previous iPads in normal use, according to my experience and that of my Computerworld colleague Ken Mingis. In its initial tests, Consumer Reports found that running an intense game for 45 minutes increased the iPad's temperature noticeably, to about 110 degrees (a bit hotter than a person with a severe fever). The reviewer, Donna Tapellini, wrote, "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."

So why the freakout?

The part of the iPad that gets especially warmer is one area of the back cover, to left of the Home button when held in portrait orientation and facing the screen. There resides the new A5X processor, which adds a quad-core graphics engine. If you're running a graphically intense game for nearly an hour or more, that chip is going to get hot, and that heat will transfer through alumnium case (as it's intended) to dissipate -- again, just as a laptop or PC does via its case, fan, or thermal-transfer mechanism.

Also, despite the liberal use of the word "overheat," there are no actual reports of the third-gen iPad overheating; it hasn't shut down due to excess warmth, warped or cracked the glass, or burned a user's hand. It may run 10 percent hotter in extreme usage, but that's not the same as overheating. PLus, when compared to the temperature of Android tablets, the new iPad is in the middle of the range -- in fact, it about as hot as the average Android tablet.

Every iPad model has generated reports of excessive heat in the first weeks of release, only to fade away. Maybe a few units have issues (Apple says concerned owners should bring them in for a checkup and possible replacement or return) -- which happens with anything that has millions of units manufactured. But the iPad's history shows a pattern of such initial hysteria fanned by a few that doesn't sustain, as 99.99 percent of the world realizes soon enough the alleged problem isn't happening to them.

Even the infamous "antennagate" issue with the iPhone 4, where holding it a certain way could reduce the cellular signal strength, became a nonissue since the early outcry wore off, and tens of million of those devices are in use with no continued complaints.

So relax, take a deep breath, and avoid the panic parade. If you're doing intense gaming and find the iPad warming up more than you'd like, here's a simple solution: Set it down on the table -- not on a blanket, your pants, or other heat-absorbing surface -- and play on.

This article, "Everyone needs to cool down about the new iPad's heat," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.


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