Apple's 'Hot' New iPad: Retina Display Games Push Heat Limits To 116ºF

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The new iPad
The new iPad hogged the limelight prior to its launch for all the good reason. But, now it seems shrouded in impending lawsuits and controversies.

The new iPad is a hot product, in more ways than one. After enjoying a record-breaking launch weekend, some owners are now saying that the device is literally too hot to handle. Some reports range from warm to noticeably hot, but everyone is wondering: Is the new iPad safe?

Consumer Reports put the new iPad to the test on Tuesday, finding that the device can reach temperatures up to 116ºF, specifically when playing the game Infinity Blade II over a Wi-Fi connection. Many users say the device can get even hotter when connected to the high-speed 4G LTE networks.

Consumer Reports also found that the heat was not evenly distributed across the device.

When unplugged, the back of the new iPad reached temperatures as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, said Donna Tapellini from Consumer Reports. It was only when plugged in that it hit 116 degrees. The hottest areas weren't evenly distributed throughout the iPad's back, but were concentrated near one corner of the display as shown in the images taken from the rear of the device above.

Dutch website Tweakers.net also ran two GL Benchmarks on a new iPad and an iPad 2 for five minutes each on Tuesday, testing the quality and performance of the devices by pushing their limits, and then looked at both tablets with an infrared camera. The company discovered that the new iPad reached 33.6ºC (92.5 Fahrenheit), with the hottest region nearby the device's motherboard towards the bottom of the device, while the second-generation model only reached 28.3ºC (82.9 Fahrenheit). That means on average, the new iPad gets 10 degrees hotter than its predecessor.

So what's behind the heat? It's simple: Unlike past Apple tablets, the new iPad needs to power many more robust features, including the brilliant 2048 x 1536 Retina Display that boasts 44 percent greater saturation than the iPad 2 and 3.1 million total pixels, which is about 1 million more than an HDTV. A new A5X chip with quad-core graphics helps make the videos and games really come alive, but that chip is a big battery sucker. Many users are claiming that their new iPads take more than twice as long to charge as their iPad 2s.

If that didn't suck up enough power, Apple also wanted to outfit the new iPad with bands for the high-speed 4G LTE network, which is the first iOS device to do so. While the Wi-Fi-only iPads don't carry the bands, every new iPad is also 3G world ready, meaning the user can roam around the world and pick up 3G with no problems. On top of all that, the new iPad can act as a personal hotspot, which can host up to five devices.

In other words, there are a lot of new features in this new iPad, and Apple needed a bigger battery to make it all happen. The new iPad's battery reaches 42.5 watt hours capacity, which is 70 percent larger than the iPad 2's 25 watt hour battery. If you crack the device open, it's incredible how much real estate the battery takes compared to the actual circuit boards.

Apple tells users not to worry:

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, said Trudy Miller, a spokeswoman for Apple. If customers have any concerns they should contact AppleCare.

Apple Care is likely getting bombarded with phone calls at the moment, but other owners of the new iPad are taking to Apple's online support forums.

My new iPad ... definitely got significantly warm, almost too warm to hold warm, when running on LTE, said one user, rawwave, on Friday. Not even doing a lot of downloads (just browsing Twitter) but having the LTE radio on seemed to cause it to get noticeably hot.

It's unclear if the new iPads carry the same risk as laptops, which some believe could cause reproductive dysfunction when they get too hot. While another report added that sperm is actually nuked by the electromagnetic radiation created by Wi-Fi, many new iPad users don't know what to believe. After all, if hot laptops can cause problems, why not a hot tablet?

The reality may be frightening, but the fact is, we simply don't know yet. While the scientists that conducted the laptop tests believe electromagnetic radiation from the Wi-Fi connection causes dysfunction, it could be said that placing a Wi-Fi ready iPad on your lap is doing the same damage. For now, there are more questions than answers, but we still don't think you'll need to worry about your iPad spontaneously combusting like you an iPhone 4.

The new iPad may or may not nuke your reproductive organs, but if it gets too hot for you to touch, it's probably best to turn the device off, let it rest for awhile, and if the problems arise again, contact Apple support. Or maybe prop it up on a table. 

As is always the case, anything could go wrong. These new iPads, while gorgeous and incredible, are not perfect, and you could be the first iPad owner to have one blow up in your face. However, if you see the warning signs, use some common sense. Let the iPad rest for a bit, it can only handle so much Netflix and YouTube. Then maybe go back and play some more.

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