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The New iPad Is a Sizzler in More Ways Than One

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Mar 21, 2012 8:34 AM PT

During the new iPad's first weekend out of the gate, the tablets sold like peanuts at a baseball game, but it didn't take long for a potential problem to crop up with the device.

The New iPad Is a Sizzler in More Ways Than One

Concerns raised in online Apple forums about heat produced by the tablet set off a string of stories that culminated Tuesday with the company, typically taciturn about problems with its products, denying that the new iPad is suffering mass malfunctions.

The third-generation iPad operates well within Apple's thermal specifications, the company said, and it advised any iPad owners with overheating concerns to contact the company's service arm, AppleCare. Apple did not respond to our request for further comment.

Nervous About Heat

Apple's sanguine attitude about the heating situation wasn't shared by all users of the new iPad.

"I noticed right away that it gets hot after a while," Lori DiNardo Tomatz told MacNewsWorld. Tomatz was one of many iPad 2 owners who waited in line on March 16 to buy the new iPad.

"It makes me a little nervous because it can get really warm," she said.

"Make no mistake, she added, "I love it even more than the iPad 2. Huge improvement. Picture quality is outstanding. It just makes me a bit uncomfortable when I have it on for long periods of time."

Big Radiator

Perhaps new iPad owners shouldn't be too surprised that the device gets a little warm after running for a while. When ABI Research Engineering Vice President Jim Mielke opened up the new iPad, one of the first things that caught his eye was the size of the heat sink for its processor.

Heat sinks act like a radiator in an auto to dissipate heat and transfer it away from a part, such as the processor in a computer.

"They anticipated that the thing would be heating up a lot and they needed to dissipate the heat from a point source," he explained to MacNewsWorld.

"They're saving the part, but the rest of the unit is heating up," he added. "That heat has to go somewhere, and the device is so thin and such a tight enclosure that heat builds up in there."

Bigger Battery, More Heat

The increased capacity of the battery in the new iPad could also contributing to increased heat output, according to Kyle Wiens, cofounder of iFixit, which does teardowns of Apple products.

"You'd expect the new iPad with a 70 percent bigger battery with the same battery life to get 70 percent hotter than the iPad 2, and that's what we're seeing," he told MacNewsWorld.

"What I have seen from using it is that the warmth is entirely within design parameters," he added. "I haven't seen overheating, and I haven't seen a design that is going to cause heat issues for people."

iPad 2 owners upgrading to the new iPad are probably startled by the heat produced the third-generation tablet because the older slate ran so cool, Wiens hypothesized.

"This thing getting a little bit warm is a little bit of a surprise for people because the iPad was always cool and now it's a little bit warmer," he said.

Temperature Tests

Both Consumers Reports and Cnet Labs have performed heat tests on the new iPad. Consumer Reports reported that surface temperatures on the device could reach as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit when playing a game. The game it used for its test was "Infinity Blade II."

However, Cnet, which took readings of multiple spots on the new iPad while playing the same game, found no spot exceeding a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The recommended temperature operating range is between 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Apple's spec sheet for the new iPad. The non-operating range is below minus four degrees and above 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Temperature specs usually apply to an entire unit, explained Andrew Rassweiler, senior director for teardown services of IHS iSuppli.

"If you're trying to operate an iPad in an oven that's 120 degrees, that's very different than if there's one small spot that happens to go above 113 degrees," he told MacNewsWorld.

Momentum Will Continue

There is a possibility that some iPad units may be hotter than others, added Weins.

"There have been some cases in the past where .001 percent of the units off the line have some manufacturing defect or the cooling system wasn't assembled quite right and you have an issue with one machine in a million," he said. "But I haven't heard of any stories like that about the new iPad yet."

While the heat issue has perhaps been a blemish on what's been a successful launch for the new iPad, it isn't likely to have much of an impact on the product's popularity or Apple's bottom line, according to Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.

Apple has faced these kinds of glitches before, most notably the antenna problem with the iPhone 4, he noted.

"There was all this bugaboo about the antenna issue," he told MacNewsWorld. "Apple actually sold a record number of iPhones during that period. Why should this be any different?"

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