Heatgate or Hype? Thermal imaging of new iPad vs. iPad 2 (photo)

Apple's newest iPad, (R) and its predecessor, the iPad 2, are pictured with a thermal camera in Berlin March 22, 2012.

Consumer Reports effectively launched "heatgate" hysteria this week, when it reported test results showing that the new iPad reached temperatures of 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius) after 45 minutes of running an intense action game, or up to 13 degrees F (8 degrees C) hotter than the previous iPad under similar conditions. Consumer Reports, of course, was central to the earlier iPhone 4 "antennagate" storm.

But other reviewers have different findings on temperature/stress-tests with the 2012 iPad. Time disagrees that the issue is a problem. ZDNet has a contrary take on things also. And the Gruber. And Macworld, and The Loop, and CNET, too.

An Apple spokeswoman quoted in various news reports this week said the new iPad was "within our thermal specifications," which are listed on the company's website. The normal operating range for the new iPad is between 32º—95ºF (0º—35ºC). If the device exceeds that range, it is designed to shut off.

Whatever. I can't wait to get my hands on one. There are a number of features I want to test, and I'll be writing about my findings here.

A final note: It's not clear to me from this thermal photo released today by Reuters whether the cooler, "old" iPad is plugged in to a power source. The new one appears to be. That would make a difference in heat output. I've emailed Reuters to ask for more details about the testing circumstances under which this photo was taken. It's not from the Consumer Reports tests.

(REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz)


  1. Xeni, please be careful getting your hands on one… might I suggest oven mitts.  :)

  2. I like how you can clearly see that the new iPad is plugged in and charging,
    While the iPad 2 isn’t.

    I own a new iPad and the older iPad 2,
    While the new one does get warm in the corner after extended use,
    It’s nothing to deter me from using it nor does it take away from it’s functionality.

    1.  It isn’t? I (think I) can see the shadow of a cable plugged to the iPad 2, but it’s not warm so I don’t know what that means.

      1. yeah, the iPad2 looks plugged in, just not charging, perhaps already charged?
        I have an iPad 2 and 3 but no thermal imaging camera to make my own tests..
        I can tell you this: the new one is a *little bit* heftier and a *little bit* warmer.
        but the screen makes up for it.

  3. I’ve always predicted that when iProducts start exploding in flames the fanbois will extol the beauty of of the “holy cleansing flame ” and how the 3rd degree burns are in the shape of the Apple logo.  Not quite there yet but that’s just because the “Steve Jobs suttee” app hasn’t been released yet, and you know how he loved surprises!   

    1.  You mean like all of those exploding ipod in the last few years where it was always some “outside” thing done and not just a bad batch of batteries?… until they proved it was the batteries and they quietly replaced them if you knew the right passphrase to avoid a full on recall?

        1.  It took a while before it was widely publicized and several did explode and the familys were paid and forced to sign NDA agreements.  Only after they could no longer ignore the elephant in the room did it get publicity.

          1.  @boingboing-85d8ce590ad8981ca2c8286f79f59954:disqus  15 that made it to the CPSC.  The fact Apple told consumers there were no reports of this at all, when in fact there were.  That Apples first response is to replace the device just as soon as you sign this spiffy NDA agreeing to not go public with your iThingy exploding.  And those 15 were not all Nanos that had the publicized replacement program pointed out before.

  4. The problem is that you’re trusting Consumer Reports, who is known for 99% positive reviews but with one little exception that DESTROYS the entire recommendation.

    iPhone 4 for example.

  5. Wait… the iPad 2 would get up to 103°F? What a missed opportunity for consumer outrage! Good to see Consumer Reports on top of things this time around.

    1.  Why should someone be outraged at having a 103°F device next to their 98.6°F body?  That’s merely warm.

      And what is all this talk of “hysteria” about?  The Consumer Reports reviewer wrote “When it was at its hottest, it felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period.”  They made a measurement, they are good at that, and if others measure something different we can resolve the issue by making sure that testing conditions are identical.

      1. The language from Consumer Reports wasn’t hysterical; the tone and nature of regurgitated coverage of the Consumer Reports findings was. Cable news, lesser blogs that don’t do testing themselves, and on and on. There was definitely a minor case of hysteria this week in media over this issue.

  6. I heard that they get so hot that when a Foxconn worker recently jumped off a roof  holding one and accidentally landed on a Tibetan monk, it set him on fire.

  7. Consumer REports – sensationalist headline giving a high sounding number, then near the bottom of the article….
    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.”  – in the actual article towards the bottom:

    Yeah, big problem here.

    (note, I have not trusted Consumer Reports since they fraudulently subscribed me to their magazine in the mid 90s and don’t provide a contact phone number on their bills and I own an iPad 3rd generation so I may have bias)

    1. “I have not trusted Consumer Reports since they fraudulently subscribed me to their magazine in the mid 90s”

      So you think it was done by the leading consumer-rights-supporting organization, who was running a scam to falsely subscribe people to their magazine?  And not done, say, by one of those people who goes around selling magazine subscriptions for  fundraising/profit who could have pulled your name from a phonebook, or whatever to meet quota?

  8. There’s a burn condition called “toasted skin syndrome” that’s turned up among laptop users who leave their device in their laps for a prolonged periods of time (one victim’s laptop was determined to produce a heat at its base at around 52 C). Laptops even have burn warnings on them telling you not to place them on exposed skin.

    So knowing the temperature of a device like an iPad is definitely a valid question (47 C is close to condition we’re talking about), especially a graphically intense one with apparently little room to shed its heat. You don’t want your 12 year old ending up with permanently discolored skin from playing on their iPad all day.

    1.  Wow, I hadn’t heard about that. I’ll admit, though, that neither the linked article nor the wikipedia article diminish my skepticism that this is widespread enough to worry about or to take into account in system design (except as a comfort issue). Ten cases reported in the medical literature over six years. Even if a hundred times as many have experienced the problem (which I doubt, or the articles would have been written differently) that’s not a significant percentage of consumer electronics users.

      1. That said, this would be under reported. I know, if I burned myself with my computer in a session of ADD hyperfocus, I would tell no one, ever, because I would be so embarassed. Also, my post was little dickheaded. It’s certainly true when you’re designing something you have to assess risk intelligently and protecting the last x% of people may not be worth it… but it isn’t polite to rub it in.

    2.  The tests were done at room temperature.  So we shouldn’t focus on the peak temperature alone.  If the room is 5 C warmer, so will the device … pushing it up to 52C.  13 C warmer (like on a hot summer day outside) and you are up to 60 C

      I’ve had to research safe temperature limits and test products to ensure they don’t exceed them.    We used published data on rodents and humans.  There isn’t a perfect answer, but time and temperature both affect tissue damage.   I forget the exact numbers, but 50 C was the threshold we tried to stay under (prolong exposure could kill skin).  60 C was when you had to keep exposures very short.

      There is some old research on mice by German doctors around 1948.  We suspected it was very accurate.  And not actually done in 1948 or on mice.

  9. I’ve been working the last week or so on the specification document for a piece of electronics our company hopes to sell to the government, so this sort of issue is fresh on my mind. It may seem nutso for a consumer product, but maybe Apple needs to publish the operating temperature and also a long description of their test methodology, complete with references to complicated and poorly written government standard test procedures. That way, though people can still challenge whether the test is relevant or not (though the time for that is before the purchase), but at least every blog/news site on the planet will be able to measure for themselves the same phenomenon with the same tools. Buying an Apple product would mean the consumer accepted the system requirements and the test methodology.

    Of course, that’s kind of silly. In my world we have system requirements reviews with the customer before the system is designed, and that really doesn’t translate with consumer products. I wonder, though, whether it would really help Apple’s interest to release their test procedure. Probably not. Reasonable or not, people would find it wanting.

  10. What’s rather amusing about this is that the listed operating temperature range for The New iPad is:

    Operating temperature: 32° to 95° F

    It violates its own operating range! But how can operations occur when operations can’t occur?  It’s iPads all the way down, man…

    1. I know you’re being funny, but that’s perfectly normal. The ipad exterior temperature MUST be above ambient temperature at all times, or there would be no way for the heat to get out (heat only passes from hotter bodies to cooler bodies). [That is, the 95 F is the environmental spec the ipad must operate through, not the temperature the case or components reach operating in such an environment.]

      1. “If the device exceeds that range, it is designed to shut off.”

        I’ve used ipads for extended periods when the room temperature is over 40c with no issues. While I understand that I’m using it outside the intended specifications (outdoors in summer), I can verify that they certainly don’t shut down at those temperatures as claimed.

        1. They’re not actually designed to shut down when the ambient temperature exceeds 35°C, they’re designed to shut down when the internal temperature (usually around the CPU) exceeds a given threshold. A range of factors influence what the internal temperature is, of which ambient temperature is just one, and the operating temperature specs are consequently set on on the conservative side to allow for this, thereby forestalling annoying class action suits.

  11. Consumer Reports: (hopping) “look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! loo0000k at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me look at me look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me! look at me!”

    * sigh *

  12. You can really tell where people’s bias lies with this topic.  All of a sudden 116 ºF is either dangerous and about to blow up or a pleasant warm feeling like a hug or sunlight on a cool morning.  I’m sure if everyone was being honest no one would want it to get that hot, but everyone one would agree it’s not that bad and an acceptable trade off.

    1. Granted 99% of the time people won’t be playing GPU intensive video games for 45 mins straight, so it’s not like there’s much of a problem here to begin with.

      1. They won’t? I play games on my android phone for several hours at a time sometimes. It reaches an internal temperature of about 35 celcius which is just bordering on uncomfortable to hold in my hand for several hours.

        I was thinking about the ipad 3 because the games are better on iOS, but i’m thinking a good deal on a (used?) ipad2 might be a smarter choice for me, as well as any other serious mobile gamers.

    2. Heat and microscopic circuitry do not go well together.  Remember the red rings of death?

      People are not thinking this through and failing to understand what the issue with the heat is.  If it is 120 outside the case how hot is the chip getting?  How many heating and cooling cycles out of spec until it bricks?

  13. Consumer Reports is doing what it does… taking measurements, reporting numbers, not being hysterical about it.  The tech-media-slash-blogosphere has turned this into a circus.  

    If the device is operating outside of its specified temperature range, isn’t that something that a consumer might want to know?

    The much bigger issue, imo, is that the thing won’t charge while you’re gaming:

    “We also noticed that the new iPad wasn’t charging while the game was running and it was plugged in. In fact, the battery continued to drain. It charged normally, however, when we weren’t running a game.”

    That seems like kind of a deal-breaker if they’re marketing the thing as a gaming platform.

  14. Attention techs, learn how to reflow the iPad.  This is going to be the Xbox360 and Hp 6700 all over again.

  15. Welp, there goes Naked iPad Wednesdays.

    I reckon I’ll wait six months so they can iron out this issue, at which point I still won’t buy one because I’m a laptop-lovin dinosaur.

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