In our third-generation iPad review, we noted that the bottom left side ran warm, but with all of the controversy and hype surrounding this subject we decided to take a closer look. We also wanted to see if the third-gen iPad was any hotter than its competitors. As it turns out, Apple's latest tablet does run hotter, but is it really a big deal?
When we test laptops, we measure how hot they get after streaming a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes. We consider anything over 95 degrees Fahrenheit to be uncomfortable, and anything higher than 100 degrees to be cause for concern. An overly hot device can mean trouble for two reasons: If the components inside aren't being cooled properly, then that could lead to decreased performance, as well as premature failure. Secondly, if the heat isn't being dispersed properly, it can be uncomfortable--or even dangerous--to put that device in your lap.
To get the bottom of all this, we tested the new iPad in three scenarios: streaming video, playing games, and web surfing, to see how hot it got during each task. We also tested the Motorola Xyboard 10.1, another LTE device, as well as the Wi-Fi only iPad 2 and ASUS Transformer Prime.
For the tests, we set the screen brightness for each tablet at 100 percent. We then turned off Wi-Fi on the new iPad and the Xyboard. After each test, we measured the temperature of each tablet on its four corners as well as the center. The data points below represent the hottest location on each tablet.
For the first test, we streamed a high-def YouTube video (someone playing "Shogun 2-Total War") at full screen for 15 minutes.
The warmest spot on the new iPad was the bottom left corner, which reached 92 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest spot on the Motorola Xyboard, also its bottom left, measured 89 degrees.
Next, we played "Riptide GP" for 15 minutes on all three tablets, to see how the slates could keep their cool on a more graphics-intensive task.
Again, the new iPad was the hottest, reaching 100 degrees in the bottom left corner. Still, the iPad had company: The ASUS Transformer Prime hit 98 degrees in its top right corner.
We then used our web surfing test, which visits 50 popular web sites in sequence.
Here too, the new iPad ran the warmest, with its bottom left and center topping out at 94 degrees. The Motorola Xyboard was the next hottest, at 90 degrees in its bottom left corner.
But, Does it Feel Hot?
For the record, Apple said that the new iPad runs "within its thermal specifications." Yes, the device runs hotter than the tablet competition. But while we could feel the difference, we'd say that the third-gen iPad was only slightly uncomfortable to hold during extended periods--and mostly just in one location.