The new iPad has only been out for a few days, and already RepairLabs and others have heard the rumors that it has been overheating. Not content with the various thermal imaging reports that shows the heat difference, our techs decided to take the new iPad 3 apart and see if we could pinpoint what part of the iPad is heating up.
We started off our very scientific experiment by turning on both an iPad 2 and the new iPad and setting them to play movies on Netflix. We took an initial temperature reading of the back of the iPads while they played their respective shows - the iPad 2 ran at 24° C (75° F) and the new iPad 3 ran at 27° C (80° F). That's roughly a 5° difference within minutes of booting up the two devices and starting their programs.
At the end of 35-40 minutes of continuous play, the new temperature readings were as follows: iPad 2 holding strong at 25-26° C; iPad 3 shot up to 32-33° C. That's around 90° F for the iPad 3 after just a few minutes of video use.
Since the technicians wanted to get to the root of the problem, we cracked open both iPads and took readings of various components. After several readings, we determined it was the new A5X quad-core processor that was putting out so much heat. You can see the measuring in the video below. Our basic findings showed us that the presumably ceramic A5 chip in the iPad 2 runs around 27° C, whereas the new iPad 3 A5X processor was running at 36° C. In Fahrenheit, the iPad 3 A5X runs 17° hotter than the processor in the iPad 2. As explained in the video, the chips are made of different materials; we believe the A5 is ceramic, where the A5X is obviously metallic.
We were not able to replicate the same temperatures that Consumer Reports were getting (up to 116° F), but just holding the new iPad 3 could be noticeably warmer after only a few minutes use, especially if you are holding it right where that A5X sits.
For those curious, we tested the battery and retina and found while they were warmer than their equivalents on the iPad 2, it was only that A5X chip that was putting out that much of a heat difference. Keep in mind that the internal temperature was 17° warmer, whereas the back of your housing is only 10° warmer at most. That means the aluminum housing and a special rubber thermal gasket cut down the heat that makes it to your hand by 7° F.
Curtis is one of the lead public technical advisors for all personal electronics. With a burning passion for not only bringing you the most informative articles, but also for his websites RepairLabs and Fix-iPhones.com. His proudest achievement though is Op:HERO -- a program dedicated to making each repair help overcome.