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The Complete iPad 3 Review: Retina Display, A5X, 4G LTE, And Camera

Mapping Out iPad 3's Heat: Surface Temperature

So, we've established a relationship between the Retina display, gaming, and power consumption. But there is one more thing to consider: though Apple's Retina display is the largest single largest determiner of power consumption, it's not the only culprit behind the tablet's heat. For that, we have to look to the SGX543MP4 GPU's thermal footprint.

The iPad 3 display consumes 3x more power, but heat is dissipated over a larger area. The GPU is much, much smaller. As a result, when you look at a thermal image of the iPad 3 you see a single hot spot. 

You can see how the iPad 3 GPU affects surface temperature by comparing our contour charts. After an hour of gaming at maximum brightness, the iPad 2's screen approaches 80-85o F (above), with the back of the tablet spiking as high as 90o F (below).

In comparison, the iPad 3's Retina display (below) gets as hot as 95o—that's toasty, but not hot enough to spark a controversy, considering the surface temperature of human skin is in the same range.

In the chart below we see the back of Apple's iPad 3 after an hour of gaming. It jumps as high as 105o on the rear of the case. But we have to imagine that very few folks game for more than an hour with a tablet in their hands.

Within the first five minutes of game play, the tablet's rear surface temperature is only in the 85 degree range.

Fifteen minutes in, average surface temperature is closer to 95o. At the end of the day, excessive heat shouldn't be a problem unless you're playing demanding games for extended periods of time.