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New iPad: Charging Problem Worse Than Heat Problem

iPad owners complain that it runs hot to the touch, but it's inability to charge is far more worrisome.
Consumer Reports--and a whole bunch of owners--claim the new Apple iPad tablet gets a little bit hot when used. Putting the iPad under a heavy load, such as playing graphically intense video games, while also using the LTE 4G radio, can lead to an unpleasant temperature buildup on the metallic back cover. Welcome to Computers 101.

Heat has always been an issue with certain electronics devices. Anything that has a processor making calculations under the hood ends up with excess heat that needs to be dispersed. This is why most PCs ship with fans, heat sinks, or other avenues through which to dispense unwanted warmth.

Looking at the new iPad, it's easy to see why there might be some heat buildup. It has more LEDs to power the Retina display, it has a dual-core application processor with a quad-core graphics processor, it has a whopping 42.5-Wh battery, and a 3G/4G/Wi-Fi radio, all contained in a device that has no fans.

[ Apple iPad and its tablet rivals still come up short on a few important measures. See 8 Things Tablets Still Can't Do. ]

I purchased the new iPad March 16. I've used it for several hours each day since, and I have yet to notice any sort of heat buildup. Just yesterday, I used the device on Verizon's LTE 4G network for 2.5 hours straight and the iPad never rose above room temperature. Over the weekend, I played Infinity Blade II for about an hour. It didn't get warm then, either.

Are some users' iPads heating up? Sure. Is this a major consumer issue worthy of lawsuits? Not yet. Until the heat causes damage to the iPad itself or nearby objects, it's simply a natural aspect of computing products.

There is a more significant problem facing the new iPad, however: Its inability to charge when plugged into the supplied 10W charger.

As early reviewers pointed out, (see Fritz Nelson's review of the new iPad), I noticed that the new iPad takes a very long time to charge. I chalked it up to the larger battery--the new iPad's 42.5-Wh battery is 70% larger than the iPad 2's 25-Wh battery. Now I am beginning to think something else is going on.

When the new iPad is plugged into a USB 2.0 port, it won't charge. The iPad 2 did charge when plugged into USB 2.0 ports. The new iPad's charger is the same as the charger for the iPad 2. I've noticed that the new iPad won't charge--or charges very, very slowly--if it is being used while plugged in.

What's the most critical element of any mobile device? Battery life. Without it, the device is worthless. Imagine you're low on power and have a limited amount of time to charge the new iPad while you're working on it. It would be quite annoying to unplug the new iPad after an hour to find the battery hasn't been charged at all and you're stuck with a low charge.

Apple said the new iPad performs within an acceptable thermal range. If and when it doesn't, well, expect a reaction.

Apple hasn't acknowledged the battery issue yet. Will it?

[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct a reporting error; the iPad battery is rated in Wh.]

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