There's been a lot of talk (relatively speaking -- Apple has sold 3,000,000 iPads) about the new iPad and whether it gets too hot. Gizmodo says it "blazes" and that the resulting heat transfer is a design flaw. Consumer Reports measures the peak temperature (heavy gaming for extended periods of time) at 116 degrees.
Forum posts are all over the map. They always are.
I have a new iPad. Before that I had a 1st generation iPad. Add to that an iPhone 4 and years of experience touching other things.
I never really thought about whether my first iPad was "warm" because, to be honest, it never felt warm enough to think about. I'd actually say it ranged from "cool to the touch" to "slightly less cool to the touch".
I hadn't really thought much about whether my new iPad was warm, either, until tech blogs started to say that it was. I paid attention as I was using it last night, while charging, for about two hours.
Under normal usage, I think it's safe to say that it can range from "cool to the touch" up to "warm". (And even then it depends on which side of the device you're touching. As has been reported, the left side in portrait mode can be warm while the other side is cool.)
With all that said, I don't know what it means to say that something is 90 degrees versus 116 degrees, or what that means to your skin when you touch it. I think my ignorance is probably fairly normal. I do hold a lot of things, though. I also have a pretty good sense of what is too hot to hold.
Using that as my guideline, I drew up a chart. It ranges from "cool" (0) to "too hot to hold" (100) -- all based on what I consider to be "normal usage" for various items my skin regularly (and consistently) comes into contact with. This isn't based on a temperature measurement, or any other scientific jibber-jabber. This is me, thinking about various things I come into contact with, and rating them based on how they're used and my own opinion of how they feel while I use them.
KINDLE FIRE - NOT ON CHART (0)
I never really used it, after I bought it, so all I can say is that it was consistently very cool while I wasn't using it.
MY 1st GENERATION iPAD (1-5)
As I've said, if I weren't thinking about it, or comparing it to anything else, the 1st generation iPad never felt anything more than slightly less than cool, even under peak usage. Think about picking up room temperature aluminum -- say, a can of cola that's been sitting on the counter overnight -- and that's pretty much where you're at with the 1st generation iPad, in most cases. At peak usage, I'd rate it at a 5, and that may even be too high.
Normal usage, for me, (and this goes for both iPads I've owned) is consistent use throughout the day, plus two or three hours straight at night, often while charging. Apps range from browsing the internet to downloading gigabytes of updates to watching video / listening to podcasts and moderate gameplay of graphics intensive games.
I hold my iPad and don't use a case. (Neither of my iPads have included the optional cellular networks.)
NEW IPAD (5-20)
The new iPad, I think, definitely gets warmer than my 1st generation iPad. It ranges all the way from cool during use to noticeably (but mildly) warm. If you live in the midwest, and it's cold out, you might even refer to it as "pleasantly" warm. Again, I'd equate 5 to slightly less than cool to the touch.
HOT COFFEE WITH A SLEEVE (50)
I think I'd rate this as my baseline: It's noticeably warm, and probably warmer than you'd want most things to be except that you need your cup to be this warm because you want your coffee to be really hot while you're drinking it. There's definitely nothing uncomfortable about this temperature, though, even if you continue to hold the cup as you drink it.
iPHONE 4 (5-50)
My iPhone, when I'm using it, is always at least noticeably warm. From there, especially if it's being charged, it can go all the way up to warmer than I really want it to be, given that it's in my hand and pressed up against my ear. It's probably about the same as "hot coffee with a sleeve" but I expect that to be warm bordering on hot, and I'd prefer my iPhone not to be. (I don't use a case on my iPhone.)
MacBook Pro (20-65)
At its "hottest" I think we're finally starting to get to where the word "hot" is appropriate. As a graphic designer, I'm a bit of a power-user, but even at a base-level of use (email, internet browsing) you're at the warmest temperatures the iPad will see at peak usage. At its hottest, my MacBook Pro gets to the point where it's bearable against bare skin, but probably not for extended periods of time. Eventually, I'd shift to avoid the heat.
HOT COFFEE WITH NO SLEEVE (95)
Pick up a cup of coffee with no sleeve on it, and you're probably going to want to put it back down as soon as you possibly can. It really is far too hot to hold for more than a couple seconds at a time, unless you're shifting your fingers constantly while you try to put it into a sleeve.
BONUS: A HOT SHOWER (80-85)
I didn't put this on the chart, because "hot shower" is an incredibly subjective measurement. In my experience, though, a shower should be hot, just up to (but not crossing) the point where you don't want to stand under it. Generally, I have to work up to this temperature, and once I'm there, I like to keep it at that level throughout the duration of my shower. This may be higher or lower depending on the time of year, but as with everything else on this list, I'm not measuring an actual temperature, I'm measuring my comfort level.
A BRIEF DIGRESSION:
I've seen a few people suggest that Apple rates the optimal operating temperature of the iPad at 95 degrees fahrenheit.
In the meantime, Apple says anything up to 95 degrees is fine, and if you read Laptop Magazine as I do, you know that 95 degrees is the limit for what's considered comfortable, heat-wise. So 92 degrees doesn't seem horrible to me. I'll need to test that though.
It's true that Apple, on the specs page for the new iPad, says "Operating temperature: 32° to 95° F (0° to 35° C)" but this is under an "environmental requirements" heading.
In other words, I'm pretty sure that the 95 degree maximum temperature refers to the ambient air temperature, not the temperature of the device itself, but I may be mistaken.