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More Consumer Reports sensationalism

Let’s start with the headline of this Consumer Reports linkbait, which worked, because I’m linking to it:

Our test finds new iPad hits 116 degrees while running games

That sounds like a lot. And those colored thermal images appear to show a large difference, since the colors are so different.

The new iPad can run significantly hotter than the earlier iPad 2…

“Significantly hotter” also sounds like a lot.

…engineers recorded temperatures as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit…

Wow, 116 degrees? That sounds like a high number! Be alarmed!

…numerous complaints now cropping up about how hot the new iPad can get…

“How hot”. Not just warm. Hot!

Three boring paragraphs later:

So, when plugged in, the back of the new iPad became as much as 12 degrees hotter than the iPad 2 did in the same tests; while unplugged the difference was 13 degrees.

“Hotter”. But wait… 12 degrees doesn’t sound like a big difference.

During our tests, I held the new iPad in my hands. When it was at its hottest, it felt very warm but not especially uncomfortable if held for a brief period.

“At its hottest” still uses the word hot, so that still sounds like it runs hot.

But then the alarming tone sharply drops: “very warm but not especially uncomfortable”.

Wait. Is it merely warm, and not hot, like almost every computer and phone ever made when they’re under a sustained heavy CPU and GPU load for 45 minutes?1

Most people don’t have a good idea of what a 116-degree surface feels like,2 the author kept using the word “hot” throughout the article, and it’s common knowledge that most people don’t read entire articles but merely skim the headline and first few paragraphs (at best).

Any reasonably competent, well-intentioned writer or editor would assume that most people reading this would think the new iPad gets hot, implying severe discomfort and a significant flaw that will affect nearly everyone who uses it, rather than merely warm, which would imply an occasional minor inconvenience for the few people who might notice and care.

Clearly, no such editor is employed by Consumer Reports.

I made it through their similarly overblown iPhone-4-antenna drama, but last fall, after their awful smartphone comparison, I finally canceled my six-year-long CR subscription.

I’m glad I did. Whatever standards, prestige, and dignity CR previously held are long gone now, sold out with sensationalism for cheap web pageviews as they slowly realize that people don’t need them anymore.


  1. To help put this into context and evaluate whether it’s even worth making a big deal about, maybe it would have been helpful to compare it to the surface temperature of a laptop after playing a high-end, 3D game for 45 minutes. But, of course, they didn’t. 

  2. I just measured my palm at 91.4 degrees, for comparison. 

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