Apple's new iPad is at the top of Consumers Reports' latest tablet ratings list, released April 2. The results come just a few weeks after the magazine took the iPad to task about overheating issues.
The consumer watchdog site described the iPad's display as literally establishing a "new benchmark in excellence" and providing "the best rendering of detail and color accuracy we've ever seen on a tablet display." As a result, Consumer Reports has recalibrated its scoring system.
"A number of current models, including the iPad 2 (which remains on sale and is a fine performer), that received excellent scores under the past standard will now be adjusted to receive very good scores overall," Donna L. Tapellini wrote in an April 2 blog post on the new report. "Likewise, some models that received good scores may also be adjusted downward, and some overall scores have changed slightly."
Tapellini also gushed about the iPad's performance as well, calling it "superb" in a number of ways. The magazine found the iPad's 5-megapixel camera to take "very good" photos, Verizon's 4G network to be fast and dependable and, despite the tablet's energy-burning display and graphics, a battery life that exceeded all other tablets.
Consumer Reports also addressed a criticism that was quick to follow the new iPad's release: how quickly it heats up. In testing, it found the new iPad to reach 116 degrees while running games--13 degrees hotter than the iPad 2 ever warmed to.
Tapellini wrote that they "didn't find those temperatures to be cause for concern." They observed, she wrote, that since "the new iPad was not recharging when playing a demanding, intense video game, which showed that the problem was limited to times when the device was playing a demanding game with the screen fully bright."
Later the same day, however, Consumer Reports gave a little more thought to the heat issue. In a follow-up post, Paul Reynolds explained that while the iPad could hit high temperatures--it actually reached 122 degrees in a test that entailed running an intense game for 45 minutes in an environment simulating being outdoors on a 90-degree day--it wasn't dangerous hot. Plus, competing tablets, under similar conditions, reacted similarly--the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 reached 121 degrees and the Asus Transformer Prime 117 degrees. Plus, tablets are held differently than laptops, making prolonged contact on bare skin less of an issue.
"Our new tests confirm that the new iPad is indeed warmer in its hottest locations than its predecessor and a number of Android tablets (though certainly not all). And presumably due to its sophisticated screen and powerful graphics processor, the new iPad struggled to recharge its battery when running a demanding game with the screen at full brightness," wrote Reynolds.
Consumer Reports made headlines last July when it announced that it couldn't recommend Apple's iPhone 4 due to antenna issues that became widely, and jokingly, referred to as "Antennagate." The publication s engineers tested three iPhone 4 handsets in a radio-frequency isolation chamber with a base station emulator.
"When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side an easy thing, especially for lefties the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal," Consumer Reports' Mike Gika blogged July 12, 2011. "Due to this problem, we can't recommend the iPhone 4."
Ten other tablets joined the Apple iPad on Consumer Report's new list. Among them are the 10.1-inch Toshiba Excite 10LE, the lightest 10-inch tablet that the site has ever tested, and the waterproof, 8-inch Pantech Element. (A bit of warning: While safe to bring poolside, its display was found wanting in bright sunlight.)
Samsung's Galaxy Tab 7.7 was the first tablet with an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen to be tested by the site, and CR was a fan of the dual-screen, Nintendo DS-like Sony Tablet P, though it found the Tablet P's screens to better lend themselves to gaming and viewing photos than Web browsing or other tasks.