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Another iPad Question. Sorry!

I’ve read loads of posts about which iPad to get and there are countless points of view on that. Sorry to start another one but I’m not sure I quite came across the answer from my research and I can’t be bothered to read them all again.

Some people prefer the 3G iPad because of its built in GPS receiver which, they claim, works very well. A separate bluetooth GPS receiver is indeed another device to carry and keep charged.

Some people complain about iPads overheating, shutting down and chewing battery.

I think these two things can be linked. As I understand it, calculating position from GPS signals takes a huge amount of processing power due, in part, to the super fast clock cycles needed to measure tiny time differences. Is this responsible for the overheating instances? Would using an external GPS receiver allow an iPad to be used in a kneeboard holder without overheating and eating the battery?

I don’t know that much about this subject but I think you can get combined GPS/ADS-B transceivers? If so, buying one of these with the money saved from a Wifi only iPad might offer a very reliable and capable platform.

EGBJ, United Kingdom

Get the GPS ipad. I had both types and would never buy again having to rely on external GPS (which worked very well)

You only get heating problems if you leave in direct sun (at angles closer to perpendicular).

However, it doesn’t mean that you’ll have guaranteed problems in direct sun. I fly planes with good visibility / sunlight and don’t have problem.

I don’t buy the processing power for GPS heating, as no other device really heats up much (apple watch / external reveivers, etc).

Last Edited by Noe at 13 Oct 11:19

The pro is also expensive, but I REALLY like the pen. (super handy to copy clearances / atis)

All consumer tablets use very similar hardware inside.

Virtually all the power used ends up as heat, and this has to be dissipated via convection, conduction and radiation.

The biggest heat source is the screen backlight and the circuit driving it, which has to be on MAX brightness in most flying scenarios (except at night when you get the opposite problem: some tablets can’t go dim enough). OLED displays don’t have a backlight, which may be why I can make every tablet shut down in sunlight except my Samsung T705 which is OLED. My Samsung S7 phone, also OLED, will never shut down. I read somewhere that Apple have recently moved to OLED and that is definitely worth checking out.

The next heat source is charging the battery, so not charging during the flight is a huge help in this regard. It can make a difference between somebody getting regular shutdowns in their typical flying profile, and getting no shutdowns at all. It is also arguably safer to avoid in-flight charging (due to lithium battery hazards) but then you have to take the tablet home / to the hotel / etc after each flight. Personally I find I have to expose the tablet to some cold draught from a vent if charging it (but again the T705 is OK).

The next heat source is the processor but in typical aviation apps it isn’t doing anything…

The GPS power is way down the list. Of the “radio” features I find much more power is used by 4G and WIFI especially if used concurrently; if you use a phone or a tablet (with a SIM card) as a WIFI hotspot, it needs a lot of power. My S7 phone lasts maybe an hour or two in such usage. But you won’t be doing that when flying.

Watching 4K p0rno movies also generates a lot of heat (in the device) due to the processor and graphics activity but you also won’t be doing that when flying, generally

Finally, I have found that not using a plastic sleeve that covers the back surface makes a huge difference to overheating.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I think Peter’s post sums up the influencing factors very well.

I can only add my own experience/data points for you to consider:

  • iPad Mini with GPS(January 2013, not sure which edition that was)
  • Used with kneeboard made specifically for iPad mini. iPad is fully enclosed from all sides expect for the display side, but gives access to all buttons and ports
  • I do not generally charge it in flight. If the battery is low, I will connect a powerbank to it, usually in the later part of a longish flight
  • I usually use the iPad only occasionally to double-check route/airspace/frequencies etc. If not in use, I turn the display off and close the lid of the kneeboard (paper and pen on top to note down clearances, ATIS, fuel tank switch time if applicable, and my shopping list for when I get home)
  • In the first year of flying or so, I used the iPad more actively than described further above, i.e. the display was constantly on
  • I fly various types, mostly Cessna 1X2, Piper Cherokees
  • I have flown in quite warm conditions, i.e. mid summer in Southern Europe and Northern Africa


I have never experienced any shutdowns. On a typical flight, the SkyDemon log will show GPS signal losses amounting to several seconds, usually less than a minute in total.

This 4-year old device is now slowly becoming unusable in-flight: Battery life is pretty bad and it doesn’t cope very well (i.e. slooooow) with recent versions of iOS. I’m probably going to replace it soon with the same unit of a later model year.

Hungriger Wolf (EDHF), Germany

(January 2013 is the original iPad mini, version 1, the second issue was announced in October 2013)

I use an iPad mini 4 with 4G, and I could not be happier. I stopped using the external (GNS2000) GPS after a while because the integrated GPS is just as precise and reliable – at least that is true in my (plastic) Cirrus. I remember I had a couple of shutdowns of my first iPads in my Piper, but mostly on the ground without any ventilation. In the Cirrus i have A/C, so it’s never a problem.

I recently bought a new standard Ipad for the kids.
I got informed that the Ipad mini is on the way out. You can still get it some places, but not for long.
I’m happy with the mini and have it placed on the yoke. I’m considering to buy a new one just to be sure I have one that fits the yoke.

pmh, Denmark

No, the iPad mini is still in production and you can it in any Apple Store or online at Apple. There was some speculation this year, because Apple did not upgrade the “mini” yet, but other sources say there will be a “5” version.

By coincedence I’ll be visited by some friends from Apple in S.F. this weekend (and fly them around ;-)), and since two of them are Product Managers they should know – I will ask and report back. They might not be allowed to speak about it though.

Last Edited by at 13 Oct 13:53

Well, all has been said, but FWIW, I’ll add one more data point, I think my use case stresses the device quite a bit:

I fully second Patrick: except for the early days when I placed the brand new iPad III in the bright sun light for a long time, I never had a shut downs in six years.

When doing long and more serious flights together with Mrs. terbang in our Mooney, like the journey we’re currently on, we have an iPad mini (second generation, for Mrs. terbangs personal use outside the plane) and an iPad Pro 9.7 (newest generation, for my personal us outside the plane, this is where I’m currently writing on). Both with internal GPS and with rubber type cases for protection. We don’t have mounts for them and use them only to carry the fpl, look up plates etc and play around with the route. On long flights like the Atlantic crossing, we keep them charged, as we consider them a last resort in case of total loss of electrical power. On shorter flights we just make sure they’re charged when leaving the hotel.

We use Jepp FD here in South America, SD back home. We also do all flight planning, weather briefing and so on using the iPads. Outside flying we use them for all the normal purposes, at home and while traveling.

We flew all over Europe, to North Africa, all across the US, crossed the Atlantic three times, crossed the equator and are now in south America and at least for us this setup really works fine – no overheating, no loss of GPS signal for more than a few seconds as Patrick wrote. The only “defect” we had was when I dropped my diagonal pliers on my iPad two days before we left for our current trip, but that’s another story

Back home, when instructing or flying with friends in our club’s aircraft, I simply remove the magnetically attached lid and place my iPad in one of these leather knee boards. It has a cover with a clamp for sheet of paper for making notes.

Again, this is only my personal experience, others may differ, but for me this setup is very convenient.

Last Edited by terbang at 13 Oct 14:43
EDFM (Mannheim), Germany

S57 wrote:

Some people complain about iPads overheating, shutting down and chewing battery.
I moved last year from an iPad Retina to an iPad Mini 4 3G. While the former was getting warm almost every flight, the latter can handle anything but sitting directly in the sun with no cabin airflow whatsoever (try achieving that condition on a PA28) in the dead of summer (I will likely overheat long before). I am very satisfied with my mini. The later CPUs run a lot cooler.

ESMK, Sweden
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