"Real life is hard on gadgets," and so is the team at Always On. To evaluate the durability of devices, Molly Wood and her team use a series of torture tests that simulate real-life situations with the intention of damaging and destroying.
The torture tests include extreme temperatures, the unavoidable dances with gravity in the form of dropping and spilling, and wild-card tests based on viewer feedback. The variety of conditions each gadget goes through makes every torture test equally entertaining and cringe-worthy.
We've rounded up all of the tablets that got the Always On treatment and listed each torture test the devices survived or failed. A couple of tablets on the list were tested in two different settings and -- depending on the test -- sometimes delivered different results. A testament to the unpredictable nature of tablet durability and a reminder that your mileage may vary.
So please, use your Microsoft Surface as a skateboard deck or your Google Nexus 10 as a Frisbee at your own risk.
Apple iPad (third generation)
The third-generation iPad was the guinea pig for Always On torture tests and the first to pass the gantlet. The fourth-generation iPad hasn't been tested, but its build is similar to its predecessor's.
The iPad was put in an ice chest for 2 hours for the cold test and in a small oven for 30 minutes at 150 degrees for the heat test. The wild-card test consisted of dropping a set of keys, followed by an unopened can of soda, repeatedly on its screen.
|Torture test||Apple iPad (3rd-gen)|
In front of a live crowd at CES 2013, the third-generation iPad also received the most extreme torture test to date. It was submerged in liquid nitrogen and then dropped from a 9-foot ladder. To Molly Wood's surprise and Brian Tong's delight, it continued to prove itself as a highly durable tablet by surviving both. Watch the CES torture-test highlights here.
|CES torture test||Apple iPad (3rd-gen)|
|Liquid nitrogen test||Survived|
|Drop test (after liquid nitrogen test)||Survived|
Google Nexus 7
The Google Nexus 7 was the first tablet to be torture-tested in Season 2 of Always On, and we quickly saw what it was made of. Literally.
The first drop test resulted in the back panel flying off, exposing the internal workings of the tablet, and subsequent droppings eventually smashed the tablet's screen, requiring a replacement tablet to complete the tests.
The 7-inch tablet managed to survive only the temperature tests. It easily turned on after 2 hours in the freezer and faced some warping after 1 hour in a 200-degree oven, but still managed to be slowly responsive. Watch the torture test here and read the full review of the Nexus 7 here.
|Torture test||Google Nexus 7|
Microsoft Surface RT
As the only Windows tablet on this list, the Microsoft Surface RT got mixed results. It passed both temperature tests after 2.5 hours in a freezer and an hour in a 250-degree oven. It suffered some discoloration on the screen after the heat test but was still functional as a tablet (and baking sheet).
The Windows RT tablet did not survive the spill or drop tests, although at CES 2013 the Surface was dropped from a 9-foot ladder and suffered some damage but still managed to power on. The wild-card tests evaluated the tablet's capabilities as a footrest and skateboard. Unsurprisingly, it failed both. Watch the torture test here and read the full review of the Surface RT here.
|Torture test||Microsoft Surface|
Google Nexus 10
The Google Nexus 10 is an impressive 10-inch tablet with great performance, design, and, according to the torture tests, durability. It passed the cold test after being in a freezer for 5 hours and originally failed the heat test after being in a 200-degree oven for an hour. The tablet eventually turned on after 30 minutes and some charging.
The 10-inch tablet failed the wild-card test, which consisted of being tested as a Frisbee device, but survived both the drop test and the water test, making it one of the most durable torture-tested tablets. Watch the torture test here and read the full review of the Nexus 10 here.
|Torture test||Google Nexus 10|
Amazon Kindle Fire HD
The HD is one of the most durable 7-inch tablets to experience our gamut of torture tests. It impressively survived a diet-soda bath followed by a power wash and stayed intact after being dropped. It did manage to acquire some "scratchage" along the way, but otherwise it survived both spills.
The tablet required some thawing and charging in order to turn on after 2 hours in the freezer for the cold test. And after an hour in a 200-degree oven, the only visible damage was some minor separation at the seams. Watch the torture test here and read the full review of the Kindle Fire HD here.
|Torture test||Amazon Kindle Fire HD|
The 7-inch Kindle Fire HD was also torture-tested in the snow. It survived being landed on by a snowboarder and a long drop from a chair lift but, unsurprisingly, the tablet didn't fare so well when Molly Wood repeatedly ran it over with a snowmobile.
|Snow torture test||Amazon Kindle Fire HD|
|Chair lift drop||Survived|
|Snowboard impact test||Survived|
|Bearcat impact test||Failed|
Apple iPad Mini
The iPad Mini was torture-tested in Paris. Instead of a water test, it survived a coffee spill at a cafe, and when it came to the drop test, the tablet failed after a few spills of its own on the Champs-Elysees. The iPad Mini was also drop-tested at CES 2013 but managed to survive that round.
The Always On team didn't perform the cold, heat, or wild-card tests on the iPad Mini, so we're left to speculate as to whether the tablet can survive extreme temperatures and the destructively creative feedback of Always On viewers. Watch the torture test here and read the full review of the iPad Mini here.
|Torture test||Apple iPad Mini|
|Drop test (CES 2013)||Survived|
|Drop test (Paris)||Failed|