We’ve already gotten a pretty good look at the Surface Mini tablet Microsoft had planned to release in 2014, before canceling at the last minute. But now Evan Blass (@evleaks) has released some marketing materials created for the discontinued device, including a spec sheet and some rendered pictures.
It looks like the Surface Mini would have been a truly unusual device had it launched. Whether it would have been a successful one is something we’ll never know.
The Surface Mini was a tablet code-named “Iris.” It featured a 7.5 inch, 1440 x 1080 pixel display with a 4:3 aspect ration, 240 pixels per inch, and support for 5-point multitoch input. It also works with a pressure-sensitive Surface Pen, which was expected to come in the box with the tablet.
Unlike larger Surface tablets, which are generally designed to be used with a detachable keyboard, the Surface Mini would have been a handheld device, first and foremost. But it did have a built-in 3-position kickstand that would have allowed you to prop it up on a tablet a several different angles for watching videos, making video calls, or reading the news without holding the tablet in your hands.
The tablet measured 8″ x 5.4″ x 0.35″ and weighed about 13 ounces. Microsoft planned to offer black, red, and blue color options. And the tablet featured a capacitive Windows button and physical power and volume buttons.
Other features included 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, stereo speakers, dual microphones, a 5MP rear camera with autofocus, a 2.1MP front-facing camera, a microSD card reader, a headset jack, and a micro USB port.
There were to have been two configuration options: 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage or 2GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
The biggest problem with the tablet is likely that it was designed to run Windows RT, a version of Windows developed to work on devices with ARM-based processors. The problem with Windows RT is that it couldn’t run legacy Windows applications developed for computers with x86 chips… which means that the Surface Mini wouldn’t have been able to run the vast majority of Windows-compatible software.
If Windows RT and/or Windows Phone had ever really caught on, maybe that wouldn’t have been a huge deal. But since developers never really embraced the platform the way they did Android and iOS, there’s a huge app gap between the Windows Store and Google and Apple’s app stores.
Maybe if Microsoft had used an Intel Atom processor for the Surface Mini, the company could have just released it with Windows 8.1 and eventually offered an upgrade path to Windows 10. But instead Microsoft opted for a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, which limited the software that would work on the tablet.
Or maybe if Microsoft has just waited a few more years. There’s a new version of Windows 10 that’s expected to run on devices with ARM-based processors, and it’s coming by the end of 2017. This time Microsoft says users will be able to run legacy Windows applications, thanks to emulation that allows x86 code to run on ARM chips, as long as their sufficiently powerful. The first Windows-on-ARM devices are expected to feature Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processors, which are the chips that power many of this year’s highest-performance smartphones.
Even smaller than 7.5 inches running full windows would work. Intel has the right idea with the compute card. Just slap a screen and battery on it and provide plenty of reasonable docking solutions.
As a MS Surface 3 (non-Pro) with LTE user, I hope the new ARM based full Windows devices will include ones with 8″-10″ screens. The Surface 3 is great and all but the Atom device can still improve on battery life. I get typically ~6 hours (sometimes lower) with my usage while on LTE.
The ARM based devices will better support always-on/connected standby/InstantGo/whatever it’s called now better as well. Right now, MS acknowledges that InstantGo is a large battery drain still and hibernates my Surface after a period of idle time. With the relatively slow eMMC storage, resuming takes longer than I’d like.
I definitely don’t see Intel Core SoCs filling in this niche any time soon unless you don’t mind a 1 hour battery life or a very thick device with a loud fan. Hoping the ARM devices are great but I’m not holding my breath right now given past results.
32gb of storage for Windows? Maybe 29gb after it’s formatted, minus 10gb for a recovery partition and another 10gb for the bloated Windows OS, plus at least 1gb for virtual memory swap and at least 4gb for patches on Patch Tuesday. That leaves maybe 7gb of free space, without even installing any apps. 1gb of RAM for Windows ain’t gonna cut it either.
Assuming there’s a large enough market for small (< 8" screens) full desktop Windows tablets, is it feasible to make a fanless device with Intel's Core chips with reasonable thickness, battery life and no/little thermal throttling?
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 based Windows devices seem interesting. My question for those is how well they perform. Hopefully, MS has other chip makers lined up as well. Qualcomm isn't really doing well right now with all these lawsuits against them threatening their entire business model
With Atom, it has been possible for ca. 2 years. With Core, it is also possible now, even with good battery duration. Snapdragon 835 is not needed but just another stupidity and fake excuse to delay 64b Windows on such tablets.
Windows tablets (other than China crap) with 4:3 display are the most urgently needed. If published now, they can have Windows 10 Pro on Intel CPU, long battery life, low weight, smaller edges and (like current Surfaces) avoid the distracting Windows button. With matte display, they would also provide what ebook readers always promise but never deliver. A digitizer was given. Only one aspect remains: the display size. 7.5″ may have been good for some but there should also be 10″ and 12.5″ variants to make everybody happy.
I have been desparately waiting for such a tablet since 2010. Instead of Windows RT, Microsoft is making the next stupidity by Windows S but, unlike 2014, it does not matter any more because it can be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro. The even greater stupidity remains that all noteworthy manufacturers leave the 4:3 tablets field to Apple alone.
uh, hate to break it to you…
Whichever Chinese Windows 4:3 tablets, they have shorter to much shorter battery duration, much greater reflectance and much weaker support than I want. Often more problems, such as much weaker WLAN than I want. I have read about every test and review available during the previous 5 years. Althought it is not the crap it was 5 years ago (WLAN range 0.5m) but sort of reasonable for the cheap price nowadays, I’d rather pay 4 times the price for twice the current quality.
Both my Teclast X98 Air II and Cube i6 Air get at least 8 hours of video playback (720p 10bit). The gap between the screen is annoying but no way a deal breaker for me. Had them for two years now and they’ve held up fine. Never had an issue with 2GB of RAM either. Definitely a buy at your own risk kind of thing but you can’t just say they suck if you haven’t owned/used one.
8h video playback means maybe 7h surfing over WLAN indoors with at most 50% brightness so, concluding from other tablets, ca. 3.5h surfing over WLAN outdoors with 100% brightness. This is not enough for me by far. I understand that it might be ok for you indoors, where reflectance and screen gap matter less.
I’d buy it if ran full desktop Windows. Since it was running Windows RT, it was a good move for MS to not release it.
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