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Hands-on impressions of the cancelled Surface mini reveals unique case

Microsoft's plans to launch a smaller Surface mini tablet this past summer were cancelled a few weeks before it was scheduled to launch. Now a new report offers some hands-on impressions of the tablet, including word of a special case that was made for the Surface mini.

Neowin says it got to check out one of these tablets, which would have used Windows RT 8.1, but was not given permission to take any photos or videos of the product. According to their report, the hardware specs for the Surface mini included an 8-inch display, a Qualcomm processor, 1 GB of RAM, and USB and microSD ports. It adds that it would have shipped with the same Surface Pen that's included with the current 12-inch Surface Pro 3, which was confirmed when that tablet's manual mentioned the Surface mini by name.

The rest of the article praises the Surface mini, even though it reportedly has a large bezel. However, perhaps the most unique feature of the tablet was its optional case. Neowin states

"First off, the cases come in several different colors, much like the Type Covers, and includes a built in kickstand. At the end of the stand is the same loop that you can find with the Pro 3 to hold the pen. The front case cover is detachable but it is not a keyboard cover like you get with the Type 3. The space available would be too cramped to include a QWERTY. Instead, the attachable cover protects the front glass but the entire cover makes the tablet feel like a portfolio."

It does sound like the Surface mini would have been a solid product, hardware wise, but Neowin's report does omit some details, such as the speed of its processor, the amount of onboard storage. and its battery life. There's also no word on what the price would have been for the Surface mini. The report gives its own opinion that Microsoft made a mistake in cancelling the tablet. Do you feel the same way?

Source: Neowin

100 Comments
  • Omg that will be a big hit!!
  • reading is hard!
  • Muhaha
  • lol...
  • It's good they killed it. It needed to be miles out in front of they wanted any chance of smashing into the market the same way the surface pro did. This sounds good but not great
  • I think that they have to let the partners fight that battle... like Toshiba is doing. Microsoft shouldn't be killing their hardware partners and Surface is obviously the top end choice which doesn't move a lot of units.
  • Oh plz MS OEM's sux donkey balls.....all of them...they are really bad...Microsoft need to invest more in there own HW.
  • do you know android is king? it is because of the "donkey balls" OEMs? MSFT would pay any kind of money to get some "donkey balls" that made them relevant in mobile again.
  • I would have love this too. but why 8 inchand not stick with 10
  • This would be a companion tablet to the full sized Surface tablets. Sort of like how Apple has their full sized iPads and then their iPad minis. So you'd still be able to purchase the 10 inch models too (although I realize they may not be around forever since the Pro is now larger than 10")
  • Exactly my take on it. I purchased a DV8Pro to compliment my Surface and the pen is sadly a bit of a disaster. I think the Surface Mini will rematerialise next year, to coincide with Windows 9 and touch office. My money is on spring to summer '15.
  • right , but wouldn't the 10 inch rt be considered the mini then, since the pro3 is larger. and all the keyboards would be compatible. it will now just include a pen . why take away type/touch cover and the kickstand(build on to the device)?
  • in other news. i want a blackberry passport.
  • I'm not sure I would consider it no. There's nothing "mini" about my pro2! My main use case for the 8" device, other than writing notes, is plugging into the back of a switch in a datacentre and doing some maintenance configuration. In a datacenter there's usually nowhere to rest a laptop and I've had great success in using an 8 inch tablet to type commands in (Two handed using thumbs) without fatigue. The 10/12" is just too heavy and unwieldy for this, and having the keyboard or kick stand is neither welcome or an advantage.
  • Who needs a "mini" with the proliferation of "phablets"? I think cancellation was a smart move.
  • I wonder if they canceled this to focus on a 1520 successor with pen support. Perhaps this would be a Surface Phone? With WindowsPhone and RT supposedly merged with the next version this might make sense. Although they would need a place to store the pen on the phone...
  • I think a 1520 with a Pen would be a slick option. Then all ya need is a bluetooth keyboard, Wireless printer, and MS's soon to be released Miracast device, and you now have everything in one device. Just sit in front of your big screen TV with your phone and do everything.
  • That would be awesome...
  • bingo. the ipad mini sells so bad that apple doesn't talk about sales of it and groups it with the larget tablets. surface mini would have sold 1/100th at best of the apple mini. And then it has the superiorly specced nexus 7 to contend. This was a flop in the making.
  • U don't know that actually
    Every iPhone and non-iPad user has a iPad mini (almost) Sent from somewhere. Don't worry I ain't illegal.
  • You understand "hiding numbers" completely wrong. Big ipads don't sell after cheap mini came around. You can see it from ipad revenue.
  • Disgree.  It would be a couch/patio device.  I think I would like to stay with a smaller phone and have a mid-sized casual device.
  • I just pretend my 1520 is a surface mini.
  • Oh crap. That just reminded me that mine wasn't.
  • Right.
  • I think they were right not to release it. It has to stand out on its own and above the competition. Its hard enough for surface 2 to compete let alone a surface mini. They need to innovate in this market. This surface mini sounds like a decent device though.
  • I think simply the fact that it included a pressure sensitive pen would have been enough innovation to make this an interesting product. I know a lot of people who would like to have a small tablet they can carry everywhere and use it to sketch using the pen. It would have been awesome for designers and illustrators. Sure the Surface Pro is better for designers since you have access to Adobe software, but the Mini would have been awesome as a second smaller tablet you can carry everywhere.
  • If you want a mini tablet with a stylus I'd look at the Asus Vivotab Note 8. It comes with a wacom stylus and runs 8.1 with an Atom
  • Please consider this product to be launced every where. We in India are desparately waiting for such powerful tech piece. No surface! Are you serious! This will be a great hit in India.
  • Yes
    If the surface 2 launched in India, I would have definitely bought it. Sent from somewhere. Don't worry I ain't illegal.
  • Wish it supported wacom tech instead, I would have bought it then. And rt is a no go, ill be enjoying my 8pro instead
  • Vivotab Note 8
  • I think including the pen was a very smart move.  But I think what might have contributed to the decision to can the Surface Mini was that Offfice for touch was not ready. Also, in the end it doesn't offer anything unique when compared to other pen-toating 8-inch tablets.  Yes, the build quality and pen quality would have been excellent.... but without Office Touch in toe, I think Microsoft was lacking the wow factor to offset their nervousness in alienating Dell and other fledgeling offerings in the small W8 tablet space.
  • plus it would have been ovepriced and shipped with a low res screen unable to match the performance and specs of the nexus 7 which would have outsold it and burried it 10:1 easily. MSFT just can't compete. Even the ipad mini was a flop.
  • iPad mini is not a flop for goodness sake. Sent from somewhere. Don't worry I ain't illegal.
  • Sale-wise, the iPad mini had flopped. The mini-tablet market is struggling, and when even Apple can't success, I highly doubt MS would. Mini-tablets are great for kids, but no kid wants a tablet with Windows, unfortunately.
  • I agree with this the pen would have been cool, but at the same time something not everyone would need thus adding to the cost unnecessarily. To me they need two versions one with pen for professional artists/business types using OneNote and a cheaper version that makes do with finger input - not just the saving on the pen, but also on not needing Wacom or whatever digitisers in the screen. But yes not having Office Touch and Windows 9 to me are the main reasons that even if they were better than the competition would have still meant it wouldn't have been a big seller. It just wouldn't have the apps and who really needs the desktop on a 8" device? Yes I know some people will say "i do, i do", but they are in the minority and MS need this to be a product that appeals to everyone, not just IT admins or whoever else would find it necessary. To me the 8" for factor is perfect for the upcoming Threshold version of Windows. The best of RT and WP together, no desktop to confuse people, one store with apps that work on your tablet or phone (which can be the one device). I was very tempted by the current Lenovo Miix2 that's currently got £110 off and selling for £150 here in the UK, that is an amazing bargain, but even still I can't justify it. Windows doesn't have the apps that Android and iOS do for tablets and Windows 8.1 while much improved now for smaller devices doesn't hold the promise to me that the upcoming version does. So i'm eagerly awaiting the Surface Mini for next year with Windows 9 on it. If they'd released it now i'd have ignored it as well like I am the Miix.
  • Sound great aside from the lack of QWERTY being built into the cover. Otherwise, really solid, I would've been willing to spend a few hundred on this as an ultraportable note taking device. My Pro 3 is great, but even the largest of pockets can't hold that thing. :P
  • surface mini is the notetaking device microsoft tried to pitch the pro 3 as. and remember folks, RT is not useless! it has RDC! thats all you need to make windows rt functional
  • 1GB of ram. windows RT. 8 inches? a pen for just one app? To say this would have been a flop doesn't quite say it. Thank you Satya. You've been a major source of dissapointment but this one time, you did the right thing. This had ZUNE written all over.
  • Cancelling until Threshold (no desktop whatsoever) was smart.
  • I own 1020 and surface pro 2 and now added sammy galaxy s tab 8.4. Would have loved surface mini.
  • Microsoft promised Synergy across multiple form factors but takes forever to deliver it's products to the market.
  • microsoft promised that in the 90s. yet to deliver.
  • *sigh* I miss Ballmer.
  • I think they are waiting for the right time to release it . It cannot be cancelled in such a competitive environment where Microsoft still needs to prove itself badly to the customers in the market and gain its lost consumer base back.
  • They aren't going to get back their lost consumer base because they continually look after that user base by supporting iOS and Android before their own platform!!!
  • I'm sure it would have been a great tablet but also unnecessary.
  • I think it would have been more necessary than the surface 3. It would allow a real powerful portable tablet whereas a 12 inch tabtop (tablet+laptop) would not be so much portable. Sent from somewhere. Don't worry I ain't illegal.
  • Cancel for whatever reason but rt needs new upgraded device. Surface 2 is pretty awesome but something similar to iPad air would be nice. I think surface screen ratio is better than ipads but 4 by 3 ratio is normal for most tablet users. So surface rt with good ppi and screen ratio familiar to most people should work. But need to cut quality of device to make it lighter and cut the bezels. Trying different didn't work very well so try existing norm.
  • With RT? It probably would have flopped. If it had a bay trail and Windows 8.1, it would have been awesome.
  • You mean just like Surface RT and Surface 2 are having the biggest market share among all Windows 8.1 tablets? And Baytrail is getting outperformed by almost 1 year older Snapdragon 800. Not even metioning Tegra K1, which is in a league of its own.
  • this seems to be the story of the surface line. the device is ready, but the software is not. the device was ready a year ago, but wasnt released. I think the real hold up is office, since it's not ready for an 8" screen. after using the curent version on a dell, i think it definitiely needs to be updated. I actually want to try office on an ipad mini to see what alls there. i still don't think theres anyway they can get excel right for a touch device.
  • 1GB of ram doesn't sound like much; it was probably for the best.
  • 1GB ram is enough to run apps. Sent from somewhere. Don't worry I ain't illegal.
  • having used windows tablets with 1GB of ram, you don't know what you're talking about. They start paging a lot and you get horrible multi-tasking lag when switching from something like mail, to one note, to IE. 1GB of ram on top of windows just leaves about half of it left. And with RT apps being memory bloated basically you have to start closing apps or lag central kicks in.
  • Probably for the best considering they support the competition more than their own platform!
  • It was the right decision as long they haven't merged WP and RT. Until now I think RT biggest problem is just that there is a desktop where there shouldn't be one ;)
  • I would love a mini but it has to have full 8.1 Windows and not RT
  • I declare Windows RT... a vanity project.
  • I declare you a genius ;)
  • I declare your sarcasm to be ill-placed ;)
  • Would have been AWESOME to have the pen on a small tablet. Like the offerings of Asus and Dell. My EP-121 is almost at the end of its life so probably SP3 (or 4, LOL) in the coming months. Oh, my Lumia 920 needs an upgrade, so maybe a 1520-like phablet with pen support for OneNote! Boy, I will be a happy man! :D
  • I think that would be a great refresher to the tablet market.  I would buy one.
  • I will buy whatever replaces this. This is the perfect size for my everyday - in the office/meetings - usage. If the pen works as well as the Surface 3 pen, it will totally replace my Surface 3 for daily/hourly usage. I will have the S3, Surface Mini whatever, and WP 1520 as my mobile toolkit. This is the complete and perfect set of tools for what I do every day.
  • I'm used to bigger screens. I was thinking a 9 inch Tablet at minimum. Didn't really entice me. Good on them to cancel it. It would have failed on Specs alone.
  • Just like all those high selling android tablets with their low specs?
  • It can't just be an iPad/android mini knockoff, it really does need to have something unique. I lime the idea of an 8" tablet with an ntrig digitizer and pen, but it needs something really revolutionary. I'm not sure what.
  • The pen is a huge difference maker. Call it the Surface Note.
  • Hopefully this means the Surface 3 WILL have pen support!
  • Yes.. Duh? It's an obvious mistake
  • Good move by cancelling, would of been a huge mistake to release this, RT devices are not in high demand and windows tablets are having trouble competing on the normal sized tablets and it wouldnt be different with smaller size.
  • You can't compete if you don't release any products...
  • ARM would make no sense. Hopefully it runs Cherry Trail when it comes, because ARM is a waste when Intel puts out x86-compatible stuff with comparable performance, battery life, and pricing. The case doesn't really seem that meaningful, in terms of being unique. Still, I think a mini with x86 could go over well.
  • Except few people use the desktop at all on an 8". I'd like to see the Surface 3 10" have an Atom though.
  • Big bezel ? Reduce that thing before launching it.
  • It should be delayed until Windows Threshold, fully touch-enabled Office, and sufficiently powerful, fanless Intel chips can be engineered into the design.  Then it would be a truly viable product.
  • no, its the right choice, keep focusing on big USEFUL tablets that can actually "do more" now bring me that surface 3 RT with 15" 4k screen
  • I don't currently own a tablet and was VERY interested in this. I am disappoint ...
  • Wow, this sounds like it would have been pretty cool. 
  • The mini will be back
  • If it was running RT then a very sensible move, at least until Threshold (hopefully) sorts out the uneasy marriage between desktop and touch that still persist in 8.1. A Surface Mini running WP would have been preferable to RT.
  • I would buy this in a heartbeat. But perhaps they were waiting for Windows Phone/RT to merge first, and touch screen office. Hope it gets released with Threshold.
  • Windows Rt glad they cancelled. Now the new one will come with full Windows.
  • The mini would have been a big hit if it was launched. Never I'm not going to buy coz that time I just bought the Lenovo ThinkPad 8 Pro
  • Are we really sure it was cancelled? I thought they were just waiting for Office Gemini...
  • Of corse it was a mistake I find the 1520 to limiting and the size of the the s2 to big
  • Why would Microsoft pulled out this? Really? They really need to make the surface version of the dell venue 8 pro... For me this is the perfect size (jokes aside)
  • Big mistake release the mini!!!!!
  • Too bad if it dropped the micro hdmi out :(
  • Guess it doesn't need HDMI out if it supports the Microsoft Miracast dongle thing.
  • I'd love to see a baytrail or successor - based 'Surface'. Under the perhaps-naive assumption that it would be a more suitable substitute for the RT versions. Web devs are not embracing the HTML5 world fast enough, and if nothing else, x86 plugin support in IE would go a long way.
    I had really hoped the mini would be exactly that.
  • this is turning into curiour
  • 1GB of RAM? It's good that they cancelled the product, that's why w8 tablets don't sell well, the hardware is bad. Surface pro 3 is the best so far, if they want to do a kick ass mini. They have to use the P3 as a reference, same aspect ratio at least full HD and 3G/4G option, even at 600ish price will sell a lot in business
  • I thought they just cancelled it due to the touch office not being ready and still had plans to release it?
  • It needs Office (Metro) first to succeed.
  • I would have bought this in a heartbeat. For me I dont want full Windows on a device this this small.
  • They can still release it but they shouldn't call it Surface anything. The Surface brand should be reserved for X86 based tablets and ARM tablets should use the Lumia brand. It's time to end the confusion caused by Surface RT/Pro 
  • I would NEVER EVER buy a tablet based on Windows RT and that uses an ARM processor!! NEVER EVER!!   Why on earth use an ARM processor when there are several similar Intel processors available that do the job much better by allowing full compatibily with the SEVERAL MILLIONS OF WINDOWS PROGRAMS?!!!! All the Intel Atom processors for instance, even 64-bit versions that could use Windows 8.1 professional.   Yes for this tablet BUT WITH AN INTEL PROCESSOR AND Windows (or Windows Pro using a 64-bit version).   With the current Intel processors offerings, there is no need nor any justification to use an ARM processor that is incompatible with the normal Windows programs. The full compatibility with Windows when using an Intel processor is too good to lose when using an ARM processor. DON'T DO THIS MISTAKE AGAIN MICROSOFT!
  • So this Surface mini would have been the first rt tablet with a pen(stylus)? Why there isn't any rt tablets with a pen until now?