Dell Venue Pro 8 beats Microsoft Surface Mini to the punch

Waiting for Microsoft's new mini tablet? Take a look at Dell's offering in the meantime

While we've been patiently waiting for Microsoft to produce a Surface Mini tablet, Dell has taken the wraps off its Windows 8.1-running Venue Pro 8 tablet.

As the Microsoft Surface Mini looks unlikely to arrive before 2014, this new desktop replacement micro-tab looks set to beat it to the shelves - and knock it out of the park in terms of power and flexibility.

Intel Bay Trail inside

The Venue Pro 8 is built around an Intel's brand new Atom Bay Trail quad-core processor, which packs similar same battery life-enhancing properties as its Haswell counterpart seen in desktops and laptops. Dell reckons it'll last for around eight hours on a charge – not bad for a tablet running a full desktop OS.

The Intel Bay Trail processor differs fundamentally from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip that is expected in Microsoft's Surface Mini (and which we'll be seeing seen in the 7in Kindle Fire HDX very soon). It uses a 64-bit x86 architecture, allowing it to run all that classic Windows software and Steam games you already have. The Snapdragon, meanwhile, is a 32-bit ARM-based chip, which can only run the RT version of Windows 8.1 - and those classic desktop apps are a no-go. Bit of a win for the Venue Pro 8, then. 

The well-built 8.9mm thick slate features an 8in IPS display (no word on resolution yet). Dell is calling it 'enterprise ready' with Windows 8.1 installed and active pen and keyboard accessories to help make it a mini desktop replacement.

There's also a larger 11in Dell Venue Pro 11 on the way with Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, up to 8GB of RAM and 'biometrics' option which we assume will be a fingerprint scanner.

Dell hasn't confirmed a price or release date for the Venue Pro yet, but it will certainly be available long before Microsoft's mini-tab shows its face.