While the attention of many Apple watchers is currently focused on the announcement of a third-generation iPad, reports of a scaled-down Apple tablet have again emerged.

MarketWatch reports that component suppliers in Asia are working with Apple to test a new, smaller tablet PC.

Though none of the sources were prepared to go on the record, designs for a device with a screen of roughly 8in and a resolution similar to that of the iPad 2 have reportedly been circulating. AU Optronics and LG are thought to have produced test displays for such a device.

Rumours of a smaller iPad or iPad mini tend to do the rounds every once in a while but as far as we can recall this is the first one to emerge this year.

However, the latest report from MarketWatch does tally nicely with a rumour we heard back in December from Digitimes, which said that an iPad with a 7.85in screen would launch at some time in 2012. That report also names the same two companies - AU Optronics and LG - as the display manufacturers.

There is still a big question mark over a smaller iPad, though - the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs once declared that 9.7in - the screen size of all iPads to date - is the "minimum requirement" for a good tablet computing experience.