Microsoft just announced a new line of PCs at their latest event ahead of Microsoft Build – Copilot Plus PCs. Now, it wasn't too long ago that another new kind of PC was introduced to the public by Microsoft – an AI PC. So, it's natural to wonder how the two are different. Let's dig in.

Microsoft launches Copilot Plus PCs with deeper AI integration than ever before
Microsoft is ushering in a new generation of Windows laptops and they look quite promising.

Copilot Plus PCs are the next-generation PCs in the AI PC iteration. At the core level, they, too, are powered by a CPU, GPU, and NPU and have a dedicated Copilot key. But it seems like that was just the beginning.

For the new Copilot Plus PCs, their power and capabilities are what set them apart from the AI PCs and it all stems from their architecture.

Upgraded Systems Architecture. For starters, they have an upgraded systems architecture, with the MPU running at 40+ trillion operations per second or TOPS. So, Copilot Plus PCs are more powerful than AI PCs released till now, which maxed out at 10 trillion operations per second.

Better Performance and Battery Life. Microsoft claims that these are their most powerful, fastest, and most intelligent PCs yet. They are far more powerful when compared to existing Windows laptops. In fact, as demonstrated in some benchmark tests, Microsoft aims to take on Apple's Macbooks with these Copilot PCs; they are 58% faster than the MacBook Air M3.

Copilot+ PCs also have batteries that can last all day, and again, it performed better than Macbook Air M3 in benchmark tests for battery life.

Re-architected Windows 11. Moreover, the new Copilot Plus PCs feature a re-architected Windows 11 that has been configured to optimize battery and performance.

On-Device AI models. However, another important fact that makes them different from AI PCs is the fact that AI is locally incorporated into these PCs. Copilot PCs feature over 40 new on-device AI models.

With the combination of large-language models (LLMs) running on the Cloud and small-language models (SLMs) running on devices, Copilot+ PCs can deliver new AI experiences, like Recall, Live Captions, and Cocreate (to create and edit images in almost real-time with AI in Paint and Photos). With on-device AI, you can expect reductions in latency and cost and improvements in Privacy. This also allows AI features from other apps to run better on these Copilot Plus PCs.

Copilot Plus Vs. AI PCs. With the advent of AI PCs, we all imagined a future where AI would be able to run locally on PCs for them to usher in a new age. Now, it seems that those so-called AI PCs that Microsoft promoted earlier might be left in the lurch since the performance requirements of a Copilot Plus PC cannot possibly be matched by its predecessor.

The newly announced AI features, such as Recall and Cocreator, might also be exclusive to the Copilot Plus PCs since they require AI hardware that the previous generation AI PCs might not be able to offer.

However, more will become clear after Microsoft's Build event as well as when the Windows 11 20H2 version is released.

On that note, the newly re-architected Windows 11 also seems to have "new" minimum hardware requirements, which Microsoft has not clarified at the moment. But it can be speculated that not all PCs might qualify for this re-architecture that embraces AI at a deeper level, not even the newer AI PCs.

The unprecedented growth that AI technologies have seen in the past couple of years also seems to have come to hardware. One can say that with the AI PCs, Microsoft was just testing the waters, and Copilot Plus PCs are the natural next step in the evolution of these PCs. However, it looks like disappointment is in store for users who just spent thousands of bucks on a new AI PC in hopes of the AI capabilities they will support in the future.

Availability. These first Copilot Plus PCs are powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite and Plus processors. The new Copilot Plus enabled Surface Laptop and Surface Pro from Microsoft, and more PCs from other OEMs will be available in June this year.

AMD and Intel also plan to bring their own silicon chips later this year. Intel is reportedly releasing the Lunar Lake chip later this year to support Copilot+ PCs, which will not only surpass their Meteor Lake chip (that powered the AI PCs) in performance but also Qualcomm's Snapdragon X Elite.

Should you upgrade to a Copilot Plus PC? Much like the time when an AI PC was announced, the question that will be on most people's minds is whether they should upgrade to a new Copilot Plus PC. Again, the answer would depend on your requirements. If you're on the lookout for a new PC anyway, the performance upgrades alone in the Copilot+ PC are looking extremely good and the AI features are just cherry on top. But if you want to buy the latest PC just for the sake of the AI features, you'd better hold out. Otherwise, there might be a new kind of PC in the market in the next few months and you might end up looking at your current Copilot+ PC with disdain and disappointment.