Microsoft Announces ‘Copilot+ Pcs’ to Take on Apple Silicon | Lifehacker

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When you think of a computer that’s both powerful and efficient, you might think first of a MacBook. However, think about a computer that’s made to work with AI tools, and Apple’s machine probably falls to the bottom of the list. (Provided you can even name a computer made for AI in the first place.)

There’s an opportunity, then, for Apple’s competition to not just solidify its laptops as more powerful and efficient than the MacBook for most tasks, but to make them stand out for having the tech necessary to power the latest AI features. That’s the target Microsoft is trying to hit with its just announced line of Copilot+ PCs.

Copilot+ PCs, powered by Qualcomm

“Copilot+ PCs” is Microsoft’s name for a new wave of AI-powered machines coming from companies like Acer, ASUS, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Samsung, not to mention Microsoft’s own Surface lineup. (More on that below.) Many of these machines, including the new Surfaces, are powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite and Snapdragon X Plus, Arm-based chips that Microsoft and other OEMs hope will convince users to move away from Apple. The Plus has a 10-core CPU, while the Elite has a 12-core CPU. Depending on the model, your Snapdragon X could have a 3.8 TFLOP GPU, or a 4.6 TFLOP GPU.

The big benefit of adding the Snapdragon X to the mix, at least in Microsoft’s view, is the chip’s NPU (neural processing unit), which is responsible for AI computing processes. Whether you get the Plus or the Elite, you get a 45 TOPS NPU (TOPS standard for trillions of operations per second), which Qualcomm says can run over 13 billion parameters on-device.

It’s not just the chipset being pushed here, it’s Windows 11 itself. Microsoft says it has rebuilt the OS’ architecture around maximizing the CPU, GPU, and now, NPU. Now that the chips are Arm-based, they can run the ever growing list of Arm64-based apps. Microsoft naturally highlighted the apps in its own Microsoft 365 offering, including Teams, PowerPoint, Word, and Excel, but also apps like Chrome, Spotify, Zoom, and WhatsApp. Microsoft has also partnered with companies like Adobe (Photoshop, Lightroom and Express), and apps like DaVinci Resolve Studio and djay Pro.

They went after Apple explicitly: Microsoft says their Copilot+ PCs outperform the 15-inch MacBook Air by up to 58% in sustained multithreaded performance. They also did a live demo showing how a new Surface Laptop can process a Photoshop project faster than an M3 MacBook Air:

GPT-4o and Copilot

Microsoft also announced that Copilot will soon have access to GPT-4o, OpenAI’s latest and great LLM. As Microsoft is a major OpenAI investor, this is no surprise: The company added GPT-4 Turbo to Copilot as a free feature even before OpenAI thought it was cool to give the latest models away to users for free.

Microsoft showed off how this capability might be used. For example, using GPT-4o, you can supposedly enlist the help of AI as you navigate a video game. Here’s a demo from the event, where Copilot (powered by GPT-4o) talks the demonstrator through a round of Minecraft:

Better on-device search through Recall

Recall is a new Windows 11 feature for Copilot+ PCs that aims to improve the search experience on your computer. When you search for something with Recall, rather than see a list of files, folders, and apps, you see screenshots of related materials in a timeline. It’s as if Microsoft has recorded all of the activity you do on your PC, and is using AI to pull up still images from apps that match the keywords in your query.

Recall works for finding emails, photos, websites, and anything else you may have done or created on your computer. Microsoft says all snapshots are stored locally on your PC, so none of your activities are ever shared to the cloud or outside your machine.

Oh, and Microsoft is selling new Surface laptops too

While many OEMs have new Copilot+ PC laptops in the offing, Microsoft announced two new Surface laptops as part of its rollout of the tech: Surface Laptop, and Surface Pro. Both machines run the Snapdragon X Elite and Plus chips, and so come with all the Copilot+ PC perks, but they differ in final design and execution.

The Surface Laptop has a new design with thinner bezels and a haptic touchpad, and comes in either a 13.8-inch display, or a 15-inch display, both with 120Hz refresh rates. Microsoft says this machine gets up to 20 hours of local video playback (not streaming, mind you) on the 13.8-inch, and 22 hours on the 15.8-inch, and supports Wi-Fi 7. As its name implies, this is a laptop, so while it has a touchscreen, it’s not detachable. It’s available for pre-order now, and starts at $999.99 (13.8-inch) and $1,299.99 (15-inch). If you want the Snapdragon X Elite on the 13.8-inch, that’ll increase the price to $1,399.99, making it $100 more than the 15-inch that comes with the Elite already.

If you’re looking for a machine with a detachable tablet, that’s the Surface Pro. The latest 2-in-1 Surface comes in an optional 13-inch OLED configuration, with an ultrawide camera, two USB-4 ports, Wi-Fi 7, and support for outputting to up to three external 4K displays. Notably, you can actually replace many of the parts of the Surface Pro, including the motherboard, battery, and cameras. (What year is this?) Finally, the new Surface Flex Keyboard actually works while detached, so you don’t need to physically connect it to the display in order to type.

Pre-order the new Surface devices here:

Shots fired in advance of WWDC

This is a fascinating time for the personal computing market. While Microsoft has always brought together different OEMs under the same PC umbrella, they’re now talking about these different machines as if they’re all one family, the same way Apple always has. Microsoft didn’t say the new Surfaces outperformed the MacBook; rather, they said the Copilot+ PCs as a whole do. They’re standardizing the hardware and the software for this moment, to market their machines as the best on the market for power, efficiency, and AI.

Of course, as with every new tech announcement, we won’t really know how these machines hold up until reviewers start testing them in unbiased environments. Plus, next month, we should see a slew of new AI announcements from Apple at WWDC, so the situation is going to change fast. Buckle up, people.