Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs may sound like its most revolutionary Windows shake-up yet, but not every user is convinced. I’ll be helping you understand these new devices and whether you should obtain one.

The first batch of Copilot+ PCs has been shipped to consumers, and there is a stream of impressions from tech researchers and reviewers. 

One thing is clear: for now, Copilot+ PCs are not for everyone.

I’ll be covering the product’s greatest advantages, its main drawbacks, and how it stacks up against its closest competitors.

What Are Copilot+ PCs?

Copilot+ PC is a new badge developed by Microsoft to identify computers cleared to run specific and exclusive AI-focused features. These features are what define Copilot+ PCs and separate them from other windows computers.

The new generation computers are notably equipped with NPUs (neural processing units) that can run at least 40 TOPS (trillion operations per second), a requirement for handling the AI features without depending on cloud computing.


Related: AI and Beyond: Emerging Technology in Software


But while the headlines about these PCs are focused on AI, they offer more incredible capabilities, from raw computing power and impressive battery life to smaller form factors for mobility. That said, only a few laptops have shipped with the Copilot+ PC stickers for now.

The current batch of Copilot+ PCs all run on Snapdragon X processors, Arm chips with groundbreaking performance capabilities. However, the Copilot+ PC tag won’t be exclusive to only Arm-based systems. 

Microsoft is working with Intel and AMD to equip x86 PCs with all the current Copilot+ features, as long as they can ship chips with the required NPUs.

Microsoft Copilot+ vs. Copilot
You may have seen the Copilot preview app in Windows 11. It is markedly different from Copilot+ PCs. The Windows 11 app is the AI assistant that helps users answer prompts and perform basic tasks. As mentioned, Copilot+ PCs identify entire computers, and they also contain the full version of the Copilot app you currently see on Windows 11.

What are NPUs?

NPUs are short for neural processing units. They are specialized processors designed to handle complex AI tasks and neural network operations better than regular CPUs and GPUs. They typically come as part of larger systems on chips (SoCs) but are fully dedicated to running AI processes.

Microsoft included the requirement for NPUs to avoid any kind of burden on CPUs and GPUs. That way, they can stick to regular computing and graphics rendering.

While most NVIDIA chips have even more powerful NPUs, they do not qualify to run Copilot+ PC AI features. That’s because NVIDIA designed those NPUs for other advanced graphics-related tasks, such as DLSS.

Copilot+ PC system requirements

Computers must have the following hardware specifications alongside other Windows 11 requirements to earn the Copilot+ PC name:

CPU Microsoft requires “a compatible system on chip.” This means a CPU with an NPU capable of 40 TOPS, which currently includes the Snapdragon X family of processors. However, future CPUs with the same specifications should qualify.
RAM 16GB of DDR5/LPDDR5 memory
Storage 256GB SSD (Solid-state drive)/UFS (Ultra-fast storage)

Key Features of Copilot+ PCs

The main selling point for Copilot+ PCs is the ability to run AI computing locally using the NPU. It means users are no longer subject to bandwidth restrictions like they would be on generative AI platforms that rely on cloud computing.

Copilot+ users may still have to connect to the Internet to use most features.

There are out-of-the-box features with more impressive offerings than they sound. They include Live Captions, Cocreator, Restyle Image, and Windows Studio Effects.

However, Recall, a headline function that stores everything users do and see, happens to be Copilot+ PC’s worst PR element. It sparked the controversy when cybersecurity researchers poked concerning holes in Microsoft’s assurances about security and privacy.

Those issues prompted the company to take some steps back and ship the PCs without the program.

But don’t let the software features and controversies distract you yet; the new wave of Copilot+ PCs offers incredible hardware capabilities and convenience.

How Does the Microsoft Copilot Plus PC Work? Full Breakdown

As mentioned, Copilot+ PCs will come with exclusive features out of the box. We believe these capabilities will be refined with future updates and more features will ship through the Windows Update client.

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Recall

If you’ve heard anything about Copilot+ PCs before now, chances are you’ve heard about Recall and all the controversies surrounding it. Let’s zoom out a little to explain Recall’s features before digging into its flaws and the reasons for the backlash.

The feature is designed to take snapshots of everything you do so you can retrieve them later within seconds. That is, you can enter even vague keywords to bring back related things you did days or even weeks ago, and it happens fast.

You can copy and paste text from images and open files and web pages related to the results you see.

While these features are pretty useful, no one is comfortable feeling watched all the time. But Microsoft thought about that—sort of.

The company assured users that Recall data would be encrypted, could not be accessed remotely, and would only be available to them.
People believed Microsoft until security researchers found that most of their claims were lies, which sparked the controversy that gave Copilot+ PCs a major PR black eye.


You can follow our full coverage on the Recall saga to get all the details.


Thankfully, Microsoft listened and paused the feature’s release. It also announced significant changes and how it intends to amp up security in the future.

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Live Captions

The Live Captions feature already exists in Windows 11 version 22H2 and later, but it only transcribes your PC’s audio to text and in the speaker’s language (mostly English).

The newly improved Copilot+ PC version is one of the most impressive AI applications, as it also helps you translate audio output to over 40 languages in real time.

The feature works with every bit of audio processed through your computer, including video calls and multimedia playback.

The feature already works on-device on Windows 11, and the Copilot+ PC version’s translation functions will leverage NPUs to do the same. 

That means users don’t have to connect to the Internet to have their text translated in real time and can rest easy knowing that no one is listening.


Don’t know how to confirm your current Windows version?


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Cocreator

The Cocreator feature is couched within Paint to help users bring sketches to life. So, if you’re not much of an artist, you now have the ability to produce better drawings and an actual shot at making art.

You can draw a few strokes, bring up Cocreator, and tell it what you want. The feature generates an image based on your input and applies it to your current sketch.

It also works in reverse. You can start by typing what you want to draw, and Cocreator will take the lead. It begins to start creating a better image of what you’re trying to sketch so that it gets as close to what you want as possible.

The app is docked on the right side of the screen by default, and you can make it go away by clicking the Cocreator button in Paint’s top-right corner.

It has a slider that allows you to adjust its level of creativity and style options, such as anime, pixel art, watercolor, and oil painting.

To be clear, the feature does not develop images from the ground up. It uses your input and current sketches to develop similar but enhanced drawings. You can then paste the completed painting at any stage to your canvas.

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Restyle Image and Image Creator

Microsoft baked two powerful generative AI features into the Photos app for Copilot+ PCs. One is Restyle Image, which allows you to improve how you edit photos.

You can apply preset styles, edit your image backgrounds or even foregrounds, erase specific elements, or recreate the photo from scratch.

The next feature is Image Creator, which is the regular image generation tool we’ve seen take over the Internet recently.

However, this time, you get to create as many images as you want since everything is generated locally, and you’re not subject to bandwidth limits.

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Windows Studio Effects

Windows Studio Effects is a suite of AI-powered features that allows you to improve your video conferencing experience.

The application works through your built-in camera, allowing you to apply effects to any program that uses it, including Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangout.

The effects include: 

  • Portrait light to brighten the foreground, 
  • background blur to apply a bokeh effect to your background, 
  • creative filters to enhance things like skin tone and environment, 
  • eye tracking that keeps your camera focused on you even as you move around, and
  • the eye contact feature that focuses your eyes on the camera even when you’re not looking at it.

Many users are over the moon with Windows Studio Effects, as features that may seem too minimal make their lives so much easier.

Some users may not see what the hype is about if they do not need the teleprompter effect, as most video conferencing platforms already have background options baked in.

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The Copilot PC application

If you want a dedicated application where you can chat with AI, generate images, and do all the fun stuff you’d usually do with regular AI chats, you now have the full version of Copilot.

The current Windows Copilot PC application is no longer docked in the desktop’s sidebar like the preview version.

You can now snap, maximize, and move the window around like any other regular program. Copilot+ PCs also have dedicated buttons to launch the Copilot app.

The app allows you to enjoy the most advanced GPT features, such as GPT-4o, thanks to Microsoft’s collaboration with OpenAI. That way, you can now have voice interactions with the AI assistant.

However, Copilot shipped as a web-based app in the first batch of these PCs without any contextual instructions for the computer.

It still behaves like a regular AI chat interface. That said, Microsoft intends to deploy updates in the feature to enhance the app’s features.

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Third-party apps AI integration

Microsoft also announced partnerships with major app developers to integrate AI into popular apps, such as Adobe’s portfolio of new Windows apps, CapCut, DaVinci Resolve Studio, and LiquidText.

Users will be able to leverage the power of NPUs to perform advanced tasks faster, such as removing any video’s background and making lightning-quick annotations.


We have prepared the full guide about the difference between Copilot PC and Traditional PC


Windows on Arm: Native and Emulation Performance

The introduction of Copilot+ PCs also marks Microsoft’s second shot at bringing Windows to Arm-based computers. 

Things didn’t work out the last time, as emulating apps designed for the x86 architecture was quite unsustainable and caused serious performance problems. Users only enjoyed programs specifically designed for Arm64.

PRO TIP
A CPU architecture defines how different parts of the processor are designed to work together, share computational burden, and process data. Intel and AMD processors are based on the x86 architecture, while most mobile processors, Apple M series silicon, and the new Snapdragon chips are Arm-based processors.

The story is quite different with this new series of laptops. Microsoft introduced a different emulation layer built into Windows 11 version 24H2 (the operating system version that shipped with Copilot+ PCs), called Prism. 

This time, while x86 apps still take a performance hit on these PCs, the difference is not as unbearable as the last time.

According to Windows Central’s Zac Bowden, emulating x86 apps is mostly smooth, except in a few cases.

Windows Central emulated apps
Image: Windows Central

According to Per Dave2D, a YouTube tech reviewer, there is an obvious performance sacrifice, but “it’s so much better than what we would have expected, at least compared with what we’ve seen in the past.”

Native Arm vs Emulation
Source: Dave2D

Even x86-demanding apps, such as Adobe Premier, emulate pretty well. Here’s a comparison between the former Arm chip (Qualcomm SQ3) and the Snapdragon X Elite and how they stack up against a regular x86 processor when running x86 and x64 apps.

Snapdragon
Source: Dave2D

When it came to native Arm64 app performance, the top model of the Snapdragon chip performed quite well. That said, other top-tier x86 CPUs still run x64 and x86 apps as well, or even better.

Copilot+ PCs: How Powerful Are They?

Pretty powerful. Synthetic benchmarks run by tech reviewers and other experts show the Snapdragon X Elite processors going neck to neck with and even edging out the Intel Core Ultra 9 and AMD 8945HS processors.

It also trades blows with the Apple M3 chips, except the M3 Max, which beats it handily.

The integrated GPU also produces decent FPS when running the most popular and demanding games, even in emulation mode.

That said, users may have to run these games at low settings. And they are likely to get stutters here and there.

Microsoft also commissioned Signal65, a third-party lab, to test the Surface Laptop 7 (Snapdragon X Elite) against other computers, including the Surface Laptop 5 (Intel Core i7 12th gen), Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (Apple M3), and MSI Prestige 16 EVO AI (Intel Core Ultra 7 155H).

Results showed the X Elite Surface Laptop outperforming other computers in AI computing and multi-threaded benchmark tests. 

However, it lost out to the Apple MacBook Air in single-threaded benchmarks, modern web performance, and Office 365 tests. It also took a beating in emulation, media processing, and graphics performance.

You’ll find more detailed information in our comparisons between Microsoft Copilot+ PCs and other computers. 

How do they fare with demanding graphics tasks?

The Copilot+ PCs will not produce the same level of raw power as gaming laptops with dedicated graphics cards. That said, you can get decent frame rates playing the most demanding X86 and X64 game titles. Still, you have to stick to lower graphics settings, as the Snapdragon chipsets cannot handle Full HD gameplay at high FPS rates.

Thankfully, the NPU does a pretty good job of upscaling picture quality when playing games at lower graphics settings. However, you may not escape lags and stutters here and there, which will not be ideal for competitive games.


Helpful read: Winning Strategies: How to Optimize Your PC for High-Performance Gaming


Copilot+ PC: Battery Life

According to almost everyone who has tested these PCs, battery life is quite impressive and offers more hours than most regular Windows laptops.

While Microsoft’s up to 20-hour battery life is a bit of a stretch, people still give the power efficiency an excellent rating.

Per Signal65’s testing, the new Surface Laptop provides equivalent battery life with the Macbook Air running the Apple M3 chip but beats the Intel-based laptops by up to 30%.

It also has the longest battery life of any of the tested systems during the local video playback.

Battery Life
Source: Signal65

However, running demanding applications will significantly drain battery life in about 4 hours, which many will still consider impressive.

When Does Copilot+ PC Launch?

Copilot+ PCs shipped to end consumers on June 18th. However, certain features, such as Recall, will be deployed much later after Microsoft straightens out some wrinkles.

Controversies Around Copilot+ PC

While Copilot+ PCs offer bleeding-edge AI features, they are not perfect. Users, reviewers, and experts have voiced concerns regarding specific features and security offerings. Chief among these concerns is Recall.

While Microsoft has pulled the application back (they are shipping it to Windows Insiders’ computers for further testing), people are still not completely on board.

Let’s cover the concerns.

Emulation is still hit-and-miss

While Microsoft sold dreams to users with its Prism emulation layer for x64 apps (apps that run on x86 CPU architecture), it doesn’t work great with every application, and the regular performance sacrifice can be frustrating.

Microsoft claimed that users spend nearly 90% of their total app usage on programs with native Arm support. This representation is quite skewed because, while we spend a lot of time on popular web browsers (which have Arm versions), other programs are also quite important to us. For example, Steam and Discord must run through emulation, which are pretty important apps for most gamers.

People running GPU-intensive apps without Arm support suffer the worst, and the fact that VPS apps almost never run, according to Android Authority’s Robert Triggs, makes it all the more frustrating.

…the fact that most VPN apps don’t work because they don’t yet have native Arm versions might be an absolute deal breaker for some. I often need a VPN to check out regional website versions, and thankfully, I can still do that in my browser. However, many others have steeper requirements, including those in the enterprise space. Thankfully, VPNs are the only apps I’ve encountered that outright refuse to work.
Rebert Triggs, Android Authority

According to The Verge’s Tom Warren, certain cases of emulation can be laggy and unusable, and you can’t even run Adobe Premiere Pro on the X Elite.

Adobe doesn’t have an ARM64 version of Premiere Pro ready just yet, so it has blocked the installation of Premiere Pro on the X Elite…
Tom Warren, The Verge
The Verge quote
Source: The Verge

These shortfalls are almost completely tied to the Snapdragon X processors. They will disappear when x86 computers enter the Copilot+ PC family or when developers begin to create Arm64 versions of their applications.

You still need an internet connection to run most AI apps

One of Copilot+ PC’s biggest draws—and the reason for the NPU requirement—was on-device AI processing. So users naturally believed they could run all their AI processes without connecting to the Internet. 

It turned out not to be the case, as you must be signed into your Microsoft account and connected to the Internet to use Cocreator, Restyle Image, and Image Creator.

Microsoft’s reason for this requirement is “to ensure safe use of AI.”

Microsoft sign-in requirement

It essentially means the company’s servers will review your requests before allowing the NPU to do its work. 

Having to log into your Microsoft account also rubs users the wrong way, especially people who want to use their local accounts

Restyling options are limited

Microsoft added some limiting controls to the Restyle Image feature in the Photos app, and the AI editing still needs some work. You are not allowed to edit photos with faces, even if the face is yours, and dialing up the creativity slider can distort your images.

Still, the background editing features work quite well and may be the feature’s most useful element. 


Also read: Windows 12 Release Date and Upcoming Features: What You Need to Know


Copilot Plus PC: Do You Need It?

It depends on your use case. If you only need your PC as a workstation, all evidence points to the new wave of Arm-based systems as excellent devices. They have superb battery life and decent raw power.

However, while I personally consider the AI features quite useful, I don’t believe they are good enough to sacrifice better performance with x86 and x64 apps.

So, you’re better off waiting for Arm64 adoption or x86 Copilot+ PCs if you heavily depend on programs without Arm support.
If you are a heavy gamer, you should sit these PCs out for now. While they are not terrible, they are not great either and won’t provide the best experience.

The good news is that Copilot+ PCs are not exclusive to Arm devices. Sooner or later, we’ll see x86 CPUs from Intel and AMD with the required NPUs to earn the Copilot+ badge, even in gaming computers.

Please head to the comments section to let us know what you think about Copilot+ PCs.

FAQ

What is Copilot+?
Copilot+ represents PCs with NPUs that can run certain AI features locally.
What are the Copilot+ PC requirements?
The main requirement is an SoC with an integrated NPU capable of 40 TOPS.
Are Copilot+ PCs faster than the Apple MacBook Air M3?
Not in every use case. The MacBook Air M3 comes out on top in graphics, web, and productivity performance, while the new Surface Laptop 7 Copilot+ edges it out in multi-threaded and AI performance.
What Copilot+ PC devices have been announced lately?
Only devices from a few manufacturers, apart from Microsoft, have been released. These OEMs include Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, HP, Acer, and Asus.
How much does Copilot+ PC cost?
Microsoft Copilot Plus PC prices range from $999 to above $2,000, depending on the Snapdragon chipset and other PC-specific configurations.
Are Microsoft Copilot+ PCs good for gaming?
They are good for regular gaming at modest graphics settings. However, you shouldn’t expect the same level of performance as gaming laptops.
Does the Copilot+ PC require the same regular maintenance as a standard PC?
Yes, Copilot+ PCs are still regular computers with more AI processing capabilities. You still have to update Windows, drivers, applications, and your security programs.