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What are Copilot+ PCs? Your most pressing questions, answered

The Surface Laptop shown in front of a Copilot+ sign.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Whether successful or not, Copilot+ PCs are a huge deal. They represent a major shift in the landscape of Windows laptops, integrating support for ARM chips and AI at a systemwide level. There’s a lot at play in this new transition — and lots of room for confusion.

Here’s the best answers we have to the most important questions surrounding Copilot+ PCs.

What are the hardware requirements?

When it comes down to it, devices must hit the following requirements to be considered a Copilot+ PC: 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a 40 Tera Operations Per Second (TOPS) neural processing unit (NPU). Microsoft hasn’t provided specifics around things like CPU performance, battery life, and portability, but there may be standards in these regards too that we don’t yet know about. Many of the massive claims in performance and battery life that make these devices true MacBook killers come from the Snapdragon X chips from Qualcomm — but ARM isn’t a requirement.

Intel and AMD have already announced support for Copilot+ PCs on future releases — specifically to produce laptops with more powerful NPUs that can meet the 40 TOPS requirement. The current generation of Meteor Lake Intel laptops, for example, are only at 10 TOPS.

What AI features come with Copilot+ PCs?

A screenshot of the Recall feature in Windows.
Microsoft

Copilot+ PCs are all about AI. However, this was one of the biggest problems with previous-gen AI PCs. They had NPUs, yes, but little to do with them.

But with Copilot+, that’s all changed. The 40 TOPS NPU gives these new laptops plenty of AI horsepower, running efficiently in the background at all times. It’s especially useful for processes that are better done on-device. The biggest new feature is Recall. Microsoft calls the feature a superpower that gives you “photographic memory,” allowing you to search through everything you’ve ever done on your PC using natural language. It’s certainly a neat idea, though some have already raised the obvious privacy concerns that it brings.

Other AI features include Copilot suggestions in settings, real-time translation, one-click replies to notifications, and more.

The only new AI feature planned in this Windows 11 update for non-Copilot+ PCs is a new version of the Copilot app. Rather than as a sidebar, it can now go full screen and be manipulated like a real desktop app. Microsoft did say that GPT-4o would soon be coming to Copilot, but didn’t announce specifics.

What devices have been announced?

The Surface Pro with the keyboard attached on a table.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Copilot+ includes many of the major laptop manufacturers, including Dell, HP, Asus, Acer, Samsung, and Surface. They range in price between $999 and $1,699, depending on configuration options.

Some of these devices, such as the HP Omnibook X 14, are completely new designs made for this transition. Other options like the XPS 13 use an identical chassis to their Intel counterpart, while the new Surface Laptop is in-between, making some tweaks to the design without starting from scratch.

There are upwards of a dozen Copilot+ PCs announced so far, with more likely coming in the future.

When are the first Copilot+ PCs coming out?

A swath of Copilot+ PCs are due out on June 18. The first of them are all available to buy right now, including the new Surface Laptop and Surface Pro.

Will the ARM transition actually work this time?

The Snapdragon X Elite chip installed in a laptop.
Fionna Agomuoh / Digital Trends

It certainly seems so. Microsoft has reengineered Windows to play nice with ARM, including creating a new kernel, compiler, and set of schedulers to optimize the CPU performance of these chips. They’re tuned directly to the chip itself too.

The larger issue, of course, is around app optimization, right? We all remember the debacle with this in previous attempts to support ARM Windows laptops. But this time, it seems like Microsoft has really done the work, having reached out to 300 software vendors in the buildup to this launch. The result is that a lot of the big names have recompiled their apps for ARM, including Zoom, Dropbox, Adobe Lightroom, and yes, Google Chrome. A few missing apps like Slack and Discord are glaring, but Microsoft says it expects 90% of user time to be on native apps.

For the rest, Microsoft has a new emulator called Prism, which it says is as efficient as Apple’s Rosetta 2. App combability certainly feels like it’s at the point where it’s become a nonissue.

Is performance and battery really that good?

The Surface Laptop displaying results from a Handbrake test.
Luke Larsen / Digital Trends

Again, it certainly seems so. Microsoft has made some ambitious claims about the performance and battery life of these new Copilot+ PCs, all thanks to what Qualcomm has achieved with its new Snapdragon X series of chips. Microsoft wants to talk all about the 40 TOPS of its NPU, but if you’re buying a laptop, you’ll probably be far more interested in the CPU performance and battery life.

Across all these new laptops, we should be seeing around 16% faster multi-threaded performance against the M3 MacBook Air. The more important metric is the claimed 46% lead in sustained performance. It should be noted that the MacBook Air is fanless, while none of these Copilot+ laptops are. Still, the increase in performance is notable and was observed in a briefing across both benchmarks and applications, including Cinebench R24, Handrake, Photoshop, and Geekbench 6.

The battery life claims are perhaps an even bigger deal, with up to a claimed 22 hours of local video playback on some of these devices. There will certainly be variation between devices based on displays, battery sizes, and thermals, but these laptops have clearly made a huge jump over what you can currently buy in terms of Windows laptops. We’ll have to do independent testing of our own, of course, but it certainly seems like these devices are as efficient as MacBooks.

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Luke Larsen
Luke Larsen is the Senior editor of computing, managing all content covering laptops, monitors, PC hardware, Macs, and more.
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