Microsoft’s Copilot+ PC just made “AI PCs” obsolete, leaving anyone who bought a 2024 laptop behind

Microsoft Copilot
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Ever since Intel made an initial announcement about “AI PCs” for Windows in October 2023, everyone’s been guessing about what’s involved in putting local AI horsepower on a properly-endowed laptop or desktop PC. Back in December, Intel began shipping its first “AI PCs,” a series of laptops with its Core Ultra “Meteor Lake CPUs,” the first to come with built-in Neural Processing Units (NPUs). And many consumers bought one, with hopes that Microsoft would add new local AI features that take advantage of this added processing power.

As of today’s (May 20) Microsoft event, the waiting and wondering are mostly over as the software giant unveiled a new class of computer, the Copilot+ PC, that will get a series of exciting and exclusive Windows AI features. Unfortunately, laptops with Intel Meteor Lake or AMD Ryzen 7000 CPUs aren’t powerful enough to make the cut so, if you bought one hoping it would benefit from future Windows updates, you wasted your money. The first Copilot+ PCs will only come with Qualcomm Snapdragon X series processors.

For more detail on the event, check out our blow-by-blow coverage of this event. This live blog is my primary source for images, quotes and information as presented in this story.

Us versus Them (People and PCs, That Is…)

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella got up early on to talk about the new Copilot initiative, he put emphasis on moving past the cloud and onto the device where AI is concerned. Said he: we need to learn “how to build computers that understand us, instead of us having to understand computers.” FWIW, I agree. He continued: “I think we’re real close to [that] breakthrough.” 

I completely endorse the idea that computers should help bear the load of making themselves more useful, friendly and productivity-enhancing. It’s interesting to see this however, as a play to get users of all stripes, from hobbyists to IT professionals, data scientists, and software developers to pony up for new and more expensive PCs in the name of attaining a brave new nerdvana. It’s just a shame that those who buy an Intel-powered  “AI PC” today are left out of the party.

During today’s event, new Surface Laptop and Pro PC models carried some of the burden of demonstrating what kinds of benefits a Copilot+ PCs can deliver. MS EVP and Consumer Chief Marketing Officer Yusuf Mehdi described them as the “fastest Windows PCs” ever built, thanks in no small part to a re-architected Windows 11 OS (presumably, some preview version of the upcoming 24H2 release expected later this year). 

Indeed, the afore-linked Tom’s coverage asserts that “Mehdi…claimed that the PCs are 58 [percent] faster than Apple’s new[] MacBook Air with M3 processor.” That’s significant. A new Windows 11 feature called Recall can help users “find anything [they’ve] ever seen or done on [their] computer[s].” Recall works with voice prompts, too: a demo showed a voice search that produced “a chart with purple text … created earlier in the week” from a PowerPoint deck. Good stuff!

Copilot+ PCs that are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon X series CPUs are on the way from all the usual OEMs, including Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo. And right now, those Snapdragon CPUs are the only ones which qualify a system for the Copilot+ PC branding and the added features that come with it. 

One big issue with using a PC that has a Snapdragon processor is that it requires Windows on Arm and there could be compatibility issues. However, a raft of enhancements to Windows on Arm will support Copilot+ PCs, including native Microsoft and 3rd-party apps for the Arm platform and a new Prism emulator that promises solid compatibility with x86 apps. Adobe is also bringing its Creative Suite to Windows on Arm.

These new Surface models are much faster than their predecessors, too: the Surface Laptop Copilot+ Pro is said to be 80% faster than the Surface Laptop 5). What’s more it can run three 4K monitors along with its built-in display (which has no notch) and promises the longest battery life for any Surface model, period. Similar stats apply to the Surface Pro Copilot+ PC model as well. Sounds pretty amazing, eh?

What About Existing “AI PCs?”

There’s at least one fly in the ointment, though. There are already so-called “AI PCs” in user’s hands. I’ve got one right next to me as I write this story: a pretty powerful Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i (Intel Core Ultra 9 185H with built-in ARC Meteor Lake GPU and built-in NPU, 32 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce RTC 4050,and more). The problem is that its built-in NPU fails to deliver the kind of performance (40+ TOPS or Trillion Operations Per Second) that Microsoft says is needed to meet Copilot+ PC hardware requirements. Intel’s Meteor lake chip, its current state-of-the-art for laptops, can only hit about 10 TOPS, but next-gen Lunar Lake processors could meet the requirement. 

When I checked this item on the Lenovo website at the end of April it came with an online price tag of just over $2,100. But when I tried to visit its link just now, it’s showing “out of stock.” My best guess is that Lenovo probably won’t build any more. Instead, it will probably wait to get the parts it needs to put valid Copilot+ PC units together, then resume shipping when those are in hand.

But gosh, people who’ve already paid good money for early models of AI PCs may feel left behind in the wake of these now-clarified hardware requirements. The real gotcha comes from the CPU and NPU requirements which exceed currently available laptops like the Lenovo Yoga Pro 9i. Qualcomm-powered laptops are probably coming soon, but Intel and AMD-powered competitors may take a while to hit store shelves. If history is any guide, that probably means October or November, once Windows 11 24H2 is in general distribution and suitable hardware to support Copilot+PC requirements is up for sale.

The real question has to be: Is it worth spending US $1,500 or more for a new Copilot+ PC to take advantage of its AI capabilities? Based on Microsoft’s discussion of its new Surface models with Copilot+PC capability, there’s likely to be plenty of pure performance to help justify the cost. The AI features that Copilot will bring to Windows 11 also appear to have at least great potential value. 

Thus, the answer for those already planning a hardware refresh, or buying a new PC in the right timeframe is probably an emphatic “Yes!” But for those who’ve just recently bought what they thought was a state-of-the-art PC that doesn’t meet Copilot+PC hardware requirements that answer is somewhere between “Ouch!” and “No!”

Note: As with all of our op-eds, the opinions expressed here belong to the writer alone and not Tom's Hardware as a team.

Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a long-time IT writer, researcher and consultant, and occasional contributor to Tom’s Hardware. A Windows Insider MVP since 2018, he likes to cover OS-related driver, troubleshooting, and security topics.

  • ThomasKinsley
    I find it hard to believe that current computers rendered obsolete because of CoPilot AI. From what I gathered, it's just variations of ChatGPT embedded in programs.
  • pbcrunch
    Windows desktop search has always been absolute <Mod Edit>, so any upgrade in desktop searching is welcome. But it will still probably suck.
  • Notton
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't an RTX 4050 have up to 194 TOPS of AI performance? Or is that only when it can consume 115W?
  • Neilbob
    My explosive sigh of exasperation just left speckles of spittle all over my screen. Darn you, Artificial 'Intelligence'!

    Meteor Lake and Ryzen 7000 not powerful enough. Okay... but not powerful enough for what? I'm still yet to get a convincing answer to the question of why any of this matters to the regular consumers all these things are being targeted towards. Finding a file from a few weeks ago? Back in my day we used proper filenames and folder structures.

    Anyone seriously invested in speeding up their 'AI' workloads (it hurts my teeth even to say it), is probably just going to plonk the cash down on a half-decent GPU.


    Yeah, I know I'm probably just being totally ignorant, but... I never miss an opportunity to be stereotypical old grouch.
  • CmdrShepard
    Neilbob said:
    Meteor Lake and Ryzen 7000 not powerful enough. Okay... but not powerful enough for what?
    For that sweet, sweet, personal data of yours harvesting in real time?

    That seems to be the ultimate goal with PCs... at least until they can implant your brain to both take and place what they want directly.
  • Giroro
    So if we don't buy one of these weird computers, then we won't have this junk forced down our throats?

    I'd call that a classic win-win scenario.

    Sure, I might not exactly know what the new junk is supposed to be, but Microsoft is on a solid 4 year losing streak of every new product release being substantially worse than the previous version, in every way. The less "New from Microsoft" in my life, the better.
  • mac_angel
    Like others have mentioned in the forums, and I'm not sure why it's not added to these articles, is the absence of GPUs being able to be used for AI. There are a LOT of desktop PCs and laptops with a GPU that can put out a lot more than 30TOPs. If M$ is saying that you can't use them and that you specifically need a "new" PC or laptop with an NPU for the AI, I call BS, and a money grab.
    I'm willing to bet it'll only be a matter of time before someone cracks the new Windoze to get rid of the "requirements" just like they did with Windoze 11 to begin with.
    And also willing to bet that if M$ is "requiring" that a new PC has to have an NPU, that'll probably be cracked to be able to run on GPUs.

    I have more faith in the modding/cracking community than I do with all these elitists looking for ways to take everyone's money.
  • The Hardcard
    Notton said:
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't an RTX 4050 have up to 194 TOPS of AI performance? Or is that only when it can consume 115W?
    Key to many AI features is memory bandwidth and capacity. The biggest problem for the 4050 (and up to 4080) is memory capacity. There will be many basic tasks that will operate in the 4 to 6 GB RAM range, but many of the biggest features will need at least 16 GB.

    That said, bandwidth will be lacking on many of these PCs, including the Qualcomm ones. For large language models, and other tasks that rely on transformer or diffusion models, the 128-bit buses are going to hurt far more than whether or not the processing units are lacking in TOPS.

    Strix Halo, with its 256 bit bus is going to lap all the other known competitors for Windows AI tasks. Higher end Macs have become popular in the machine learning community specifically because of the 512 bit bus and 128 GB RAM capacity of the Mx Max chips. even then, running the biggest, most powerful models is slow with the 400 GB/s 512-bit memory bus being the limiting factor.

    Nvidia GPUs are smoking fast, but the top tier consumer cards come with 24 GB of VRAM. Some are using systems combining two or three 4090s and is still not enough to run the biggest models.
  • Notton
    baboma said:
    Better benchmarks (than MBA) - Who cares? How about benchmarks against x86? How about some gaming benchmarks? What's that? No PC games except under emul? Gotta wait for game devs to make ARM versions? So, wait for say 3 years before buying ARM? Check!
    It was running Baulder's Gate 3 and 2 other games through emulation at a demonstration a few months ago.
    Smoothly, I might add. No frame-time hiccups.
  • baboma
    >Like others have mentioned in the forums, and I'm not sure why it's not added to these articles, is the absence of GPUs being able to be used for AI.

    The crux of this launch is ARM, and AI is the launch vehicle. There is no desktop for ARM; it's all laptop/mobile.

    As for discrete mobile GPUs in laptops, those are mostly relegated to gaming laptops, which aren't in the conversation when it comes to portability and battery life. So, kinda like desktops.

    >I'm willing to bet it'll only be a matter of time before someone cracks the new Windoze to get rid of the "requirements" just like they did with Windoze 11 to begin with.

    I wouldn't get cocky. From the horse's mouth:
    Q: Do you plan to work around the new hardware requirements limitations of Windows 11 24H2?

    A: need to realize that, whereas Rufus does provide bypasses for Windows 11 installation, we did not come up with them. Instead, those bypasses were introduced by Microsoft themselves, and my understanding is that they were publicised by Microsoft employees, which in turn allowed applications like Rufus to use them.

    In short, if your idea is that we spent any time reverse engineering the Windows code to figure out how to add the TPM and Secure Boot bypasses in Rufus, you are very, very wrong. We simply reused public information that was already available from somebody else, and that ultimately boiled down to the good will of Microsoft for providing these bypasses to the masses.

    Therefore, unless Microsoft adds bypasses for the alleged new hardware requirements of Windows 11 24H2, or somebody else investigates and finds a way to work around these, you will not see Rufus add a bypass for these new requirements, especially as I genuinely have no plan to look into them at this stage.
    In short, yeah, Win11 24H2 will likely still get req-bypass as with earlier Win11 revs, but all bets are off for Win12.