What makes a computer an “AI PC”? Brief explanation

    • These devices must feature NPU, CPU, GPU, Copilot access, and Copilot physical key.
    • The key components to meet the AI PC requirements include the NPU and physical key for Copilot.

    You have heard the term “AI PC” from Microsoft and computer manufacturers for quite some time, but have you ever asked yourself what it actually is? Let me explain and answer this question for you.

    An “AI PC” is a term (or label) used to describe a computer that meets the requirements to provide AI capabilities. (I’m talking beyond interacting with Microsoft Copilot and accessing ChatGPT on the web or as an app on Windows 11.)

    A computer must have five key components to be considered an AI PC, including:

    • NPU (Neural Processing Unit).
    • GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).
    • CPU (Central Processing Unit).
    • Copilot access.
    • Copilot physical key.

    For greater clarification, the NPU is usually a component inside the CPU, and it’s not a standalone chip. Some examples of processors with NPUs include the latest AMD Ryzen 8000G, Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite, and Intel Core Ultra series processors. (You can learn more about it in my NPU guide.)

    The most important aspect of an “AI PC” is the NPU because it’s the hardware component designed specifically to handle artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tasks. The CPU and GPU can handle many different tasks, including AI, but they were not designed to meet complex computation requirements for deep learning algorithms.

    What are the AI PCs available now?

    Since we’re at the beginning of this AI PC era, the market doesn’t have many of them, but as time goes on, they are expected to become ubiquitous over time.

    Some of the devices available right now include:

    • Microsoft Surface Pro 10.
    • Microsoft Surface Laptop 6.
    • Dell Latitude 7350 Detachable.
    • Dell Precision 3000 and 5000 Series.
    • Dell Precision 3280 CFF.
    • Dell XPS (latest versions).
    • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5.

    If the device features one of the processors mentioned above and a Copilot dedicated key, it can be considered an AI PC.

    Do you have an AI PC?

    If you haven’t purchased a computer featuring the latest processors from Intel or AMD in 2024, you likely don’t have a device that qualifies as an AI PC. (Devices equipped with Qualcomm’s X Elite processor are expected to be announced sometime during the summer of 2024 and will also come preinstalled with the core components of Windows 11 24H2.)

    However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have a computer that can’t handle AI tasks. Your computer can have one or more NPUs. These instructions will help you check whether your system has an NPU.

    Do I need an AI PC?

    The short answer is “No.” You don’t need an AI PC at this moment. However, as Windows evolves and more features require the presence of an NPU, you may need new hardware to access certain features or use specific features more efficiently.

    For example, on Windows 11, you will need special hardware to access the “Windows Studio Effects,” such as portrait background blur, eye contact, and automatic framing.

    On the other hand, you don’t need special hardware to access some AI features, such as Copilot for Windows 11. Other examples I can mention include the AI features on Paint that allow you to remove backgrounds and create images with AI. In the Photos app, you can use AI to remove, blur, or change the background.

    Microsoft is also preparing other features, such as Speak for Me and Super Resolution, but the hardware requirements are still unconfirmed.

    What makes an AI PC different?

    In terms of day-to-day tasks, there are few differences between a traditional and an AI computer since both devices give users access to the common tools they need for work, school, gaming, and casual computing.

    In my opinion, Microsoft’s use of the term “AI PC” is a marketing ploy to promote its AI technology as much as possible. Also, I can’t entirely agree with the “Copilot” physical key requirement because, without this key element, the computer cannot be considered an AI PC. Actually, not everyone is feeling the vibe about the company requiring manufacturers to incorporate the physical key into their devices.

    Finally, in a no-so-distant feature, as Intel has revealed, Microsoft Copilot (with the help of an NPU) will be able to run locally on the computer rather than entirely depending on the cloud. (It’s important to note that I said “entirely” because some services will still require access to the cloud.)

    What are your thoughts about this new era of computing hardware? Share your opinion in the comments below.

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