Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs

Tom Warren (MacRumors, Hacker News):

Over the past two years, Microsoft has worked in secret with all of its top laptop partners to ready a selection of Arm-powered Windows machines that will hit the market this summer. Known as Copilot Plus PCs, they’re meant to kick-start a generation of powerful, battery-efficient Windows laptops and lay the groundwork for an AI-powered future.

“You’re going to have the most powerful PC ever,” says Yusuf Mehdi, executive vice president and consumer chief marketing officer at Microsoft, during the briefing. “In fact, it’s going to outperform any device out there, including a MacBook Air with an M3 processor, by over 50 percent on sustained performance.”


One of the big advancements is an improved emulator called Prism, which Microsoft claims is as efficient as Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation layer and can emulate apps twice as fast as the previous generation of Windows on Arm devices.


Overall, Microsoft believes 87 percent of total app minutes spent on these Copilot Plus PCs will be inside native apps.

They also claim to have significantly better battery life.

Martin Pilkington:

The Snapdragon X Elite benchmarks are impressive, but when you realise it’s using 80W to slightly beat the M3 Pro which is using under 50W for the same benchmark (and both are matched by the M4 which is probably using much less than the Pro) I don’t think Apple it too worried.

Andrew Cunningham:

The Surface Laptop—referred to as the “7th edition” in its Microsoft Store URL but simply called the “Surface Laptop” most other places—is Microsoft’s first traditional laptop with an Arm chip. The laptop comes in both 13.8-inch and 15-inch sizes and starts at $1,000 for a 13.8-inch config with a Snapdragon X Plus chip, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. The cheapest 15-inch version is $1,300, but it includes a Snapdragon X Elite chip instead.


As for the Surface Pro tablet, this update to Microsoft’s flagship convertible is a lot closer to what Microsoft shipped a year and a half ago in the Surface Pro 9 and Surface Pro 9 with 5G. The new Surface Pro, called “11th edition” in its Microsoft Store URL but not in most other places, still weighs just a hair under 2 lbs, still has the same dimensions (and maintains compatibility with the same Slim Pen and keyboard covers), and still has a 13-inch screen. It starts at $1,000 for a version with a Snapdragon X Plus chip, 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and an IPS LCD display; keyboards and pens are still add-on accessories.

Martin Pilkington:

Looking at the new Copilot + PC specs I hope they push Apple to move to a minimum of 16GB of RAM on M4 Macs (especially given how much more powerful the GPU and NPU are)

John Gruber:

Are any of today’s first batch of “Copilot+ PCs” fanless? If not, can any of them truly be said to have “taken aim” at the MacBook Air?

John Gruber:

I’ll go out on a limb and say that today marks the beginning of the end for x86. Either the x86 architecture has reached an inevitable endpoint, or Intel and AMD are just unable to compete talent-wise. (Or both.) But as of today the performance-per-watt gulf between ARM and Intel/x86 is no longer just an Apple silicon thing — it’s now a PC thing too.


The saddest part of the event were the cursory appearances — both by pre-recorded videos, despite it being an in-person event in Redmond — of Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger and AMD CEO Lisa Su. Their token appearances felt like Microsoft pretending they haven’t moved on from x86, during an event whose entire theme was, effectively, “moving on from x86”.


15 Comments RSS · Twitter · Mastodon

It's nice that the current Airs are fanless, but haven't past Airs had fans?

@Chris Yes, the Intel MacBook Airs had fans.

Is really the lack of fans the defining feature of MBA these days?

If I can choose between two identical computers, one with fans and one without, I will pick the one with fans. Not having fans is not the own people think it is. What actually matters is how loud and how warm and how fast these are, not whether they have fans.

I just hope that the devices from the "partners" will not be called Copilot+ something because this is really a bad name.

Good for Microsoft, really. I hope this encourages Apple to keep pushing the M chips forward. It was nice to be the top dog for a while, but competition is good for everybody.

I wish these kinds of hardware comparisons would end. It’s an all-around good when everyone has access to overall high-quality hardware for the OS they use.

For performance comparisons like this, it's not about whether or not the fans make a difference in noise or heat. The Airs will throttle back performance to limit heat since they don't have fans, where a MBP with the same processor will spin up the fan(s) to address the heat, thus allowing it to perform better for longer.

It'll be interesting to see a full range of independent benchmarks, not only against Apple's M3 family (in Air, Pro, etc. form), but also against the M4.


> Are any of today’s first batch of “Copilot+ PCs” fanless? If not, can any of them truly be said to have “taken aim” at the MacBook Air?

Does anyone who isn't deep in Apple's tank care? I mean sure, fanless is great and if literally everything else is equal you might as well pick the fanless model, but being fanless isn't that big of a selling point for any "normal" people.

It's not about being "in Apple's tank", really. It's about comparing like for like. If the system can run faster because it has a fan to keep it cooler, then it's not really a fair comparison against a fanless model. The race could just as easily go the other way. You just have to be fair about it.

It seems to me the better comparison is size, weight, and price.

"If the system can run faster because it has a fan to keep it cooler, then it's not really a fair comparison against a fanless model."

How is it not fair? Apple could have put fans in their Airs that turn on when they get too hot, but chose not to, and throttle them instead. That's a disadvantage that they willingly took. So how is it unfair to run this test? Apple made their hardware worse, and that shows up in tests.

@Plume You're missing the point. It seems that MS chose the MacBook Air to benchmark against on purpose, even though the MS devices have fans and the MBA does not. A fair comparison would be to pit the MS devices against the M3 MBP.

The MBA Is not "made worse" for lack of a fan. It's made thinner and lighter to serve the needs of people who want that and don't need the performance of a pro model. If you need the performance, you get the pro model.

I'm guessing they compared devices at a similar price point. Calling the test out because more expensive devices would do better is not a compelling criticism.

@Plume Yeah, I don’t think the MacBook Pro comparison makes sense. Microsoft is already comparing it against a MacBook Air with a higher price and less RAM.

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