Microsoft Wanted to Sell Us a New Era of PCs With AI. So Far, It Hasn't Delivered on That Front, But It Has on Everything Else

  • Laptops with the new Snapdragon X Elite are promising significant improvements in battery life.

  • Moreover, they’ll be able to run x86 apps with minimal issues.

  • The only downside for now is limited support for games. Additionally, it’s best to set aside expectations for AI capabilities, at least for now.

No comments Twitter Flipboard E-mail

As the saying goes, if you try to do too much, you won't do anything. And that seems to be the case with the first Copilot+ laptops. It looks like Microsoft maybe should’ve waited to use that label. The reason is simple: The promise of Copilot+ hasn’t been fulfilled.

This was evident at Lenovo’s presentation of the Copilot+ laptops on Tuesday. Although the devices look amazing, the AI functions appeared to be the main focus.

However, they didn’t deliver. At all.

At least that’s what I observed during my brief time testing these computers and their features. Admittedly, it was only an hour, but the limited demos made it clear that these types of functions are currently underwhelming.

An AI That Isn't Exciting

Let’s start with Cocreator. Microsoft’s AI tool is supposed to generate images from a quick sketch and a text prompt. Unfortunately, the results were disappointing.

Cocreator The sketch and the prompt aspired to be something else. Not what Cocreator generated, of course.

When I drew an eye and requested an image of an angry eye, the output didn’t look like an eye at all. Even when I changed the prompt to “a blue eye,” Cocreator just generated a blue brushstroke, which wasn’t what I wanted at all. Then, I tried adding a tear to see if it could generate “a crying eye.” 

Again, nothing like what I had in mind.

Cocreator does have a Creativity bar that allows you to let the AI imagine additional details, but increasing the bar led to results that were far from the original sketch and included many unrelated elements.

Studio Effects On the left, the task manager shows the NPU running. On the right, the Studio Effects filters, running directly on that neural processing unit. It’s nice, but not particularly eye-catching at this point.

In this case, the images are more attention-grabbing, but the sketch wouldn’t even be necessary. It appears that only the prompt is considered when generating these images.

I also wasn’t impressed by the Studio Effects feature, a set of filters that can be used during a video call. For example, they allow you to blur the background or apply light effects to your face to give it a “watercolor” finish.

The results are the same as what you could achieve using the background blur feature in video conferencing tools. Microsoft’s argument is that the NPU handles these tasks instead of the CPU and GPU, which could free up space for other components. This option might be useful in the case of wanting to give more flexibility to the rest of the components, but it’s not particularly outstanding.

A Potentially Exciting AI That Keeps Getting Delayed

The only worthwhile option, Microsoft Recall, won’t be available on these new machines at first. I had the opportunity to test Recall on one of the Lenovo machines. Some Lenovo staff members had used the laptop for a few days, allowing for at least minimal testing of the feature.

Windows Recall In Windows Recall, the search results of the term “Lenovo” showed those results in the form of thumbnails of screenshots taken by the system.

The interface is unique: Most of the screen is taken up by a panel which shows a preview of the screenshots recorded by Recall during the activity in question. At the top is the time bar you can scroll through, and as you do so, these screenshots will change to show the evolution of your work sessions.

In Recall, you can not only search through the time bar, but also through a search field that allows you to input any term. If Recall has recorded and tagged that term in its database, it’ll appear in the search results in the form of thumbnails of screenshots related to the searched term.

The feature demonstrated its effectiveness and power in my brief tests, and it certainly presents a different way of working... if Microsoft can assure users that there are no privacy concerns.

However, this is exactly the major drawback of Recall–it was released too hastily. This was evidenced by serious security issues that emerged shortly after its launch, casting doubt on Microsoft’s privacy assurances.

As a result, the company had to reverse its decision and make a challenging but prudent choice: to temporarily exclude Recall from Copilot+ laptops. The feature, however, can still be installed by members of the Windows Insider program, and their feedback will be crucial in making the future global rollout much more reasonable.

The Most Promising Laptops in Years

The launch of devices with AI features has been affected by these problems, overshadowing their other fantastic advantages. Although the promises of the Snapdragon X Elite chips are indeed promising, it might be beneficial to focus on their current capabilities instead of speculating about a hypothetical future where AI may (or may not) be useful.

Initial independent reviews have highlighted the remarkable battery life of these laptops, with the new devices lasting almost twice as long as their predecessors.

Furthermore, both native apps compiled for ARM and x86 apps working with emulation have shown impressive general performance. In most cases, it’s difficult to tell the difference between native and emulated applications, depending on the scenario and the specific app being used.

The main downside for many users is the lack of video games designed for this SoC. Reviews like the one from PC Gamer have shown that the GPUs of the Snapdragon X Elite aren’t ideal for gaming, so it’s important to note that devices with these chips aren’t meant for gaming.

It’ll be interesting to analyze these devices to confirm these impressions and put them to the test. However, one thing is clear: Even without the highly-touted AI functions, which are currently not very advanced, it seems that we’re looking at the most promising batch of laptops in recent years.

Image | Wikimedia Commons [R23jperry, Ton Engwirda]

Related | Copilot+ Explained: What It Is, What New Functions It Add to Windows 11, and What You Need to Use It

Home o Index