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What is an AI PC?

An AI PC is a personal computer equipped with hardware and software components to run artificial intelligence (AI) applications and tasks.

While an AI PC can be optimized for various forms of AI, a core focus at the outset is on enabling support for generative AI models and services. The term AI PC began to appear in late 2023 as vendors such as Intel and AMD began to promote the concept as a new computing era.

To handle AI and machine learning tasks efficiently, AI PC vendors include a central processing unit (CPU), a graphics processing unit (GPU) and a neural processing unit (NPU), which is a dedicated hardware component for AI acceleration.

Microsoft has used the term Copilot+ PC to help define its vision of an AI PC. The Copilot+ PC is launching as a Windows 11-based system. The Microsoft approach has a strong focus on optimizing Microsoft's Copilot AI assistant technology as a foundational component of the AI PC.

While Microsoft and its hardware partners are developing the AI PC concept, Apple introduced Apple Intelligence as a related approach, which brings AI experiences to its platforms.

What is the difference between an AI PC and a normal PC?

The following chart outlines some of the primary differences between an AI PC and a normal PC.

Feature AI PC Normal PC
Processing units CPU, GPU and NPU CPU and GPU
AI acceleration Dedicated hardware (NPU) for AI tasks Limited AI acceleration, primarily relies on CPU/GPU
Performance for AI tasks Optimized for AI applications with faster processing Less efficient for complex AI tasks
AI assistant compatibility Designed to run AI assistants locally May rely on cloud-based AI assistants
Local AI processing Can run AI models locally with better performance Limited capability for local AI processing
Power efficiency More efficient for AI tasks due to specialized hardware Less efficient when running AI workloads
Software ecosystem Optimized for AI applications and frameworks Standard software ecosystem
Specialized AI features Built-in AI capabilities such as real-time language translation and enhanced video conferencing Limited built-in AI features
Typical use cases AI development, content creation, advanced data analysis General computing, office work and web browsing

What are the key features of an AI PC?

The key features of an AI PC include the following:

  • Specialized hardware. One of the defining aspects of an AI PC is the inclusion of a neural processing unit (NPU). An NPU is a dedicated chip designed specifically for AI workloads. In addition to the NPU, AI PCs include high-performance CPU and GPU components that are optimized for AI workloads.
  • Local AI processing. AI PCs have the built-in capability to process AI tasks on-device, improving performance and enhancing privacy. The local processing also enables AI models to run offline, without constant internet connectivity.
  • Integration with AI assistants. Direct on-device integration with AI assistants such as Microsoft's Copilot as part of Microsoft Windows, is another common feature.
  • Dedicated AI key. Some AI PCs will also include a physical Microsoft Copilot key on the keyboard for quick access.
  • AI-enhanced applications. Beyond just the AI assistant, AI PCs also commonly include AI-powered tools for image generation, video editing and content creation. Enhanced productivity features such as automatic transcription and intelligent email management are additional key features.
  • Advanced security. Among the AI-enhanced applications are often advanced security features for better threat detection and mitigation.
  • Improved efficiency. AI PCs also offer the promise of better power management and longer battery life, especially for AI-related tasks.

What are the hardware requirements for an AI PC?

There is a varied list of hardware requirements for an AI PC that can depend on the vendor, including the following:

  • CPU. A powerful processor, at least an Intel Core i7 or AMD equivalent. For its Copilot+ PC, Microsoft has as part of its minimum requirements the Qualcomm Snapdragon X Plus and the Snapdragon X Elite processors.
  • GPU. A capable graphics card with at least 8GB VRAM, preferably more. NVIDIA GPUs are commonly used, and AMD GPUs are also suitable for AI tasks.
  • NPU. This is the key distinguishing hardware feature of an AI PC. The NPU should be capable of at least 40 TOPS (trillion operations per second).
  • System RAM. 16GB is the minimum memory needed though 32GB or more is recommended for better performance.
  • System storage. Fast solid-state drive (SSD) storage, preferably non-volatile memory express (NVMe) with at least 256GB of storage capacity, is recommended for high-performing workloads.

Potential applications of AI PCs and NPUs?

AI PCs integrate the power of NPUs to optimize AI AI-powered applications. There are multiple classes of applications that can benefit from the power of AI PCs and NPUs to perform complex AI tasks locally, offering benefits such as improved privacy, reduced latency, and enhanced performance compared to cloud-based solutions.

A few potential applications of AI PCs and NPUs include the following:

  • Enhanced video calling. Improved background blurring and other AI-powered effects for video conferencing.
  • AI assistants. Running AI assistants and chatbots locally on the device.
  • Content creation. AI-assisted tools for creating and editing various types of content, including text and images.
  • Data analysis. Comprehensive and faster processing of large datasets.
  • AI model fine-tuning. Enabling users to fine-tune and customize AI models locally.
  • Document summarization. Quickly summarizing lengthy documents.
  • Productivity enhancements. AI-powered tools to improve work efficiency.
  • Gaming. Potential for AI-enhanced gaming experiences and AI-driven characters.

Do AI PCs provide better privacy and security than cloud-based AI?

AI PCs are indeed described as offering enhanced privacy and security compared to cloud-based AI solutions. Here are the key points:

  • Local processing. AI PCs can perform AI tasks directly on the device, eliminating the need to send data to cloud-based AI servers for processing.
  • Data retention. By keeping data on the local device, AI PCs can enhance security by not transmitting potentially sensitive information over the internet.
  • Offline capabilities. AI PCs can operate independently of an internet connection, which can provide an additional layer of security and privacy.
  • Enterprise security. For businesses, local AI processing can help keep confidential information within the protection of corporate firewalls, rather than risking exposure through cloud services.
  • Personal privacy. Users can experiment with AI tasks or ask potentially embarrassing questions without the data being recorded in the cloud.
This was last updated in July 2024

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