New ARM-based Copilot+ laptops run for over 20 hours

It's not all roses and sunshine though.

New ARM-based Copilot+ laptops run for over 20 hours
Photo Credit: Microsoft

What excites me about Microsoft’s Copilot+ PCs isn’t AI. Ironically, it might also be its Achilles heel.

Microsoft Copilot+

In May, Microsoft unveiled its Copilot+ brand with a host of Copilot+ laptops. Available from Microsoft and PC makers such as Asus, Dell, Lenovo and others, they come with various AI features.

  • Live Caption.
  • Effects for video calls.
  • Local AI image, text creation.
  • Windows Recall - now delayed.

ARM first, Intel soon

While the first batch of laptops comes with processors from Qualcomm, CoPilot+ PCs with Intel and AMD chips should arrive at some point later.

This is where it gets interesting: The chips from Qualcomm use the ARM architecture, not the x86 architecture popularised by Intel and AMD.

FYI: The ARM architecture is used by chips in most smartphones today, and is also used by Apple for its M-series chips in Macs.

Incredible battery life

When I first read about the initial wave of ARM-based Copilot+ PCs, I was hopeful about their battery life.

And independent reviews so far have borne it out:

  • Microsoft Laptop 2024 (Video test: ~25 hrs)
  • Asus Vivobook S 15 (Normal use: ~12 hrs @ 47%)

Moreover, the ARM-based PCs delivered performance that beats Intel's i7 and i9 chips in certain laptops, and was even deemed on par with Apple’s M3.

The emulation problem

However, it's not all roses and sunshine.

The main problem: ARM chips don't run x86 apps by default. It must go through the built-in Prism emulator. And here's where things can go wrong.

To be clear, Prism appeared to have gotten much better, and is now boosted by powerful ARM hardware. But expect issues, with some fixable over time and others permanent.

  • VPN apps are an issue.
  • x86 device drivers won't work.
  • Non-native games suffer badly.
  • Performance varies for emulated apps.

But after at least one decade of trying to bring ARM to Windows, we might finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Time for a non-Intel PC?

My last Mac was a MacBook Pro from 2013, and I had recently mulled the idea of buying a new MacBook Air for travel for its battery life.

Since I don’t game and mostly use mundane productivity apps, perhaps the ARM-based Copilot+ PC could work for me.

Would you get the new ARM-powered PC?