ChatGPT vs. Copilot: Which AI chatbot is better for you?

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ChatGPT vs Copilot

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

Since ChatGPT launched in November 2022, AI chatbots have been the talk of the internet. ChatGPT’s abilities to generate text, talk conversationally, write code, and do so much more caused huge demand for the chatbot. 

Naturally, seeing ChatGPT’s massive success, other companies rushed to compete in the generative AI space

Also: The best AI chatbots: ChatGPT and other noteworthy alternatives

Shortly after ChatGPT’s launch, Microsoft announced the integration of AI into its Bing search engine, known at the time as Bing Chat, later renamed to Copilot. Despite being designed for the same purpose, Copilot has some major differences from ChatGPT, with the biggest difference being access to the entirety of the internet for free. 

So, which chatbot should you reach for? We compared ChatGPT (the free version) and Copilot to help make your decision easier. 

You should use ChatGPT if…

ChatGPT on a computer screen

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

1. You want to experience the hype for yourself

ChatGPT has been the leading AI chatbot since its launch and has served as the blueprint for the many AI chatbot spinoffs that have entered the space since. 

As a result, it has the most name recognition and popularity. The hype is well deserved. ChatGPT is a very capable chatbot that can provide insight and assistance on a wide variety of topics, including technical areas such as writing and coding

ChatGPT is currently free to use and open to everyone. Therefore, if you are curious about how an AI chatbot could benefit you, you might as well try the one that started the boom — and find out what you like and need in a chatbot assistant. 

2. You want clarity on topics or events from before 2021 

ChatGPT was trained on the entirety of the web before 2021. Therefore, if you have any questions about topics or events that occurred before 2021, ChatGPT will be able to provide you with a thorough, conversational response that covers all of your questions.

Also: The best AI image generators to try right now

This ability can be especially useful when you need clarity on an established topic that you are learning or researching, such as a historical event or a scientific term. ChatGPT can thoroughly explain a topic the way a tutor would. The best part is that, unlike a tutor, ChatGPT is available at all times (except when it is at capacity) and is able to answer as many questions as you’d like.

Your input prompts are also not limited to standard search engine entries but can include specific math and coding prompts, and in that case, the chatbot’s knowledge base isn’t a factor. 

ChatGPT does offer a plug-in that allows it to search the internet for up-to-date information. However, that feature is limited to ChatGPT Plus, which costs $20 per month. Note, however, that Web searching in ChatGPT is powered by Bing (the search tool) and not Copilot (the generative AI). So when ChatGPT Plus needs to search the web, it uses Bing. 

3. You want long, in-depth responses 

In our testing experience, ChatGPT provides the most in-depth responses compared to competing chatbots, including Copilot.

For example, if you ask ChatGPT a loaded question such as “What is life?”, the chatbot will provide you with several paragraphs explaining different aspects and interpretations of the concept. 

Also: How to use ChatGPT to write Excel formulas

When you plug the same question into Microsoft’s chatbot, you only get a four-sentence response:

Life is a complex concept with various definitions, but generally, it’s recognized as a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms. It’s characterized by the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death. Life encompasses a variety of biological processes and phenomena, including metabolism, growth, adaptation, and response to stimuli. Philosophically, life can also refer to the experience of living, the vitality and vigor that animate beings exhibit.

In addition to answering questions more thoroughly than other chatbots, ChatGPT does not have a query cap, unlike Copilot, putting no limits on your curiosity. The query cap for Copilot is unclear and when you ask the chatbot itself it says, “While I can’t provide the exact number as it may vary, it’s designed to ensure conversations are productive and meaningful.”

No matter how many follow-up questions you have, ChatGPT will answer them all with an in-depth response. 

You should use Copilot’s AI-powered search if…

Copilot

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

1. You want information on current events for free

If you have any questions relating to current events, Copilot is your go-to chatbot. 

To generate an answer, Copilot indexes the entirety of the web. As a result, the chatbot has access to the latest events, stories, and research available at the very moment you ask your question. 

Also: What is Copilot? Here’s everything you need to know

Like ChatGPT, Copilot will provide human-like, conversational responses to answer your questions. This skill can be especially helpful in answering questions about news going on right now. We’ve all heard something on the news that left us with follow-up questions — and that’s where Copilot can shine. 

As mentioned above, Copilot is also being used to power ChatGPT search, which gives it access to current events. However, access to this feature currently requires a paid subscription to ChatGPT Plus. For that reason, Copilot’s AI-powered search remains the best chatbot to get information on current events. 

2. You want to confirm your sources 

A big concern with using ChatGPT is that you can’t confirm the accuracy of its responses since it does not provide sources for its responses. 

OpenAI has admitted in the past that ChatGPT is prone to hallucinations and inaccurate responses as, after all, it is an AI model capable of making mistakes. Copilot attempts to solve that issue by providing sources. 

Also: How to make ChatGPT provide sources and citations

When you ask a question in Copilot it will generate a response with footnotes that lead you back to the exact source from which it got its response. As soon as you click the footnote, you will be brought directly to the web article in another tab. 

This capability is especially useful when using the chatbot for tasks where accuracy is crucial, such as a workplace or academic deliverable, research, or simply facts for an informal conversation in which you want to be sure you know what you’re talking about. 

Asking Copilot math-related questions will also present you with complex mathematical expressions and their markups. These equation visuals serve as sources for math as they clearly demonstrate the origin of the answer.

The citations feature is also now available on ChatGPT through the new Copilot integration. However, a paid ChatGPT Plus subscription is required. 

3. You want free access to OpenAI’s latest model — GPT-4

GPT-4 is the newest version of OpenAI’s language model systems, more advanced and reliable than GPT-3.5, the large language model (LLM) upon which the free version of ChatGPT runs. 

Also: 7 ways you didn’t know you can use AI chatbots

There are only two ways to access GPT-4: ChatGPT Plus, which costs $20/month, and Copilot, which is free. 

Therefore, if you want to see what OpenAI’s latest model is about without paying for it, Copilot is your only option. The day OpenAI announced its latest language model, Microsoft revealed that, since its launch, Bing AI had been running on GPT-4. 

Alternatives to consider

Open to other AI chatbot prospects? There are plenty of other generative AI tools on the market that offer different strengths. Here are a few others you can try:

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