Chromebook Plus wants to compete with Copilot Plus, but will it work?

Acer Chromebook Plus 515 lid
(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • With ChromeOS 125, Google is fully integrating Gemini into the operating system.
  • Chromebook Plus purchases will include a free year of Google One AI Premium, making these higher-end Chromebooks the best way to use AI in ChromeOS.
  • Google appears to be using a similar strategy as Microsoft's Copilot Plus, linking AI features to hardware

The age of the "AI PC" is firmly underway, and both hardware and software companies are racing to integrate artificial intelligence into their computing devices. Microsoft and Qualcomm had a big moment with Snapdragon X and Copilot Plus announcements last week, and now Google has a handful of Chromebook Plus announcements of its own. Just like laptops that support Copilot Plus, select Chromebook Plus models will gain new AI features throughout ChromeOS. 

It only made sense that Google would eventually add AI features to ChromeOS since the company has already made Gemini a focus of Android and Google Workspace. In fact, some features that have already appeared on Pixel phones—such as Help Me Write, Generative AI Wallpaper, Video Call Backgrounds, and Magic Editor in Google Photos—will now come to Chromebook Plus laptops. 

Of course, ChromeOS users have been able to use Gemini through the web client for as long as it has been active. However, the AI chatbot hasn't been directly integrated into ChromeOS until now. After updating to ChromeOS 125, there will be a Gemini app right on the ChromeOS app shelf. For now, Gemini on ChromeOS is just using a progressive web app (PWA) to open the chatbot in a separate window. In the future, it's possible that Gemini could play a bigger role in ChromeOS or even succeed Google Assistant. 

Some features are exclusive to Chromebook Plus devices, and others will come to all Chromebook models. Google says that they'll be released "through an automatic update over the next week or so." Based on these descriptions, it's easy to see how Chromebook Plus devices could be a competitor to Copilot Plus laptops. But can Chromebook Plus really compete?

How Chromebook Plus compares to Copilot Plus

ChromeOS 120 on Lenovo Chromebook Duet 3

(Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

The general idea behind Chromebook Plus and Copilot Plus is the same, but the actual implementations of each are different. Chromebook Plus is a hardware class that is comprised of devices that meet a certain criteria of specifications. By comparison, Copilot Plus is a software suite of AI features that can only run on devices with select hardware. The differences between the meaning of Copilot Plus and Chromebook Plus might sound like technicalities, though they are distinct. For starters, there are Chromebook Plus devices already out in the wild, while laptops with Copilot Plus won't ship until next month. 

Copilot Plus specifically unlocks AI features by requiring laptops—and likely desktops, eventually—to have a powerful neural processing unit (NPU). The NPU needs to support 40 trillion operations per second (TOPS) or more, and right now, only Snapdragon X systems-on-a-chip meet that requirement. It's important to note that Copilot Plus system requirements are tied to the NPU rather than a specific class of devices. Only Snapdragon X laptops are supported for now, but Copilot Plus will come to more platforms, devices, and form factors in the future. 

Chromebook Plus is a class of devices, unlike Copilot Plus. In order for a Chromebook to use the Chromebook Plus branding, it needs to have an Intel Core i3 12th-gen or higher or an AMD Ryzen 3 7000 series or higher processor. From there, Chromebook Plus laptops need to have at least 8GB of memory and 128GB of storage. Surprisingly, there are also webcam and display requirements, with the webcam needing to be at least 1080p and the display needing to be at least Full HD IPS.

So, buying a Chromebook Plus device will give you a premium Chromebook and a few exclusive software features, with the possibility of more coming in the future. The Copilot Plus designation is more about support for a specific suite of AI features that run on-device. These differences are important to keep in mind when figuring out which is right for you. 

Bundling Google One AI Premium with Chromebooks is brilliant

Overview of new Chromebook and ChromeOS features

(Image credit: Google)

Microsoft is clearly targeting on-device processing and advanced features with deep OS integration with Copilot Plus. By comparison, Chromebook Plus and its new AI features are much more cloud-focused. There's no better evidence of that than Google bundling a free year of Google One AI Premium with Chromebook Plus purchases. Among other benefits, the One AI Premium plan includes access to Gemini Advanced and Gemini for Workspace.

A full year of One AI Premium will cost $240, and it's a great perk that comes with Chromebook Plus devices. It makes sense to be included with Chromebook Plus laptops since ChromeOS will now put Gemini at the forefront of the experience. ChromeOS also excels at Google Workspace workflows, and the Gemini for Workspace features like Help Me Write could be a big advantage there. 

On the flip side, it's only a free year. If you get used to using One AI Premium, you'll need to pay out-of-pocket after that 12-month trial is over. Then again, you can get a Chromebook Plus laptop for as little as $349, so it's hard to complain too much. 

It's not Copilot Plus, but it doesn't have to be

Microsoft Copilot with Bing Chat

(Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

The truth is, Chromebook Plus and Copilot Plus aren't truly competing. A Chromebook Plus device costs a fraction of the price of a Copilot Plus laptop. Additionally, Chromebook Plus uses a bunch of lightweight and cloud-supported AI features, while Copilot Plus uses powerful on-device processing to support advanced features like Recall. 

A better comparison would be Gemini in ChromeOS vs Copilot in Windows. The addition of Gemini to ChromeOS and the advanced Google AI tools included in Chromebook Plus models will probably be all the AI that casual users need. Copilot Plus didn't exist before, so Microsoft is going to prove to users why they need the exclusive suite of features. All the Chromebook Plus-exclusive features are things users are already familiar with, like Magic Editor and Gemini.

Chromebook Plus devices won't come close to beating Copilot Plus devices in terms of on-device AI performance. However, they might provide just enough AI at just the right price to win over casual users. In fact, casual users were the target audience for Chromebooks all along.

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.