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The best AI search engines of 2024: Google, Perplexity, and more

AI can optimize your search experience, and getting started is free and easy.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor

When ChatGPT launched in late 2022, the AI chatbot soared in popularity because people were amazed at its ability to respond to any question with conversational and concise answers. However, ChatGPT lacked one major feature -- access to current information. AI-powered search engines emerged to fill that gap.

Within months of ChatGPT launching, major search engines, including Google and Bing, infused generative AI into their platforms to offer conversational answers based on up-to-date information found across the internet. Other companies, such as Perplexity AI, also entered the space, building AI search engines from scratch to compete with the search engine giants and ChatGPT. 

Also: The 4 biggest Google Search features announced at Google I/O 2024

AI search engines offer users the same basic service but with significant differences in execution. Some options are more helpful than others, including differences in user interfaces, search results, and suggestions. 

To help you decide which AI search engine is worth using, ZDNET tested the best tools we could find and rounded them up, with notes on key specs and hands-on experiences. 

The best AI search engine of 2024

To compare how each search engine functions, I entered the same search query, "What is a Yorkie?" into each engine and included screenshots of how they responded below. I encourage you to look at each image closely because the results vary, and what works best for you may be highly personal. 

Pros & Cons
  • Combines best of AI and search
  • Designed for this purpose
  • Includes images, footnotes, and links
  • Own search engine
  • Paid subscription option
More Details

Unlike the rest of the picks on this list that have integrated AI into existing search engines, Perplexity AI has been built to be an AI search engine -- and this approach shows in its interface, which perfectly blends the best features of AI chatbots and search engines. Ultimately, this capability sets Perplexity apart from all the competitors on the market and makes it the most compelling and comprehensive AI search engine. 

When you first visit the application, you will see a textbox that resembles what you see when you visit any AI chatbot. However, when you click on the textbox, you will be given many prompt suggestions based on current events, much like when you are going to enter a search query in a search engine. These suggestions are helpful for prompt ideation and set Perplexity apart from other AI chatbots. 

Also: The best AI chatbots of 2024: ChatGPT and alternatives

Once you enter your search query, the results page provides several links at the top, which is helpful if you use Perplexity as a search engine to find the most appropriate website. The results include conversational, concise, bulleted AI-generated answers with footnotes and website links. 

Lastly, underneath the AI insights, users can take advantage of a "related" section, which resembles the experience on a search engine tool, such as Google's "people also ask" feature. This "related" section encourages discovery. Perplexity is free to use, and you don't need an account, making it easy to jump in and try the tool. 

Perplexity features: Free | Proprietary LLM | Premium subscription available with access to advanced models such as GPT-4 Turbo, Claude 3, and more

Perplexity search results
Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Minimal
  • GPT-4
  • Copilot
  • Bing search engine
  • Automatically there
More Details

Microsoft infused its Bing search engine with its AI chatbot, Copilot, and the tech company has seen its Bing daily active users increase significantly, with over 40 million new users during the past year. In my testing, Copilot has proven itself to be an extremely competitive chatbot, with features that make it a more attractive option than ChatGPT. 

Microsoft collaborated with OpenAI when developing Copilot, and, as a result, the chatbot uses GPT-4, OpenAI's very capable LLM. With the integration of Copilot in Bing, users experience high-quality responses when they search for anything through the box at the top of the search page results. The best part of Microsoft's execution, which places it over Google's, is that the AI insights aren't overwhelming and limited to one box off to the side, as seen in the picture below. 

This approach means you can easily expand the results to see more AI-enabled insights. However, if you want to ignore the output and scroll through the normal search results, the AI insights are confined to a small portion of your desktop screen that you can ignore. If you aren't entirely sure if you want to commit to an AI search engine, Bing is a great option. 

Microsoft Bing features: Free | GPT-4 

Bing AI search engine
Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Google
  • Opt-in
  • Shopping help
  • Too much space
  • Not Gemini
More Details

If you are a loyal Google user and curious about how AI can improve the search experience, then Google might already be the best option for you. Last year, Google introduced its Search Generative Experience (SGE), which was only accessible via Search Labs and gave users AI-generated insights at the top of their search results. However, at Google I/O, the company announced it was bringing those AI overviews to all users in the U.S.

Also: How to sign up for Google Labs - and 5 reasons why you should

This means that when you type a search query into Google that could be optimized by AI overviews, Google will automatically show you the AI insights. The only downside is that if you are not interested in seeing them, you are automatically exposed to them. Since the AI insights are not as compact as Bing's and take up the top of the screen, pushing organic search results down may not be an approach that works for everyone. 

Google features: Free | New Gemini model customized for Google Search

Google SGE
Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Simple
  • Chatbot interface
  • Less of a search engine
More Details

If you like the look, feel, and experience of using an AI chatbot, then You.com is the best AI search engine for you. On your first visit, you'll see that You.com's interface resembles an AI chatbot, with the major difference being that it the tool is connected to the internet to act as a search engine. 

You can enter any question or topic you'd like to learn more about and receive real-time web results, plus a conversational response. However, the output displayed does not resemble a regular search engine, so if you like to see results as a list of websites, like traditional search results, this tool may not be the best option.

Also: YouPro lets me access every popular premium AI chatbot for $20/month - but there's a catch

Instead, You.com displays a conversational response with added footnotes that users can click on to verify the source and visit the website. The tool will also add images when relevant that elevate the answers over those from a traditional AI chatbot like ChatGPT, as seen in the image at the top of the article. You.com also includes a "People also ask" section underneath its response and a "private mode", similar to Google's incognito mode.

You.com features: Free | Option for subscription | You.com proprietary LLM in the free version

You.com search results
Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET
Pros & Cons
  • Increased privacy
  • Context
  • Can be an official browser
  • No footnotes
  • Not Google's engine
More Details

Brave Search's appeal as a search engine comes from the increased privacy and security it offers users while browsing online. Some of Brave's standout features include blocking trackers and ads on websites, which also helps improve device battery life and browsing speeds. Recently, Brave added an "Answer with AI" feature that infuses generative AI into the search engine, offering an experience nearly identical to those in the tools above while keeping the security features users enjoy. 

Also: Brave search engine adds privacy-focused AI - no Google or Bing needed

You can download the Brave browser to your computer for the full experience. However, you can also use Brave Search in any browser by visiting its site. Using Brave Search is intuitive, as all you have to do is enter a search query. Similarly to Google and Microsoft's search enging, you will get AI-generated insights at the top of the search results, as seen in the photo below. 

Even though Brave Search doesn't include footnotes in its answers, the tool does include "context" underneath the answer with links to relevant content, which can be useful for verifying the source. Another feature that sets Brave Search apart is that the company says the answers generated are based on Brave's independent search index, unlike many competitors that rely on Google's or Bing's search engines.

Brave Search features: Free | Brave's independent search index

Brave AI search results
Screenshot by Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

What is the best AI search engine?

AI Search Engine


Large Language Model (LLM) for free version

Perplexity AI 

Free, premium  subscription available 


Microsoft Bing


OpenAI's GPT-4

Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) 

Free, opt into Search Labs

Advanced version of MUM and PaLM2


Free, premium  subscription available 


Brave Search



Which is the right best AI search engine for you?

I picked Perplexity AI as the best AI search engine overall because it has features most users can benefit from. However, you can choose from many AI search engines that might be better suited to your specific needs. 

For example, if you are a loyal Google user, Google's Search Generative Experience might be your best option. You can see the full breakdown below. 

Choose this AI search engine...

If you need...

Perplexity AI 

An AI search engine that combines the best of AI chatbots and search engines. 

Microsoft Bing

An AI search engine that integrates AI without it being too overwhelming.

Google Search Generative Experience (SGE) 

An AI search engine that builds on the Google interface.


An AI search engine that works the most like an AI chatbot. 

Brave Search

An AI search engine that prioritizes AI security and privacy. 

How did I choose the best AI search engines?

I tested every AI search engine that made the list across factors critical to users. Some of the factors I considered included: 

  • Price
  • Quality of the AI-enabled insights
  • User interface
  • LLM

What is an AI search engine?

An AI search engine has built-in generative AI that gives users AI insights in its search results. For example, all of the examples of AI search engines above include an AI-generated, summarized response to the user's search query. 

What is the difference between an AI search engine and an AI chatbot?

An AI chatbot is an application that uses generative AI to process a user's input and provide a conversational response. An AI search engine produces similar output but is also connected to the internet. 

Do AI search engines cost money?

All of the AI search engines above are free to use. However, there are premium subscription upgrades of some of the AI search engines listed above if you want to take advantage of more advanced LLMs. 

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