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Microsoft Copilot vs. Copilot Pro: Is the subscription fee worth it?

Offering priority access and AI smarts across Microsoft 365, Copilot Pro runs $20 per month. Is the extra bang worth the buck? That depends on your needs. Here's what to consider.
Written by Lance Whitney, Contributor
Microsoft Copilot vs Copilot Pro
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Microsoft's Copilot tool is already freely available as a dedicated webpage, mobile app, and built-in Windows tool, offering quick and easy access to an AI chatbot that will answer your questions, generate content, and create images. But Microsoft upped its game with a Pro version of Copilot that kicks in more features and better access for $20 per month.

Also: Microsoft adds Copilot Pro support to iPhone and Android apps

The free flavor offers the following features:

  • Copilot use on the web and in Windows, MacOS, and iPadOS.
  • Access to GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo during non-peak times.
  • Upcoming access to GPT-4o.
  • Use of text, voice, and images in conversational search.
  • Ability to create and edit AI images with 15 boosts (15 images) per day with the Designer tool.
  • Ability to use plug-ins and shared GPTs.

Also: How to use Image Creator from Microsoft Designer

The Pro version kicks in several additional benefits:

  • Faster performance and priority access to GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo during peak times.
  • Upcoming access to GPT-4o.
  • Copilot availability in core Microsoft 365 desktop and web apps (Microsoft account required).
  • Faster AI image creation with 100 boosts (100 images) per day using Designer.
  • Ability to resize AI-created images between square and landscape formats without leaving Designer.
  • Ability to create and share your own custom and tailored Copilot GPTs via a Copilot Builder tool.

Beyond using Copilot Pro at the Copilot website through any browser, you can launch it directly in Windows 10 or 11. Simply click the Copilot icon on the Taskbar. The Pro flavor is also accessible in the iPhone and Android Copilot apps. You can use Copilot Pro with a Microsoft 365 subscription in Windows, MacOS, and iPadOS. And you can even tap into the Pro flavor with the free Microsoft 365 apps on the web.

You should use Copilot free if…

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You don't use Microsoft 365 on the desktop or on the web

For most people, the main advantage of Copilot Pro is the support for Microsoft 365. This means you're able to use AI to create and edit text and perform other advanced tasks in Word, Excel, and other apps both in the desktop suite and on the web. If you don't use any of the Microsoft 365 apps, then the other benefits by themselves probably aren't enough to justify the $20-per-month price tag.

2. You can get by with GPT-3.5 and non-peak use of GPT-4

GPT-4 offers some clear benefits over GPT-3.5, including faster and more accurate responses, longer prompts, a better understanding of context and nuance, greater creativity, the ability to solve complex problems, and fewer biased responses and hallucinations.

Also: ChatGPT vs ChatGPT Plus: Is it worth the subscription fee?

You can access both GPT models through the free version, though you may not be able to use GPT-4 during peak load times. In that case, Copilot will drop down to GPT-3.5. For many people, however, the sporadic GPT-4 access should suffice.

3. Your image generation needs are modest

Using the built-in Designer tool with DALL-E 3, Copilot is able to generate images based on your text descriptions. The free flavor limits the number of images you can generate, granting you 15 boosts (15 images) per day. If you don't need more, then the free flavor of Copilot will work just fine.

4. You already subscribe to ChatGPT Plus

ChatGPT Plus duplicates some of the benefits of Copilot Pro and throws in extra features such as the GPT Store and the ability to create your own custom chatbots. If you already pay $20 per month to subscribe to ChatGPT Plus, there's not as much reason to also subscribe to Copilot Pro. Save yourself some money and stick with the free Copilot flavor.

You should use Copilot Pro if…

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You use Microsoft 365 and want generative AI assistance for the apps

With its AI skills, Copilot Pro will help you write and edit text and summarize documents in Word, generate formulas and analyze data in Excel, create presentations in PowerPoint, compose text in OneNote, and draft replies and organize your inbox in Outlook. If you use Microsoft 365 on the desktop or on the web and those AI smarts will help you write, create, and work faster, then Copilot Pro can easily be worth the price.

2. You rely heavily on GPT-4 and GPT-4 Turbo

With the Pro edition of Copilot, you won't get saddled with GPT 3.5, even during peak times. Instead, you can switch between GPT-4 and the latest GPT-4 Turbo model. 

If you use GPT-4 heavily and frequently throughout the day and require fast and reliable access all the time, then Copilot Pro gets the nod over the free version.

3. You need to generate a lot of images

While the free Copilot limits the number of images you can generate to 15 per day, the Pro version allows as many as 100. Plus, the image creation tends to be much faster. If you need to create batches of artwork, logos, and other images as part of your job, then you won't run into as many roadblocks with the Pro version.

Both the free and paid versions of Copilot let you edit your images inline without leaving the Designer tool. Copilot Pro goes a step further by allowing you to resize and regenerate images between square and landscape formats.

Also: The best AI image generators

4. You don't subscribe to other premium AI services

Depending on your job and workload, a paid AI service can help you be more productive. If you don't already subscribe to ChatGPT Plus, Google's Gemini Advanced, or a similar service, then Copilot Pro could be just what you need. And remember, you can always try it for a month and then decide if you want to continue or cancel.

5. You'd like to create your own custom Copilot GPTs

With Copilot Pro, you're able to create and configure your own Copilot GPT chatbots. You might try this if you want to design a niche and unique GPT devoted to a specific skill or resource. Using the Copilot GPT Builder, you can either chat with Copilot for AI-infused assistance or manually give your GPT a name, description, and instructions. When done, you can preview your GPT to make sure it works and then either restrict access just to yourself or make it available to anyone with whom you share the link.

Now, let's look at how and where to access the free and paid editions of Copilot.

Free version access at the website

To access the free version on the web, browse to the Copilot webpage. Choose a conversation style and then type your question or request at the "Ask me anything" prompt. On the right, you should see specific Copilot GPTs, including Designer for image generation, a vacation planner, a cooking assistant, and a fitness trainer. The website also offers access to Copilot plugins, such as Instacart, Kayak, and Open Table.

Free version access at the website
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Free version access in Windows

More easily, click the Copilot icon on the Windows 10 or 11 toolbar. A similar interface appears where you choose the conversation style and then dive into your questions.

Free version access in Windows
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Free version access in the mobile apps

To use Copilot on your mobile device, download the app for iOS or Android. Choose your preferred conversation style and then submit your requests.

Free version access in the mobile apps
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Paid version access at the website

To sign up for the paid version of Copilot, browse to Microsoft's Copilot Pro webpage. Click the button for Get Copilot Pro. At the subscription page, confirm your payment method, and then click the Subscribe button. 

Also: This iPhone app fuses AI with web search, saving you time and energy

After the payment process finishes, click the "Get started" button. You're taken to the Copilot webpage where you'll see Pro as part of the Copilot logo. The Copilot GPTs and plugins are all accessible in the Pro model.

Paid version access at the website
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Paid version access in Windows

After subscribing on the website, log back into Windows 10 or 11. Click the Copilot Taskbar icon, and the Pro version will pop up.

Paid version access in Windows
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Paid version access in the mobile apps

Open the iOS or Android Copilot app and you'll see that Pro is now part of the logo, indicating that you're tapping into your Pro subscription.

Paid version access in the mobile apps
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET
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