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ChatGPT vs. Bing Chat vs. Google Bard: Which is the best AI chatbot?

AI chatbots are more popular than ever, but how do you figure out which one is the best?
By Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed how we work and play in recent months, giving almost anyone the ability to write code, create art, and even make investments

For professional and hobbyist users alike, generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, feature advanced capabilities to create decent-quality content from a simple prompt given by the user. 

As Microsoft adds GPT-4 to Bing, OpenAI adds new capabilities to ChatGPT, and Bard connects to the Google ecosystem, keeping up with all the latest AI tools can get confusing. 

Knowing which of the three most popular AI chatbots is best to write code, generate text, or help build resumes is challenging, so we'll break down the biggest differences so you can choose one that fits your needs. 

Also: The ethics of generative AI: How we can harness this powerful technology

Testing ChatGPT vs. Bing Chat vs. Google Bard

To help determine which AI chatbot gives more accurate answers, I'm going to use a simple prompt to compare the three: 

"I have 5 oranges today, I ate 3 oranges last week. How many oranges do I have left?"

The answer should be five, as the number of oranges I ate last week doesn't affect the number of oranges I have today, which is what we're asking the three bots. First up, ChatGPT.

You should use ChatGPT if...

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want to try the most popular AI chatbot

ChatGPT was created by OpenAI and released for a widespread preview in November last year. Since then, the AI chatbot has gained over 100 million users, with the website alone seeing 1.8 billion visitors a month. It's been at the center of controversies, especially as people uncover its potential to do schoolwork and to replace some workers.

The free version of ChatGPT, which runs on the default GPT-3.5 model, gave the wrong answer to our question.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

I've been testing ChatGPT consistently since its release. Its user interface has remained simple, but minor changes have improved it greatly, like the addition of a copy button, an edit option, Custom Instructions, and easy access to your account. 

Also: How to use ChatGPT

Though ChatGPT has proven itself as a valuable AI tool, it can be prone to misinformation. Like other large language models (LLMs), GPT-3.5 is imperfect, as it is trained on human-created data up to 2021. It also often fails to comprehend nuances, such as in our math question example, which it answered incorrectly by saying we have two oranges left when it should be five. 

2. You're willing to pay extra for an upgrade

OpenAI lets users access ChatGPT -- powered by the GPT-3.5 model -- for free with a registered account. But if you're willing to pay for the Plus version, you can access GPT-4 for $20 per month.

Also: How to write better ChatGPT prompts for the best generative AI results

GPT-4 is the largest LLM available for use when compared to all other AI chatbots and is trained with data up to 2022. GPT-4 is said to have over 100 trillion parameters; GPT-3.5 has 175 billion parameters. More parameters mean that, essentially, the model is trained on more data, which makes it more likely to answer questions correctly.

ChatGPT Plus, which runs using the GPT-4 model, did answer the question correctly. 

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

As an example, you can see the GPT-4 model, available through a ChatGPT Plus subscription, answered the math question correctly, as it understood the full context of the problem from beginning to end.

Also: My two favorite ChatGPT Plus plugins and the remarkable things I can do with them

Next up, let's consider Bing Chat, which is a great way to access GPT-4 for free, as it's integrated into its new Bing format. 

You should use Bing Chat if...

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want generative AI with internet access

In contrast to ChatGPT, which is limited to being an AI tool that generates text in a conversational style with information leading up to 2021, Bing now has a chat option that formats the search results as a conversation with an AI chatbot. 

Also: How to use Bing Chat (and how it's different from ChatGPT) 

There are other benefits, too. Bing Chat is powered by GPT-4, OpenAI's largest language model, and it's completely free to use.  

The Bing precise conversation style answered the question accurately, though other styles fumbled.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The user interface of Bing Chat isn't as straightforward as that of ChatGPT, but it's easy to navigate. 

Also: Bing Chat now has the highly-requested dark mode. Here's how to turn it on

Though Bing Chat can access the internet to give you more up-to-date results compared to ChatGPT, I've found it is more prone to stall at replying and miss prompts than its competitor. 

2. You prefer more visual features

Through a series of upgrades to its platform, Microsoft added visual features to Bing Chat. At this point, you can ask Bing questions like, 'What is a Tasmanian devil?' and get an information card in response, complete with photos, lifespan, diet, and more for a more scannable result that is easier to digest than a wall of text. 

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

When you use Bing in chat mode, you can also ask it to create an image for you. Give Bing the description of what you want the image to look like, and have the chatbot generate four images for you to choose from. 

Also: How to use Bing Image Creator (and why it's better than DALL-E 2)

Bing Chat also features different conversational styles when you interact with the chatbot, including Creative, Balanced, and Precise, which alter how light or straightforward the interactions are. 

Both the Balanced and Creative conversation styles answered my question inaccurately.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Finally, let's turn to Google Bard, which uses a different LLM and has received some considerable upgrades in the past few months.

You should use Google Bard if...

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

1. You want a fast, unlimited experience

In my time testing different AI chatbots, I've seen Google Bard catch a lot of flack for different shortcomings. While I'm not going to say they're unjustified, I will say that Google's AI chatbot has its positives -- and one of these is speed.

Also: How to use Google Bard now

Google Bard is speedy with its answers, even if it does get some wrong ones every now and then. It's not faster than ChatGPT Plus, but it can be faster at giving responses than Bing and the free GPT-3.5 version of ChatGPT, though your mileage may vary. 

Bard also got the answer wrong on this one.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Bard made the same mistake as other bots, by incorrectly using the 5 - 3 = 2 formula.

Also: Uh oh, now AI is better than you at prompt engineering 

Bard is also not limited to a set amount of responses like Bing Chat is. You can have long conversations with Google Bard, but Bing is limited to 30 replies in one conversation. Even ChatGPT Plus limits users to 50 messages every three hours. 

2. You want a more 'Google' experience

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Google announced many AI updates during its I/O conference a few months ago, including how it plans to power up both Bard and its flagship search engine. Bard has since upgraded to PaLM 2, the latest, largest version of Google's LLM, which was announced during the event in May. 

Also: 6 AI tools to supercharge your work and everyday life

PaLM 2 helped Bard support more than 100 languages over time, as well as greatly improved its coding, debugging, and math skills. At this time, however, ChatGPT is said to support more than 80 languages. 

Google also incorporated more visual elements into its Bard platform than those that are available on Bing Chat. Users can also upload photos through an integration with Google Lens, and image generation through Adobe Firefly was announced (though not yet incorporated), as well as Kayak, OpenTable, Instacart, and Wolfram Alpha plugins.

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