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Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Artificial intelligence (AI) has transformed how we work and play in the past 18 months, allowing almost anyone to write code, create art, and even make investments. For professional and hobbyist users, generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, offer advanced capabilities to produce decent-quality content from a simple user prompt.

Keeping up with all the latest AI tools can get confusing, especially as Microsoft added GPT-4 to Bing Chat and renamed it Copilot, OpenAI added new capabilities to ChatGPT and released GPT-4o, and Google plugged Bard into its ecosystem and rebranded the chatbot as Gemini.

Also: How to use ChatGPT (and how to access GPT-4o)

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

Testing ChatGPT vs. Copilot vs. Gemini

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

“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. Here’s a quick overview of how the AI chatbots performed with this test:

  • ChatGPT with GPT-4o: Succeeded
  • ChatGPT with GPT-4: Succeeded
  • ChatGPT with GPT-3.5: Failed
  • Microsoft Copilot in Creative: Succeeded
  • Microsoft Copilot in Balanced: Failed
  • Microsoft Copilot in Precise: Failed
  • Google Gemini: Succeeded
  • Google Gemini Advanced: Succeeded

First, let’s explore why you may choose ChatGPT over Microsoft Copilot and Google Gemini.

You should use ChatGPT if…

Introducing ChatGPT

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want the most advanced AI chatbot for free

OpenAI lets users access ChatGPT, powered by its GPT-3.5 and the GPT-4o models, for free with a registered account. If you’re willing to pay for the Plus version, you can access GPT-4, use a higher prompt limit for GPT-4o, and get early access to new features for $20 per month.

ChatGPT Plus

ChatGPT with GPT-4o, available for free users, answered the question correctly. 

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

GPT-4o is a new multimodal model available to free and paying ChatGPT users. Rather than relying on three separate models to power its features — GPT-4 for text, DALL-E 3 for images, and Whisper for voice — ChatGPT now uses GPT-4o to process and generate text, images, and sounds. This makes it faster than GPT-4 for paying ChatGPT subscribers and just as good for ChatGPT users who don’t want to pay.

Aside from the latest GPT-4o model, free users now also get most of the previously exclusive features to ChatGPT Plus users. These include web browsing, access to custom GPTs, ChatGPT Memory, and advanced data analysis.

2. You want to try the most popular AI chatbot

OpenAI released a widespread preview of ChatGPT in November 2022. Since then, the AI chatbot gained millions of users and has been at the center of controversies, especially as people uncover its potential to do schoolwork and replace some work across industries.

Also: ChatGPT will put your data into interactive tables and charts with GPT-4o

Since its release, I’ve been using ChatGPT almost daily. Although its interface has remained simple, minor changes have greatly improved the tool, including GPT-4o for free users, Custom Instructions, and easier account access.

ChatGPT free version

The free version of ChatGPT using the default GPT-3.5 model gave the wrong answer to our question.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Although ChatGPT has proven to be 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 January 2022. 

Also: I put GPT-4o through my coding tests and it aced them – except for one weird result

The tool also often fails to comprehend nuances, like it did with our math question example, which it answered incorrectly by saying we have two oranges left when the answer should be five.

The GPT-4o model answered the math question correctly, having understood the full context of the problem from beginning to end.

Next, let’s consider Microsoft Copilot, a great way to access GPT-4 for free.

You should use Microsoft Copilot if…

Microsoft Copilot

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want to use GPT-4 for free

Although the free version of ChatGPT lets you use GPT-4o, free users are limited to about 15 messages every three hours or even less in peak hours. After reaching your GPT-4o limit, your chat session reverts to GPT-3.5, limited to generating conversational text and information only until January 2022.

Also: How to use Copilot (formerly called Bing Chat)

Meanwhile, Copilot can access the internet to deliver more current information than GPT-3.5, with links to sources.

Bing (precise)

Copilot’s Creative conversation style was the only Copilot mode to answer the question accurately.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

There are other benefits, too. Copilot is powered by GPT-4, OpenAI’s LLM, and is completely free. Unfortunately, you are limited to five responses per conversation and can only enter up to 4,000 characters in each prompt. Copilot will eventually get GPT-4o built-in, but Microsoft hasn’t made this update widely available yet.

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

Copilot’s user interface is a bit more cluttered than ChatGPT’s, but it’s still easy to navigate. While Copilot can access the internet to give you more up-to-date results compared to ChatGPT powered by GPT-3.5, I’ve found it is more prone to stalling before replying and will miss more prompts than its competitor.

2. You prefer more visual features

Microsoft has upgraded its platform several times to add visual features to Copilot, formerly Bing Chat. At this point, you can ask Copilot questions like, “What is a Tasmanian devil?” and get a response complete with photos, lifespan, diet, and more, for a more scannable result that is easier to digest than a wall of text. 

You can also ask Copilot to generate images for you. Give Copilot a description of what you want the image to look like, and the chatbot will generate four images for you to choose from. 

Also: How to use Image Creator from Microsoft Designer (formerly Bing Image Creator)

Microsoft Copilot features different conversational styles, including Creative, Balanced, and Precise, which alter how light or straightforward the interactions are. Unfortunately, conversation styles can have varying degrees of accuracy. Historically, Precise has been the most accurate in my experience, but that recently changed. Of all three conversation styles, the only one that answered my orange question correctly was Creative.

Bing Precise

The Balanced and Precise conversation styles in Microsoft Copilot answered my question inaccurately.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Finally, let’s turn to Google’s Gemini, formerly known as Bard. It uses Google’s LLM, also named Gemini, and has received considerable upgrades over the past few months.

You should use Gemini if…

Google Gemini chatbot

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

1. You want a fast, almost unlimited experience

During my time testing different AI chatbots, I saw Google Bard catch a lot of flack for its shortcomings

Also: How to use Gemini (formerly Google Bard): Everything you should know

While I’m not saying those comments are unjustified, I will say that Google’s AI chatbot, now named Gemini and powered by a completely different AI model than the one it debuted with, has improved greatly, though it can still make mistakes.

Gemini gives speedy answers, which have become more accurate over time. It’s not faster than ChatGPT Plus, but it can respond faster than Copilot and faster than the free GPT-3.5 version of ChatGPT, though your mileage may vary. 

Bard response

Gemini answered accurately, like GPT-4o and Copilot’s Creative conversation style.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Bard used to make the same mistake as other chatbots for my example math problem by incorrectly using the 5 – 3 = 2 formula. However, Gemini — powered by Google’s new Gemini Pro, the company’s largest LLM — now answers the question correctly.

Also: Copilot Pro vs. ChatGPT Plus: Which is AI chatbot is worth your $20 a month?

Gemini is also not limited to a set number of responses. You can have long conversations with Google’s Gemini, unlike with Copilot, which is limited to five replies in one conversation. Even ChatGPT Plus limits users to 40 messages every three hours. 

2. You want the full Google experience

Google Bard - Google Maps

Screenshot by Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Google also incorporates more visual elements into its Gemini platform than those currently available in Copilot. Users can generate images using Gemini, upload photos through an integration with Google Lens, and enjoy Kayak, OpenTable, Instacart, and Wolfram Alpha plugins.

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

Gemini is slowly becoming a full Google experience thanks to extensions that add a wide range of Google applications. You can add extensions for Google Workspace, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Flights, and Google Hotels, giving you a more personalized and useful experience.

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