New report claims Windows 11 'AI PCs' will require 16GB RAM, but will they really?

 Dell XPS 14.
Dell XPS 14.

What you need to know

  • A recent report claims that AI features in Windows will require at least 16GB of RAM.

  • Microsoft has not shared an official comment on the reported memory requirement.

  • Dell's new XPS 13 will have a configuration with 8GB, which suggests that it's unlikely 16GB of memory will be required for AI features in Windows.

Microsoft is all-in on AI. The company rolls out Copilot or another AI set of tools to new apps every month. Windows 11, Edge, and even Windows laptop keyboards all have a connection to AI. But will using all these AI features require new or more powerful hardware? A recent report states that at least 16GB of memory will be required for Copilot and AI features.

Microsoft did not share a comment on the report when we reached out, so we don't have confirmation one way or the other. But after some digging, it seems unlikely that PCs will need 16GB of RAM to use AI.

Windows AI PCs

Copilot button on a Windows laptop
Copilot button on a Windows laptop

Microsoft is hard at work to integrate AI into all of its services. Windows 11 places Copilot front and center with a shortcut to the AI-powered tool in the Taskbar. You're going to hear about AI all year in 2024. Intel Core Ultra processors and the upcoming Qualcomm Snapdragon X Elite feature Neural Processing Units (NPUs) that specialize in AI.

NPUs are more efficient when performing the repetitive tasks required for AI, such as blurring backgrounds or processing images in Adobe Lightroom. There will be new processors without NPUs, but a ton of laptops and PCs will have Neural Processing Units.

One of the new PCs that features an NPU is the revamped Dell XPS 13. In Dell's blog post about the laptop, there's a section titled "AI, Your New Best Friend," in which Dell outlines all the advantages of Intel Core Ultra having an NPU. Right above that section is a link to the full spec sheet of the XPS 13, which will have a configuration with only 8GB of RAM. Would Dell highlight the importance of AI on its new laptop when one of the configurations will not support AI features? It seems Dell would at least include a note that AI requires a certain configuration if that were the case.

The new XPS 13 will have a Copilot key on its keyboard as well, so it seems especially unlikely that Dell would have that button on a computer that didn't support Copilot.

That being said, laptop makers have made mistakes or failed to note things before. Dell incorrectly claimed Windows 11 version 24H1 was coming in April.

Controversial minimum requirements

Surface Studio
Surface Studio

Microsoft received a massive amount of pushback and criticism when it unveiled the minimum hardware requirements for Windows 11. The tech giant pointed toward security reasons for requiring a TPM to upgrade to Windows 11. I question if Microsoft would line up for more criticism with a hardware requirement for the AI features it pushes so hard.

Copilot is in the Taskbar, the Edge Sidebar, and may even have a shortcut from File Explorer. Microsoft is working on Copilot and AI shortcuts within the Edge snipping tool. It's hard to believe the company would integrate AI into all of its apps and services and then set a minimum requirement of having 16GB of RAM to use any of them.

There's a chance that certain AI features will be limited to systems with more memory. Locally processing a video using AI can be resource-intensive, so it would make sense to require certain specs. But calling up Copilot shouldn't take 16GB of RAM.

Microsoft may recommend 16GB of RAM to use AI features while still supporting systems with lower specs. Minimum requirements and recommend specs usually have a wide gap between them, so it seems plausible that Microsoft will have two sets of specs.