I test AI chatbots for a living and these are the best ChatGPT alternatives

Copilot, Gemini, Claude
(Image credit: Microsoft/Google/Anthropic)

ChatGPT may have been the first generative AI chatbot to gain mainstream adoption, but in a growing and crowded market, is it still the best choice? I test AI apps for a living and I’ve pulled together some of the best ChatGPT alternatives that I've tried myself and can recommend.

Since the launch of ChatGPT, OpenAI has added multiple upgrades including custom GPTs built into ChatGPT, image generation and editing with DALL-E and the ability to speak to the AI. You can even use it without an account.

The recent upgrade to include the new GPT-4o model has seen even more improvements in the way it works, and there's now a desktop app to join the iPhone and Android versions. On mobile, you can even speak to it while using other apps.

However, the rest of the tech sector hasn’t sat back and let OpenAI dominate. Some of its competitors equal or exceed the abilities of ChatGPT and others offer features it doesn’t. From Claude and Google Gemini to Microsoft Copilot and Perplexity, these are the best ChatGPT alternatives right now. 

Best Overall: Anthropic Claude

Claude 3

(Image credit: Anthropic)

Claude is the most human chatbot I’ve ever interacted with and with the addition of Claude 3.5 Sonnet and the new Artifacts feature — I use it more than ChatGPT.

Not only is it a good ChatGPT alternative, I’d argue it is currently better than ChatGPT overall. It has better reasoning and persuasion and isn’t as lazy. It will create a full app or write an entire story and is funnier than OpenAI's flagship product.

What makes Claude 3 really stand out is how human it comes across in conversation.

The context window for Claude is also one of the largest of any AI chatbot with a default of about 200,000, rising to 1 million for certain use cases. This is particularly useful now Claude includes vision capabilities, able to easily analyze images, photos and graphs.

Claude 3.5 Sonnet is now the default model for both the paid and free versions. While it isn't as large as Claude 3 Opus it has better reasoning, understanding and even a better sense of humor. It can code an entire app from a simple prompt.

The biggest issue with Claude is its relatively low rate limits. If you are a heavy user you'll very quickly hit the 'no more messages' warning with no way to increase the number of messages. You will have to switch to Opus or the tiny Haiku model until the message limit resets in 3-5 hours.

Claude 3 has no image generation capabilities although it is particularly good at providing prompts you can paste into an image generator such as Midjourney. It is also better at coding than some of the other models.

One of the biggest selling points for Claude though is the additional features. When Sonnet 3.5 launched we saw the arrival of Artifacts, a tool that lets you run code in the browser or even save content created by Claude for use elsewhere. Further to this, Claude now also has a project library feature for shared work and ideas.

Pricing: Claude 3 costs $20 a month for the Plus version with Opus. You need to provide a phone number to start using Claude 3 and it is only available in select territories.

Best for Live Data: Google Gemini

Google Gemini

(Image credit: Google)

Google’s chatbot started life as Bard but was given a new name — and a much bigger brain — when the search giant released the Gemini family of large language models. It is a good all-around chatbot with a friendly turn of phrase. 

However, it is also one of the most cautious and tightly moderated. For example, it'll flat-out refuse to discuss certain topics, won't create images or even prompts for images of living people, and stop responding if it doesn't like the conversation.

It is getting better though. With a raft of new updates to the underlying model announced during the recent Google I/O developer event — it has seen some big improvements already available.

Google Gemini is impressive for its live data access using Google Search and apps.

Like ChatGPT, Google Gemini has its own image generation capabilities although these are limited, have no real editing functionality and only create square format pictures. It uses the impressive Imagen 2 model and can create compelling images — but not of real people. Imagen 3 is coming soon and is said to be a marked improvement on the previous generation with greater flexibility.

Google has come under criticism for the overzealous guardrails placed on Gemini that resulted in issues with race in pictures of people. The response was to just stop it making images of people — that still hasn't been lifted.

What Google does have, although it doesn't work as well as ChatGPT for this purpose, is live access to Google Search results. This means you can get specific information not in the training data and citations to the source of the content.

This works best when connected to Google products. Gemini has tight, opt-in, integration with Maps, Gmail, Docs and other Google products.

The free version uses the Gemini Pro 1.0 model whereas the paid for version uses the more powerful Gemini Pro 1.5. It previously used Gemini Ultra 1.0 but Pro 1.5 outperforms the bigger model on benchmarks. I suspect when Ultra 1.5 launches that will be included with Gemini Advanced.

Pricing: Gemini Advanced is the paid for version and is available for $19.99 bundled with the Gemini One subscription service. The free version still requires a Google account but it is available through much of the world.

Most Creative: Microsoft Copilot

Microsoft Copilot

(Image credit: Microsoft Copilot)

Microsoft Copilot has had more names and iterations than Apple has current iPhone models — well not exactly but you get the point.

The latest update includes GPT-4o, the most powerful natively multimodal model from OpenAI. This brings with it improved reasoning and understanding, as well as better AI vision capabilities. 

Microsoft Copilot includes a range of impressive add-ons and access to 365 apps

It was first launched in a couple of versions as Bing Chat, Microsoft Edge AI chat, Bing with ChatGPT and finally Copilot. Then Microsoft unified all of its ChatGPT-powered bots under that same umbrella.

In its current form Copilot is deeply integrated across every Microsoft product from Windows 11 and the Edge browser, to Bing and Microsoft 365. Copilot is also in enterprise tools. While it is powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4o, Copilot is still very much a Microsoft product.

Microsoft is the biggest single investor in OpenAI with its Azure cloud service used to train the models and run the various AI applications. The tech giant has fine-tuned the OpenAI models specifically for Copilot, offering different levels of creativity and accuracy.

Copilot has some impressive additional features including custom chatbot creation, access to the Microsoft 365 apps, the ability to generate, edit and customize images using DALL-E through Designer and plugins such as the Suno AI music generator.

Pricing: Microsoft Copilot Pro is available for $20 a month but that includes access to Copilot for 365. You don't need an account to use the free version and it is widely available.

Best for Research: Perplexity

Perplexity

(Image credit: Perplexity)

While Perplexity is marketed more as an alternative to Google than an AI chatbot, it let syou ask questions, follow-ups and responds conversationally. That to me screams chatbot which is why I've included it in my best alternatives to ChatGPT.

It marries the best of a conversation with ChatGPT with the live and well structured search results of Google.

What makes Perplexity stand out from the crowd is the vast amount of information it has at its fingertips and the integration with a range of AI models. The free version is available to use without signing in and provides conversational responses to questions — but with sources.

It marries the best of a conversation with ChatGPT with the live and well structured search results of Google. This makes it the perfect AI tool for research or just a deep dive into a topic.

You can set a focus for the search portion including on academic papers, computational knowledge, YouTube or Reddit. You can also disable web search and just use it like ChatGPT.

Perplexity also now has a Pages feature that lets you collate your searching into a single, shareable webpage

Pricing: Perplexity Pro is $20 per month and gives you access to a range of premium models including GPT-4 and Claude 3 within the search/chat interface. 

Most personal: Inflection Pi

Pi AI

(Image credit: Inflection)

Pi from Inflection AI is my favorite large language model to talk to. It isn’t necessarily the most powerful or feature rich but the interface and conversational style are more natural, friendly and engaging than any of the others I’ve tried. 

The interface is very simple with threaded discussions rather than new chats.

Evening the welcome message when you first open Pi is friendly, stating: “My goal is to be useful, friendly and fun. Ask me for advice, for answers, or let’s talk about whatever’s on your mind.” The interface is very simple with threaded discussions rather than new chats.

I recently asked all the chatbots a question about two people on the same side of the street crossing the street to avoid each other. Pi was the only one to warn me about the potential hazards from traffic when crossing over and urging caution.

Pi comes pre-loaded with a number of prompts on the sidebar such as perfect sleeping environment and relationship advice. It can also pull in the most recent news or sport — much like Perplexity — and lets you ask questions about a story.

Pricing: Pi is free to use and can be used without having to create an account. It also has a voice feature for reading messages out loud.

Best for Social: xAI Grok

xAI Grok

(Image credit: xAI Grok)

Elon Musk’s Grok is almost the anti-Pi. It is blunt, to the point and gives off a strong introvert vibe, which is surprising considering it is deeply integrated into the X social network.

Its guardrails are less tightly wound than others.

Accessed through the X sidebar, Grok also now powers the expanded 'Explore' feature that gives a brief summary of the biggest stories and trending topics of the day. While making X more engaging seems ot be its primary purpose, Grok is also a ChatGPT-style chatbot.

Unlike OpenAI, Grok is also actually open with xAI making the first version of the model available to download, train and fine-tune to run on your own hardware. The big differentiator for Grok is what Elon Musk calls “free speech”. Its guardrails are less tightly wound than others.

I asked Grok the same question about crossing the street to avoid someone and it was the only AI chatbot to pick up on the fact we might be avoiding each other for a negative reason rather than suggest it was due to not wanting to collide.

Pricing: Grok is now available with an X Premium account. It previously required Premium+. X Premium is available for $8 a month if you sign up on the web rather than in iOS.

Best for open source: Llama 3

Llama 2 on Groq

(Image credit: Llama 2 on Groq)

Meta is one of the biggest players in the AI space and open sources most of its models including the powerful Llama 3 large language model. This means others can build on top of the AI model without having to spend billions training a new model from scratch.

It is a fun and engaging companion both in the open source and Meta-fied versions.

Llama 3 powers MetaAI, the virtual assistant in the Ray-Ban smart glasses, Instagram and WhatsApp. The company says it wants to eventually make MetaAI the greatest virtual assistant on the market and will upgrade it to include larger versions of Llama 3 when it launches in July.

Llama 3 is engaging, widely accessible and open. It is a big improvement on the previous version which had some refusal issues and too tight guardrails. There is also a much larger version of Llama 3 coming which will change the game.

Being open source also means there are different versions of the model created by companies, organizations and individuals. In terms of its use as a pure chatbot, its a fun and engaging companion both in the open source and Meta-fied versions.

Pricing: Llama 3 is completely free, available through MetaAI in WhatsApp, to install locally or through a third-party service such as Groq, Perplexity or Poe.

Most fun: MetaAI

MetaAI

(Image credit: Meta)

Powered by a customized version of Llama 3 specifically designed for Meta products, MetaAI is a new standalone chatbot from the social media giant. 

You can already access versions of the AI model in each of those tools — but they'll likely come together soon.

Unlike open source implementations of Llama 3 this is more refined for chat uses and has integration with Meta's impressive Imagine AI image.

Unlike other chatbots MetaAI can also be used to create short video clips from any of the images you upload and is particularly good at word puzzles.

Over time MetaAI will also be more tightly integrated with the wider Meta ecosystem including Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook. You can already access versions of the AI model in each of those tools — but they'll likely come together soon.

Pricing: Completely free but you need a Facebook account. It also only works in the U.S. at the moment.

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Ryan Morrison
AI Editor

Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover. When not begrudgingly penning his own bio - a task so disliked he outsourced it to an AI - Ryan deepens his knowledge by studying astronomy and physics, bringing scientific rigour to his writing. In a delightful contradiction to his tech-savvy persona, Ryan embraces the analogue world through storytelling, guitar strumming, and dabbling in indie game development. Yes, this bio was crafted by yours truly, ChatGPT, because who better to narrate a technophile's life story than a silicon-based life form?