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6 min read

Perplexity vs. ChatGPT: Which AI tool is better? [2024]

By Harry Guinness · June 6, 2024
Hero image with the Perplexity and ChatGPT logos

A lot of AI chatbots all feel the same. Sure, they use different models under the hood, but whether you're using ChatGPT, Meta AI, or Google Gemini, the experience is pretty similar. Prompt goes in, generated AI response comes out—which is why Perplexity AI is so interesting. 

Instead of just being another chatbot, Perplexity AI is billed as an alternative to traditional search engines. Yes, it works kind of like a typical conversational AI chatbot, but it's designed to be more accurate and up-to-date. So how does this compare to ChatGPT, which has also been held up as a possible replacement for search engines?

Well, I've been using both apps side-by-side for a few months now, so let's look at what sets the two tools apart. And most importantly, whether you should use Perplexity AI or ChatGPT.

Perplexity AI vs. ChatGPT at a glance

Perplexity AI and ChatGPT are both great tools. You'll need to read the full comparison for a proper breakdown of what they both can do, but here's a brief overview.

Perplexity AI

ChatGPT

Power

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Uses latest state-of-the-art AI models

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ The best multimodal chatbot around

Flexibility

⭐⭐⭐ Great for search-like queries, but less useful otherwise

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Can do almost any AI language task

Knowledge accuracy and depth

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Can still hallucinate, but large variety of sources makes it less likely

⭐⭐⭐ Can still hallucinate and can be lazy in use of sources


ChatGPT is a general-purpose chatbot

ChatGPT is the leading example of what an AI chatbot can be. Since launching in 2022, it's been pushing the edge of what large language models (LLMs) and large multimodal models (LMMs) are capable of. It's gone from an interesting novelty to a highly capable productivity tool in a very short time.

ChatGPT analyzing a chart

If you haven't played around with it in a while, here are some of the things ChatGPT can do:

  • Give answers to factual questions

  • Solve logic, math, and other kinds of problems

  • Write, troubleshoot, and help with computer code

  • Draft emails, social media posts, and any other kind of written communication

  • Identify objects from photos

  • Create charts, tables, and other ways to display data

  • Analyze data from charts and tables

  • Translate from one language to another

  • Summarize information from uploaded documents

  • Converse in a voice chat

In short, ChatGPT is a great general-purpose assistant. While it can do a wide variety of tasks, it doesn't necessarily go as deep into them as dedicated tools. For example, while you can get ChatGPT to generate any kind of text you want, an AI-powered writing tool like Jasper will give you a lot more options and control, and allow you to generate longer documents, emails, and the like. Similarly, you can use ChatGPT to generate images with DALL·E 3, but Midjourney is far more powerful if you're primarily interested in AI image generators.

ChatGPT analyzing an image

So if ChatGPT is an incredibly competent jack of all trades, where does Perplexity AI fit in? 

Perplexity AI is designed to find information from the web

While Perplexity AI looks and feels a bit like a chatbot, it's far more focused than ChatGPT. It's designed to find and summarize content from the web. Think of it like a supercharged version of Google's AI overviews—except you're in control, and it (probably) won't tell you to put glue on pizza.

The best way to see this is by looking at the same query in both apps. Here's what ChatGPT gives me for "Why did Rishi Sunak call an election in the UK?"

ChatGPT searching 3 sites to answer the question and offering a summary

It's searched the web and pulled content from a few sources. Not bad, but hardly a thorough overview. 

And here's what Perplexity AI gave me for the same prompt. 

Perplexity offering 20 sources and breaking down the information into a clear outline

It's searched the web as well, but instead of two sources, it's found 20. It's also neatly summarized the information and referenced each individual point. 

The situation is similar when I ask the follow-up: "How has Labour responded?"

ChatGPT's answer has some potential speculation in it
Perplexity's answer is more fact-based

While both apps answer the question, Perplexity AI's answer seems more factual; I feel ChatGPT's veers a little too close to unsupported speculation.

While this is just one example, the results are the same for other factual or newsworthy prompts. Whatever you ask, Perplexity AI tends to give a more rounded, referenced answer.

This isn't to say that ChatGPT's responses can't be useful. But Perplexity AI does the better job.

ChatGPT answering the question "What is CERN?"
Perplexity answering the question "What is CERN?"

Perplexity AI also gives you control over where it looks for its resources. You can direct it to search the whole internet, just academic papers, WolframAlpha, YouTube, or Reddit, depending on where you think the best answer to your question might be. 

The option to select where you search in Perplexity

Though Perplexity AI can do chatbot things if you push it

Large language models are nothing if not flexible, so while Perplexity AI is at its best answering factual questions, you can get it to do all the other chatbot-y things if you want. Either by giving it instructions on how to respond to prompts...

Perplexity answering a question with a poem

...or by using the dedicated Writing focus, which skips the web search and lets you prompt the AI model directly.

The Writing focus feature in Perplexity

And like ChatGPT, there's a built-in AI image generator. 

Perplexity generating an image

Still, all of this can feel a little beside the point. It's like trying to bang a nail in with a screwdriver. You can—but there are better tools for the job. 

Both apps have lots of cool features

Really, Perplexity AI's focus on generating accurate answers to search-like questions is the biggest difference between it and ChatGPT. Unfortunately, because there is such a big and obvious point of comparison, lots of cool features in both apps are easy to ignore because they can't really be considered side-by-side. 

So I won't. Instead, I'm going to list a few of the cool things that each app can do. This is far from an exhaustive list of all their features—and even if this isn't likely to help you decide between Perplexity AI and ChatGPT, it will at least give you a better overview of each app and how they can be used.

Perplexity AI 

A basic search on Perplexity
A basic search uses fewer sources but is still pretty good.
  • Perplexity has two different kinds of search, Pro and Basic. A Pro search is deeper, though free users are limited to just five queries every four hours. 

  • Perplexity allows you to use different models. In addition to the default model, which is used for basic searches, you can choose GPT-4o, GPT-4 Turbo, Claude 3 Sonnet, Claude 3 Opus, and Sonar 32k, a model based on Meta's Llama 3. 

  • With Perplexity, you can sort your queries into collections. If you're researching a trip, planning a dinner party, or doing a lit review for an academic paper, it's a handy way of keeping all the information organized. 

ChatGPT

A conversation with ChatGPT including image generation and language translation
  • If you use the GPT-4o model, ChatGPT is now multimodal. This means it can respond to audio and image prompts as well as generate audio and images in return. Especially if you use the smartphone app, it makes ChatGPT far more useful as it can respond to significantly more diverse real-world situations. For example, if you're traveling, you can use it to translate a menu or sign, or identify a specific dish based on a photo. 

  • ChatGPT is really extensible. GPTs allow it to interact with services like WolframAlpha, play games, and search scientific papers. If you want, you can even create your own GPT with your own data.

  • And because ChatGPT integrates with Zapier, you can connect it to thousands of other apps, so you can access its power from wherever you spend your time. Learn more about how to automate ChatGPT, or get started with one of these pre-built templates.

    Start a conversation with ChatGPT when a prompt is posted in a particular Slack channel

    Start a conversation with ChatGPT when a prompt is posted in a particular Slack channel
    • Slack logo
    • ChatGPT logo
    • Slack logo
    Slack + ChatGPT

    Create email copy with ChatGPT from new Gmail emails and save as drafts in Gmail

    Create email copy with ChatGPT from new Gmail emails and save as drafts in Gmail
    • Gmail logo
    • ChatGPT logo
    • Gmail logo
    Gmail + ChatGPT

    Generate conversations in ChatGPT with new emails in Gmail

    Generate conversations in ChatGPT with new emails in Gmail
    • Gmail logo
    • ChatGPT logo
    Gmail + ChatGPT

    Create ChatGPT conversations from new Microsoft Outlook emails

    Create ChatGPT conversations from new Microsoft Outlook emails
    • Microsoft Outlook logo
    • ChatGPT logo
    Microsoft Outlook + ChatGPT

    Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

Both have the same pricing structure

Perplexity AI and ChatGPT use the exact same pricing model. Both apps offer a more limited free version and a paid plan at $20/month. 

To be honest, this is really great news on all counts. You can check out both apps without paying a penny—and if the free plans suit your needs, amazing. While you'll have more limited access to Pro searches on Perplexity and the GPT-4o model with ChatGPT, you should still be able to get a good idea of what each tool can do. 

Then, if you're using one more than the other, you can consider upgrading to the relevant paid plan. Of course, you might find out as I did that both tools have their uses. In which case, you'll probably be tempted to pay for both of them.

ChatGPT vs. Perplexity: Which should you choose?

Perplexity AI and ChatGPT are both really powerful AI tools, and while they have some overlapping features, they're both useful in their own ways. 

If you're looking for a conversational AI chatbot to replace or augment traditional searches, Perplexity AI is hard to beat. On the other hand, if you want a general-purpose AI assistant, ChatGPT is the best bot around. And if you want both? No shame.

Related reading:

  • ChatGPT vs. GPT: What's the difference?

  • Claude vs. ChatGPT: Which is best?

  • Meta AI vs. ChatGPT: Which is best?

  • The best ChatGPT alternatives

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