Google Gemini 1.5 just announced — and it could blow away ChatGPT

Google Gemini 1.5 logo
(Image credit: Google)

Google launched a preview of a major new version of its Gemini large language model this week to make it available for early testing, and if the company's claims are true this could be the most capable LLM we've seen yet.

I say that because Google claims this new version, Google Gemini 1.5, is more efficient than its predecessor and more capable of "long-context understanding", with a potential context window of up to 1 million tokens. 

That's a technical way of measuring how much a model can understand before it hits a limit, and it's a big deal that Google is claiming Gemini 1.5 can handle up to 1 million tokens — to put that in perspective, Gemini 1.0 had a context window of 32,000 tokens.

In this diagram Google charts how the 1M token context window of Gemini 1.5 compares against contemporary LLMs like Anthropic's Claude 2.1 and OpenAI's ChatGPT-4 Turbo. (Image credit: Google)

Competitors like ChatGPT Plus and Microsoft Copilot, which currently run on OpenAI's GPT-4 Turbo LLM, have context windows of up to 128,000 tokens. So the fact that Google claims Gemini 1.5 can understand up to 1 million tokens is a significant upgrade.

According to Google, a 1 million token context window allows Gemini 1.5 to understand up to one hour of video, 11 hours of audio, over 700,000 words (so it could read, digest and answer questions about Tolstoy's War & Peace) or over 30,000 lines of code. In short, it's a big upgrade.

However, it's important to note that not everyone who uses Google Gemini 1.5 will have access to the full 1 million token context window, now or at release. 

According to a Google blog post published today (February 15), the company is giving a limited group of developers and business customers early access to Gemini 1.5 and the full 1M token window (via its AI Studio and Vertex AI dev platforms) so they can hammer on it and see what's possible. 

But Google says the rest of us will have to wait a bit for the official release of Gemini 1.5 Pro. And when it does arrive, the entry-level tier will be limited to the more market-standard 128,000 token window. Google says it plans to "introduce pricing tiers" that will scale up to the 1M token limit, so if you want to play with an AI that can watch and understand an entire Buster Keaton film (see clip above) be prepared to pay up.

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Alex Wawro
Senior Editor Computing

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. A lifelong PC builder, he currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.