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Is ChatGPT Plus Worth the Money?

A computer screen showing a ChatGPT plus signup page
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

ChatGPT is arguably one of the most hyped pieces of tech in history. Users can create stories, scripts, poems, and songs — or just talk to the highly advanced AI powering it. While ChatGPT is free, there’s a “Plus” version available — but is it worth the $20 a month OpenAI is asking?

To find out, I decided to give it a go myself. I was also working on an article about the possibility of writing a novel with AI — and that would probably require a “professional” version of ChatGPT if such a thing existed, so it seemed like an ideal reason to part with $20 of my own hard-earned money. Unfortunately, the results were pretty disappointing.

What ChatGPT Says You Get

an image of the ChatGPT Plus subscription screen

You aren’t just handing over $20 for no reason. OpenAI offers a few benefits to Plus members. According to its website, the main features Plus members can enjoy are “General access to ChatGPT, even during peak times,” “Faster response times,” and “Priority access to new features and improvements.” You’ll also be supporting the concept and keeping the “free” version free as a result.

What it doesn’t list is that you can access older builds of ChatGPT. This is just a single “legacy” build at the moment — but it will include the likes of ChatGPT’s current build once GPT4 fully takes over from 3.5 and subsequent builds beyond that. This is actually a useful feature. As is often the case with software still in development, things can change drastically. If an update removes a feature you liked, Plus may one day be able to get it back for you. They should have put this feature on the bullet-pointed list because the other features are underwhelming. As things currently stand, it’s still difficult to find differences between versions, and those differences may be down to how people perceive things. This will change as time goes on.

Most of The Perks Are Useless

Since getting “Plus,” I have managed to log in during peak times on several occasions. This is very handy if you need to use ChatGPT and absolutely can’t wait until things quieten down. Beyond this feature, you’re unlikely to notice anything different.

In terms of “faster response times,” I honestly haven’t noticed a difference between the free and premium versions. I have no doubts some man from OpenAI could pop up with a lab coat, a clipboard, and a very nasal drawl, to say, “Well akshully, our data shows responses are on average 1.2 seconds faster with Plus. That’s an increase of over 400%*” But the truth is you won’t notice. You’ll either get a quick response to your prompt, a slow-ish one, or it will hang for like 30 seconds before responding, just like the free version.

The early access to new features side of things may actually pay off, but it’s still pretty early days. ChatGPT Plus’ first feature preview, which allows people to access a version of GPT-4, recently launched — which does actually allow Plus to stand apart from free somewhat. The preview is pretty limited; you only get 100 GPT-4- based messages per four hours, you can’t upload or create images, and many users are still trying to work out what is actually better. I’d imagine when things like image and audio support are added, Plus users will get those first, too, along with expanded access. If you really are an AI enthusiast that has to try everything as soon as possible, this may swing it. If you just want to read sugar-free cookie recipes written in the style of Barry Manilow songs, then you don’t need this feature.

*Not actual figures. I made those up for the purposes of that joke.

There Are Still Limits

an image of ChatGPT Plus showing limits to messages

This was simultaneously the most annoying and shocking part of ChatGPT Plus for me. With regular ChatGPT, you can get locked out from time to time. If your prompts are too vigorous, you’ll get a message telling you too many have been sent and you should check back in an hour.

Surely, as the premium version promises priority access, this annoying barrier will have been removed, right? Wrong. It’s still there, albeit harder to hit. You can pay OpenAI actual cash, but a person who has registered three or so free accounts will have a higher level of access than you.

The confusing part about this is that it doesn’t seem like removing this limit would be troublesome for ChatGPT. Truly unlimited access would also be one of the things worth paying for. But the company has left one of the biggest restrictions on the platform in place for its premium users.

There were also suggestions that the legacy version of ChatGPT you can access through Plus is easier to jailbreak with things like a DAN prompt, as OpenAI is constantly improving its filters based on user input—though I didn’t find this to be the case for the “default” version based on GPT 3.5. However, it is certainly harder to crack GPT-4, so jailbreakers may soon be happy with the ability to roll things back. OpenAI is unlikely to offer an uncensored version of ChatGPT to Plus users either, though this would be a popular feature. If comments on Reddit are anything to go by, many people would happily fork over $20 a month for “ChatGPT Unchained.”

Other “Free” Models Will Soon Be Available

The updated Bing homepage with "Ask Me Anything" in the searchbar.

ChatGPT may have been groundbreaking in several ways, and it’s certainly the most hyped-up AI chatbot I can remember seeing. But it isn’t as unique as it might seem. A lot of big tech companies are either looking into producing a similar platform or just working alongside OpenAI. Despite a rough start, Google has its own take on ChatGPT on the way, while Microsoft has decided to cut out the middleman in the process.

Microsoft-owned search engine Bing’s upcoming chatbot is basically a modified version of ChatGPT. You can manipulate it to do equally crazy things or just use it for boring stuff like recipes and cover letters. It is also limited to ten messages at a time. After that, you have to wipe the conversation and start again. ChatGPT has a larger memory limit, and you don’t have to wipe anything. It is currently unclear if this is related to the testing phase or is a limit we’ll see after Bing Chat gets a full rollout. This is just what we know about now, and all of this is still in the early stages of development. Give it a year, and you’ll probably be spoiled for choice regarding AI chatbots.

There may actually be a point where you can host something as powerful as ChatGPT locally. This isn’t currently possible because of the tremendous amount of VRAM large language model AIs require. But as with other things, hardware is likely to improve, and requirements are likely to drop as technology improves. There will eventually be some incredibly powerful open-source AIs available, including one that is currently being produced by Amazon. If something’s open source, and you’re running it locally, it’s free and will continue to be free forever.

$20 is A Lot in Subscription Terms

Subscription services are absolutely everywhere, and some of them are pretty good value. Regarding pricing, ChatGPT Plus is on the high end of things. It’s the same price as a year of Adobe Creative Cloud and nowhere near as useful. It’s also more expensive than every mainstream streaming service and music services like Spotify. It’s only slightly cheaper than YouTube Premium’s post-price increase family plan, and YouTube received a good share of criticism for setting its price tag north of $20.

Value is a subjective thing, but all of these services do at least offer something. ChatGPT Plus doesn’t give you anything beyond the ability to jump the queue every now and again. That may be worth something like $5, but as things stand, $20 is borderline ridiculous.

As Things Stand, You Shouldn’t Bother

Screen showing a ChatGPT plus Plan has been canceled

Further down the line, ChatGPT’s premium service may actually be worth the money. It might turn out better than its brother Bing, all restrictions may be removed, and we could see some cool extra features. A price drop might also be a sensible idea, or at least an expansion of what the $20 gets you. If they threw in a bunch of Dall-E credits, it might be more tempting.

But for now, unless you absolutely need to use a watered-down version of GPT-4, you should really keep your money. The free version behaves similarly, so either stick with that or choose one of the many alternatives that are likely to spring up over the next few months.

Dave McQuilling Dave McQuilling
Dave McQuilling has spent over 10 years writing about almost everything, but technology has always been one of his main interests. He has previously worked for newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites, and television stations in both the US and Europe. Read Full Bio »