The Best CPUs Ever Made - ExtremeTech


I’ve had computers with the 68008, Pentium Pro, Athlon 64. At the time it was exciting to have a new processor.

That’s a depressingly poor article; the Celeron 450 and Duron get on the list, but the 68000 and Z80 don’t?

The author falls into the trap of listing too many x86 processors that were a little bit better than the last one. Most of the ones he lists weren’t even that interesting when they were new.


Yes the Z80 didn’t even make it into the honourable mentions. I’d say the Athlon 64 was exciting, I got to try out out 64 bit Linux and also at the time I was developing a chess program which used 64bit bit masks so it made a real difference. The Pentium Pro motherboard was capable of dual CPUs iirc.
The 68000 was a huge improvement in terms of instruction set but the machine I bought was the QL so not quite as good as it could be. Now that I think about it, I did later have an Atari ST 512.


How is the DEC Alpha not on that list?


We should make our own list!

I’m pretty sure I was excited to get my first (a 6502) and my second (another 6502) and then a 68000. I was fairly pleased to get my first x86 - a P75 - but subsequent x86 machines were all much of a muchness, just a bit bigger and faster than the previous, or smaller and cooler. (Except the Psion 3 apparently had a V30 - and that was very pleasing!) I was pleased to get an ARM, each time I did that. And I did get a PowerPC, and that was pleasing.

I have a bunch of transputers, which is very pleasing, but I can’t say I’ve ever powered any of them up. It’s on a to-do list.


[quote=“Ramtop, post:3, topic:644”]
The author falls into the trap of listing too many x86 processors that were a little bit better than the last one. Most of the ones he lists weren’t even that interesting when they were new.[/quote]

I agree. Looks like a list compiled by somebody with limited knowledge outside of x86 who added some mobile and odd CPUs for variety. :frowning:

Where’s the glorious Z80?
What? No mention at all of the 8080 which kickstarted the microcomputer revolution?
And what about Sun’s SPARC or the powerful MIPS CPUs used in SGI workstations?

I was going to say that. Or the intel 4004, which simply was the first.

The IEEE have a Hall of Fame with a dozen or so microprocessors:

And they have 25 Microchips That Shook The World, including the 6502 from MOS, TI’s 32010 DSP, PIC 15C84, Acorn’s ARM1, Transmeta’s Crusoe, Intel’s 8088, Z80 from Zilog, Sun’s SPARC, 68000 from Motorola, the Sh-Boom again, and many other non-CPU chips. Also some good links:

For a timeline and a glossary on semiconductor technology, visit “The Silicon Engine,” an online exhibit prepared by the Computer History Museum.

The Chip Collection” on the Smithsonian Institution’s Web site contains a vast assortment of photos and documents about the evolution of the integrated circuit.

Mark Smotherman at Clemson University, in South Carolina, maintains a comprehensive list of computer architects and their contributions.

For technical details and history on more than 60 processors, see John Bayko’s “Great Microprocessors of the Past and Present.”


I was going to mention the Transmeta chip too, just because it’s interesting.

Now that’s a mighty fine list! :ok_hand:


Agreed - it is not only a good list, but it includes interesting snippets of the back-story behind the design of each device.

It also indicates the relentless march of technology, and how some very good devices were rejected for all the wrong reasons, and some mediocre devices got their lucky break - such as the 8088 in the first PC.

The 6502 was also a pivotal device in terms of microprocessor history. Chuck Peddle’s vision of making it simpler, smaller, cheaper and with a new process technology that would give greater yields (over Intel and Motorola products) certainly paid off, and brought momentum to the 8-bit revolution.

Ten years later, the ARM 1, is also a “David versus Goliath” story - where a very small team from Acorn, believed that they could design a better processor and clearly achieved that with minimal resources. Some 35 years later, the descendants of that early ARM are now the most populous processors on the planet.

All in all I found it an interesting, informative and fairly long article, which is what you would expect from the IEEE.

Compare that to the badly written, under-researched, 1 page sketch of an article from ExtremeTech that started this discussion.

I do like @EdS idea of starting our own list - in a topic of it’s own.

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(Thanks though to @abdulhaq for starting this thread! While it’s always good to see interesting links, it’s even better to start a fruitful discussion.)

The only issue I could find with the IEEE list is that it’s from 2009.
That’s ten years ago.

What other CPUs and notable microchips released in the meantime would you add, fellow Retro Computing dwellers?

Apple’s AX ARM variants?
Intel’s Core Duo or i3/5/7/9 CPUs?
AMD’s Ryzen(s)?
Some of the recent GPUs designed for VR/AR?
Or maybe some FPGA? :?

Hmm, a new CPU which has some retrocomputing credentials? I can offer our One Page Computing Challenge from 2013 which spawned a family of simple word-oriented CPUs.

Here’s the OPC7 flavour, computing pi, and connected as a second processor to a BBC Micro:

And then there’s the Megaprocessor from 2016.

Also from 2016 or 2017 or thereabouts, the Gigatron TTL CPU:

I pretty much think, that the P3-Tualatin-1,4ghz would beat a Celeron-300a. The 6502 was also a big thing in the 80’s. K6-3-550 are also a good CPU, and the 486dx2-66 were the best for the home market at some point, if you were to think about what it delivered for the money up to the time of the 5x86-133. At that point, there were Pentiums in the wild, and even the Pentium-Pro delivered some ground breaking technologies. (32bit, 16bit not so much)

And I think that the 5x86-133 should be on any Intel-focused top-CPU list, for sure. The bang for the buck at the time was unbelievable.

The Amd 5x86-133 were more like a last stand on the 486-class CPU’s. Intel had stopped developing the 486-class at that time. I think the 486dx4-100 was the last 486 from intel. On the other hand. The 5x86 was kind of an exciting offer from Amd. It was an DX4, with few Pentium instructions, and was as fast as an Pentium in normal daily use (office/productivity). Gaming needed Pentium at that time, as gaming requirement’s were a totally different beast. Quake kind of put Cyrix in the grave, as it was Pentium optimized.

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Well the best cpu ever made has to be the 6502 from the way is it making a comeback. People can even touch and figure out how to
hook things to it. The lastest mass market cpu might have all the
bells and whistles but only valid for the next 3 months untill the
other brand has a better cpu. What is better? Cheap like a PI?
Best gaming?Able to serve or stream billions of people?Not crash or freeze?Bilnking lights?AI’s that can take over the world?What INTEL
wants to sell?Run your car? Serf the web?Run FORTH?
As for speed I say all marketing bull,Speed is a factor of the internal
logic, data takes blah blah blah unit delays to compute, details hidden
forvever from the public.
You may have a great cpu like 68666 but a lousy system
and a lousy cpu like 8888 and a good system, It is all relative to marketing at the time.