We've already covered the worst CPUs ever built. So it seemed like time to discuss the best ones. The question, of course, is how we define "best".
To qualify for this article, a CPU had to do more than just introduce important new features or support a new instruction set. The Pentium Pro, for example, was a very important chip. It pioneered functions that are still in use today, and demonstrated that the execution of errors and the translation of micro-operations are viable techniques for next generation high-end processors. At the same time, however, the Pentium Pro had problems. The execution of 16-bit code was slow, and FPU performance at that time was only about half that of comparable RISC cores. In other words, the Pentium Pro was a very important CPU core – but it does not meet our criteria when making a list of the best CPU cores ever invented. Over the last 40+ years, we have given a comprehensive overview of the industry, with all represented mobile, server and desktop CPUs . Our selection was based on a variety of factors, including features, market impact, overall product strength, and long-term performance.
Writing a list of the best CPUs means that many really good CPUs will inevitably be dropped from the list. CPUs such as the Intel 8086 or the Motorola 68000 are often an integral part of such articles due to the transformation of the computer industry (in one case starting the IBM PC and in the other starting the Macintosh, as well as the Atari ST and the Commodore Amiga). In our history of Intel products, Part 1 and 2, we'll talk in more detail about many Intel chips.
Honorable mentions for great chips not quite on our list included the original Intel 4004, Pentium Pro, Pentium III, Intel's Pentium 4 Northwood, AMD's original K7, and CPUs like the Core i7-8700K.
Last but not least, there is AMD's recent introduction of Ryzen. I did not want to try to include a single CPU model in this list – third generation Ryzen CPUs have only been on the market for a few weeks now. However, one of our criteria for CPUs is that the CPU must have changed the market – and although we may not have a specific Ryzen model, the family's competitiveness has forced Intel to fundamentally revise its product positioning. Before the introduction of the Ryzen 7 1800X an eight-core CPU from Intel would have cost over $ 1,000. Today, a Core i7-9700K with eight cores costs $ 365, while the Core i9-9900K with eight cores and 16 threads costs $ 485 to $ 500.
Given that the impact on the market is one of our main criteria, we wanted to acknowledge Ryzen's collective influence.