Fastest CPUs
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Greatest CPUs in Each Generation

I thought I would throw out a somewhat contraversial page that summarises the best-performing CPU in each generation, including some potential pitfalls and challenges if you choose to use them. Because... why not? These days there are so many choices when building a retro gaming PC, or building a period-correct PC from a certain year. Because of this, you may choose a fair to middle-performing chip because it suits your needs. This page identifies what you might pick if you really wanted to push a PC from a given CPU generation to its absolute limit.

I am not including overclockability in this - we're talking stock CPUs that either came in a retail-bought PC or were available to buy for self-builders.

8088/8086 (1st Generation)

There wasn't much around to help boost the performance of the venerable 8088 or 8086, apart from a minor upgrade in running NEC's clone microprocessors, the V20 and V30 respectively. These had slightly more efficient internal operations whilst retaining 100% compatibility with their Intel siblings. In real world performance, it was barely noticeable but in synthetic benchmarks you could see between 10% and 20% improvement at the same clock speed. Note that you cannot replace an 8088 with a V30, nor an 8086 with a V20 - 8088/V20 can only use an 8-bit external data bus whilst 8086/V30 are 8-bit internally like the 8088, but can use a 16-bit external data bus. 8086-based PCs typically got about 5% extra performance in benchmark tests over 8088 ones - gain, not at all noticeable in real world scenarios.

The only thing I would say is get the fastest clock speed one you can - the original IBM 5150 was dog slow at 4.77 MHz. Clones typically got a turbo button that could reduce the clock speed down to 4.77 MHz, but with it off would run at either 8, 10 (officially 9.54 MHz, twice that of the IBM 5150, but hey) or even 12 MHz. The NEC V20 and V30 were available up to 16 MHz (these were called V20HL and V30HL),…
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