Also, I don't know of any alternative that doesn't have large unauditable blobs integrated into the chip.
All ARM SoCs come with radio processors that are running a non-trivial piece of software with full access to the system memory, which is responsible for power management, boot sequence and wireless communications. It is by definition network connected.
AMD has a technology it calls the Platform Security Processor (PSP for short) which does basically the same thing.
To have a processor that doesn't have this kind of technology, you have to give up on decades of advancement in compute power, or buy a very expensive and non-portable POWER8 or POWER9 system.
But yeah you are totally right on the alternatives. Nothing quite matches Intel and AMD, and a lot of those ARM SoC's have proprietary code running on their bootloader too. But you can get some processor from 7 years ago that are usable.
OpenPOWER is fantastic though and has real potential. There were a few projects out there looking to implement a laptop and personal desktop computer using it, but unfortunatly didn't reach it's funding goals.
I think the more people that know about Intel and AMD's shading practices that more funding open hardware projects can get, and maybe in the next few years we can replace Intel and AMD with ethical and open solutions.
Haven't heard about OpenPOWER, I hope more people are made aware of alternatives to get funding and spin.
There are some ARM processors that live without blobs, I think Olimex produces what they call open-source hardware (OSHW), is this an acceptable product?
Usually possible to replace that blob! e.g. https://github.com/christinaa/rpi-open-firmware for the Raspberry Pi
Isn't it more accurate to say it might at some point be available as a motherboard with power 9 CPUs?
I mean, it looks very interesting, but afaik no-one has been shown even a prototype yet?
I am finding the Talos II an increasingly attractive proposition, even though the prices got a full system are quite staggering by comparison to mainstream hardware.
The high-end ones used for flagship smartphones/tablets do, but low-end ones used in cheaper tablets/TV boxes and more specialized hardware often don't have any radio interface.