Tech one ships are the bread and butter of EVE Online. They are the easiest to train to fly, the cheapest to replace, and the most flexible ship bonuses. Where tech two ships are often so specialized there there are only one or two effective module setups, tech one ships have a broad range of fitting possibilities, resulting in a superior utility and many times, an advantageous degree of unpredictability in combat.
Of every ship type, there are ships that stand out as superior, and ships that stand out as lemons. This article catalogues what I believe to be the best ship of each major tech one ship type, and why. Sometimes it is a clear choice what ship is "best," and sometimes it's a bit murkier or subject to preference. My hope is that by providing my rationale, new players will take away an improved understanding of how to assess what ships that want to fly.
The ships below were chosen because they stand out amongst their peers as singularly useful, they transcend their ship class, or because they are an all-around superior ship choice. If nothing else, this should show newer players what ships out there have to offer for advantages.
Best Frigate: Rifter
The rifter is as flexible as it is deadly.
Many also are the tech two frigate pilots that discovered -too late- that while the rifter's speed may not be the match of an interceptor or assault frigate, a well-piloted rifter can take advantage of orbit eccentricities and poor piloting to get within tackling range of a much faster ship.
The rifter is great for new players just learning how to tackle, but gains in utility as the pilot learns how to use tech two projectile turrets, improves his navigation skills, learns thermodynamics and other useful skills, and learns the more obscure tricks that ship pilots can use to get a leg up on other ships.
For being an all-around great ship that can blow up ships way bigger than it, or trick much faster ships into exploding, the best frigate is definitely the rifter.
Best Destroyer: Thrasher
The destroyers category is a bit murky. Each destroyer performs in a similar fashion to the others, more or less, by shooting extraordinarily well with small turrets. They also make the best un-tanked salvager ships in the game, with their many turrets and high-slots. However, within the continuum of destroyers there are distinct differences. The Amarr Coercer has the best tracking, and therefore is probably best against fast-moving or small targets, especially Caldari assault frigates and interceptors. The Gallente Catalyst has good fittings and weapons for running missions or shooting belt rats. And the Caldari Catalyst has the most mid-slots, meaning that it can fit Sensor Booster modules and lock targets or wrecks faster. But only one destroyer shines in my eyes, and that destroyer is the Thrasher.
The thrasher uses projectiles, which are the weapon class that has the highest "burst damage," meaning that the damage comes in more damaging bursts that are spread out over a longer period of time. Because the destroyers are all about the quick lock and fire, and all destroyers have a rate of fire penalty, this burst damage opens with an incredible volley that will destroy most tech one frigates, not to mention other destroyers. Even tech two ships with low resistances against your damage types can be vaporized in just a couple volleys. Though you have a great deal of flexibility regarding ammo types, explosive damage is the overall trend of projectiles, and this serves your purposes well, as explosive damage is generally considered the best kind of damage to inflict all at once (as opposed to spread out). It is so effective that groups of thrashers have been used to suicide gank (boo, hiss) tech two mining ships in high-sec space, as well as shuttles, frigates, and anything else unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For being a zippy little bastard with a good slot layout, the right kinds of damage, fast lock speed, and amazing volley damage, the best destroyer is the thrasher.
Best Cruiser: The Blackbird
The cruiser is even more of a pickle than the destroyers. This is because, rather than sharing too many things in common, the cruisers are where ships really start to get diverse. Who's to say that the Thorax's high damage output is better or worse than the Osprey's ability to mine, or the Maller's ability to out-tank some battleships? Nevertheless, I present the Blackbird as the most superior cruiser.
The blackbird can consistently jam battleships. No other cruiser is so effective against ships of a larger class. No other cruiser can turn a battleship's weapons off so completely or effectively. Other cruisers can tackle battleships, sure, but so can frigates. The Arbitrator can use tracking disruptors to annoy long-distance battleships, but is helpless against other weapon systems. The Omen and Moa can pour out amazingly high damage against battleships, but aren't likely to survive more than a few seconds, unless they have ECM support. ECM support like a blackbird provides. Other ships offer better "pro" PvP experiences for solo ganking, but that's hardly unique and in many cases the advantage lies in that cruiser having a reputation for being a poor choice. No, the blackbird wins out.
For punching far, far above its weight, the best cruiser is the absolutely the blackbird.
Best Battlecruiser: The Drake
As I type these words, I feel a queasy certainty that this will be an unpopular decision. The Minmatar Hurricane is a good runner-up, because of its high volley damage allowing it to one-shot tech two ships like stealth bombers, or to suicide gank many, many kinds of targets in high-sec. The Amarr Harbinger is unusually flexible for an Amarr ship, and works well as a battleship-lite. But no, the much-maligned Drake surpasses it in excellence.
The Drake is as effective as it is ubiquitous.
No other battlecruiser is nearly as flexible. No other battlecruiser is nearly as common. The drake wins.
Best Battleship: The Apocalypse
There are a lot of great battleships. The Raven has a better short-term tank that excels during missions. The Dominix can use energy neutralizers and drones to chew unwary ships apart. The Maelstrom can tank while shooting pretty much anything out of the sky. The Rokh can snipe farther than nearly anything. Alas, in the hearts of EVE Online game developers, the Apocalypse is clearly king.
The apocalypse can use close-range pulse lasers to out-shoot anything except blasters, but out to a range that is not prohibitive, unlike the notoriously difficult to use blasters. It can use beam lasers to put the hurt out to very long ranges, with superior long-range tracking. It can field a flight of medium drones on top of whatever it is doing, and it can do all this while still having the fitting space to have a wicked passive armor tank. It has four mid-slots that can be used for propulsion, lock speed, tracking, turret, range, or even tracking disruptors, depending on your personal preferences.
For missions, the Apocalypse can constantly be repairing itself. If it is fighting NPCs that are strong against EM and thermal damage, it can happily swap to projectile turrets for more damage flexibility, and use the left over capacitor to bolster its tank. The Apocalypse can even double as a miner in a pinch.
In null-security space, the Apocalypses have become the workhorse of many alliances' fleets. Apocalypses can take good advantage of the oversized Tachyon beam lasers to snipe like crazy. They are many pilots' preferred remote-repair ship, because of their high capacitor and ability to use a repairer without compromising damage output too much. They can shoot POS for hours, without needing to replace ammunition.
For overall effectiveness, generaly PvP and PvE ability, and being the flavor of the month for at least two consecutive Eve Online expansions, the best battleship is the Apocalypse.
If you disagree with these picks, Space Junkie challenges you to explain why on the Ten Ton Hammer EVE Online forums.