Box vs Tray CPU | The Differences & Which One to Buy

As you may have heard, the CPU is the “brain” of any PC. From personal experience, I can see why that’s true since my old computer had an outdated CPU paired with much more recent hardware, and the result was just a huge “bottleneck” for my computer.

Of course, this won’t be true for everyone as we use different hardware, apps, and video games, but you can get an idea of what I mean.

The manufacturers always develop 2 types of processors (boxed and tray, also known as OEM). The former is made for individuals while the latter is made for original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

By the end of this article, you will know exactly what their differences are and which one to choose for your computer.

Key Takeaways

  • Boxed CPUs typically come with a 3-year warranty, a heatsink, and a fan, while tray CPUs have less warranty and do not come with a cooler.
  • The tray version will usually cost 20-30% less than the boxed version.
  • Boxed CPUs are sold directly to consumers by Intel Authorized Distributors, while tray CPUs are sold to manufacturers in high volume for integration into desktops and laptops.
  • Both versions are produced in the same plants and have the same quality assurance tests.
Table of Contents

What is the difference between boxed and tray CPUs?

The main differences between boxed and tray processors are in their price, warranty, and cooler. The Tray CPUs cost about 25% less, but they have less warranty than the boxed ones and they do not have a cooler in the package.

For example, Boxed Intel processors usually come with a 3-year warranty, a heatsink, and a fan while if you buy a Tray/OEM version you get them in polystyrene trays with only 1 year of warranty from the OEMs and not even an installation manual with pictures like in the Boxed.

Why do Manufacturers make two types of CPU?


The reasoning behind it is not that complex if you think about it. Using Intel as an example.

The boxed processors are sold directly from the Intel Authorized Distributors to consumers in boxes that clearly indicate that they are the sellers. The warranties and technical support, in this case, are given by the Intel Authorized Distributors.

The tray/OEM processors are sold to other manufacturers like Acer, ASUS, Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Sony in high volume. Then, these manufacturers buy them in bulk at wholesale and integrate them into the desktops or laptops that they, later on, sell to us.

As a result, technical support and warranty replacements are given to us by these manufacturers, not Intel.

To be honest, tray CPUs are not supposed to be sold separately to individuals, but it’s a really smart move by stores to increase sales and make more money in the process.


In almost every case, the tray version will cost you between 20% and 30% less than its boxed counterpart. And that makes sense considering the differences that I mentioned above.

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The OEMs always get them in high volume, which helps them get big discounts and save even more money.

However, you should be aware of retailers who might offer a rebate or discount on the boxed version, which will actually make it cheaper than the tray for a limited time.

Always remember to check the website of the store you are buying from for possible discounts before you complete your purchase. You can always find the best discounts here! 

Quality, Warranty, and Tech Support


As far as quality is concerned, both versions are produced in the same plants and are submitted in the same quality assurance tests.

The difference in warranty happens because the processor manufacturers like Intel and AMD do not produce the Tray CPUs with the intention to be sold to the public hence they offer limited or even no warranty at all.

Your retailer will give you a new warranty, which, of course, is smaller than the manufacturer’s.

As for their customer support, manufacturers do not include free tech support in their tray versions. On the contrary, the boxed versions will almost always offer you free tech support just in case you need it. 

Should you buy a Boxed or Tray CPU?


Let’s assume that you are on a limited budget. That’s where things get interesting. How often does a CPU fail? They usually last 7-10 years on average, so they will most likely outlive all the other components.

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The warranty difference between the two versions is not as meaningful as you might think, unless you have a history of broken CPUs or your computer is exposed to danger or something.

If you buy a processor that is damaged, the problem will most likely occur within the first year, so getting a 1-year warranty is not that big of a disadvantage. Furthermore, we should not forget the cooler that is included in the boxed version.

If you are planning to buy a different cooler for your CPU, then you should purchase a tray. If not, you should buy the Boxed one since you will need a cooling system for your processor to work properly.

When I built my computer I got a separate cooler without getting the tray version of my AMD processor. As a result, the default cooler is still buried somewhere in my storage. 

Final Thoughts

At last, you now know all the little details and differences between a boxed and a tray processor. A word of advice, if you have the extra cash available, you should 99% of the time go for the boxed version.

If you have any other questions or issues with your CPU, let me know in the comments down below. I will be glad to help you in any way I can!

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Lampros Koukis
Lampros Koukis

I am Lampros, co-founder of I am passionate about gaming, technology, and computers. I have been involved in that industry for about 15 years. I have been a tech writer for the last 5 years so I am bringing to you guys the expertise and knowledge I have gathered through the years.

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