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So you might have been tinkering around and checking out your PC’s specs in admiration and saw “OEM/Tray Processor” after your CPU’s model name.
Did you get screwed? Is this some inferior version of a real CPU? No, but keep reading…
Intel and AMD CPUs are both sold in two varieties:
And there are some significant differences between the two you should be aware of.
Boxed processors are those you see on Amazon and Newegg. They come in nice-looking packaging meant for the direct consumer. These processors typically are around 30% more expensive than their tray processor counterparts.
On the other hand, boxed processors include their own cooling fan. You can see this with most of AMD’s Ryzen series and Intel Core series.
We find that AMD bundles much nicer and capable fans than Intel does. Intel went overboard with their cost-cutting and throws in poor-performing (and looking) fans. How much you value and care about this depends on whether you wanted to get a custom fan in the first place anyway.
Tray processors are those sold in large volumes, typically to PC manufacturers (think ASUS, Dell, HP, and so on).
They come in trays much as eggs do in an egg carton. These companies buy processors in bulk at wholesale as it makes little business sense for them to purchase boxed processors. They take more space in shipping and would hinder those assembling computers.
Sometimes manufacturers make these available to purchase to other businesses and consumers. Passing the savings on, but with an important caveat: warranty.
Packaging and cost aside, the key difference you need to beware of is the warranty policy.
Intel and AMD will cover the warranty if the processor is boxed. The warranty period can be anywhere from one year to five years. If it isn’t boxed and it’s a tray processor, then it is up to the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) to cover the warranty should something go wrong. In most cases, they will not offer any support.
We should note that AMD requires that a processor’s warranty is void if it “is used with any heatsink/fan (HSF) that does not support the operation of the AMD processor in conformance with AMD’s publicly available specifications.” So if you use a custom fan that’s meant for the AM4 socket, you should be good and still under warranty.
For peace of mind, if you’re building your PC, we suggest you buy a boxed processor. They are more expensive, but should something go wrong, you have somewhere to turn to. That’s not the case with tray processors if you’re building a custom PC.
That being said, AMD and Intel will not cover the warranty if you overclock a boxed processor. Now, if you know what you’re doing. You can copy what some overclockers do instead. Buy a tray processor for cheaper and then get a really good cooling fan with the money you saved.