Intel has officially killed off its "exotic" CPU boxes for its 12th Gen Core i9-12900K, one of the best CPUs, and the Core i9-10980XE, the HEDT flagship, from three years ago. Instead, Intel will replace the packaging for each CPU model with the same smaller boxes as their non-flagship Core i9, i7, and i5 counterparts. Intel will begin enforcing these changes by September 4.
The Core i9-12900K box is getting the simplest update of the two, with its "exotic" 164 x 130 x 139mm gold wafer box getting replaced with the same box as other Alder Lake Core i9 models lacking an Intel cooling solution. This new box measures 116 x 44 x 101mm. Remember that this change is for the standard Core i9-12900K variant alone. The special edition Core i9-12900KS will retain its exotic packaging, featuring a chip-exclusive dark blue theme.
The most surprising twist is the box change of Intel's nearly obsolete Core i9-10980XE 18-core flagship from almost four years ago. Intel's last HEDT platform is still in production and needs a box art change right now for cost-cutting reasons. Like the Core i9-12900K, the core i9-10980XE box will shrink from its existing 138 x 138 x 61mm package into the smaller 116 x 44 x 101mm packaging from its non-flagship counterparts. But, the black and gold box art will remain the same to stay in line with the "Extreme Edition" lettering on the chips model name.
The box art change for the Core i9-12900K isn't surprising. Intel has done this habitually over the past few CPU generations, killing off the flagship box art just before releasing a new generation of CPUs, Raptor Lake, that may come out in October. Intel probably does this to ensure the next-generational CPU box art stands out much as possible.
But, the Core i9-10980XE's box art change is quite puzzling given the architecture's age. Intel has forgotten about the HEDT platform since Cascade Lake debuted in 2019, leaving AMD to dominate the space with its Ryzen Threadripper CPUs. So instead, the company has relegated itself to its mainstream platform and building up core counts on that front instead.
But, there is a chance this Core i9-10980XE box art change is more than a cost-saving measure from Intel. There have been rumors that Intel will return to the HEDT market relatively soon with a new architecture codenamed Fishhawk Falls (known as Alder Lake-X).
This new architecture would be a copycat of Intel's previous HEDT platforms, where the company takes its latest server architecture and transforms it into a high-end consumer desktop platform. For Fishhawk Falls, that architecture would be a HEDT variant of Sapphire Rapids - Intel's upcoming server architecture built on the same Intel 7 node as Alder Lake.
Anything beyond this information is pure speculation at this point. But, there is a chance this info could be genuine, with the Core i9-10980XE's box art change being the first sign of Intel returning to the HEDT platform. But that could be a while, with Intel constantly delaying Sapphire Rapids due to unforeseen bugs.