Tom's Hardware's Skylake System Builder Sweepstakes: The Top Builds Are Chosen

Last month, we launched a sweepstakes where our readers voted for their favorite Intel Skylake-based systems from a plethora of boutique-built customized offerings. Each configuration was submitted specifically for this contest. Some vendors took the conservative route by offering budget-friendly (yet powerful) PCs. Other went all-out with full tower ATX cases at maximum capacity, sporting multiple graphics cards, custom water loops, tons of storage and LED lighting.

As an incentive to vote, we offered our readers a bunch of prizes—we're in the process of contacting 10 random participants, each of who will win an Intel Core i7-6700K processor, an MSI Z170A GAMING M5 motherboard, a 16 GB kit of speedy G.Skill DDR4-3000 memory and a 400 GB Intel 750-series PCIe SSD. With 20,725 total votes cast in our sweepstakes, those lucky winners are sure to be ecstatic for the insanely awesome prize package they are about to receive.

We'll tell you who won those goodies once everyone's paperwork is filled out. But first, we want to reveal the winning machines in Tom's Hardware's Skylake System Builder Sweepstakes. Remember, the three top vote-getters receive a coveted Tom's Hardware Reader's Choice award for their impressive configurations.

3rd Place: AVADirect's $5,900 Avalanche II

Perhaps taking a cue from our Haswell-based System Builder Sweepstakes, AVADirect submitted a powerful configuration in a much flashier package than its previous entry, the Avalanche II.

This Core i7-6700K-powered gaming PC is housed in a customized Corsair Carbide Series Air 540 microATX tower case, and its custom water loop is illuminated by 20-color LED lights (AVADirect chose white, producing a glow like snow on a sunny day). This gave our readers some serious eye candy to consider and earned 2,415 votes to become our third-place winner. The addition of two Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti graphics cards in SLI and 1 TB of SSD storage also could have contributed to the impressive number of votes.

The choice of memory for this system (and many other machines in our sweepstakes) was on the lower-capacity (16 GB) and data rate (2133 MT/s) side. Some readers expressed disappointment at this, which might have been why this powerful rig didn't place higher. Still, AVADirect is in the money with its $5,900 Avalanche II, earning a Tom's Hardware Reader's Choice award for its well-picked hardware, stylish chassis and custom water loop.

2nd Place: Digital Storm's $5,979 Aventum 3

This Aventum 3 configuration is almost identical to AVA Direct's third-place-winning Avalanche II, except that the hardware comes in a much larger full-tower chassis. Also, Digital Storm took over where AVA Direct left off in the DDR4 memory department.

Digital Storm's Aventum 3 sports a Core i7-6700K on an Asus Maximus VIII Hero Z170 motherboard with a liberal 32 GB of DDR4-2666 RAM. Although this particular setup's graphics cards aren't water-cooled, the CPU does benefit from a custom loop accentuated by stylish red tubing. Priced just $79 higher than the third-place winner, it's a safe bet that the extra memory affected the 2,743 votes Digital Storm earned.

An 850 W PSU powers two Asus Strix GTX 980 Ti graphics cards in SLI, and a 1 TB Samsung 850 Pro SSD with a 2 TB hard drive serve up the combined speed and capacity for any storage-heavy workload you can throw at this custom PC. A winning combination of parts earns Digital Storm's Aventum 3 a Tom's Hardware Reader's Choice award.

1st Place: Origin PC's $13,198 Genesis

It appears that might makes right in our Skylake System Builder Sweepstakes. Origin PC submitted the largest, most powerful and expensive setup in the contest. It's no wonder the Genesis earned 3,204 votes and the top spot in in our lineup.

What's not to adore about this beast of a machine? Its Core i7-6700K sits atop an EVGA Z170 Classified motherboard with 32 GB of Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4-3000 and four liquid-cooled 12 GB GeForce GTX Titan X graphics cards in quad-SLI. This is the contest's ultimate gamer. It'd take an even more expensive Haswell-E-based box to best it.

The Genesis' storage setup is equally impressive, featuring a speedy 512 GB Samsung SM951 M.2 NVMe SSD and five 8 TB HDDs in RAID 10. Although the solid-state storage capacity isn't as high as other entries, that's compensated for by speed on account of the PCIe interface.

Everything about the Genesis screams overkill, from the insanely powerful hardware to its aesthetics. Origin PC seems to have a fix for enthusiasts who crave the absolute best in processing power, graphics performance, memory capacity, storage and aesthetic value. This monster of a configuration easily earns a Tom's Hardware Reader's Choice award. With a price tag of $13,198, you should expect only the very best.

Honorable Mention: Puget System's $7,480 Serenity

With 1,952 votes, Puget Systems' Serenity deserves an honorable mention for its fourth-place finish in our Skylake System Builder Sweepstakes. Although this doesn't earn the company a Reader's Choice award, it's worth noting that the Serenity was one of the most powerful, quietest and smallest submissions in our contest.

The Core i7-6700K is seated in an Asus Maximus VIII Gene microATX motherboard with a single GeForce GTX 980 Ti and an impressive 32 GB of DDR4-2133 RAM. This may not be the fastest memory in the competition, but it certainly tops the charts with its capacity.

Speaking of capacity, the Serenity's SilverStone SG10 microATX case has some serious storage space for such a tiny chassis, with an Intel 750-series 1.2 TB PCIe NVMe SSD as its primary drive, two 2 TB Samsung 850 Pro SSDs for project files, and three 6 TB HDDs for general storage.

In addition, the Serenity is designed for near-silent operation and was configured with Puget System's sound-reduction modification. This package includes quieter fans and acoustic dampening materials placed strategically in the chassis to reduce noise. This is also one of the only builds in the contest to use an air-cooled CPU heat sink (Gelid's Tranquillo Rev3), which may be one of the reasons it fell short of the votes needed to place in the top three. However, the Serenity lives up to its name with powerful performance, quiet operation and one of the most robust storage configurations in our contest.

Thanks For Voting -- Prize Winners Coming Soon!

A big thanks goes out to our community for participating. We value your input, and will publish the list of contest winners as soon as it's finalized. Lastly, we want to thank Intel, MSI and G.Skill for generously supporting us with our prize packages. Again, thanks for reading and voting!

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Derek Forrest
Derek Forrest is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes hardware news and reviews gaming desktops and laptops.
  • videobear
    I'll take one of each, please! :)
  • klemons
    I love my Origin Genesis. The one pictured seems to have only 3 GPU's rather than the 4 mentioned in the article. My apologies if I missed something in the picture.
  • klemons
    The picture seems to be an X99 system versus Z170.
  • the_slunk
    Of course the most powerful system wins on a tech forum. The AVA still looks the sexiest. I feel like the age of the corny colorful LED is coming to an end.
  • zabs
    Very nice. I picked all three! lol good luck everyone. They were all nice builds! My only problem with the contest is im deaf, can't answer fone unless text. so...but it was fun and I'm glad to see I picked the winning three. They were amazing builds