Trading Computers: Whats The Best Fit For You

Quick notes on trading computers

  • If your not running standalone trading software most computers will get the job done.
  • No matter how good your computer is your internet speeds will still be capped by your provider and router.
  • No, you do not need a specialty trading computer
  • Its all about your individual needs. Everyone's situation is different.
  • Its not about the monitor count but the pixel count. Bigger screens not more of them
  • Having a high performance computer and large screens are nice and can increase performance.


A Quick Introduction Into my Thinking

Computers have come a long way from their beginnings, and are constantly changing.

​The "best" computer for you will be very dependent on what you will be using it for and the amount of money you want to spend.

If you are a full-time day trader making a ton of money your needs and limitations will be different then someone just starting out with about 3000 dollars in an e-trade account. Its all about how much it will affect your trading and how much you have to spend on it.

I LOVE buying computers, monitors, and accessories and have a ton of opinions regarding them. Understand that my recommendations are affected by my situation and style. Overall I like computers that are simple, sleek, compact and overpowered like crazy  =). 

Computers are always changing (as I said above) Do not think that just because you saw some "expert" traders running huge arrays of 20-inch monitors that it is the only way. Personally, for me, I hate bezels (plastic edges of monitors) and would much rather run less large monitors then having a complex monitor array. 

and to get the question "​are macs good for stock trading" out of the way. In my opinion NO.

The Best Trading Computers

Buying a desktop computer is going to be your best bet, but there are many ways to go.

Your main choices for sourcing a high-quality computer that is made to fit your needs are, buying a custom built computer from a third party assembler, buying a pre-built workstation, and the do it yourself model.

Third Party Custom Built Desktops​

This is the route you will want to take if

  • You want a computer custom tailored to your needs
  • long term high quality support is something you want
  • you care a lot about the build quality, silence, and reliability (usually hand assembled) 

Many companies will assemble, by hand, computers that have been specifically designed to fit your needs. Companies will usually have you talking with a representative about your needs and budget and finding the best options for you.

You can get a top of the line performance from a computer that was assembled by hand with the best parts available.

The drawbacks of this are that you pay for that extra support and engineering. If you have the money, it would be worth it in the long run. No worrying if your computer is adequate or compatible, you will have impressive guarantees and support.

this is truly just my recommendation, no paid sponsor here. Puget Systems is just awesome. 

My favorite option is Puget Systems.  They only use the best parts and put each computer though a multiple of QC checks and tests. 

  • builds are optimized for silence (I hate fan noise)
  • They use very clean, sleek cases that don't look like techno light shows (unless you want them to)
  • Extensive testing for reliability and stability. They ever use thermal imaging to test for excess heat.

They even have an option that is already set up for stock trading with the latest Xeon processor. That can handle up to 8 4k monitors if that's your thing.

Watch a funny nerd go through the ordering process with Puget Systems

Your other option is going to a local computer store and talking face to face with someone about your needs. Local businesses will usually be more expensive, but you get local support and help a local business. You can find these companies everywhere.

Pre-Built Workstation​

This is the route to take if

  • You don't want to deal with the ordering process, just add to your cart and "buy"
  • You are looking for workstation performance but want a lower price point 

Going for a Dell workstation is probably going to be your best bet for this option. Look for a graphics card that can drive the monitor you want (4k I would say) and a workstation processor (a Xeon)

The build quality will be lower that a Puget custom built but it will get the job done.

Here is a recommendation to get you started. The Precision Tower 7000 series. It has a dual-core Xeon and a Nvidia Quadro graphics card.

dell workstation 7810

Precision Tower 7810

Build It Yourself

Building a computer on your own can be a daunting task for the un-nerdy, but it is much easier than it looks.

If your planning on going this route here it the most helpful website out there is pcpartpicker

PcPartpicker lets you browse builds that people have made already, usually with exact reasoning and building procedures. 

You can create a parts list that PcPartpicker automatically checks for incompatible components and power consumption. All in all a super helpful website for the DIY PC builder.

I will not go too far into building a PC yourself because there are tons of helpful resources on the internet that will be much more in depth than I can be. Just remember there is no "best" setup just the setup that fits your needs best.

This will be very brief overview of each part.​

Main components

  • CPU
  • GPU
  • Motherboard
  • RAM
  • Hard Drives
  • Case
  • Power Supply
  • Network Interface
  • Peripherals (keyboard, mouse, battery etc. 
  • Desk
  • Monitor (giant 4k beauty)
  • Just a quick note: I like Newegg vs Amazon mostly because they accept paypal

​CPU - Central Processing Unit

Intel Xenon E3-1275 v5 - quad core workstation processor 80w     LGA 1151 socket

A cpu cooler to keep your computer cool and quiet Noctua NH-U12S - Noctua is THE brand for cpu coolers

The "brains" of the computer. Your best bet is a socket LGA1151 (each motherboard has a special socket) and a newer Xeon processor (workstation grade, usually no integrated graphics) or a Skylake processor ( check out and i5-6600k or an i7-6700k. They are one of the newest CPU's by Intel and are lower power/ higher performance.

AMD also makes CPU's and should be coming out with a new processor soon. If the "zen" processor isn't out yet, I will stick with Intel.

GPU - Graphics Processing Unit​

PNY Quadro K1200 - can run four 4k monitors @60hz  (uses mini-displayport)

The thing that runs your monitor. Your video card will depend greatly on how many (and the resolution of) screens you are trying to run. Your options are as follows.

Company AMD​

  • Firepro ​is the AMD "workstation" card.
  • Radeon is your basic gaming grapics card.

Nvidia

  • ​Quadro is their "workstation" card
  • Geforce gtx is their basic gaming card

Determine how many monitors you want to run and the connection they will need. Simplicity is the reason I recommend staying with one higher quality display as its easier to support and less complicated to setup. Usually, DisplayPort is your better connection option, but the newer versions of HDMI can be just as good. Just make sure that you monitor is supported at both the resolution (#of pixels) and refresh rate (How many times per second your monitor updated, 60 is good).

Motherboard

ASUS P10S-M LGA 1151 Intel C236 - Micro-ATX sized motherboard

Make sure that the motherboard you get has the right "socket" lga1151 is what the above CPU's use, and has the space for your graphics card (lookup PCI-E 16x). Motherboard's come in various sizes. Smaller sizes usually have less pcie slots and ram slots, limiting your options. 

sizes are from biggest to smallest. There are other sizes but these are the most popular.

motherboard form factors
  • E-ATX large server sized motherboards
  • ATX  this is the generic size and unless you are going for a compact PC i would stick with this one its your first build.
  • Mini-ATX smaller
  • Mini-ITX even smaller. Usually at max one pci expansion slot and two ram slots.

Ram​ - Random Access Memory

32GB (2x16GB)  Crucial DDR4-2133 ECC - Fast error correcting memory

Short term storage for your system. 8-16 Gigabytes is good enough for most people. The type will depend on your CPU and motherboard. DDR3 for older motherboard and setups, If you get one of the newer CPU's from above then you want DDR4. Faster speeds have diminishing returns for the average person. Go as fast as your budget allows.

Hard Drives

500gb Samsung 850 EVO - Good balance of speed, price and size for an SSD

Hard drives are all about speed and size. To maximize your systems performance, it's usually best to go with a smaller (but faster) drive for your primary operating system and a larger (but slower) drive for your larger file storage. Drive types are as follows. GB is gigabyte while mbs is megabytes per second.

  • ​Mechanical Drives are slower but cheaper per/gb. read and write speeds avg 130/mbs
  • SSD's are solid state drives are faster but more expensive per/gb. read and write speeds average 450/mbs (can be faster slower its an average.)
  • M.2 SSD's specialty solid state drives much faster and smaller even more expensive per/gb. read and writes vary with price but can avg 1500/mbs
  • PCIE based SSD wildly expensive and scary fast. These are larger ssd drives that require a pcie slot on your motherboard. read and write speeds can go over 2000/mbs

Case

Silverstone SG10B - Compact micro-atx sized case

The house for your computer. Pick this based off how you want it to look and your motherboard size. A case that can fit an ATX can usually fit smaller boards as well, but a mini-itx can not fit larger sizes. I like simple, sleek designs.

My favorite case manufacturer is Fractal Design.

Power Supply

Seasonic 650w 80 plus gold - Seasonic power supplies are great. Comes with cool velvet bags as well.

Converts your AC power from the wall into the DC power your computer needs. Think of this like your laptop chargers "power brick" it's just inside the case. Usually, ranges from 450 to 1200 Watts.

Your power supply is not a component you want to skimp on because a faulty power supply can destroy all of your other components.

I would go with a 80+ bronze (efficiency rating) and stay away from generic pre-installed power supplies.

Check out modular power supplies (has detachable cables) these help keep your computers interior very organized and tidy.

Network Interface​

Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I - AC dual band 2.4/5.8ghz PCIe card

Usually integrated into your motherboard.A NIC allows your computer to talk to your router and through it the internet. Go for gigabit connectivity if a cable will connect your computer to the router, or get an AC capable wireless card.

Peripherals 

Keyboard mouse etc. most of this stuff I am going to assume you are familiar with, and don't need do in-depth an explanation. A nice quality wireless keyboard and mouse will cause less frustration than a 5 dollar one.

UPS or an uninterruptible power supply. Just a battery backup for your computer to protect against power outages. You don't need a big one just one that will let you shut down your computer correctly during long power outages. Helps with brownouts too.

Desk​

Other things to consider is your desk. I use a standing desk which is pretty grand if you plan on trading full time. Get a powered one so you can sit down when you want.

My favorite (the one I have) is from standdesk.co, got mine with an awesome bamboo top.

​Chair

A good chair can help prevent back pain. My favorites are from steelcase buy used for sure.

Want Budget Build Ideas?

I would check prices at Amazon as well. Its good to shop around for the best price.

The Best Monitor Arrays

I am going to go against the grain here and recommend that you only buy one monitor. Yes, your read that right, one.

Quick (but important) Note

I am not saying that you should buy a "4k tv".

I am advocating for buying a large 4k computer monitor. You might think there is no difference but please there is a huge difference between the panels and controllers in a TV vs. a computer monitor. Consider yourself warned.

​Monitors today have increased in resolution, size and quality exponentially, and at the same time they are getting thinner and lighter. 

Here is a graphical representation of monitor (or TV) resolutions. Most normal computer screens out there are going to be in the 1920x1080 range. As an example all gaming consoles output in a 1080p format.

Here is a close up picture of monitor's "pixels"

​Up close picture of monitor pixels.

Large 4k Is The Way

What I am suggesting is purchasing a large 4k monitor (that's a resolution of 3840 pixels wide and 2160 pixels tall or 3840x2160). A 4k monitor has the same amount of pixels that four standard (1920x1080) monitors have, without any borders or bezels in-between. 

Having a large 4k (like 40 inches) Monitor gives you the same screen real-estate as four 1080p monitors without any sacrifice in picture quality.

Having only one monitor cuts down on sophisticated monitor arrays. It is also easier to find a computer that can run one 4k monitor than it is to find one (or engineer a solution) that can run 4 to 8 monitors at once.

Now, this example from the verge is a 43-inch Dell 4k monitor. Now this is an impressive monitor that probably won't be necessary for most traders. This monitor can connect four different inputs and display them at once. Essentially you could use this to replace four smaller monitors. Check out "multi-client" screens if you use feeds from multiple computers at once.

If you're like most traders then using an ordinary monitor with one input only is going to be a better (and cheaper) idea for you.

A 40-inch screen will allow you to use the Windows operating system without any scaling needed. As the guys over at PC Gamer state. pcgamer.com/the-secret-problem-with-4k-display-scaling

Keeping your desktop at a straight 1:1 ratio leaves everything from text to icons far too small to be in any way usable on anything that isn't a massive 40-inch display. On the 24, 28 and 30-inch panels I've been testing, they're awkwardly minuscule.

PCGAMER

Two monitors that I recommend if your looking to replace a large monitor array with a big beautiful screen. 

Pricier option I would recommend is the Philips bdm4350uc  (in depth review by pcmonitor.info)

4k monitor in 43 inches

Philips bdm4350uc Review


Cheaper option (the one I would buy) Wasabi Mango UHD400   (nerdy forum post with pictures and actual use.)

uhd400 wasabi mango korean monitor

Wasabi Mango UHD400 Review


If you end up going with a multiple monitor setup, I would check out the monitor arms by ergomart.com. Make sure that your monitor has the correct mount on the back (look up VESA mounts) and you will be all set.

If you're looking low cost, you can find a ton of older mounts on eBay. Check out Humanscale computer arms very high-quality mount that you would not want to pay full price. I found one for super cheap on eBay when I got mine.

check your arms weight tolerance's if you get a big monitor.​

Other budget 4k monitor that I have bought before (from Korea) Crossover 324k a 32 inch 4k monitor

also available from ebay

Great Trading Laptops

I am going to go into recommendations for a "trading laptop"​ with the thought that portability is a key feature for you (you do want to buy a laptop)

​This will be short and sweet. A battle between battery life and performance is what all laptops face.

Lucky for you the ​newest hardware (Skylake CPU's) are high performance and low power.

These CPU's also have pretty good built in graphics letting you run larger displays while you are not traveling.

I use a laptop for all of my daily computing. When I am traveling or out of the office its light and portable and when I am sitting in my home office I plug it into my docking station and use a standalone mouse, keyboard and monitor to interact with it.

Best Trading Laptop​

dell xps 13 9350 with dragons

So my current top recommendation is the Dell XPS 15 (2016 edition) it has enough power for running most programs on the road, and it fits a large screen into a smaller laptop due to its tiny bezels (remember that I hate bezels?). I got the 1920x1080 version without touch to make the battery last longer. Also, who wants fingerprints all over their screen?

  • I use a skin from dbrand.com to make my XPS unique. Purely Ascetics though.

XPS 13 (9350) 2016 version

I have the smaller version (xps13-9350) but would recommend the 15 if trading full time is your thing. To combat the smaller size of a laptop screen, I pair it with a portable display. The Asus USB-c monitor (MB169C+) connects to the USB-c port on the laptop simultaneously providing power and video doubling your screen real estate. It's a great addition for the traveling trader.   

asus USB-c one cable monitor

The two top features about this laptop are 1. its excellent screen and two it has a power charging USB-c port that is thunderbolt-3 capable.

usb-c

source: datapro.net​

Laptop Dock​

Why is a USB​-c port so cool you ask? This one port allows me to plug into my dock while I am sitting at my desk with one small cable that will simultaneously charge the laptop, give me three extra usb ports, display connections, and use an Ethernet cable if I need it.

This means ​I can dock the laptop using only that one small cable and suddenly I have a full desktop computer.

So the dock that makes this possible is the kensington 4600 make sure to look for the "with power" so it can charge the laptop. I then plug my dock into my monitor, mouse, keyboard, speakers and I am all set. Yes, this dock can run a 4k display @60hz, but if you plug in two, they will each run at 30hz. I wouldn't suggest this setup for multiple monitors things will just get wonky.

Kensington SD4600P Review

Conclusion

High end computers are great and can increase your trading and performance dramatically.

But:

You do not need a "specialty trading computer" and usually high-end components are just nice to have not need to own.

Find out how much screen space you think you need, and plan your computer build or buy based off that.​


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