Trading Computers With Multi Screens – Free Guide for Home Traders

This guide will discuss the much omitted aspect of online trading, namely the hardware and software that is used by day traders and home traders.

Our technological progress is absolutely amazing. Today, our mobile phones have the processing power of a very high spec desktop computer from the 1990s.

However, as consumer technology and accessibility improved, so has the entire network and infrastructure of the markets, and it has grown to huge proportions. All this demand, fulfilment and management of financial data by exchanges and the markets requires enormous processing power.

The true need for speed

Market makers use the best computers and the latest technology available to them, because speed is extremely important in the markets.

Delays in information flow are very costly to most traders.

There are many well-funded professional trading accounts that operate High Frequency Trading (HTF), where high-spec computers run automated trading algorithms to enter and exit positions within milliseconds.

This type of hardware and software is very expensive and it takes very specialised knowledge to manage and program these computers. Yet, this type of High-Frequency trading makes up about 60% of the Forex market liquidity pool, according to a 2016 Bloomberg Report. (1,2)

For retail traders, who trade Forex or Options and enter positions for at least couple of days or weeks, the speed of connectivity and processing is not of paramount importance.

It could be argued that a standard personal computer with 8GB RAM and 3G/4G or 25MB download connection should be enough for most swing traders.

If you trade short term Options or Forex, you will undoubtedly benefit from using a faster computer with a faster Internet connection, and a multiscreen set up for more precise technical and/or fundamental analysis.

The reason is that any delay in price representation or entry time, will most likely put you at a disadvantage and may be the main reason for a losing trade in the end.

Naturally, as any professional trader, you want to be following and entering the markets at the best possible times and with no delays in the price action.

What is the best computer for home trading?

The answer to this question is simple. The best computer for home trading is a dedicated computer with a multiscreen setup with a fast internet connection, preferably via a fiber optic cable which can support much higher speeds and offers a more stable connection than 3G/4G or wireless signals. 

The faster your computer works, the better it will be suited for the transmission of information and processing of real price data and orders in the markets.

Using a powerful computer with a fiber optic connection will also allow you to be able to send information from your computer to the exchange server much faster and thus, minimize any slippage differences.

All professional traders use dedicated computers that are only used for their trading activity, market analysis, and possibly also news syndication and email.

Although a home trader is often a part-time trader where trading is not his/her main occupation, using a dedicated computer for the trading activity will be beneficial for a good number of reasons.

A dedicated computer setup for trading will offer:

  • safer overall operation
  • faster loading and processing speeds
  • uncluttered performance by other software and updates
  • uninterrupted flow of your trading activity

One of the best computer setups currently available on the market for retail or home traders is the DELL Trading Computer System with 4 monitors. The T5500 Workstation features 32 GB of RAM, 8-Core 2X 2.93 Quad Xeon Intel Processors, an ultra fast 500 GB SSD (Solid State Drive) disc with the operating system and 4 TB hard drive for additional information storage. The T5500 Trading Workstation also includes 4 dedicated monitors with 24-inch display each and a quad stand to support them.

This whole system is currently available on Amazon for only $1,699.

T5500 Dedicated Trading Workstation with 4 24inch monitors

The importance of RAM memory

RAM memory

RAM, which stands for Random Access Memory is mainly responsible for the efficient execution of working processes in the computer. You can compare RAM to the processing ability of your brain, known as the short-term memory, without which we could not function properly.

RAM memory is inserted directly into the motherboard, which is the spine of your entire computer system.

As mentioned earlier, 8GB RAM will be sufficient for most swing traders who analyze daily charts that move very slowly, but for short-term traders looking at 15-Min or 1-Hour charts, more RAM on the computer is strongly advisable.

With today’s very resource-demanding operating systems, powerful trading terminals, and robust script-driven analysis software, 32GB RAM should be the new standard for dedicated trading computers at home.

If your existing computer is running slow, increasing its RAM will most likely bring it back to life. That is if your existing motherboard can accommodate more working memory in the system and there are no other underlying causes or system conflicts.

When you invest in new RAM, it’s worth paying a few dollars extra for high quality memory produced by a known company in this field, such as Corsair, Kingston, Gskill, to name a few. Do not buy cheap knock-offs!

There are many good memory cards available on the market, but the 32 GB Dominator Platinum Series by Corsair is outstanding, especially if your existing motherboard has only two RAM slots of 16GB each.

This DDR4 memory is fast and reliable. Selling for $250 on Amazon.

Word of advice. Motherboards have a RAM limit and even if you add more RAM, you may find that your existing system is not able to support it. So before spending money on additional RAM to improve your system’s speed, make sure that your motherboard can fully utilize it.

Please read your computer motherboard specifications to find out the maximum RAM and type allowed in your system.

For example, the Corsair RAM memory shown above is a DDR4 type, which supports much higher transfer speeds than older DDR3 types. Most DDR3 cards have a transfer speed between 800-2000 MT/s (Millions of Transfers per second). DDR4 type RAM memory starts at 2133 MT/s. (3)

Choosing the right Hard Drive

The hard drive of the computer is essentially a place where all the computer files can be stored offline and recalled on demand. This includes the files of your entire operational system, all the additional software installed, as well as all your work files.

The hard drive in a computer could be compared to the long-term memory of the human brain.

Once upon a time, in 1998, digital storage space was quite expensive, but over the years with the exponentially growing market demand and new technological advancements, it has become a lot cheaper.

In terms of storage space, the average dedicated trading computer does not require to have a lot of it. 500GB, which is today’s standard in personal computers, is often more than enough for most retail traders.

Yet, if you are looking for a new hard drive, it is recommended to use the newer and much faster SSD (Solid State Drives, also known as Flash Drives) as opposed to the older HDD (Hard Disc Drives).

The SSD drives are much faster and they are much more secure and stable because all elements are fixed and the information is stored in microchips. (4)

A traditional hard drive uses a mechanical arm with a moving head which reads and writes information on the disc. Hence, there is a lot more physical operation during the whole process of writing and retrieving of information.

How much faster are SSD discs? To illustrate this, an operating system that takes about 40 seconds to load on HDD, will take only about 15 seconds on the SSD.

SSD 1TB (1000GB) drive from SanDisk. Selling on Amazon for $120

Today almost all updated operational systems are designed for the speeds of SSD discs. It simply makes sense to use SSD drives in your trading computer system to increase its loading speed and boost its information writing and retrieval capabilities.

OS for your trading computer

Many traders who want to built their custom trading computer are often faced with the question of which operating system (OS) they should use.

Most consumers have two options to choose from, either PC systems with Windows OS or Mac computers with its OS X.

Although both systems can be successfully configured for trading, most traders use PC computers with Windows because they are a lot cheaper, easier to configure, and compatible with all trading platforms.

Apple iMac with 27″ Retina 5K display,
3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 1TB.

Amazon Price Tag – $1,699

Macs in general are more reliable, faster and more secure than PC’s running on Windows.

However, they are also a lot more expensive. You generally have to pay 50% more for the same processing power as PC.

One of the greatest strengths of Macs is that all hardware components are controlled by Apple. This means greater parts compatibility, which translates into less system crashes and faster updates.

If you are an active daytrader, the last thing you want is a power shortage in your town or your computer system’s crash.

Apple computers are engineered mostly for graphics and video applications. They also offer multiple monitor set up through a special Thunderbolt connection.

The biggest issue with using Macs as a trading station is that most trading software is designed for Windows PCs and most brokers focus on platforms compatible with Windows OS.

Only about 10% of computer users use Apple computers, so it makes sense for brokers to focus on the remaining 90% of Windows users.

Popular trading platforms like MetaTrader 4, often used by many Forex brokers, have a very limited compatibility with Mac’s OS.

There are thousands of custom computer applications on the market designed specifically for trading that will only run on Windows.

Although it is possible to run Windows applications on Mac computer systems, this is not easily done and requires additional manual tweaking, which can be quite frustrating and take up a lot of time.

It’s simply a lot easier and more efficient to go with a Windows PC system.

Setting up multi-monitor display

Most serious traders use at least two monitors, but many prefer to use four monitors.

The reason for multi-monitor use in trading is very simple, it can give an immediate insight into various aspects of technical analysis and increase productivity.

As an example, you can be watching the economic news on one screen, analyze asset price on a H1 chart on another screen, track 15M chart of the same or correlated asset on another screen, and view economic releases on yet another screen.

quad stad
Monitor quad stand by StarTech.

To mount 4 monitors traders can use a quad stand similar to the one in the picture.

This particular stand can accommodate 4 screens up to 27 inches each. That would give you a total viewing area of about 50 inch TV.

Imagine how much information can be viewed at once on such a large area if you’re sitting next to it.

I think one of the main reasons why traders decide to use such a dedicated multi-screen set up is because it allows them to really delve into the world of trading and financial analysis. It helps them to get into the ‘trading zone’ and increase productivity.

The screens don’t necessarily have to be identical or made by the same manufacturer. They simply need to fulfil the specs of your computer.

Remember that you will be sitting quite close to the screens so it is better to invest in good quality monitors. Obviously backlit LED monitors will be much better on your eyes and consume a lot less energy than LCD screens.

Here is an example of high quality 27-inch LED monitor by Hewlett Packard that can be mounted on a quad stand.

Currently available on Amazon for $189.

Which graphics card to use

Your computer’s graphics card plays a major role in the ability of using multiple screens. Your graphics card needs to have the correct number of output peripherals to connect the monitors and to be able to support them.

Although dedicated trading computer systems are not very demanding when it comes to graphics, (not nearly as much as gaming or video editing computers) they sill need to have adequate processing power.

There many good graphics card manufacturers, such as Asus, MSI, AMD, and Nvidia. The latter is the most commonly used in trading computers. Most of their top range cards support multiple monitors via HDMI and DVI connections.

nvidia quadro graphics card

For example the Nvidia Quadro 2MB graphics card with 4 mini display ports should be enough for most trading computers equipped with 4 multi screens. Selling on Amazon for only $170.

Of course there are other more expensive cards that can support up to 8 monitor displays, but for most home traders using 4 monitors is enough.

Motherboards and cooling systems

Motherboard is the spine of your entire computer system. It is the single most important element that is needed to built a dedicated computer.

There are a few major manufacturers of quality motherboards, for example Intel, MSI, ASRock, Gigabyte, EVGA, Asus, etc..

ASUS is the largest motherboard manufacturer in the world.

Their motherboards clearly stand out from their counterparts. They are more reliable, generally better designed, and feature a very user friendly BIOS.(5)

There are two types of motherboards by Asus, one is a full sized one, ATX, and the other is a much more compact motherboard known as microATX.

Even though the microATX motherboards can look appealing, it is much better to go with the slightly more expensive larger-sized boards because they offers more slots, more space for larger cards and heatsinks, and they can accommodate a bigger CPU power unit.

Cooling systems are also very important and should not be overlooked when building your dedicated trading system. Adequate cooling of the processor and cards will ensure correct functioning of your computer system.

If the temperature of your computer increases to high levels during data crunching, your system will slow down and possibly crash completely. Physical damage of equipment due to overheating is also quite common.

Your system needs to remain cool and stay at all times within the safe operational temperatures.

You will most likely need to pay a bit more to get a good case for your computer with big fans and properly engineered cooling system.

The full size Thermaltake tower available on Amazon for $175 not only looks cool, but it also makes sure that your equipment stays at the right temperature at all times. It features preinstalled 3 RGB 14mm fans to keep optimal working environment inside its tempered glass walls.

Conclusion

We established that if you are trader at home, a good computer with a fast internet connection is essential. Even if you copy trading signals, a better computer will always be more beneficial. Faster processor, bigger monitor, stable internet connection can give you a slight edge in your trading performance.

Bibliography and further reading

  1. High Frequency Traders Elbow Their Way Into the Currency Markets,Bloomberg report published September 13, 2016
  2. High-Frequency Trading, Wikipedia definition
  3. What is the difference between DDR3 RAM & DDR4 RAM?, Quora
  4. SSD vs. HDD, StorageReview
  5. The Ultimate Trading Computers Buyers Guide, Blueauracomputers.com
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