If you are reading this article you are probably in the market for a new trading computer. If you’ve been looking for awhile you probably feel very overwhelmed by all of the technology available and are probably not quite sure what you should be looking for. After reading this, hopefully you will feel a little more at ease!
A trading computer is basically a high end desktop computer capable of processing large amounts of streaming data continuously and displaying this information on multiple screens. A trading computer is specifically designed to handle the massive amounts of market data continuously streaming into your computer during heavy trading periods. So where do you get a computer like this? My first bit of advice is to stay away from big box retailers and mass produced computers. These computers have inferior, cheap quality motherboards, power supplies, memory and inadequate cooling. Most mass produced computers don’t come with a good aftermarket CPU cooler to handle the temps created by stressing the CPU heavily while trading. The long term reliability is just not found in a mass produced name-brand PC.
The best day trading computers are found at companies that build custom computers. Custom built computers contain components that are non-proprietary and are much higher quality.
Next will be a summary of the various components and what to look for. Be aware that computer technology changes very rapidly, we recommend talking with the person that will be building your system, this is the main advantage of having a custom built computer – talking directly with the technician assembling your hardware.
We recommend ASUS brand motherboards above all others. They have a rock solid reputation and more computers use ASUS brand motherboard than any other manufacturer on the market. We also occasionally use EVGA and Gigabyte brand motherboards. The exact feature and what you need will vary with what technology is available for the current chipsets. Make sure you get plenty of USB ports, all newer motherboards will also come with USB 3.0 ports in addition to standard USB 2.0 ports. You should get a motherboard with at least 2 video cards slots, 3 video card slots is ideal for future expansion.
We recommend EVGA, Sapphire, PNY, XFX and ATI brand video cards. Our current favorite video card for trading computers is the ATI FirePro 2460. This card has 4 Mini DisplayPorts that convert to DVI ports with the included DisplayPort to DVI adapters. These cards are silent because of the fanless design, they run very cool so they only need passive cooling from the case. Many of the ATI 5000 and 6000 HD series cards support up to 3 monitors per card and also double as a great gaming card as well.
To handle the huge amounts of data flow in a trading computer, you need as much RAM as you can get. 6GB is the minimum, 8GB to 16GB is ideal. It is not as critical to worry about the speed of the memory, in performance testing the difference between 1333MHz and 1600MHz memory is very small, only 1% to 2% on average. It is best to let the builder decide what speed of memory will give you the best stability with the current technology. A lot of companies want to sell you a system with overclocked memory which can lead to serious system stability issues long-term.
Trading computers benefit most from a fast processor. Buy the fastest processor you can afford, its worth it! There is always the question of processor overclocking. We recommend that you don’t overclock, or overclock only a small conservative amount. Overclocking can be great in the short term, but long term usage of overclocked systems can lead to performance and stability issues as well as hardware failure. Overclocking is not necessarily a bad thing, but should be done safely and conservatively with a really good CPU cooler. We have used Arctic Cooling products for many years, they are very quiet and affordable and keep the processor temps much lower than a stock cooler.
A solid state hard drive is much faster than a traditional hard drive. Solid state hard drives are silent, use less power and last longer than traditional electromechanical hard drives which rely on spinning platters, motors, and moveable read/write heads. Solid state hard drives have no moveable parts and do not produce much heat. We highly recommend Intel brand solid state hard drives, they are currently the best solid state hard drive manufacturer on the market!
The best day trading computers have a very high end power supply. The power supply is the most overlooked component in a computer system, and in our opinion it is the most important. Clean, stable current will make your motherboard and other components last longer and give you a much more stable system for long-term use. We use Corsair brand power supplies, they have developed a solid, proven line of power supplies with much lower failure rates than any other manufacturer on the market.
I hope this article has provided you with a good (but brief) introduction to purchasing a new computer for trading!