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By Baron Robertson
Screen space is the most important thing to consider when setting up a trading workstation because it directly affects your ability to quickly find and process the information you need to make fast decisions. Many traders try to use one large monitor running at a very high resolution in an effort to get the maximum amount of data onto the screen. This solution requires buying a heavy 21" monitor and running it at a high resolution that can often make small text difficult to read.
A single large monitor does not solve the problem of being able to use multiple applications efficiently. The user interface of applications is designed according to the 4:3 height-to-width aspect ratio of monitors. That's why a lot of display space is wasted when multiple applications are used on one large monitor. This problem is especially applicable to traders because they typically need to run trading software and another application such as a web browser simultaneously. The illustration below shows two 15" monitors compared to a single 21" monitor. Although the two 15" monitors offer the same number of square inches of screen real estate as the 21" monitor does, the smaller monitors provide a much better use of available space.
Trading with a single monitor is like guarding a prison from a guard tower that only has one window. You can't keep your eye on all the things you need to see when your view is limited to one area. To be an effective guard, you need a tower with several windows so you can watch multiple areas of the prison campus at once. Traders use their computers very much like a window to the markets. In information-intensive environments like stock trading, you need to see as much news, quotes, and charts as quickly as possible. Trying to view all this activity on one monitor is like trying to be the guard in a one-window guard tower. With multiple monitors you can open and view more windows simultaneously, thereby becoming a more effective and efficient trader.
Multiple monitors also offer more display space at a lower cost. While larger monitors have become more appealing to users in information-packed markets such as computer-aided design, 3D animation, and other fields of digital content creation, the increase in demand has not lowered the cost. Bigger monitors cost more money. As a matter of fact, monitor costs increase disproportionately with size. Generally speaking, a 100 percent price increase will buy only a 50 percent size increase.
Multiple monitors offer the added benefit of safety through redundancy. If you're trading using a single monitor and a problem with it arises, your view of the market could be abrubtly halted. This would be a serious problem if you had open positions in a fast-moving market. With multiple monitors, even if one has a problem, you can continue to trade using the other(s).