first basic home trade station questions

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by wiridil, Aug 13, 2010.

  1. wiridil


    I have been using a firm's hardware, and I am going to be trading from home from now on. I would like to hear people's thoughts on what is really needed for a home setup to run 4-24" monitors. I don't mind paying for what I need to have a reasonably fast and RELIABLE machine, but I also don't want to waste money on something I don't.

    For one, am I better off to buy an off the shelf system and upgrade the video card to a quad card? OR have a custom built machine with a motherboard that will accept two dual cards?

    How much ram and hard drive do I really need? I want it to be fast and reliable and not lock up or crash, but there is no point to paying for memory I will never use. I don't intend to do anything with this computer except day trading. No music or browsing or movies. I woudl like to have 30-40 five minute equity charts running at all times,in addition to a chatroom on an internet browser and thinkorswim futures chart.

    Thanks in advance for feedback, I have been reading alot of contradicting advice regarding what one really needs and the most economical way to get a reliable system. Custom built with warranty? Or off the shelf system and upgrade some components?

    Thanks in advance
  2. I can share with you some of my shopping/building experience.

    If you want to pick up a ready-to-go box from a store (or online), there are roughly 3 classes.

    1. Intel i3 processor (or AMD equivalent). About $500 - $600. This is good if you just need a basic box. Browser based trading. 1-2 monitors.

    2. Intel i5 processor (or AMD equivalent). About $700 - $900. This is good for trading platforms that run on the PC (not internet browser based). Lots of charts should be okay. Unless you do a lot of back-testing, number crunching, auto-trading. It sounds like you can probably use this class of machines.

    3. Intel i7 processor (or AMD equivalent). About $1100 - $1300. This is what the high-end trading workstations (like Xview, EMC and the likes) are based. Probably the best you can get for retail traders. I built mine with i7-930 because I use custom indicators that require a lot of calculations.

    All three classes can support 4-6 monitors. What you need depends on how you trade.

    The off-the-shelf box is not necessarily a problem for 2 dual cards. There are some which have 2+ available PCIe x16 slots. Or PCIe x16 + PCI (old one) slot. Or 1 x16 and 1 x1 slot. Most of what I had seen is they advertise the box has only 1 available PCIe x16 slot. They do have another x16 slot but it's just occupied by a manufacturer's card. Like a 56K modem card. You can just ditch that card and clear the slot for your own use. That would give you 2 slots.

    RAM is not that expensive these days. IMO 6GB is adequate for most cases. I have a self-built Intel i7 box, 6GB RAM. 8 monitors, TradeStation, about 40+ charts total. Memory usage hardly went above 4GB. Still has 2GB free to spare.
  3. wiridil


    thank you very much, I agree the I5 Intel series sounds about where I need to be. My trading platform is pc based. I dont do extensive back testing or heavy number crunching or anything automated.

    As for video cards, is there one quad card that is recommendend for its price? That is where the choices seem overwhelming. In looking at different cards I came across this card which supports 6 monitors.

    I don't really NEED 6 monitors now, but a year from now my trading may evolve to the point where I could use it. I would rather spend a little more now and be able to "grow" into it, than regret having not done it and having to spend alot more down the road to upgrade to 6 monitors vs. 4. How much will a good reliable quad card cost, and do you guys think it is a better idea to get a 6 or stick with a 4 ? Do you guys with 6 or 8 screens feel glad you have it or think its overkill?

    Thanks again for the input
  4. LOgg


    if you get an i5 quad core you should be able to run 6 mon with ease with the right mobo/vid card. get a mobo that has either 3 slots incase you want to upgarde from 4 to 6 mon without upgrading anything else. unless you can find a decent vid card that has 3pcie then you can get a 2 slot mobo.
    if you are trading equities I think 4-6 monitors is a must if you are just starting to be profitable/taking out paycheques.

    *based on my experience + looking into upgrading current cpu & buying a new one end of the year.
  5. wiridil


    Yes I am trading equities. been using only 2 19" monitors and i feel like not being able to have all the charts up I would like is holding me back a bit. I changed my layout and crammed in as many tiny little 5 min charts as I could and that helped alot to see strength and weakness across sectors as well as leading and lagging stocks. Is it more economical or reliable to have 1 6 monitor card or 2 or 3 cards working together?
  6. You don't want the Eyefinity nor a 4-monitor card... they're overly expensive. You should be using "dualhead workstation cards", preferably without noisy fans. Therefore, it's most important that you choose the correct motherboard for a trading rig. 3-4 PCIEx16 slots, and no "onboard" or "integrated" video chip.... that would be an X58, P55, AMD 890, or some gamer board... like an i780.

    The best performance/value in dualhead workstation video cards for trading.... Nvidia Quadro NVS 290 or 295.... Buy on eBay and save some $$$... Used is usually OK. Just make sure you get the adapter cable(s) with the card.
  7. Bear in mind that these 6-mon cards are quite a bit higher priced than multiple dual cards on a per-monitor basis. 6-mon card, $500, about $80 per monitor. You can get a dual card for $40 to $50 these days. About $25 per monitor.

    I think the best is to try to find a box that has more available PCIe X16 slots and use multiple dual cards. That will save you some money. The biggest headache I had a few months back shopping for a new PC was the available empty slots. I ended up building my own.

    I agree that passive cooling ("no fan") is preferred than fan cooling. Besides the noise issue, one less point of failure to worry about. Mechanical parts fail more often than electronic parts usually.

    You also have other options. I bought 2 of those SIIG "USB to VGA" adapters to drive 2 monitors with 2 USB ports. They work okay. About $50 each (was on-sale). If you have a quad USB port outlets on your PC, you can use 2 of them for displays. For future expansion or addressing the need of not enough PCIe X16 slots. Your i5 box should have plenty of computing power to drive these display via USB. I suspect you can use this route to expand for more displays in the future too.
  8. If you build your own and have the $$, I highly recommend this motherboard, this is the one i used to build my second pc.

    * Its got 4 PCI-E X 16 slots. Lots of RAM space, overclockable, etc. Imagine the options you'll have with this setup. You'll never have to upgrade again.

    If you have the $$ you can save some of that PCI-E slot space for other things by using quad cards, I use 3 of these......they are excellent performing quads, have had these almost a year and are quiet.

    * Don't buy Matrox quad cards, they are way overpriced in comparison to the new ones available on the market(like the above).

    * Oh and one more thing.... always have 2 hard drives(each of same size) installed so that if the main one goes out on you(think redundancy). the second one will keep you going. Have it set up in RAID 1 configuration.

    Good luck on whichever decision you make ...
  9. Another consideration...

    I always build my trading room equipment for survivability and redundancy.

    Imagine this scenario:

    You have one of these 6-mon cards. And that's the only video card on your PC. Warranty period is just over. The card dies. You need to replace it.

    1. You need to spend $500 for your replacement for that one card. If you have 3 x dual cards, you only need to spend $50 to replace the card.

    2. Meanwhile, your PC is a fish out of water. Can't be used. With 3 dual cards, you are down for 1/3 of the capacity. You can still trade with 4 monitors while you wait for your replacement part.
  10. Great info Boli! I'm doing some upgrading shortly and will "subscribe" to this thread.

    Thanks to all providing insightful feedback!

    #10     Aug 13, 2010