Choosing a computer can be quite complex and also personal, as people have different needs. Which computer is right for a trader needs to take a lot of things into consideration. E.g., it depends on how many screens you want to use, what you intend to use the computer for other than trading (though it’s usually recommended that trading computers not be used for other purposes - at least while trading).
It’s important to consider whether you want a desktop or laptop (and laptops have a whole slew of additional considerations, such as whether a lightweight travel laptop is more important than a long-lasting battery). The amount of support you will need can also be important, as some computers have very little support and warranty, while others have multi-year customer support with lifetime warranties.
Of course, how much you can spend on your new computer can make a huge difference. There are many, many more factors.
In general, our trading room instructors have suggested looking at gaming computers for trading, though many of our customers have been happy with computers designed with trading in mind (e.g. EZTradingcomputers or FalconTradingSystems – no affiliations with BCT). These trader-focused companies charge a bit more for systems in many cases, but they provide a much higher level of support and for a longer period than most bargain computers. That support can be critical for many traders who want to get on with trading and not mess with their computers. They will also understand why you’ll want multiple monitors for your trading, and offer solutions that gaming PC sellers may not have available.
If you’re comfortable with computers and resolving issues on your own, then you can find great trading systems through gaming computer configuration sites if a pre-built system doesn’t meet your needs (e.g. CyberPowerPC or IBuyPower PC – again, no affiliations with BCT). Note that the big box stores often carry pre-built computers from companies like these that can work for many traders, but again, do your homework. You want to make sure it supports your existing monitors and requirements, and your support requirements as well.
For some guidelines on required capacities, look for at least 16GB RAM or higher with room to upgrade, the fastest processor you can afford. Selecting the fastest processor may be more important than the number of cores, as not all platforms handle multiple cores as well – but keep in mind the capabilities that your trading platform offers in this decision. An SSD (or even better, an NVMe SSD, which capitalizes on the higher throughput of the PCI data path) is going to significantly increase the speed of your system vs a spinning hard drive. You can use these faster technologies as your system disk, and use the older spinning technology for storage, as the faster solid-state hard drives are more expensive per gigabytes of storage.
As for network speed, you may want to look for at least 100 Mbps download speed / 10 Mbps upload network speed, though responsiveness (low latency and jitter) may be more critical than total download speed.
Note that even though a gaming computer may be tuned for fast performance, you don’t need a really expensive graphics card that’s designed for the many texture mappings and polygons that 3D games require, as traders typically use simple 2D graphics. Perhaps identifying a graphics card that has the right number of monitor outputs is more of an important factor. An exception to this might be if your trading platform or other analysis software is able to take advantage of the 3D graphics engine to use it as a supercomputer (e.g. CUDA), though there are probably few opportunities to utilize this potential in the current trading platform world.
The final decision is up to the trader, of course, so do your homework, ask in slackchat if others have recommendations, take your time in evaluating what’s available and choose wisely. Remember that any computer you buy will be quickly outdated as technology changes so fast, but if you buy a mid to higher-range one, it will likely last you for several years. If it’s been a few years since you’ve upgraded your computer, you may be surprised at the difference in the performance of a new computer, and wonder why didn’t upgrade it sooner.
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