If you are in the market for a new computer for trading then you will see a lot of conflicting information.
Sometimes this is from companies trying to make a 'quick buck' off you, or who don't really know what they are doing.
Sometimes it's from other traders claiming you do or don't need this or that.
It can be very difficult to know who to believe or what to buy.
The truth is that there is no one setup that is the best trading computer.
Different traders, using different trading platforms and tools, implementing different trading strategies, need different things from their trading computers.
Recognising this our goal over the past few years has been to put together quality, in-depth information, that traders like you can use to determine which computer spec will best meet your needs.
So let's dive in and discover what is the best trading computer setup for you.
We have done a lot of testing, we have an entire other website dedicated to our trading computer tests.
Our testing clearly shows that the number one impact on the performance of your trading software is the speed of your computers processor.
Sure, you need enough memory (RAM), you should have a solid state hard drive (SSD), and your graphics setup needs to be able to run your desired number of screens.
But after those baselines have been covered, pretty much the only performance lever in a trading computer is the processor (CPU).
The raw speed of a CPU is measured by a single thread speed test.
This chart with data pulled from our TraderSpec.com indepth testing shows the single thread speed comparisons of various processors.
As you can see the latest 9th generation Intel chips (red bars) are very fast.
Often discounted as being cheap and slow, the two i3 options can make for a great trading PC.
For anyone running MT4 or web browser based trading software with just a few screens they are a great option coming in faster and much lower cost than some systems recommended by some other suppliers.
For traders running multiple platforms simultaneously, or running lots of screens, browser tabs, and charts, then multi-tasking ability becomes important.
How suited a processor is to multi-tasking is highly related to the number of CPU Cores it has, the higher the Core count, the more work it can process simultaneously.
This next chart, again created with data pulled from TraderSpec.com, shows the multi-threaded performance levels of a selection of CPU's.
Here we see that the X-Series Intel chip with it's higher number of cores and Hyper-Threading pulls ahead here.
The previously fast i3 chips are left behind a bit due to their lower number of processor cores.
Remember that this is only a problem when running multiple platforms and / or lots of screens, charts and browser tabs.
Taking both charts together, the 9th generation Intel Core i7, and in particular the i9, offer the best of both worlds, ultra fast single core speed and strong multi-threaded performance.
So if you run more intensive workloads, or a mix of trading platforms and software, then these offer the best performance option for your needs.
Something we hear regularly is 'I've been told I need a powerful graphics card for trading'.
This is incorrect.
Most trading packages essentially display text, numbers and lines, they don't create 3D graphics. Line, bar and candlestick charts are made up of 2D graphics.
This is important as 2D graphics are far less taxing for a computer to create and draw to your screen than a 3D model.
This means even a fairly low cost and low powered graphics card can often easily handle the output of a trading platform.
This chart from TraderSpec.com shows the impact of different graphics cards on a simulated web browser based trading software workload.
As you can clearly see, the high end gaming graphics card (GTX 1060), the low priced card (GT 710) and the expensive 'professional class card' (NVS 510) all perform exactly the same.
The two important considerations for graphics setups for traders are the number of screens you want to connect, and then the type / resolution of the screens you want to use.
To connect a large number of screens to your computer you can either use multiple graphics cards, or use more expensive cards which can support higher numbers of monitors.
For up to 6 screen support we recommend multiple graphics cards, performance is great, costs are reasonable, you have some redundancy built into the system, and they can be setup to run silent.
Anyone wanting to go over 6 monitors will need to switch to quad (four) monitor capable graphics cards and run 2 (or 3) of these.
Standard screens run at an FHD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, these screens are low cost and easy to run from your computer.
There are higher resolution options now available which offer more usable space to layout your charts and programs.
So while higher resolutions can offer your more space to display your trading information they do tend to cost more, and are more taxing on computers often requiring a more expensive graphics setup.
They are also a great source of misunderstanding.
A 4K resolution technically means it has four times the number of pixels over a standard FHD screen.
So in theory it can display four times the amount of content that you can fit onto a normal screen.
In practice you can only use this extra space fully if you increase the size of the screen, for most people this means a 40" (or bigger) monitor.
Learn exactly why this is and find out more about high resolution screens over at TraderSpec.com. (Opens in new tab)
When it comes to trading computers, you need to make sure you can support the right number and type of screens that you want to run.
We have covered the CPU and the graphics setup, but what else needs to go into a trading computers build?
A hard drive is where Windows and your trading software is installed, it will also hold any data files you create or use.
There are two main types of hard drive, the traditional 'platter' style drives which have moving parts in them, and newer solid state hard drives (SSD's).
Solid state drives have no moving parts and are much quicker, meaning your computer will power on quicker and programs will open instantly.
For trading computers a standard solid state drive is required. You can get faster SSD's however they make no difference to how fast your trading software will run at all, absolutely zero impact, so if you are on a budget don't waste your money here, get a normal SSD and know that is all you need.
RAM in a computer is temporary storage that holds your open programs and files.
When you open a chart or spreadsheet it is transferred into your RAM and used from there.
When RAM gets full then your trading computers performance will slow down, a lot!
So how much RAM do you need in your trading PC? It depends on how many platforms, charts and files you want to open and run at the same time.
For MT4 with 4 - 6 charts, 8GB of RAM is enough.
Platforms like NinjaTrader and TradeStation will use more RAM so 16GB is recommended for these.
If you use primarily use web platforms like IG, Pro-Realtime, or Trading View then it comes down to how many browser tabs you tend to open, web browsers can be hungry for RAM.
8GB will cover around 4 - 6 tabs, any more than this then we would recommend going with 16GB. We have some customers who open 40+ browser tabs, for them 32GB of RAM was needed to ensure everything still ran smoothly.
In terms of RAM speed, we have never conclusively seen evidence that faster RAM makes any real world impact on trading software workload performance, so don't worry about it.
A decent case helps with cooling, which is important for a stable trading computer.
For power a 600W rated supply is usually more than enough, higher powered supplies do not make any difference to your computers performance. Only higher powered (and pointless for traders) gaming graphics cards require more power.
Finally, if you want to use a wireless Internet connection and have a fibre optic line then go for a faster Wireless AC network card, for standard broadband speeds a Wireless N card is fast enough.
Let's put this all into practice and decide what you need based on what type of trading you do.
If your trading relies on having fast access to market data then you want to be looking for a fast CPU, single thread speed is key.
Budget friendly but still highly responsive, our Charter PC (see below) configured with either of the 9th generation Intel i3 options will more than do the job for you.
For these workloads they will outperform computers offered by some other companies priced at 2 - 3 times the price!
If only the best is good enough then look at our Trader PC (see below) with the i7 or i9 CPU option, there is nothing faster on the market right now.
If you run a few platforms at once, make use of a lot of Expert Advisors / Indicators, or do some backtesting analysis then our Trader PC is going to help with that workload better.
The i5 is better suited to multi-tasking than the i3's in the Charter PC and the 16GB of RAM allows you to keep more programs and charts open simultaneously.
Here you want a fast single thread speed and high core count CPU, so going for the i7 / i9 in the Trader PC will definitely be of benefit to you.
In terms of RAM we would generally recommend pairing these processors with at least 16GB if not 32GB of RAM to ensure you don't run into a bottleneck here.
Do you need more than 8 cores with hyperthreading? In our experience for most traders the answer is no. Only customers running multiple intensive trading software platforms at the same time, and / or doing a lot of backtesting on a regular basis would see any benefit from going with a 10+ core CPU.