Building Your Own Multiple-Monitor Trading Station
A lot of readers of this column have asked for advice on how to connect multiple monitors to their PCs. Here's a long overdue explanation. Long overdue, because every serious trader gets to a point where one monitor just isn't enough.
Traders use multiple monitors in different ways. Some might put up several Level II screens at once in order to see all the
Still other traders find they need more monitors as their experience grows, says John Chittenden, CEO of
PCs and Graphics Cards
Veritable data Dirt Devils that they are, some traders find they can't live without eight or more monitors. To keep that many screens lit continuously, you need a fairly powerful, crash-resistant computer. At the very least we're talking about an 800 megahertz Pentium III with 256 megs of RAM. Ideally that system should come with Microsoft's industrial-strength version of Windows -- that is, Windows 2000 Professional -- factory installed. Resist the temptation to add other programs beyond what you absolutely need for trading. No games or online encyclopedias, in other words. Keeping your system lean and mean will minimize software conflicts that might lead to crashes.Windows 2000 Pro supports up to 10 monitors. However, each of those monitors will require its own graphics processor, which is located on a separate graphics card. Graphics cards speed up the process of building the images you see on your computer screen -- everything from Windows dialog boxes to Web-based images to five-minute bar charts on the Nasdaq 100. The calculations needed to put up these images on your screen are done by the processors affixed to the cards. If a graphics card didn't handle all that grunt work, your computer's CPU would get the job. So you can see why a really speedy graphics card can accelerate your system by allowing the CPU to handle other tasks. Store-bought computers aimed at gamers and multimedia enthusiasts often come bundled with high-end graphics cards capable of processing 3D information. But 3D capabilities are a waste on a trading computer, I'm told, because trading software packages are for the most part rendered in 2D. Don't get me wrong. It's still a good idea to have a truly buff graphics card if you're running multiple monitors. You could opt for a separate graphics card for each monitor, or install one of several cards that let you plug in anywhere from two to four monitors each.
MonitorsThe higher the resolution, the higher the price, of course. Yet, there's an excellent reason why traders should invest in quality high-resolution monitors, says Chittenden at TriKinetic. "If not, you're going to get headaches and eye aches, which is going to
Flatter Is CoolerThe above is certainly true, but you'll pay for a flat-screen display, especially if you want a high-res, 18-inch screen. Compaq's 18-inch TFT8020 costs around $2,500. The company's cheapest 15-inch display costs $600. You could buy four of the latter and have more than three times the screen real estate per dollar spent than you'd get with a single 18-inch display. Whichever flat-panel monitor you choose, pay attention to resolution and dot pitch just as you would with CRTs. But because flat screens only work optimally when you're positioned directly in front of them, also consider the monitor's viewing angle, which is the furthest angle away from the monitor's center point that you can move your head before the image fades into a blur. Quality flat screens have viewing angles of 140 degrees or more. Flat screens come in two varieties, analog and digital. The analog monitors simply pipe the video information to your screen. The more costly digital monitors encode the information in digital format. The actual encoding takes place on the graphics card. Many people say that the extra cost of a digital monitor and the digital video card that accompanies it simply aren't worth it. The image quality is roughly the same for analog and digital. Furthermore, the added processing power needed to put up a digital signal can lead to problems, especially if you're in resource-hogging high-res mode. Sometimes you get ghosting images. Sometimes the system simply crashes. This is an especially critical issue if you're running multiple monitors and using a graphics card capable of outputting to several monitors. These all-digital cards tend to be expensive, and I've heard their technology isn't quite there yet. Someday that'll change. So an option for now would be to go for a monitor such as the $1,000 NEC MultiSync LCD1525X, which accepts analog and digital inputs.
Getting Up and RunningOnce the monitors are set up, a utility program within Windows 2000 Professional allows you to arrange the layout of your displays in a manner that suits your work style. (For installation instructions go to this
Easier AlternativesIf setting up a multimonitor system sounds like a lot of work, an easier alternative would be to buy a trading computer direct from the manufacturer. Then just plug in the monitors, and you're hot to go. The aforementioned TriKinetic Technologies has multiple-monitor systems that start at around $4,000 (including two 15-inch flat-panel displays). Workstations from
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