The problem with reviewing high-end streaming quote platforms is that they're addictive. Tuesday afternoon, following the

Fed's

rate-cut announcement, I watched the

ensuing carnage play out on the quote platform

DTN.IQ

via candlestick charts, which show whether buyers or sellers have control over a stock.

No doubt about it, on Tuesday afternoon the elusive buyers were massacring the panicked sellers. Minute by minute, those little red sticks marched relentlessly toward the bottom of my computer screen.

Real-time candlestick charts are just one of the features offered by high-end quote services that make the market come alive on your PC. (For more about the basic features these platforms deliver, see last week's

column.) If you are serious about trading and have time during the day to watch the markets, these services definitely deserve a look.

Streaming Quote Series

Choosing a Streaming Quote Service

Sizing Up Three Streaming Quote Services

Shopping Tips for Streaming Quote Services

Making Watch Lists Work for You

Be forewarned, however: Trying out even a handful of these tools can take the better part of a day. It's fun, but time-consuming. Precisely because high-end quote services come with so many features, learning to use them takes a long time. Once you do master a platform, you'll probably want to stick with it, which means it pays to shop wisely. Take advantage of the free test-drive offers from each of the three platforms we'll talk about here:

WindowOnWallStreet.com,

DTN.IQ and

RealTick. (Note: RealTick can be tested free at affiliate brokerage

Terra Nova Trading.)

WindowOnWallStreet.com -- Best Value

WindowOnWallStreet.com is aimed at die-hard technical analysts. Like RealTick and DTN.IQ, WindowOnWallStreet.com comes from a company that's been creating financial software since the early '90s. That company,

TradeStation Group

(formerly

Omega Research

), is best known for its industry standard analytical program, TradeStation, which traders use to build and test market-timing systems.

WOW doesn't incorporate TradeStation's analytics, but it has many of the other bells and whistles you'd expect from a high-end quote platform. You get features like Level II screens, real-time options chains, real-time screening of news, time-sales data and the like. These features are nicely explained in the downloadable manual.

The WOW platform incorporates more technical analysis/charting features than DTN.IQ or RealTick. You can build charts that update each time a trade occurs or minute-by-minute. You can build a chart incorporating years of historical data. You can overlay any of those charts with 40 technical indicators -- even some that are pretty esoteric, like the Chaikin Oscillator and the Parabolic SAR. WOW charts make it fairly easy to draw trend lines, revealing the direction you believe a stock will take. And you can zoom in and out or set alerts based on what your composite chart tells you.

While WOW's non-TA features hold up nicely, I would like to see some form of real-time screening. A

Dow Jones

news feed would also be nice, as would the ability to trade within the platform.

As for price, WOW was easily the cheapest of the lot -- $90 per month (including exchange fees). That compares to $299 per month for TradeStation, which incorporates all the features of WOW and allows stock screening in real-time based on every imaginable variable. Soon, I'm told, you'll be able to trade directly through TradeStation.

DTN.IQ -- Most Intuitive

DTN.IQ is the high-end quote platform of an Omaha-based company called

Data Transmission Network.

DTN is a respected news service specializing in agriculture, weather and energy news, as well as news from the financial markets.

You won't find anywhere near the chart-building options that come with WOW. But beyond that, there's a lot to like about DTN.IQ. For starters, it was by far the most intuitive of the three platforms. When you open DTN.IQ, a 1-inch window pops onto your screen with icons that guide you to charting, quotes, news and so forth. Click on the Workspace Manager icon and a wizardlike tool lets you create an arrangement of windows that appear, literally, as a pile on your screen. You can arrange them how you want and then save the arrangement for later.

Some good common-sense thinking went into the designs of DTN.IQ's windows. The option-chain window can be configured in a legible black background overlaid with white type. A streaming quote display appears atop the option-chain window. Handy for options daytraders, the streaming display shows the underlying stock's last 10 ticks. That same streaming display appears atop the Level II window. Also affixed to the Level II screen is a time-sales window.

Another nice feature of DTN.IQ that WOW doesn't offer is trading directly from the platform if you trade through

BLCdirect

,

PreferredTrade

and

CyBerCorp.com

. Deals with other brokerages are apparently in the works.

The cost for the basic package is $89 per month ($66.75 if you pay a year in advance). If you add options chains, real-time stock-screening, real-time macro-market indicators and news feeds from

Dow Jones

and

Associated Press

, the price jumps to about $236 per month, plus a $95 setup fee.

DTN.IQ delivers quote data over the Internet. But parent company DTN has a similar product that broadcasts real-time equity and options quotes via satellite to a 1-meter dedicated dish on your roof. Installing the dish costs about $325. The monthly satellite feed costs about $170. The feed is helpful if you live in an area where broadband Internet service is unavailable. Even so, DTN recommends that its satellite customers use the Internet as backup for times when blizzards or sunspots mess with reception, and offers DTN.IQ at half-price to satellite subscribers.

RealTick -- for Adults Only

RealTick is both a quote-delivery and trading platform. It's one of the original daytrading platforms, in fact. Developed by

Townsend Analytics

, the same company that created the

Archipelago ECN

, RealTick's platform is offered by a

long list of direct-access brokerages, including some that operate trading rooms. That means there are lots of places on- and off-line where you can use this platform. If you end up switching among them, that saves you the trouble of starting over with a new platform. Brokers generally let you use the RealTick platform free after you've made 50 or so trades per month.

If your broker doesn't offer RealTick and you want to sign up, plan on spending about $300 per month. For that you get Level II quotes, options chains and news feeds -- the usual bells and whistles.

Real Tick's user interface is comparable to that of WOW or

Quicken

Quotes Live (discussed in this

column.) But RealTick adds some nice refinements. I especially like the way squares light up within the options chain window when a contract trades. With as many as 100 contracts displayed on your screen at once, the signal makes it a lot easier to spot up-to-the-second activity.

The news search feature was the most advanced of the three platforms. You can filter news by using company names or key words. You can also screen companies that have announced certain actions, such as an impending stock split. RealTick can receive data from a great number of exchanges, including futures and currencies. And charts can be configured to display after-hours data. But you don't get an extensive amount of technical overlays. (Some hard-core day traders use a separate charting program.)

RealTick's biggest strength is its built-in order-entry features (which work if you're with a broker that uses the RealTick platform). Order-entry screens form part of the platform's primary windows. So, for example, you can watch a Level II screen with your order prebuilt and ready to send. Still, RealTick comes with a steep learning curve. Plan on spending a few days just getting the feel of it before you use it to trade.

What's Ahead

I'd love to hear your reactions to WindowOnWallStreet.com, DTN.IQ and RealTick for next week's column, which will reflect reader comments from this series. Please email me at

mingebretsen@yahoo.com and include your full name.

Mark Ingebretsen, author of the newly released book, The Guts and Glory of Day Trading: True Stories of Day Traders Who Made (or Lost) $1,000,000, has written for a wide variety of business and financial publications. Currently he holds no positions in the stocks of companies mentioned in this column. While Ingebretsen cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he welcomes your feedback and invites you to send it to mingebretsen@yahoo.com.TheStreet.com has a revenue-sharing relationship with Amazon.com under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon purchases by customers directed there from TheStreet.com.