1. Go for a workstation from HP / Dell / Lenovo. Make sure that it can be equipped with 2 graphic cards.
2. Processors: I prefer Intel XEON E3 processors (for workstations), but you can also use Intel i7 processors (retail version). Minimum would be Intel XEON E3-1240 or Intel i7-2600. Faster is better. Find a processor of the latest generation with low energy consumption. Low energy consumption also means that your workstation is more likely to be silent.
3. 2D graphics cards suited to run two monitors are NVidia NVS 300 and AMD Firepro 2270. These cards are not for gamers, but you can run 2 cards with 2 high resolution 24'' monitors on each of them. Both have passive cooling (no noise) and very low power consumption.
4. 8 GB RAM is the minimum, you need a 64-bit operating system.
Here are the specs of my workstation:
HP z210, Intel Xeon E3-1240, 8GB RAM, 2 x AMD Firepro 2270, 3 monitors Dell U2412M. I am very happy. Have set monitors to 40% brightness. Power consumption of the whole system (workstation + monitors) is less than 100 Watt (with peaks of 160 W under heavy duty). It is quiet and does not heat up my room.
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If you want to have more monitors attached you can use the passiv cooled grafic card PNY Quadro NVS 450 (up to 4 monitors). I use 2 of them and i haven't any problems with these setup. You only need the same monitor model attached to a pair of the outputs. This means that you can use 2 pairs of different monitor models at one NVS 450.
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These cards have two dual-DVI ports and a display port (can drive three displays). This was a big deal for me because I have older 30" displays that take DVI only, and I did not want to use active adapters to convert Display port. If I had newer display port displays, I would pick a different card.
Be aware these cards take up two PCI slots due to the size of the heat sync.
For other items, I used:
* sandy bridge i7-2600K which is good bang for your buck and can be over clocked if you want (I do not over clock because I like a silence and really have no need for anything faster). Newer Ivy Bridge is not that much faster, and actually run hotter.
* custom cooler with low noise fan - lots to choice from, just make sure it fits in your case with your memory
* 64-bit Win 7 Pro (Win 7 Home would also be fine, but 64-bit is required to use more men)
* 16GB of memory (8GB is adequate for most) regardless of size, get a two slot kit, so you can add more in future if you want
* new Z77 motherboard which has native USB 3.0
* 256GB SSD (I am still evaluating how to back this up - external vs another internal HDD) - price on SSD have really come down, and for trading you really can not go wrong, as your trading app is just beating on the disk as quotes come in. I know there is caching, but this is a perfect app for a SSD. Only issue is do you have enough space.
* super efficient power supply (used sea sonic gold certified, runs at low load, and fans either never come on or run super low)
* good case with silent fans
If you are patient and care about prices, you can find all of your components on sale at newegg over time. Just do your research.
So far, I am pretty happy as the system is whisper quiet, which was one of my primary requirements.
The alternative if you do not want to build is to find a prebuilt system. Todays machines are getting so fast that you really can not go wrong, as long as you look at the specs and know what you are getting. Just be careful, as there are a lot of people out there selling "trading" computers, which are really just the above, but they are charging a lot more to put them together for you. If you want to spend an extra grand, I'll build a system for you ;-)
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I think that the ZOTAC adapters have a much better 3D performance, but that they have a higher power consumption. My entire system - including the workstation, the 2 graphic adapters and the three 24'' monitors - comes out below 100 Watts (150 Watt peak power consumption).
I think you might use some 100 Watts more with those graphic adapters? Did you measure it?
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None of this is anything special, just good quality and good ratings. Do your research to build what you need instead of exactly what I built. There are lots of parts that are interchangeable, and when you find them on special you can save hundreds of dollars. As an example, the power supply I mentioned is usually pretty expensive, but I saw it listed really cheap on a two day sale and saved almost $90. Same for most of my parts actually (the UPS man came five times over two weeks before I had everything I needed, but I was not in a hurry).
* Corsair Carbide Series 500R Black Steel structure with molded ABS plastic accent pieces ATX Mid Tower Computer Case - probably the one spot I overspent, lots of choices for cases, just have to way cool factor vs needs
* Intel Core i7-2600K Sandy Bridge
* ASUS P8Z77-V LE PLUS LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
* CORSAIR Vengeance 16GB (4 x 4GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800)
* COOLER MASTER Hyper 212 EVO RR-212E-20PK-R2 - this actually does not fit well with my memory (fan overhangs the memory heatsink), there are other good choices here also, I like Noctua fans
* Corsair Force Series 3 CSSD-F240GB3A-BK 2.5" 240GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)
* SeaSonic X Series X650 Gold
* ZOTAC ZT-40606-20L GeForce GT 430
I repurposed the DVD & keyboard from my old system.
In the end, by doing the homework and waiting for prices to come to me, I was able to put this together for just over $1000 when the rebate checks get cashed (which could be a while). That also includes all shipping which totaled out at $4.95).
Last edited by aslan; July 7th, 2012 at 05:49 PM.
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