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Trading Computer Build Guide: Part 2 – Reliable Power Supply

Basics of Stock Trading Computers Part 2

Welcome to the Orbital Computers blog! In this series of articles, I am going to outline some of the most important topics to consider when purchasing a stock trading computer. I’m going to cover hardware reliability, performance, and suitability for day trading. I’ve tried to condense the info as much as possible, but when we’re dealing with a topic so complex it really requires a more thorough explanation. This will be a series of several posts, so look for updates every week until February 2014. If you have any questions about any of the topics covered in this series, or if you’d like Orbital Computers to build a stock trading computer for you, please feel free to contact us here.


Last week, we began our series of articles on the basics of stock trading computers. We briefly discussed why reliability is the most important specification of any stock trading computer and we introduced a few key components in that ultra-reliable trading PC puzzle. We went over why SSDs make a better storage choice for most traders and we compared and contrasted that with traditional hard disk drives. If you missed the first post, click here to start from the beginning. In this installment, I will be going over what makes a good trading computer Power Supply Unit. I hope you find it informational, and if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Power Supply Unit

The power supply unit (PSU) is the component that takes the electricity from your home or office’s power outlet, converts the Alternating Current (AC) to Direct Current (DC), and regulates it to be fed to your trading computer’s sensitive internal components. The power supply is probably the least ‘fashionable’ component that you’ll consider for your trading computer, but is a critically important piece of the high-reliability stock trading computer puzzle nonetheless. If the power supply fails – and low quality ones frequently do so in spectacular fashion, with a loud bang and smoke – your entire system could be offline until you replace the PSU. If you were in the middle of an open trade, you’d likely get stopped out (hopefully at the upper limit). What’s worse, a PSU failure can possibly fry all your components in the process. There are countless low quality PSU manufacturers out there that you need to be careful to steer clear of. At Orbital Computers, we only offer truly top of the line PSUs from leading manufacturers including Corsair and Seasonic. All of our PSUs come with multi-year warranties, with a few of them offering coverage for up to seven years! The good news is you don’t have to break the bank just to get a high quality PSU; we include top of the line PSU options as standard offerings in all our trading computers.

Important PSU Specs for the Day Trading Computer

A. Can the PSU supply adequate wattage to the system?

This is the critically important spec to consider for your trading computer’s PSU. It requires making a rough calculation of how much power (measured in Watts or Joules per Second) each individual component needs to operate safely. Most component manufacturers will give a quick recommendation on their minimum wattage requirements in the specifications sheets that accompany the product.

While most trading computer internals don’t vary too drastically on their power requirements, one significant exception is the graphics card configuration you choose. Where running a trading computer with only 2 monitor capability might only require 400 Watts total, a 12 monitor setup could require in excess of 1000W! It certainly makes logical sense that streaming data to 12 separate monitors will, of course, require more power. And again, fortunately, you don’t have to spend crazy amounts of money to get a nice power supply. A high quality 850W PSU from a leading manufacturer can easily be had for under $200 and a 500W PSU for well under $100.

B. Efficiency Rating.

Look for an 80 Plus rating. Simply put, this is an efficiency rating that states the PSU converts at least 80% of the energy it draws from the wall into usable electricity for your PC components. It’s a great way to weed out inferior PSUs from companies that cut corners to keep costs down. Generally, to earn a higher rating manufacturers need to use higher quality components inside their PSUs. All of the PSUs we offer on our trading computers (or any of our other computers for that matter) are at a minimum 80 Plus Bronze rated, with options of up to 80 Plus Platinum available. While the efficiency rating of a PSU is a useful indicator of build quality, it’s important not to get too wrapped up in purchasing the highest efficiency (and most expensive) PSU for the sole purpose of saving electricity. To illustrate this example, we’ll look at a quick cost-savings calculation. By definition, 80 Plus Bronze rated PSUs are at least 85% efficient at 50% load while 80 Plus Gold rated PSUs are at least 90% efficient at 50% load. If you ran your PC for 8 hours per day, 365 days per year, you would save an average of about $16 per year by buying a Gold rated PSU over a Bronze rated PSU. So as you can see, the electric bill savings often aren’t reason enough to justify a higher price tag. Of course, there are often many other reasons to get a PSU that happens to be Gold rated; it may have higher power output, neat silence optimization features, or the availability of a certain number of PCI-e connectors, but our recommendation is to not make getting a Gold or Platinum rating PSU the most important factor for your trading computer. A Bronze rated PSU by a quality manufacturer like Corsair, Seasonic, or Rosewill will offer the best bang for the buck. As always, please feel free to contact us if you’d like any help at all! We understand this can be quite overwhelming and we’d be glad to offer any help we can!

Click to view Part 3: System Cooling

This is a critically important part of the high-reliability stock trading computer equation so don’t miss it!