Mobile Trading Computer Setup Guide

Robert Millar • 22nd February 2018

I’m sure you all know I’ve been traveling and trading around the world this past year. It’s been amazing! Along the journey I’ve also become a self-proclaimed expert on computers and tech gear that make trading on the road as efficient and convenient as possible.  Nothing can replace a nice multi-monitor desktop trading station, but I’ve been on a mission to come close! So, I’ll go over my current mobile trading station in-detail along with some completer and equipment recommendations and alternatives. 

First, watch my video review of my current day-trading setup:

The average person might not need all of this on a typical trip. Most 9-5ers get what? 2-3 weeks of vacation time? For you all transitioning to becoming a full-time trader, you might just need a laptop and an external monitor (we’ll discuss options for this simple setup). However, as a professional trader there’s nothing stopping you from spending 3-6 months traveling and trading! Therefore, it’s more understandable to bring 2-3 external monitors to closely replicate a comfortable at-home desktop trading station. 

In this guide I’m going to be discussing a lot of my favorite laptops, monitors and gear. I’m obsessed with the latest and greatest technology, even if a new model is only marginally better. Hell, I bought 4 new laptops in 2017! By no means does anyone need to go out and buy new expensive gear to trade successfully. When I started trading I used the same laptop and desktop for years! I made a lot of money on them. If you have a 2-3 year old computer or laptop chances are you can trade effectively. 

Let’s get into the guide! 

PC or Mac? What’s best for trading on the road? 

I get this question daily and the simple answer here is PC. The main reasoning is software compatibility. PC wins in this area hands-down. A study done by EZTrading Computers revealed that 72% of the largest and most popular trading platforms for day traders are Windows-compatible, while only 28% have native Mac versions of their trading platform.  Even the trading programs that are written for Macs mostly employ a Windows-first approach. The versatility of the PC lends itself well to many trading platforms. All of the trading software I use only runs native on PC.  

So, you have a Mac or only want a Mac. What can you do? There’s a way to convert your Mac into a Windows PC through emulation software! 

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How to convert a Mac to a Windows PC

The best emulation software for Macs is called Parallels. The software creates a full Windows desktop environment, by seamlessly creating virtual machines with no need for restarting. You can switch back and forth between the virtual Windows environment and Mac OS. However, for parallels to work well on your Mac, you need a powerful processor and enough RAM. This is because you will be effectively running two separate operating systems on the same computer, thus sharing resources. In addition, using more than one external monitor can cause display issues. I know from experience! Parallels requires $80 for a single-user license, but for those that prefer their Mac, it’s a no-brainer as you can use any trading software possible.  

Best PC Laptops for trading

Keep in mind there are lots of options here. I’m choosing to pick my favorite options that I considered when selecting my mobile trading setup. 

DELL XPS 15 9560

This is my current laptop that I use mainly for trading and video editing. It is packed with some of the best hardware on the market today. The main selling points for me was the 4k display (love the extra screen real estate that 4k displays provide) and the 32GB RAM and the latest (at the time) i7 CPU. 

With that said, I have probably went through 3 of these from various hardware issues. This was partially my fault for getting a refurbished model originally, but Dell was very helpful and I was given a replacement that works fine. The only downside for me is the keyboard.  The key travel itself is a bit disappointing. It features 1.3 mm of travel, which is likely due to the lack of space inside to offer a thicker keyboard. The keys don’t have the reassuring click sound either, with a more muted, mushy feel.  As with anything, a person would get used to it over time, but there are better keyboards out there.

Cost: $1,500-2,500 (depending on config)

Specs: 

Intel Core i7-7700HQ Quad Core Processor (6M cache, up to 3.8 GHz)
32GB DDR4-2400MHz
1TB PCIe Solid State Drive
15.6-inch 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160)
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1050 with 4GB GDDR5

ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550VE

I love ASUS products! However, I feel they failed to stay with the pack as far as their laptops are concerned over the past 2-3 years.  Their new lineup aims to fix that IMO.  ASUS laptops have always has a sleek form-factor with great specifications. What led me away from the ASUS Zenbook was the lack of 4k Display (some may prefer this) and a maximum of 16GB RAM (plenty for trading).  

Remember, I also use my laptop for video editing which is very demanding. Therefore, the ASUS ZenBook is perfectly fine for most traders and should stand the test of time for several years. The ASUS ZenBook does have the Nvidia GeForce 1050Ti graphics card which is a slight upgrade over the Dell XPS.

Cost: $1,699

Specs: 

Quad-core i7-7700HQ 2.8GHz w/ Turbo Boost
16GB 2400MHz DDR4
512GB PCIe SSD 
Nvidia GeForce 1050Ti w/ 4GB GDDR5 VRAM
15.6-inch 1080p LED touchscreen

Best MacBook for trading

So, what is the best for trading? This is an easy one! There is only one MacBook that is even considerable for trading. 

MacBook Pro 15

Lets forget about trading and software compatibility for a moment. MacBooks are the best laptops on the market and it’s not even close! I know, some of you may argue there’s crazy bulky 10 pound gaming laptops out there that have 2 hours of battery life. Those are desktop-replacements in my mind and not convenient for traveling.  MacBooks are generally easier to set up, start-up, use, maintain, looks better, and much better for multimedia entertainment. Macs have a reputation for being true workhorses that rarely break down or crash. Have you ever had the blue screen of death of a Mac? Doubt it! 

Cost: $2,399-3,399 (depending on config)

Specs: 

Quad-core i7 3.1GHz w/ Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
16GB 2133MHz LPDDR3 memory
512GB to 2TB PCIe SSD 
Radeon Pro 560 with 4GB memory
15.6-inch IPS display 2880×1800

Best External Monitor

Having an external monitor when on the road is critical. Overall, it’s a worthy investment as they are generally affordable and can drastically increase your performance and won’t take too much extra luggage space.  

Asus ZenScreen MB16AC

Over the years I have been through so many over a dozen external monitors. They have always been very delicate and of course I break them! Mostly the older ASUS MB169B+, which is a decent option for most, if you are very careful and lucky when traveling. For a little more money you can get the new Asus ZenScreen MB16AC which is a better all around monitor with IPS display technology. 

Cost: $249.00

Specs: 

Wide Screen 15.6″ (39.6cm) 16:9
IPS Panel
1920×1080 Resolution 
1.7lbs
DisplayPort over USB-C (USB-C to USB-C) USB Type-C to A adapter

Whether on its own (for Thunderbolt 3 or USB Type-C with DisplayPort) or with an adapter (for USB Type-A), it should work on just about any laptop. At its essence, the ZenScreen is simple and easy to use.  Traditionally the problem with such a scenario has been how to power such a device and have the display connector. Running a separate AC wall plug is possible, but that degrades the mobility part – sure, you can take it with you, but you need a wall jack too. With the rise of USB Type-C, however, a single wire can power the display and transmit data. So, a laptop with USB-C capability is recommended. 

Accessories 

UGREEN Tablet/Screen Holder

A great small and portable stand option for the Asus ZenScreen MB16AC screen. The Asus ZenScreen MB16AC comes with a case that converts to a stand, but it’s very cumbersome. The UGREEN stand will free up some desk real-estate and provides increased stability with adjustable viewing angles. 

 

Price $8.99

Botend Adjustable Tablet/Screen Holder

If you prefer an elevated external screen the Botend Adjustable Tablet/Screen Holder is a great option. It secures screens very well, but comes at a slight cost of portability. 

Price $35.50

Roost Laptop Stand

Again, if you prefer your screens to be slightly elevated the Roost Stand is a must with the Botend Adjustable Holder.  When at home your monitors are on stands, so why on the road do you want everything flat on the table? This is not a natural viewing position and overtime can hurt your neck. For me, bringing the extra stands is well worth it; especially since I spend so much time on the road recently traveling and trading. Also, it looks way cooler! 

Price $74.95

Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810

If you decide to elevate your laptop and external monitor you’ll need to get a wireless keyboard. The Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 is designed to work with Windows, Android and iOS devices.  In short, this keyboard is amazing, sleek, good-looking and feels premium.

Price $70.49

Its main motto is “Easy-Switch.” That means that you can pair this keyboard with more than one device (with 3, actually) and then switch between them with a simple press of a button. So if you have 2 or 3 Bluetooth-enabled devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc.) in your living-room, connecting the keyboard to any of them should be quite fast.

The most important thing about a keyboard are its keys, so let’s take a closer look at them. The keys have a low-profile, they’re silent and they’re also slightly curved inside, following the natural form of our fingertips. 

In terms of battery life, the Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 promises to last you anywhere from 10 days to one whole year. Of course, that depends on how much you use your keyboard. If you write a lot and the illumination is on and maxed out, you’ll probably have to recharge the keyboard as often as every 10 days or so. The Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 is powered by a built-in battery which is recharged via a microUSB port found on top right edge of the keyboard. 

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