Introduction

Recently Bangkok Images has started a computer building service which I hope will serve the expatriate community when the local stores come up a bit short.  I’ve written an informational page here.

In the past I’ve brought you two other builds, both high-end imaging workstations, one in a mid-tower case  and another in a smaller compact case.  Both were popular pieces, but the compact build appealed to many.  So many in fact, that a well known high end custom builder started carrying this same model component for component.  You know what they say about imitation and flattery.

My computer builds aren’t merely a bunch of high end components bolted together.  Instead, each ‘build type’ is given a great deal of thought and a significant amount of research, and a “design” using available parts is decided upon.  Priorities are given first to function, then to reliability, and finally to the best aesthetics possible for a modern office.  My builds are designed for a 100% duty cycle, in that they can operate 24/7 and at full load if necessary.  Efficiency is important, but we want the PC to be as quiet as possible.  Finally it should be easy to clean so filters are located at all air intakes to encourage regular maintenance.

I’m not exaggerating when I say these systems are second to none.  There are no “standard” systems, each system is built to your unique requirements and budget.  If I feel you’ll be better served by a pre-built in a local shop I’ll tell you.  And I often do, I won’t build a system for a client when our priorities aren’t matched.

 

A PC For Day Trading

So it was interesting to be contacted to build a day trading machine.  A day trading machine doesn’t need the power of an imaging workstation, but it has its own unique requirements in that it needs to support 8 or more monitors.  All the other priorities apply, and in this case the client wanted the power as well.  So I’m going to briefly outline my reasoning for each component of this build as we go through it piece by piece.  In coming articles I’ll be individually reviewing the more interesting components and in this build there are many of those.

 

So it was interesting to be contacted to build a day trading machine.  A day trading machine doesn’t need the power of an imaging workstation, but it has its own unique requirements in that it needs to support 8 or more monitors.  All the other priorities apply, and in this case the client wanted the power as well.  So I’m going to briefly outline my reasoning for each component of this build as we go through it piece by piece.  In coming articles I’ll be individually reviewing the more interesting components and in this build there are many of those.

 

The Case

An attractive case is important, but a case does more than hold your components and look pretty.  A good case must have proper thermal flow for adequate cooling which is especially important in Thailand.  More, its acoustic signature should be very low so it’s not distracting while your work.  A quality case should also be easy to clean, so filters are required at the major air intakes.  And it goes without saying it should be well built, as light as possible for easy movement, and have easy access for the eventual replacement of components.

There are $25 cases, and there are $1000 cases.  Most often the $1000 cases are unique niche products not really useful for our applications.  But $25 cases have many sharp edges, low quality loud fans, fit and finish is poor, and they can generate a lot of noise.  What we want is a case where a proper amount of engineering went into the design to meet the above requirements, and quality components to meet the engineering requirements.  A case like this generally costs from $150-$300, maybe a bit more on the very high end.

When searching for such a case Lian-li is always high on my list to check first.  They’ve made a name as the Rolls Royce of computer cases and for good reason.  Checking their catalog I noticed a recent model, the PC-V1020  which comes in three popular colors, black, red, and silver.

 

When searching for such a case Lian-li is always high on my list to check first.  They’ve made a name as the Rolls Royce of computer cases and for good reason.  Checking their catalog I noticed a recent model, the PC-V1020  which comes in three popular colors, black, red, and silver.

 

The PC-V1020 is an all aluminum case with attractive anodizing.  This particular case has a pull out motherboard tray for easy access, USB 3.0 support on its top panel ports, and attractive matching optical drive bay access doors.  It has large 140mm fans on the front which ride on liquid bearings generating almost zero noise, and two 120mm fans on the top and back to exhaust the heated air.  It comes standard with insulated metal wheels and it can hold up to 8 3.5 inch drives, more if you get creative.  I won’t say more about this case until the review, but it is the perfect case for this build.  One of Lian-li’s best products yet.

As a bonus Lian-li makes an optional graphic card duct and fan to keep the video cards cool, and since we’d be running multiple graphics cards this option is highly desirable.

 

Motherboard

 

This client requested the newest x68 motherboard to support Intel’s latest new Sandy Bridge processor.  He also specified dual LAN ports because it’s common with day trading machines to have a backup internet service in the event one has service issues.  It turns out the dual LAN ports which used to be very common on previous generations of motherboards are relatively rare on the x68 series, but we still found a top quality Asus P8Z68 Deluxe ATX sized motherboard.

 

This client requested the newest x68 motherboard to support Intel’s latest new Sandy Bridge processor.  He also specified dual LAN ports because it’s common with day trading machines to have a backup internet service in the event one has service issues.  It turns out the dual LAN ports which used to be very common on previous generations of motherboards are now relatively rare on the x68 series, but we still found a top quality Asus P8Z68 Deluxe ATX sized motherboard.

 

This series of motherboards are built to very high standards to support gamers, features an imaging or day trading machine will benefit from even if we won’t be over clocking or gaming.  Thicker foil runs, 24 phase power regulation with high quality Japanese capacitors, a plethora of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and much more.  This is a high quality full featured motherboard with all the newest technology.  A perfect choice.

 

This series of motherboards is built to very high standards to support gamers, features an imaging or day trading machine will benefit from even if we won’t be over clocking or gaming.  Thicker foil runs, 24 phase power regulation with high quality Japanese capacitors, a plethora of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and much more.  This is a high quality full featured motherboard with all the newest technology.  A perfect choice.

 

CPU

Intels new Sandy Bridge desktop processors are very capable and they run cooler because they only generate 95 watts vs. the last generation which generated 135 watts.  Core for core, there isn’t a more powerful CPU made for the PC market.

 

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Random Access Memory (RAM)

There are 100’s of choices when it comes to RAM making it a daunting task to find the right RAM.  Each motherboard will have a listing of “tested and certified” RAM recommended.  From this list you can then look for the fastest and best quality RAM.  In our case the Asus P8X68 Deluxe natively supports RAM with speeds up to 2133, this means by selecting “Profile 1” in the BIOS the timing and clocking settings will be entered for you and you can be assured your RAM will work at these speeds without issue.

 

There are 100’s of choices when it comes to RAM.  It’s a daunting task to find the right RAM.  Each motherboard will have a listing of “tested and certified” RAM recommended.  From this list you can then look for the fastest and best quality RAM.  In our case the Asus P8X68 Deluxe natively supports RAM with speeds up to 2133, this means by selecting “Profile 1” in the BIOS the timing and clocking settings will be entered for you and you can be assured your RAM will work at these speeds without issue.

 

 

Gskill makes some of the best and most reliable RAM available.  It was easy to source their Ripjaws X series from the motherboard list of certified RAM, and the motherboard was also listed on the Gskill website as supported.  16gb would allow this client to keep all his day trading programs in memory for the best performance at all times.

 

CPU Cooler

 

There are even more CPU cooler choices than RAM choices.  Knowing which one works the best, fits in your case, and will clear your other components has been and continues to be the subject of many dedicated websites and testing mechanisms.  The average person doesn’t keep up on this level of detail, but I do.  I was looking for several factors.  The ability to cool, even in the tropical heat of Thailand, adjustability so the fan can be set no higher (or louder) than it needs to be, and I wanted the fans easily removable so they can be regularly cleaned and the cooling efficiency maintained.

 

There are even more CPU cooler choices than RAM choices.  Knowing which one works the best, fits in your case, and will clear your other components has been and continues to be the subject of many dedicated websites and testing mechanisms.  The average person doesn’t keep up on this level of detail, but I do.  I was looking for several factors.  The ability to cool, even in the tropical heat of Thailand, adjustability so the fan can be set no higher (or louder) than it needs to be, and I wanted the fans easily removable so they can be regularly cleaned and the cooling efficiency maintained.

 

The Thermaltake FrioOck currently sits at or near the top of each such testing site, had an adjustable rheostat, and an easily removable fan assembly.  It’s rated to dissipate 240 watts, and the Intel 2600k CPU only generates 95 watts.  Clearly this CPU cooler will do the job, and it will do it at the lowest fan sittings helping make the system as quiet as possible.

 

The Thermaltake FrioOck currently sits at or near the top of each such testing site, had an adjustable rheostat, and an easily removable fan assembly.  It’s rated to dissipate 240 watts, and the Intel 2600k CPU only generates 95 watts.  Clearly this CPU cooler will do the job, and it will do it at the lowest fan sittings helping make the system as quiet as possible.

 

Power Supply

I can’t stress enough how important a quality power supply is, and I don’t want to make you listen to the boring details while explaining why.  One way for an average consumer to tell about the quality and efficiency of a power supply is to check out the 80 Plus website here. This is an independent testing organization in the mold of the Underwriters Laboratory.  Any power supply earning their rating is probably “good”, but any power supply earning their gold and platinum ratings are almost always excellent.

 

I can’t over stress how important a quality power supply is, and I don’t want to go into the boring details of explaining why.  One way for an average consumer to tell about the quality and efficiency of a power supply is to check out the 80 Plus website here. This is an independent testing organization in the mold of the Underwriters Laboratory.  Any power supply earning their rating is probably “good”, but any power supply earning their gold and platinum ratings are almost always excellent.

 

At the time I sourced this computer SeasonicUSA’s X-series earned an 80 plus Gold rating and was easily one of the better power supplies on the market.  Since, they’ve come out (this week in fact) with an 80 plus Platinum lineup I’ll check out soon.  Because this client would be running multiple video cards to support his 8-12 monitors, 16gb of RAM, and a high-power CPU, we wanted to be sure to have enough power.  And because this particular power supply has a hybrid fan that only cuts on at greater than a 50% load, it sure would be nice to have the fan rarely cut on.  We selected the Seasonic X-serires 850 watt power supply.  I’ll be writing a review on this gem, it exceeded every requirement and expectation.

 

Video Cards

For a day trading PC the video cards are vital.  You want to be able to run as many monitors from a card as possible, and support DVI and HDMI outputs which are the most common inputs on reasonably priced monitors commonly used with day trading machines.  There are cards which support 6 Displayport monitors, but this client already had DVI monitors.

 

For a day trading PC the video cards are vital.  You want to be able to run as many monitors from a card as possible, and support DVI and HDMI outputs which are the most common inputs on reasonably priced monitors commonly used with day trading machines.  There are cards which support 6 Displayport monitors, but this client already had DVI monitors.

 

We searched and came up with the Sapphire FleX HD 5670 1gb GDDR5 boards which can support up to four DVI monitors each.  The price was very reasonable as well.  We ordered 3, and we ordered 3 HDMI to DVI cables, and 3 Displayport to DVI active adapters, all sourced from Sapphire for maximum compatibility.

 

We searched and came up with the Sapphire FleX HD 5670 1gb GDDR5 boards which can support up to four DVI monitors each.  The price was very reasonable as well.  We ordered 3, and we ordered 3 HDMI to DVI cables, and 3 Displayport to DVI active adapters, all sources their Sapphire for maximum compatibility.

 

System Drive

Reliability more than speed is a key requirement of a day trading PC so the choice was easy, we sourced an Intel 320 Series 160gb SSD to use as our system drive.  I reviewed one of these earlier here.

 

Reliability more than speed is a key requirement of a day trading PC so the choice was easy, we sources an Intel 320 Series 160gb SSD to use as our system drive.  I reviewed one of these earlier here.

 

This is a tested solid choice which runs about in the middle of the pack when it comes to speed, but is at the head of the pack when it comes to reliability.  For our purposes I don’t know of a better choice.

 

This is a tested solid choice which runs about in the middle of the pack when it comes to speed, but is a the head of the pack when it comes to reliability.  For our purposes I don’t know of a better choice.

 

 

Data Drive

A day traders data storage requirements are not anywhere near as large as a photographers would be, but the reliability of that data is just as important.  When it comes to a high quality data drive one stands head and shoulders above the crowd and that is the Western Digital Caviar Black.  We chose a 2tb model for this build.  To be clear, we put our operating system and programs on our system drive, and our data, music, and videos on our data drive.

 

A day traders data storage requirements are not anywhere near as large as a photographers would be, but the reliability of that data is just as important.  When it comes to a high quality data drive one stands head and shoulders above the crowd and that is the Western Digital Black.  We chose a 2tb model for this build.  To be clear, we put our operating system and programs on our system drive, and our data, music, and videos on our data drives.

 

Misc Drives

For an optical we selected a basic LITEON DVD/DVDRW iHAS424-98 with Lightscribe support.

 

For an optical we selected a basic LITEON DVD/DVDRW iHAS424-98 with Lightscribe support.

 

And for a flash memory reader a USB 3.0 supported Koutech IO-RCM630 3.5 inch front panel device.

 

And for a flash memory reader a USB 3.0 supported Koutech IO-RCM630 3.5 inch front panel device.

 

 

The Build

The build was easy because of the Lian-li PC-V1020b’s pull out motherboard tray.

 

Here we mount Intel CPU 2600k on the the Asus P8Z68 Deluxe motherboard making sure we’re wearing an anti-stat strap.  Anti-stat straps are critical to ensure trouble/glitch free systems.

 

Here we mount Intel CPU 2600k on the the Asus P8Z68 Deluxe motherboard making sure we’re wearing an anti-stat strap.  Anti-stat straps are critical to ensure trouble/glitch free systems.

 

Then we mount the motherboard on the pull out tray making sure to snug down the mounting screws, but not to cause damage by over tightening.

 

Then we mount the motherboard on the pull out tray making sure to snug down the mounting screws, but not to cause damage by over tightening.

 

Mounting the RAM modules can be a bit tricky.

 

Mounting the RAM modules can be a bit tricky.

 

They need to be carefully aligned with the aligning pins and then pressed down hard until the retainers click firmly.  Many are afraid to press this hard, but if your motherboard is properly mounted the RAM modules will click right in as they should.

 

They need to be carefully aligned with the aligning pins and then pressed down hard until the retainers click firmly.  Many are afraid to press this hard, but if your motherboard is properly mounted the RAM modules will click right in as they should.

 

Next we’ll mount the Thermaltake FrioOck CPU cooler using the manufacturers directions for the mount and thermal paste application.  It’s critical this is done right to ensure good cooling, and that the fans blow air across the heatsink and out the back plane exhaust fan.

 

Next we’ll mount the Thermaltake FrioOck CPU cooler using the manufacturers directions for the mount and thermal paste application.  It’s critical this is done right to ensure good cooling, and that the fans blow air across the heatsink and out the back plane exhaust fan.

 

Looking down on the CPU cooler you can see how close it is to the RAM modules and other components.  Proper selection is vital.

 

Looking down on the CPU cooler you can see how close it is to the RAM modules and other components.  Proper selection is vital.

 

Now the three video cards can be mounted and this finishes up the back plane

 

Now the three video cards can be mounted and this finishes up the back plane

 

Next we’ll mount the case face plate to the power supply making sure the power supply is orientated so the fan is facing down where it can draw air in throw the cutout andfilter.

 

Next we’ll mount the case face plate to the power supply making sure the power supply is orientated so the fan is facing down where it can draw air in through the case cutout and filter.

 

We’ll slide the power supply into the chassis and secure it with the four thumbscrews.

 

We’ll slide the power supply into the chassis and secure it with the four thumbscrews.

 

The SSD and WD Caviar Black 2tb hard drive are now mounted in the drive bays.

 

The SSD and WD Caviar Black 2tb hard drive are now mounted in the drive bays.

 

Here we have the backplane slide in and secured and the cables for the power supply and SATA connectors ran.  I can’t stress how important it is to properly mount run the cables so they don’t interfere with air flow.  It doesn’t take much to knock out 40-50% of your airflow with cabling, so when possible run your cables behind the motherboard and bring them through a cutout right where they’re needed.

 

Here we have the backplane slide in and secured and the cables for the power supply and SATA connectors ran.  I can’t stress how important it is to properly mount and run the cables so they don’t interfere with air flow.  It doesn’t take much to knock out 40-50% of your airflow with cabling, so when possible run your cables behind the motherboard and bring them through a cutout right where they’re needed.

If this is done right the case should look very clean and neat.  Also note the black square device over the video cards?  I didn’t show this earlier, but this is the Lian-li optional BS-06 duct and fan to vent the hot air away from the video cards.

 

Basically this is it.  The machine is built.  The optical drive and flash memory 3.5 inch adapter are in the upper area where you can see them from the front.  The Asus P8Z68 Deluxe motherboard also comes with a 3.5 inch USB 3.0 dual port adapter which you can see right above the flash memory reader.

 

Basically this is it.  The machine is built.  The optical drive and flash memory 3.5 inch adapter are in the upper area where you can see them from the front.  The Asus P8Z68 Deluxe motherboard also comes with a 3.5 inch USB 3.0 dual port adapter which you can see right above the flash memory reader.

 

The back view shows the rear of the video cards, the rear of the power supply, the back connectors, the rear exhaust fan, and those four black thumbscrews at the middle right hold on the optional video exhaust duct/fan.

 

The back view shows the rear of the video cards, the rear of the power supply, the back connectors, the rear exhaust fan, and those four black thumbscrews at the middle right hold on the optional video exhaust duct/fan.

 

This is the completed PC with only the side cover left to attach.  I’m pleased with the cable routing, the tight but perfect fit of the CPU cooler, the airflow, and it’s nice that there’s room for 7 more 3.5 inch hard drives and 5 more 2.5” drives.

 

This is the completed PC with only the side cover left to attach.  I’m pleased with the cable routing, the tight but perfect fit of the CPU cooler, the airflow, and it’s nice that there’s room for 7 more 3.5 inch hard drives and 5 more 2.5” drives.

 

Performance

Unfortunately I don’t have 8 monitors laying around to test this system fully, but I did manage to connect four monitors.  After installing Windows 7 x64 Ultimate SP1, all the updates, updated the motherboard BIOS, 2 chipset firmwares, and all the drivers, I gave it one more close look before plugging it into an adequately sized APC UPS device and powering it up.

Immediately and silently the new Day Trading PC came to life and booted into the new UEFI BIOS which is a new style of BIOS which allows your mouse to navigate the menus.  It also natively supports hard disks larger than 2.2tb.  There are other accessibility related enhancements mostly useful for those who overclock.

With ambient temperatures of 28c the CPU cores at idle varied rom 28-31c.  Using Prime95 which puts all four cores at 100% load for as long as I want, after two hours the CPU never went above 50c.  Mostly it was 48-50c. The GPU’s stayed right at 42-45c.  For grins I removed the optional duct/fan and the temps shot up to over 70c almost immediately.  I’m glad we added this option.

In all my testing I never noticed the power supply fan cut on.  With the sides on you can’t hear the two CPU cooler fans, the (2) front 140mm fans at full speed are silent, and the two 120mm exhaust fans don’t make enough noise to be heard from a meter way.  What does make noise is the (3) GPU fans from the (3) video cards.  This is to be expected, video cards almost always come with low quality fans.  It would be possible to add an Arctic Cooler brand fan to 2 of the 3 video cards, but there isn’t enough room to do all three.  Mostly though it’s a silent machine.  If on the floor you can’t hear it at all. If on an actual desktop you’ll hear it a bit, but if you sat it on a rubber pad most of that would go away.

Now that we had everything sorted, updated, and 4 monitors connected, I ran benchmarks.  I’m not going to post them here, it’s well known that the Intel 2600k is the fastest 4 core processor available.  If we were making the ultimate video editing PC we’d use another CPU, but for most users out there the 2600K is the best CPU available.  Until 3 days ago when the 2700K hit the shelves with a slightly faster clock.  Ivy Bridge is expected out towards the middle of next year and that will be the next major step for CPU’s.

Yes, the CPU and RAM is overkill for a day trading PC, but many guys who day trade also game, they own cameras and process images, and in a quality machine you’re just not going to save much with a lesser CPU in the grander scheme of things.

After burning it in at 100% load for 72 hours I packed it for shipping to Thailand.  Damage during shipping occurs when heavier components like the video cards, CPU cooler, drives, power supply, and so forth are allowed to move around.  To protect the system I pack high-density foam in every crack and crevice, photographed the innards, put a red dot on every piece of material which needs to be removed, and then put the sides on and double boxed the entire thing.

 

After burning it in at 100% load for 72 hours I packed it for shipping to Thailand.  Damage during shipping occurs when heavier components like the video cards, CPU cooler, drives, power supply, and so forth are allowed to move around.  To protect the system I pack high-density foam in every crack and crevice, photograph the innards, put a red dot on every piece of material which needs to be removed, and then put the sides on and double box the entire thing.

 

Summary

 

This is a great PC and not just for day trading.  The case is very attractive, the system is mostly silent, and it can run 24/7 at 100% load without breaking a sweat.  I’m confident it’s put together to a higher standard than you’re likely to find anywhere.  Why?  Because I take the time to design it right, and to put it together right.  Then I test the heck out of it.  Other custom builders I’m sure can do as well, but in my experience most don’t take the time to understand the customers needs and they’re paying someone in the backroom minimum wage to put it together.  It just doesn’t get the higher level of attention from design to assembly to testing.

 

This is a great PC and not just for day trading.  The case is very attractive, the system is mostly silent, and it can run 24/7 at 100% load without breaking a sweat.  I’m confident it’s put together to a higher standard than you’re likely to find anywhere.  Why?  Because I take the time to design it right, and to put it together right.  Then I test the heck out of it.  Other custom builders I’m sure can do as well, but in my experience most don’t take the time to understand the customers needs and they’re paying someone in the backroom minimum wage to put it together.  It just doesn’t get the higher level of attention from design to assembly to testing.

I’m always a bit sad to ship them out.  Each machine represents the very latest in design and available parts, so each one is special . A machine made just two weeks later will take advantage of any advancements and new parts availability.  With this one, if I built it two weeks later it would have the Intel 2700k CPU, the X-series Platinum, and the newer P8Z68 Deluxe V3 motherboard.  Would any of these make a difference?  Yes, but only an incremental difference and that’s the nature of the PC market. DAILY new and improved items are coming on the market.  We live in great times!

If you’re interested in having a custom PC built, I encourage you to read the primer on my website  and then contact me if I can be of service.