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Trading with 4K Ultra High Definition Monitors Feels Great

By Lawrence  

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One morning when I tried to turn on my 28 inch monitor, it just turned all white on the screen. I cannot enable its menu system using its control buttons. Turning it off and on again does not help. Resetting the monitor to its default settings does not help either. My monitor simply died after my recent relocation. Instead of just replacing it with a new one, I decided to try something different this time as the price of the 4K ultra high definition (4K UHD) monitors has come down a lot with many choices to choose from. My experience from this recent purchase has been a great one.

4K Ultra High Definition Means Business

Regular high definition (HD) resolution gives us 1920×1080 screen space. That’s pretty good for normal usage including most business activities. For trading, however, we need many windows – charts, quotes, order placement, position tracking, etc.  all open and visible at the same time. With one monitor, it is just good for a few chart windows. Since we cannot have them piled up like normal computer users, we often ended up with multiple monitors on our desk.

4K ultra high definition gives us 3840×2160 screen space. It is the same as piling 4 HD monitors in a 2 by 2 formation. Instead of having 4 monitors occupying a lot of physical space, one 4K UHD monitor replaces them all. It is probably the most exciting news for traders since the last major breakthrough in trading technology – the ability to place orders on the internet.

4K UHD is not something new. It was rolled out for some time already. When it was first introduced, the price point was very high. The graphic cards available at the time were also not stable enough to support them. Now, after several generations later, not only both the 4K UHD monitors and graphic cards supporting them have come down in price, their stability also improved significantly. It is now a good time to consider whether 4K UHD is for you.

You Need a Decent Graphic Card

Do not rush to buy a 4K UHD monitor yet because your computer may not be able to support it. For example, even though my computer is several years old only, the model of the graphic card in it was at least one generation older than the computer itself. Hence it cannot support the 4K ultra high definition.

A decent graphic card supporting 4K UHD does not cost you an arm and a leg these days. Just make sure you check the specification that the card supports 4K UHD and that the power supply unit in your computer can handle the power requirement of the graphic card. Sometimes the manufacturer overstates the power requirement because they expect the users are likely going to push the usage to the limit. Trading platforms, however, do not need the kind of power consumption like gaming or 3D graphic rendering. Hence, your computer may get by if you use only one 4K UHD monitor with the card and that you limit your computing activities to trading and regular usage only.

The Obscure World of Windows 8 and Windows 10

Windows 8 introduced a new feature not found in prior versions of Windows called Dynamic Scaling. It makes Windows 8 more friendly towards mobile devices. However, this feature would defeat what traders usually want from their precise screen space. Worse yet, the dynamic scaling often mess up the visual elements within our trading platforms. I wrote about this with detail solution to disable Dynamic Scaling so that we can fully utilize the screen space.

Windows 10 has the same default settings with Dynamic Scaling. Thus there is no escape from making the adjustments necessary to allow our trading platforms to function properly. The good news is that it is a one time thing. Once you have made the necessary changes, you can forget about it.

The Near Unreadable Letters on Windows 7

For Windows 7 or earlier versions of Windows, we have a completely opposite problem to what happens with Windows 8. If your 4K UHD monitor is 32 inch or less, you may find that initially the displayed text are pretty much too small to read. After all, if you are comfortable with your trusted 28 inch monitor having 1920×1080 resolution and then suddenly switch to 4K UHD on the same physical size, we are talking about seeing the same text at 25% the original size. For people with very good eyes, they can still see it but it will put a lot of stress on the eyes for sure. Traders spend a lot of time in front of the screen. Trust me on this, making your screen comfortable to look at for prolonged period of time is very important for trading success.

To compensate for the reduced physical size of the fonts, you may have to use the Windows 7 display option to increase the overall text size to 125% or 150%. You need to test it yourself to see what you are comfortable with.

For Trading Purpose We Need to Strike a Balance

As you can see, what the 4K UHD monitor can provide us is not quite 4 monitors in one. It is more like giving us the screen space of 3 to 3.5 HD monitors. For those of us who only need 2 HD monitors for trading, one 4K UHD monitor is more than enough. But for those of you who fully utilize 4 HD monitors for trading, one 4K UHD monitor will not be enough due to the need of increasing the font size to handle the visibility issue.

Physically, even though 4K UHD monitors can give us the precious screen space we need for trading, we cannot see the charts clearly if they are too small for our eyes. It is likely we will need slightly bigger charts in terms of pixel counts to make them work. The price ladders for order placement may also need to change the font size and other settings to make them functional. Hence if you are making the transition to 4K UHD monitors, expect to spend some time to adjust all the visual elements on your trading platforms before you can trade comfortably.

Summary

My first experience of using 4K UHD display was with my new laptop. After using it for a while on the road, 4K UHD display just grows on me. The convenience and compactness of being able to display all the things I need for trading outweigh the hassle of adjusting the visual settings on my trading platforms. It took me like a day to experiment with the settings and to find the solution to fix Windows 8. It took another day for me to reposition / resize all my windows to my liking for trading purpose.

I have to admit that I am quite fuzzy about my charts. As a trader, you would understand because it just does not feel right when the windows are not organized and displayed in a way that we get a better feel for the market. A nicely organized trading environment, both physically with our trading office and visually on our computers, can improve our ability to trade with better consistency. Sensory feedback is unique for everyone. It is as important as the understanding of price structure in trading.

I am now very happy to trade with just one 4K UHD monitor. Going forward I do not plan to buy any more HD monitors for trading. It is time for me to sell the ones I have on hand as soon as possible.

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Comments
  • Minty415  November 7, 2015 at 10:19:56

    Is your new 4k monitor also 28″ in size? I would imagine getting at least 34″ is better and not have to increase the text size as much.

    • Lawrence  November 8, 2015 at 13:58:56

      The size jumps from 28 to 32 to 40. I tested the 28 and 32 ones. The 32 inches one I got still takes 150% font size to make things not too small for prolonged reading. I actually tried to read a book with various font sizing to see how bad it can get. =)

      • Lawrence  November 8, 2015 at 14:02:04

        That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the 28 inch ones. The “physical efficiency” depends on your eyesight. I will say the 28 inch ones gives you about 2.5 monitors in 1 while the 32 inch ones give you 3+ monitors in 1.

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