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PiGuy314
Topic Author
Posts: 2
Joined: May 16th, 2020, 6:35 pm

Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 3rd, 2020, 3:44 pm

Hi all, new to the forum. I am interested in getting a new desktop computer and was wondering what computer specifications I should be looking for when it comes to quant finance. I don't have the best knowledge when it comes to emphasizing RAM speed over Processing speed, etc. Most of my searching online boils down to getting the best computers for gaming but I do not use online gaming.

I am looking for the best specifications on a computer for handling processing large amounts of data in Excel, etc. Can anyone let me know what they use and what they think would serve me best for quant finance? It can either be "buy a Dell xxxx" or "the most important specs are processing speed of at least xxx GHz and xxx of RAM".

Thanks much.
 
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trackstar
Posts: 27426
Joined: August 28th, 2008, 1:53 pm

Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 3rd, 2020, 10:17 pm

Hi PiGuy314

I would not be "The Expert" here, but since no one responded, I can provide a few ideas and links.

First, you need to decide if you are just going to lean on Excel/VBA forever, or if you are prepared and/or will need to go a bit further.  If you are thinking about writing code yourself, whether C, C++/ C#, or Java, or Python, this will help to guide your choices.

 I have been looking at Linux machines myself lately (again), but I am comfortable with Macs and willing to pay for what they can offer.

For education on hardware, you can query www.stackexchange.com.  It is a vast repository of threads and may take a while to focus in, but you will learn good stuff along the way.

I would also say look at the following in terms of learning about tools for handling large data sets in various computing environments:

https://spark.apache.org
 https://hadoop.apache.org
and
www.python.org

See also:

https://cloud.google.com/docs/compare/aws
https://aws.amazon.com 
https://www.ibm.com/cloud/architecture/ ... vate-azure
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/

for examples of cloud computing resources. 
Being agnostic about vendor here, but it might be useful to learn about these offerings. 
If you are ready to dive in (or when you become ready!), many offer a free trial for a decent length of time, so you can test drive them before committing.

This is just a small sample of ideas - there would be others for sure, but I think you will benefit from defining your current needs and near future goals more clearly and then taking the path that makes the most sense. If you are a student on a budget, that means one thing,  If you are an entrepreneur in the space, that means another. If your company will pay for your resources, there are probably corporate standards, company discounts, and IT folks right around you who can help.

I used to have Dell machines through and beyond graduate school, and worked on Linux boxes I built myself in the early 2000s, but then I switched to Macs over ten years ago.  The next step for me, if I were to leave MacWorld now, would not necessarily be back to Dell, but that is not a prejudice, just an evolution.

Hopefully others will weigh in - it is fun to learn about hardware and capabilities, so enjoy, immerse yourself in RAM, DRAM, SSD, and GHz, and good luck!
Last edited by trackstar on June 4th, 2020, 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
 
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bearish
Posts: 5623
Joined: February 3rd, 2011, 2:19 pm

Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 3rd, 2020, 10:38 pm

As trackstar is alluding to, if your sense of big data is a very large Excel workbook (not that there is anything wrong with that) then it barely matters these days. $500 would almost certainly get you a perfectly adequate solution, including a good monitor. In terms of trade-offs I would go for RAM first, at least 16GB, then a solid state drive (SSD), but not necessarily a big one. I'd probably rather have a 256GB SSD along with a 2TB standard drive than a 512GB SSD for the same price. If we misunderstood you, and you are actually thinking petabytes or exabytes of financial data, then you should say so, and somebody with more technical skills may chime in.
 
PiGuy314
Topic Author
Posts: 2
Joined: May 16th, 2020, 6:35 pm

Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 4th, 2020, 3:21 am

Hi trackstar and bearish, thanks for the great responses. Yeah, I should have been more clear that my idea of "big data" wasn't just Excel files. And I'm sure with the recommendations you have provided that the processing of Excel will be more than sufficient. I'm definitely thinking more along the lines of writing codes and processing big data but not in the petabyte or exabyte range (but hey, who knows) at the moment. I'll be using this system for quant finance in conjunction with some other personal requirements that I need to use Excel for so I'm leaning away from Apple products (I just can't seem to get the Mac version of Excel down like I do on PC but that is my issue). I'll take a look at the resources you provided, trackstar, and thanks for the incite on the storage and RAM suggestions, bearish. Would either of you be willing to share what systems you use to process the data in your job (trackstar, I know you mentioned Mac)? Is there some ideal setup you would like taking the cost out of the picture? Thanks again to both of you.  
 
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trackstar
Posts: 27426
Joined: August 28th, 2008, 1:53 pm

Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 4th, 2020, 12:26 pm

I actually answered your question because I am shopping too, but only for laptops, as I am bicoastal and on the road a lot.

That said, for your purposes, I'd focus on Dell, Lenovo, and Mac if you care to make that transition.

I'm also interested in Nvidia and the GeForce machines are very cool - but not so much for your purposes.  
Also, Nvidia have not embraced Open Source as much as one might hope.  Whatever I get next, I want it to be Linux-friendly; I will use a mainstream and well-supported distribution like Ubuntu. But you may not need to think about that at all.

Perhaps some folks that still have desktops and are focused on Excel can help out more - the advice bearish gave on basic specs is solid.

Good luck! 
 
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bearish
Posts: 5623
Joined: February 3rd, 2011, 2:19 pm

Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 4th, 2020, 1:55 pm

I am a Mac user at home and definitely get the point about Excel being subtly annoying on that platform if you are a virtuoso on the Windows version. As for at work, we’ve been heading rapidly and decisively toward desktop virtualization, so the comparison to stand alone boxes becomes murky at best. We currently operate with somewhat underpowered (Windows) VDIs coupled with quant dedicated compute servers (Windows and Linux). We don’t yet have access to on-demand cloud resources, but that seems to be in the near future. And probably worth exploring for personal use, too, if you have only occasional need for serious compute power.
 
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Cuchulainn
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Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 4th, 2020, 2:30 pm

I use a Unicomp/IBM keyboard attached to my laptop. The keys when pressed make a noise ... there is no Enter ,,, it is called a Hard Return.

https://www.pckeyboard.com/

It gives me the feeling that I am working on a real computer.

I am looking for the best specifications on a computer for handling processing large amounts of data in Excel, etc. 
What are the requirements? 
Apart from the fact that Excel and large amounts of data could mean anything. 
 
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Cuchulainn
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Re: Best Computer Specifications for Quant Finance

June 5th, 2020, 1:11 pm

Seriously, do an estimation of the 'size' (memory, throughput etc.) of your and decide what you need. That's how it used to be done.

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