Using Netbooks for Trading Stocks & Shares
Read How to choose a stock trading laptop for what to look for when buying a laptop or mobile workstation for trading.
There have been many inexpensive laptop-like computers that have been released recently, with low power CPUs and very small form factors like the Dell Mini Inspiron, HP Mini, Lenovo IdeaPad, Asus EeePC etc. These computers have been dubbed Netbooks, presumably because the only thing these devices are perceived to be able to do is to surf the net and type out the odd document on Microsoft Word or OpenOffice. Given how light and small these devices are, can they be used as a mobile platform for trading stocks, shares and maybe even futures, forex and options? Are these devices able to replace the much more powerful laptops or desktops? Lets find out...
Typical Netbook Capabilities
Most of these netbooks are powered by ultra low voltage CPUs manufactured by Intel called the Atom. The current variants of the Atom come in 1.33 or 1.67 GHz, although faster ones and even dual core variants are in the pipeline. In terms of screen size, many of them come with LCD screens of 10.1" or smaller. Most, if not all netbooks, have a capability for VGA Out, i.e. you can connect an external LCD monitor of 1280 x 1024 or higher resolution. Some cheaper netbooks are bundled with a variant of the Linux operating system but the majority of netbooks sold still come with Windows pre-installed, with Windows XP being the pre-dominant favorite. Many newer netbooks also come with Windows Vista and as long as you have 1 GB or more RAM and you update your Vista to Service Pack 2 (SP2) or better, Vista will run perfectly fine and some consider it's performance and eye candy to be better than Windows XP. Microsoft's latest release, Windows 7 uses much less resources as compared to Vista and early indications show that Windows 7 seems to run very well on low powered netbooks (read using Windows 7 in a trading PC).
In terms of connectivity, most netbooks will have wired ethernet and 802.11 b/g wifi capabilities. Some netbooks also come equipped with a 3G module which allows anytime, anywhere connections as long as you have cellular network coverage. This capability however, can easily be obtained through third party 3G USB modems like the Huawei E220.
Running Trading Software & Applications on a Netbook.
Most trading software, like your charting or technical analysis tools and broker's trading platform do not require much computer resources to run. As long as Microsoft Windows XP (or better) can run on these devices, your trading software will most probably be able to run. As an example, Medved QuoteTracker, IQFeed and Interactive Brokers trading platform TWS run perfectly on a Kohjinsha SH6 netbook, which only has a 600MHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, a 1024x600 screen and which runs Microsoft Vista Home Premium SP2. The CPU usage at steady state is only about 30% with no noticeable lag and data for about 10 symbols streaming in. Add an external monitor, and you have a perfect mobile trading platform that can be used in a hotel room while on vacation! Problems, however, may surface if you use an application which does a lot of number crunching, for example like Excel or Wealth-Lab, which can scan thousands and thousands of stocks, in real-time looking for pre-determined technical criteria. In these instances, a netbook may not be the ideal or practical choice. It may still run but you may have to deal with a lot of lag and data slow downs. In such cases, a full-blown laptop with an Intel Core2Duo or better processor is recommended. Check out "What is the best laptop for stock trading".
In conclusion, it is possible and in most cases practical to use netbooks for trading stocks and shares. The important aspects to consider are whether the device runs on Microsoft Windows XP or better, if it has ample RAM or computer memory for all your trading software and applications (usually 1 GB or more) and whether it has the capability for VGA Out to connect to an external LCD monitor. Wireless connectivity options of having 3G built-in or not, very much depend or where the netbook is to be used and whether one is picky about an external 3rd party usb 3G modem sticking out of your unit.