The "best" Forex platforms for a demo/practice account? (MT4, MT5 and cTrader)


jack

Administrator
Staff member
I'm often asked about which broker is best to 'DEMO' on when first learning forex.

Here's the thing: demo will not prepare you for live trading. You'll still be learning when you go live. However, it's important you know the basics and even more so that you know how to operate any given platform, and for that a demo account is a great start.

Forex is dominated by just a few major platforms. Some brokers offer platforms developed in-house by their own team, but most brokers offer platforms by one of two major vendors: MetaQuotes and Spotware.

We will be using demos from Pepperstone and Darwinex for this article.

MetaQuotes offers the MetaTrader platforms. This platform family is old as dirt and is probably the most wide spread platform in the retail forex world. Right now there are two major releases on offer with most brokers: MetaTrader 4, and MetaTrader 5. There's benefits and drawbacks of both:

MT4
Pros:​

  • Wider set of community created indicators, strategies, and scripts available.
  • MQL4 (the language the MT4 uses,) is less complex to use than it's older brother (MQL5) and has a cleaner API.
  • Currently more brokers support MT4 (but that's changing as MetaQuotes has been forcing brokers over to MT5 for a while now.)
Cons:​

  • 32 bit, single threaded application. You're just not going to be able to toss more hardware at this guy to fix slowness.. The code base was first written way back when a single core machine would be "beefy" with just 2gb or 4gb of ram. It's not designed to scale up with most hardware.
  • Lacks native exchange/ECN support, must be fed quotes by a single source dealer. This platform was designed to be used by dealing brokers / market makers. It has no support for proper exchanges. All ECN brokers who use MT4 are feeding the top of book on their ECN through a bridge to MT4 server or using other plugins to make it work.

MT5
Pros:​

  • Native exchange and ECN support. Depth of market and proper order book support for exchange-like ECNs and even Futures Exchanges in some cases.
  • Can make use of multiple cores on your PC for backtesting and even tap into a cloud of compute units should you want to pay for quicker results.
  • Decent online community (thanks to MT4 roots) to help with issues.
  • This will be the new standard once MT4 is fully retired (soon, so threatens MetaQuotes over the last 5+ years.)
Cons:​

  • Still dealing with MT4-like interface. Missed opportunity to refresh and make the user interface better.
  • Depth of market window provided is not a drop-in replacement for a proper DOM as seen in various futures platforms.

Right now I'm recommending people use Darwinex for their MT4/5 needs. You can create a demo login with Darwinex here and create as many perpetual demo accounts as you'd like. Why Darwinex? Because after registering a demo account with them, you can have all your account stats tracked and a score given. This allows you to compare strategies (just generate multiple MT4/5 accounts within your demo login for each strategy,) as well as give you metrics to work on as you are learning. I feel Darwinex does a better job measuring performance than you'll find elsewhere online and there's no need to link your data to a 3rd party since it's all in-house.

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Spotware offers cTrader (and cAlgo.) This platform family is newer but probably has been the biggest competition MetaTrader has seen in the better part of two decades.

cTrader
Pros:​

  • Fresh interface that can be customized and accessed via desktop, web, and mobile platforms all while syncing preferences and workspaces between devices.
  • Full support for Apple / Mac platforms via a fully featured web interface (yes, MT5 has a web interface as well, but cTrader's interface is feature compatible to the desktop software where as MT5's web interface is feature limited.)
  • C# based algo system allowing the import and use of many common C# libraries. (This is actually a pretty big deal.)
Cons:​

  • Less freely available indicators and custom code written for this platform as the community that uses is is smaller and it has only been around for a few years.
  • Fewer brokers use cTrader when compared to MT4/5, but this number is growing.

Right now I'm recommending people use Pepperstone for their cTrader needs. You can create a demo login with Pepperstone here. Why Pepperstone? They have grown to be one of the largest retail FX brokers over the last decade and have amazing customer support. They will treat you well with questions even while you're demoing and, in my opinion, are the strongest cTrader offering out there at the moment.

I hope this helps anyone new to the FX game who is looking to master a platform and wrap their head around how the act of taking a trade even happens. Please feel free to post any questions or comments on this article here.

Cheers,
Jack
 
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