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<Why Java Will Always Be Slower than C++ ⁄ >

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Anybody that has ever used a non-trivial Java program or has programmed in Java knows that Java is slower than native programs written in C++. This is a fact of life, something that we accept when we use Java.

However, many folks would like to convince us that this is just a temporary condition. Java is not slow by design, they say. Instead, it is slow because today's JIT implementations are relatively young and don't do all the optimizations they could.

This is incorrect. No matter how good the JITs get, Java will always be slower than C++.

The Idea
People who claim that Java can be as fast as C++ or even faster often base their opinion on the idea that more disciplined languages give the compiler more room for optimization. So, unless you are going to hand-optimize the whole program, the compiler will do a better job overall.

This is true. Fortran still kicks C++'s ass in numeric computing because it is more disciplined. With no fear of pointer aliasing the compiler can optimize better. The only way that C++ can rival the speed of Fortran is with a cleverly designed active library like Blitz++.

However, in order to achieve overall results like that, the language must be designed to give the compiler room for optimization. Unfortunately, Java was not designed that way. So no matter how smart the compilers get, Java will never approach the speed of C++.

The Benchmarks
Perversely, the only area in which Java can be as fast as C++ is a typical benchmark. If you need to calculate Nth Fibonacci number or run Linpack, there is no reason why Java cannot be as fast as C++. As long as all the computation stays in one class and uses only primitive data types like int and double, the Java compiler is on equal footing with the C++ compiler.

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