BigDecimal performance

Joe Darcy joe.darcy at
Fri Feb 7 18:23:34 UTC 2014


FWIW, I filed and then eventually closed as will not fix

     JDK-4529368: RFE: Add a BigBinary class for arbitrary precision 
floating-point computation

If such a BigBinary type existed, I would certainly use it when writing 
tests of double mathematical functions, but in the Java ecosystem, I'm 
not sure where else it would get used.

The BigDecimal type supports both floating-point and fixed-point styles 
of computation. In floating-point computation, whatever the base, 
conceptually the number of digits of precision is fixed and a separate 
exponent field is used to represent values of different magnitudes. With 
BigDecimal, the precision can be varied by using the arithmetic methods 
which take a MathContext object as an argument.

I'm not sure which algorithm you used to compute pi, but I would be very 
surprised by a ~8 X speed difference between BigInteger and BigDecimal 
if the same computation was being under on the BigDecimal values, 
meaning the BigIntegers held in the BigDecimals were the same as the 
BigIntegers in the BigInteger computation. A BigDecimal object is a 
fairly small wrapper around a BigInteger and updating the scale/exponent 
field isn't too much additional work.



On 02/07/2014 02:44 AM, Dmitry Nadezhin wrote:
> I think that better name is BigBinary.
> Both BigDecimal and BigBinary are floating-point number
> with radix=10 and radix=2 respectively.
> More general approach is an abstract class or interface Rational
> which has implementation subclasses.
> Each nonzero rational number P/Q can be represented as
> P/Q = p/q * 2^e , where e is integer, p and q are odd integers and GCD(p,q)
> = 1.
> Then BigBinary is a subclass with q=1.
> Arithmetic operations on Rationals are implemented by general algorithm
> when arguments are true
> rationals (q!=1) and by specific algorithms when they are Binaries (q=1).
> This is elaborated here:
> On Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 9:11 PM, Tim Buktu <tbuktu at> wrote:
>> Hi,
>> now that BigInteger deals better with large numbers, it would be nice
>> for that to translate into an improvement in BigDecimal performance
>> because BigDecimal is essentially a wrapper around BigInteger.
>> Unfortunately, BigDecimal is still slower than BigInteger because it has
>> to scale and round.
>> I don't see a way to fix this without breaking the
>> BigDecimal=BigInteger*10^n paradigm, but it could be done by introducing
>> something like a BigFloat class that wraps a BigInteger such that
>> BigFloat=BigInteger*2^n. I would expect the code to be less complex than
>> BigDecimal because the only places it would have to deal with powers of
>> ten would be conversion from and to String or BigDecimal. It would also
>> be faster than BigDecimal for the same reason, but the downside is that
>> it wouldn't accurately represent decimal fractions (just like float and
>> double).
>> Is this something that would be beneficial in the real world?
>> I also did a little experiment to see how long a computation would take
>> using BigDecimals vs the same computation using fixed-point BigInteger
>> arithmetic. I wrote two programs that calculate pi to a million digits.
>> The BigInteger version took 3 minutes; the BigDecimal version took 28
>> minutes (both single-threaded).
>> Tim

More information about the core-libs-dev mailing list