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Why is processing a sorted array faster than an unsorted array?


Here is a piece of C++ code that seems very peculiar. For some strange reason, sorting the data miraculously makes the code almost six times faster.

#include
#include
#include

int main()
{
    // Generate data
    const unsigned arraySize = 32768;
    int data[arraySize];

    for (unsigned c = 0; c < arraySize; ++c)
        data[c] = std::rand() % 256;

    // !!! With this, the next loop runs faster
    std::sort(data, data + arraySize);

    // Test
    clock_t start = clock();
    long long sum = 0;

    for (unsigned i = 0; i < 100000; ++i)
    {
        // Primary loop
        for (unsigned c = 0; c < arraySize; ++c)
        {
            if (data[c] >= 128)
                sum += data[c];
        }
    }

    double elapsedTime = static_cast(clock() - start) / CLOCKS_PER_SEC;

    std::cout << elapsedTime << std::endl;
    std::cout << "sum = " << sum << std::endl;
}
Without std::sort(data, data + arraySize);, the code runs in 11.54 seconds.
With the sorted data, the code runs in 1.93 seconds.
Initially, I thought this might be just a language or compiler anomaly. So I tried it in Java.

import java.util.Arrays;
import java.util.Random;

public class Main
{
    public static void main(String[] args)
    {
        // Generate data
        int arraySize = 32768;
        int data[] = new int[arraySize];

        Random rnd = new Random(0);
        for (int c = 0; c < arraySize; ++c)
            data[c] = rnd.nextInt() % 256;

        // !!! With this, the next loop runs faster
        Arrays.sort(data);

        // Test
        long start = System.nanoTime();
        long sum = 0;

        for (int i = 0; i < 100000; ++i)
        {
            // Primary loop
            for (int c = 0; c < arraySize; ++c)
            {
                if (data[c] >= 128)
                    sum += data[c];
            }
        }

        System.out.println((System.nanoTime() - start) / 1000000000.0);
        System.out.println("sum = " + sum);
    }
}
With a somewhat similar, but less extreme result.

My first thought was that sorting brings the data into the cache, but my next thought was how silly that is, because the array was just generated.

What is going on?
Why is a sorted array faster than an unsorted array?
The code is summing up some independent terms, and the order should not matter.
asked May 25, 2015 in Core java by rahulgii
0 votes
103 views



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