Decimal vs Double Speed

decimaldoublefinance

I write financial applications where I constantly battle the decision to use a double vs using a decimal.

All of my math works on numbers with no more than 5 decimal places and are not larger than ~100,000. I have a feeling that all of these can be represented as doubles anyways without rounding error, but have never been sure.

I would go ahead and make the switch from decimals to doubles for the obvious speed advantage, except that at the end of the day, I still use the ToString method to transmit prices to exchanges, and need to make sure it always outputs the number I expect. (89.99 instead of 89.99000000001)

Questions:

  1. Is the speed advantage really as large as naive tests suggest? (~100 times)
  2. Is there a way to guarantee the output from ToString to be what I want? Is this assured by the fact that my number is always representable?

UPDATE: I have to process ~ 10 billion price updates before my app can run, and I have implemented with decimal right now for the obvious protective reasons, but it takes ~3 hours just to turn on, doubles would dramatically reduce my turn on time. Is there a safe way to do it with doubles?

Best Solution

  1. Floating point arithmetic will almost always be significantly faster because it is supported directly by the hardware. So far almost no widely used hardware supports decimal arithmetic (although this is changing, see comments).
  2. Financial applications should always use decimal numbers, the number of horror stories stemming from using floating point in financial applications is endless, you should be able to find many such examples with a Google search.
  3. While decimal arithmetic may be significantly slower than floating point arithmetic, unless you are spending a significant amount of time processing decimal data the impact on your program is likely to be negligible. As always, do the appropriate profiling before you start worrying about the difference.