I figured out a method that works ~35% faster than your 6bits+Carmack+sqrt code, at least with my CPU (x86) and programming language (C/C++). Your results may vary, especially because I don't know how the Java factor will play out.

My approach is threefold:

- First, filter out obvious answers. This includes negative numbers and looking at the last 4 bits. (I found looking at the last six didn't help.) I also answer yes for 0. (In reading the code below, note that my input is
`int64 x`

.)
```
if( x < 0 || (x&2) || ((x & 7) == 5) || ((x & 11) == 8) )
return false;
if( x == 0 )
return true;
```

- Next, check if it's a square modulo 255 = 3 * 5 * 17. Because that's a product of three distinct primes, only about 1/8 of the residues mod 255 are squares. However, in my experience, calling the modulo operator (%) costs more than the benefit one gets, so I use bit tricks involving 255 = 2^8-1 to compute the residue. (For better or worse, I am not using the trick of reading individual bytes out of a word, only bitwise-and and shifts.)
```
int64 y = x;
y = (y & 4294967295LL) + (y >> 32);
y = (y & 65535) + (y >> 16);
y = (y & 255) + ((y >> 8) & 255) + (y >> 16);
// At this point, y is between 0 and 511. More code can reduce it farther.
```

To actually check if the residue is a square, I look up the answer in a precomputed table.
```
if( bad255[y] )
return false;
// However, I just use a table of size 512
```

- Finally, try to compute the square root using a method similar to Hensel's lemma. (I don't think it's applicable directly, but it works with some modifications.) Before doing that, I divide out all powers of 2 with a binary search:
```
if((x & 4294967295LL) == 0)
x >>= 32;
if((x & 65535) == 0)
x >>= 16;
if((x & 255) == 0)
x >>= 8;
if((x & 15) == 0)
x >>= 4;
if((x & 3) == 0)
x >>= 2;
```

At this point, for our number to be a square, it must be 1 mod 8.
```
if((x & 7) != 1)
return false;
```

The basic structure of Hensel's lemma is the following. (Note: untested code; if it doesn't work, try t=2 or 8.)
```
int64 t = 4, r = 1;
t <<= 1; r += ((x - r * r) & t) >> 1;
t <<= 1; r += ((x - r * r) & t) >> 1;
t <<= 1; r += ((x - r * r) & t) >> 1;
// Repeat until t is 2^33 or so. Use a loop if you want.
```

The idea is that at each iteration, you add one bit onto r, the "current" square root of x; each square root is accurate modulo a larger and larger power of 2, namely t/2. At the end, r and t/2-r will be square roots of x modulo t/2. (Note that if r is a square root of x, then so is -r. This is true even modulo numbers, but beware, modulo some numbers, things can have even more than 2 square roots; notably, this includes powers of 2.) Because our actual square root is less than 2^32, at that point we can actually just check if r or t/2-r are real square roots. In my actual code, I use the following modified loop:
```
int64 r, t, z;
r = start[(x >> 3) & 1023];
do {
z = x - r * r;
if( z == 0 )
return true;
if( z < 0 )
return false;
t = z & (-z);
r += (z & t) >> 1;
if( r > (t >> 1) )
r = t - r;
} while( t <= (1LL << 33) );
```

The speedup here is obtained in three ways: precomputed start value (equivalent to ~10 iterations of the loop), earlier exit of the loop, and skipping some t values. For the last part, I look at `z = r - x * x`

, and set t to be the largest power of 2 dividing z with a bit trick. This allows me to skip t values that wouldn't have affected the value of r anyway. The precomputed start value in my case picks out the "smallest positive" square root modulo 8192.

Even if this code doesn't work faster for you, I hope you enjoy some of the ideas it contains. Complete, tested code follows, including the precomputed tables.

```
typedef signed long long int int64;
int start[1024] =
{1,3,1769,5,1937,1741,7,1451,479,157,9,91,945,659,1817,11,
1983,707,1321,1211,1071,13,1479,405,415,1501,1609,741,15,339,1703,203,
129,1411,873,1669,17,1715,1145,1835,351,1251,887,1573,975,19,1127,395,
1855,1981,425,453,1105,653,327,21,287,93,713,1691,1935,301,551,587,
257,1277,23,763,1903,1075,1799,1877,223,1437,1783,859,1201,621,25,779,
1727,573,471,1979,815,1293,825,363,159,1315,183,27,241,941,601,971,
385,131,919,901,273,435,647,1493,95,29,1417,805,719,1261,1177,1163,
1599,835,1367,315,1361,1933,1977,747,31,1373,1079,1637,1679,1581,1753,1355,
513,1539,1815,1531,1647,205,505,1109,33,1379,521,1627,1457,1901,1767,1547,
1471,1853,1833,1349,559,1523,967,1131,97,35,1975,795,497,1875,1191,1739,
641,1149,1385,133,529,845,1657,725,161,1309,375,37,463,1555,615,1931,
1343,445,937,1083,1617,883,185,1515,225,1443,1225,869,1423,1235,39,1973,
769,259,489,1797,1391,1485,1287,341,289,99,1271,1701,1713,915,537,1781,
1215,963,41,581,303,243,1337,1899,353,1245,329,1563,753,595,1113,1589,
897,1667,407,635,785,1971,135,43,417,1507,1929,731,207,275,1689,1397,
1087,1725,855,1851,1873,397,1607,1813,481,163,567,101,1167,45,1831,1205,
1025,1021,1303,1029,1135,1331,1017,427,545,1181,1033,933,1969,365,1255,1013,
959,317,1751,187,47,1037,455,1429,609,1571,1463,1765,1009,685,679,821,
1153,387,1897,1403,1041,691,1927,811,673,227,137,1499,49,1005,103,629,
831,1091,1449,1477,1967,1677,697,1045,737,1117,1737,667,911,1325,473,437,
1281,1795,1001,261,879,51,775,1195,801,1635,759,165,1871,1645,1049,245,
703,1597,553,955,209,1779,1849,661,865,291,841,997,1265,1965,1625,53,
1409,893,105,1925,1297,589,377,1579,929,1053,1655,1829,305,1811,1895,139,
575,189,343,709,1711,1139,1095,277,993,1699,55,1435,655,1491,1319,331,
1537,515,791,507,623,1229,1529,1963,1057,355,1545,603,1615,1171,743,523,
447,1219,1239,1723,465,499,57,107,1121,989,951,229,1521,851,167,715,
1665,1923,1687,1157,1553,1869,1415,1749,1185,1763,649,1061,561,531,409,907,
319,1469,1961,59,1455,141,1209,491,1249,419,1847,1893,399,211,985,1099,
1793,765,1513,1275,367,1587,263,1365,1313,925,247,1371,1359,109,1561,1291,
191,61,1065,1605,721,781,1735,875,1377,1827,1353,539,1777,429,1959,1483,
1921,643,617,389,1809,947,889,981,1441,483,1143,293,817,749,1383,1675,
63,1347,169,827,1199,1421,583,1259,1505,861,457,1125,143,1069,807,1867,
2047,2045,279,2043,111,307,2041,597,1569,1891,2039,1957,1103,1389,231,2037,
65,1341,727,837,977,2035,569,1643,1633,547,439,1307,2033,1709,345,1845,
1919,637,1175,379,2031,333,903,213,1697,797,1161,475,1073,2029,921,1653,
193,67,1623,1595,943,1395,1721,2027,1761,1955,1335,357,113,1747,1497,1461,
1791,771,2025,1285,145,973,249,171,1825,611,265,1189,847,1427,2023,1269,
321,1475,1577,69,1233,755,1223,1685,1889,733,1865,2021,1807,1107,1447,1077,
1663,1917,1129,1147,1775,1613,1401,555,1953,2019,631,1243,1329,787,871,885,
449,1213,681,1733,687,115,71,1301,2017,675,969,411,369,467,295,693,
1535,509,233,517,401,1843,1543,939,2015,669,1527,421,591,147,281,501,
577,195,215,699,1489,525,1081,917,1951,2013,73,1253,1551,173,857,309,
1407,899,663,1915,1519,1203,391,1323,1887,739,1673,2011,1585,493,1433,117,
705,1603,1111,965,431,1165,1863,533,1823,605,823,1179,625,813,2009,75,
1279,1789,1559,251,657,563,761,1707,1759,1949,777,347,335,1133,1511,267,
833,1085,2007,1467,1745,1805,711,149,1695,803,1719,485,1295,1453,935,459,
1151,381,1641,1413,1263,77,1913,2005,1631,541,119,1317,1841,1773,359,651,
961,323,1193,197,175,1651,441,235,1567,1885,1481,1947,881,2003,217,843,
1023,1027,745,1019,913,717,1031,1621,1503,867,1015,1115,79,1683,793,1035,
1089,1731,297,1861,2001,1011,1593,619,1439,477,585,283,1039,1363,1369,1227,
895,1661,151,645,1007,1357,121,1237,1375,1821,1911,549,1999,1043,1945,1419,
1217,957,599,571,81,371,1351,1003,1311,931,311,1381,1137,723,1575,1611,
767,253,1047,1787,1169,1997,1273,853,1247,413,1289,1883,177,403,999,1803,
1345,451,1495,1093,1839,269,199,1387,1183,1757,1207,1051,783,83,423,1995,
639,1155,1943,123,751,1459,1671,469,1119,995,393,219,1743,237,153,1909,
1473,1859,1705,1339,337,909,953,1771,1055,349,1993,613,1393,557,729,1717,
511,1533,1257,1541,1425,819,519,85,991,1693,503,1445,433,877,1305,1525,
1601,829,809,325,1583,1549,1991,1941,927,1059,1097,1819,527,1197,1881,1333,
383,125,361,891,495,179,633,299,863,285,1399,987,1487,1517,1639,1141,
1729,579,87,1989,593,1907,839,1557,799,1629,201,155,1649,1837,1063,949,
255,1283,535,773,1681,461,1785,683,735,1123,1801,677,689,1939,487,757,
1857,1987,983,443,1327,1267,313,1173,671,221,695,1509,271,1619,89,565,
127,1405,1431,1659,239,1101,1159,1067,607,1565,905,1755,1231,1299,665,373,
1985,701,1879,1221,849,627,1465,789,543,1187,1591,923,1905,979,1241,181};
bool bad255[512] =
{0,0,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,0,1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,
1,1,0,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,
0,1,0,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,
1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,
1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,
1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,0,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,1,
1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,
1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,
0,0,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,0,1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,
1,1,0,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,
0,1,0,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,
1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,
1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,
1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,0,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,0,1,1,
1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,0,0,1,1,1,
1,0,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,0,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1,
0,0};
inline bool square( int64 x ) {
// Quickfail
if( x < 0 || (x&2) || ((x & 7) == 5) || ((x & 11) == 8) )
return false;
if( x == 0 )
return true;
// Check mod 255 = 3 * 5 * 17, for fun
int64 y = x;
y = (y & 4294967295LL) + (y >> 32);
y = (y & 65535) + (y >> 16);
y = (y & 255) + ((y >> 8) & 255) + (y >> 16);
if( bad255[y] )
return false;
// Divide out powers of 4 using binary search
if((x & 4294967295LL) == 0)
x >>= 32;
if((x & 65535) == 0)
x >>= 16;
if((x & 255) == 0)
x >>= 8;
if((x & 15) == 0)
x >>= 4;
if((x & 3) == 0)
x >>= 2;
if((x & 7) != 1)
return false;
// Compute sqrt using something like Hensel's lemma
int64 r, t, z;
r = start[(x >> 3) & 1023];
do {
z = x - r * r;
if( z == 0 )
return true;
if( z < 0 )
return false;
t = z & (-z);
r += (z & t) >> 1;
if( r > (t >> 1) )
r = t - r;
} while( t <= (1LL << 33) );
return false;
}
```

## Best Solution

Shifting by nibbles is the most efficient way.

If performance is not your problem and you want to have the most readable version you may want to convert your BCD-number to a string and move the decimal point around.

In case you don't have a decimal point (e.g. your number is an integer) you can concat zeros if x > 0 or delete the last -x characters if x < 0.

Afterwards convert the string back to BCD. Watch out for overflows and and cases where you delete all characters and end up with an empty string.