Java – System.currentTimeMillis vs System.nanoTime


Accuracy Vs. Precision

What I would like to know is whether I should use System.currentTimeMillis() or System.nanoTime() when updating my object's positions in my game? Their change in movement is directly proportional to the elapsed time since the last call and I want to be as precise as possible.

I've read that there are some serious time-resolution issues between different operating systems (namely that Mac / Linux have an almost 1 ms resolution while Windows has a 50ms resolution??). I'm primarly running my apps on windows and 50ms resolution seems pretty inaccurate.

Are there better options than the two I listed?

Any suggestions / comments?

Best Solution

If you're just looking for extremely precise measurements of elapsed time, use System.nanoTime(). System.currentTimeMillis() will give you the most accurate possible elapsed time in milliseconds since the epoch, but System.nanoTime() gives you a nanosecond-precise time, relative to some arbitrary point.

From the Java Documentation:

public static long nanoTime()

Returns the current value of the most precise available system timer, in nanoseconds.

This method can only be used to measure elapsed time and is not related to any other notion of system or wall-clock time. The value returned represents nanoseconds since some fixed but arbitrary origin time (perhaps in the future, so values may be negative). This method provides nanosecond precision, but not necessarily nanosecond accuracy. No guarantees are made about how frequently values change. Differences in successive calls that span greater than approximately 292 years (263 nanoseconds) will not accurately compute elapsed time due to numerical overflow.

For example, to measure how long some code takes to execute:

long startTime = System.nanoTime();    
// ... the code being measured ...    
long estimatedTime = System.nanoTime() - startTime;

See also: JavaDoc System.nanoTime() and JavaDoc System.currentTimeMillis() for more info.

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