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Synchronized vs Lock Performance

12.27.2012
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Overview

There are a number of articles on whether synchronized or Locks are faster. There appear to be opinions in favour of either option. In this article I attempt to show how you can achieve different views depending on how you benchmark the two approaches.

I have included AtomicInteger to see how a volatile field compares.

What are some of the differences

The synchronized keyword has naturally built in language support. This can mean the JIT can optimise synchronised blocks in ways it cannot with Locks. e.g. it can combine synchronized blocks.

The Lock has additional method such as tryLock which is not an option for a synchronized block.

The test

As the JIT can optimise synchronized in ways a Lock cannot, I wanted to have a test which might demonstrate this and one which might "fool" the JIT.

In this test, 25 million locks were performed between each of the threads. Java 6 update 26 was used.
Threads 1x synch 1x Lock 1x AtomicInteger 2x synch 2x Lock 2x AtomicInteger
1 : 0.937 0.786 0.400 1.532 1.484 0.569
2 : 2.766 4.597 0.676 5.398 6.355 1.278
4 : 3.904 1.267 0.694 6.330 2.657 1.354
8 : 3.884 0.953 1.011 5.418 2.073 2.761
16 : 3.207 0.869 1.171 4.817 1.656 2.800
32 : 3.213 0.853 1.240 4.915 1.680 2.843
64 : 3.322 0.921 1.269 5.049 1.639 2.843

These are the times to perform 25 million locks/operation in seconds. Lower numbers are better. Different system will get different results, so these should be taken as a relative performance.

Note: It appears that Lock performs best with high numbers of threads. However this may because the performance approaches the single threaded performance. It may do this by avoiding contention and letting just one thread run for long periods of time.

The Code

SynchronizedVsLockTest.java

Conclusion

In general, unless you have measured you system and you know you have a performance issue, you should do what you believe is simplest and clearest and it is likely to performance well.

These results indicate that synchronized is best for a small number of threads accessing a lock (<4) and Lock may be best for a high number of threads accessing the same locks.
Published at DZone with permission of Peter Lawrey, author and DZone MVB. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)