Phil Phil - 22 days ago 11
Java Question

Does Java casting introduce overhead? Why?

Is there any overhead when we cast objects of one type to another? Or the compiler just resolves everything and there is no cost at run time?

Is this a general things, or there are different cases?

For example, suppose we have an array of Object[], where each element might have a different type. But we always know for sure that, say, element 0 is a Double, element 1 is a String. (I know this is a wrong design, but let's just assume I had to do this.)

Is Java's type information still kept around at run time? Or everything is forgotten after compilation, and if we do (Double)elements[0], we'll just follow the pointer and interpret those 8 bytes as a double, whatever that is?

I'm very unclear about how types are done in Java. If you have any reccommendation on books or article then thanks, too.

Answer

There are 2 types of casting:

Implicit casting, when you cast from a type to a wider type, which is done automatically and there is no overhead:

String s = "Cast";
Object o = s; // implicit casting

Explicit casting, when you go from a wider type to a more narrow one. For this case, you must explicitly use casting like that:

Object o = someObject;
String s = (String) o; // explicit casting

In this second case, there is overhead in runtime, because the two types must be checked and in case that casting is not feasible, JVM must throw a ClassCastException.

Taken from JavaWorld: The cost of casting

Casting is used to convert between types -- between reference types in particular, for the type of casting operation in which we're interested here.

Upcast operations (also called widening conversions in the Java Language Specification) convert a subclass reference to an ancestor class reference. This casting operation is normally automatic, since it's always safe and can be implemented directly by the compiler.

Downcast operations (also called narrowing conversions in the Java Language Specification) convert an ancestor class reference to a subclass reference. This casting operation creates execution overhead, since Java requires that the cast be checked at runtime to make sure that it's valid. If the referenced object is not an instance of either the target type for the cast or a subclass of that type, the attempted cast is not permitted and must throw a java.lang.ClassCastException.

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