[SOLVED] HashSet vs. List performance

Issue

It’s clear that a search performance of the generic HashSet<T> class is higher than of the generic List<T> class. Just compare the hash-based key with the linear approach in the List<T> class.

However calculating a hash key may itself take some CPU cycles, so for a small amount of items the linear search can be a real alternative to the HashSet<T>.

My question: where is the break-even?

To simplify the scenario (and to be fair) let’s assume that the List<T> class uses the element’s Equals() method to identify an item.

Solution

A lot of people are saying that once you get to the size where speed is actually a concern that HashSet<T> will always beat List<T>, but that depends on what you are doing.

Let’s say you have a List<T> that will only ever have on average 5 items in it. Over a large number of cycles, if a single item is added or removed each cycle, you may well be better off using a List<T>.

I did a test for this on my machine, and, well, it has to be very very small to get an advantage from List<T>. For a list of short strings, the advantage went away after size 5, for objects after size 20.

1 item LIST strs time: 617ms
1 item HASHSET strs time: 1332ms

2 item LIST strs time: 781ms
2 item HASHSET strs time: 1354ms

3 item LIST strs time: 950ms
3 item HASHSET strs time: 1405ms

4 item LIST strs time: 1126ms
4 item HASHSET strs time: 1441ms

5 item LIST strs time: 1370ms
5 item HASHSET strs time: 1452ms

6 item LIST strs time: 1481ms
6 item HASHSET strs time: 1418ms

7 item LIST strs time: 1581ms
7 item HASHSET strs time: 1464ms

8 item LIST strs time: 1726ms
8 item HASHSET strs time: 1398ms

9 item LIST strs time: 1901ms
9 item HASHSET strs time: 1433ms

1 item LIST objs time: 614ms
1 item HASHSET objs time: 1993ms

4 item LIST objs time: 837ms
4 item HASHSET objs time: 1914ms

7 item LIST objs time: 1070ms
7 item HASHSET objs time: 1900ms

10 item LIST objs time: 1267ms
10 item HASHSET objs time: 1904ms

13 item LIST objs time: 1494ms
13 item HASHSET objs time: 1893ms

16 item LIST objs time: 1695ms
16 item HASHSET objs time: 1879ms

19 item LIST objs time: 1902ms
19 item HASHSET objs time: 1950ms

22 item LIST objs time: 2136ms
22 item HASHSET objs time: 1893ms

25 item LIST objs time: 2357ms
25 item HASHSET objs time: 1826ms

28 item LIST objs time: 2555ms
28 item HASHSET objs time: 1865ms

31 item LIST objs time: 2755ms
31 item HASHSET objs time: 1963ms

34 item LIST objs time: 3025ms
34 item HASHSET objs time: 1874ms

37 item LIST objs time: 3195ms
37 item HASHSET objs time: 1958ms

40 item LIST objs time: 3401ms
40 item HASHSET objs time: 1855ms

43 item LIST objs time: 3618ms
43 item HASHSET objs time: 1869ms

46 item LIST objs time: 3883ms
46 item HASHSET objs time: 2046ms

49 item LIST objs time: 4218ms
49 item HASHSET objs time: 1873ms

Here is that data displayed as a graph:

enter image description here

Here’s the code:

static void Main(string[] args)
{
    int times = 10000000;


    for (int listSize = 1; listSize < 10; listSize++)
    {
        List<string> list = new List<string>();
        HashSet<string> hashset = new HashSet<string>();

        for (int i = 0; i < listSize; i++)
        {
            list.Add("string" + i.ToString());
            hashset.Add("string" + i.ToString());
        }

        Stopwatch timer = new Stopwatch();
        timer.Start();
        for (int i = 0; i < times; i++)
        {
            list.Remove("string0");
            list.Add("string0");
        }
        timer.Stop();
        Console.WriteLine(listSize.ToString() + " item LIST strs time: " + timer.ElapsedMilliseconds.ToString() + "ms");


        timer = new Stopwatch();
        timer.Start();
        for (int i = 0; i < times; i++)
        {
            hashset.Remove("string0");
            hashset.Add("string0");
        }
        timer.Stop();
        Console.WriteLine(listSize.ToString() + " item HASHSET strs time: " + timer.ElapsedMilliseconds.ToString() + "ms");
        Console.WriteLine();
    }


    for (int listSize = 1; listSize < 50; listSize+=3)
    {
        List<object> list = new List<object>();
        HashSet<object> hashset = new HashSet<object>();

        for (int i = 0; i < listSize; i++)
        {
            list.Add(new object());
            hashset.Add(new object());
        }

        object objToAddRem = list[0];

        Stopwatch timer = new Stopwatch();
        timer.Start();
        for (int i = 0; i < times; i++)
        {
            list.Remove(objToAddRem);
            list.Add(objToAddRem);
        }
        timer.Stop();
        Console.WriteLine(listSize.ToString() + " item LIST objs time: " + timer.ElapsedMilliseconds.ToString() + "ms");



        timer = new Stopwatch();
        timer.Start();
        for (int i = 0; i < times; i++)
        {
            hashset.Remove(objToAddRem);
            hashset.Add(objToAddRem);
        }
        timer.Stop();
        Console.WriteLine(listSize.ToString() + " item HASHSET objs time: " + timer.ElapsedMilliseconds.ToString() + "ms");
        Console.WriteLine();
    }

    Console.ReadLine();
}

Answered By – innominate227

Answer Checked By – Pedro (BugsFixing Volunteer)

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