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I am always confused about the correct usages of words like longer, less, higher, high etc., for comparing performance of two programs. For example, if a program A completes its work in 10 seconds, while another program B completes its work in 20 seconds, i.e., A gives high performance compared to B, then which one of the following sentences is best to express both A is better than B and The short running-time program is better? Maybe the following sentences are bad. If so, please provide me your suggestions to improve them.

I have seen that people use short sentences in parentheses as shown below in technical research papers. Can I use parentheses as below? I have also used google and google ngrams, and I could see that the words longer, short, low, etc., all are used along with running time.

  1. B has a longer running time compared to A and therefore A gives high performance.
  2. A gives higher performance (low running-time) compared to B.
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2 Answers 2

"Higher performance" has a contextually defined meaning. What specific type of performance are your measuring? Often there is an implication of "time to complete the task", but that is certainly not always the case. That is why those parenthetical statements are often included: to specify the type of performance being measured.

However, "performance" can certainly refer to other types of metric. In the context of computer programs it can mean certain technical measures, such as memory usage, disk usage, network bandwidth and so forth. For example, sorted binary trees are better than hash tables if memory usage is your metric, because they tend to take less memory even though they tend to perform at a slower speed. Of course this is a generalization, but is illustrative of the types of performance trade offs typically made.

However, performance can also mean completely non technical things. For example, a well design GUI can provide higher performance characteristics than a poorly designed GUI, if the performance you are measuring is the task completion performance of the application users, or the ease of learning the program, or the enjoyment of the program, or the aesthetics.

Higher performance pretty much universally means that program A provided a higher measure than program B on whatever scale you are measuring. Context is required to determine what that scale actually is.

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It would be better to use "Higher performance" at any time, as it gives the meaning quite clearly, whereas using "longer-running time" or "shorter-running time" will have to vary with the situation.
For example, if I was describing two batteries, and Battery A had a "longer-running time than Battery B", than Battery A would be Higher performance than Battery B. However, if I was talking about two computer programs, and I said that Program A had a "longer running time than Program B", this would mean that A is actually performing better than B.

If the audience didn't know whether it was better or not to have longer of shorter running time, just stating longer or shorter running time wouldn't mean much to them, whereas stating "higher performance compared to" is pretty clear to everyone.

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You mean A gives a higher performance compared to B is better. –  samarasa Aug 30 '11 at 21:23
Yes, using "higher performance" is better. –  Thursagen Aug 30 '11 at 21:25
I have to disagree with this response: higher performance can mean several factors, for example better memory usage. If you described a program as "high performance", I would think "Uh, in what way?" If it's better in that it takes less time to execute, then you should say so. Say it runs 20% faster than the other program. –  Jeremy Aug 30 '11 at 21:31
@Jeremy: You are right. Thats why I would like to use a short sentence in parenthesis as "A gives higher performance (low running-time) compared to B". Is it fine? –  samarasa Aug 30 '11 at 22:08
Formality should never be used as an excuse for lack of clarity. "A runs faster than B", or "A takes less time to complete than B". –  Karl Knechtel Aug 31 '11 at 2:45

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