Speeding Up Array Handling

Learn about the SPL library's new feature to improve the speed of handling arrays in PHP 8.

Arrays are a vital part of any PHP program. Indeed, dealing with arrays is unavoidable as much of the real-world data our program handles day-to-day arrives in the form of an array. One example is data from an HTML form posting. The data ends up in either $_GET or $_POST as an array.

In this section, we’ll introduce a little-known class included with the SPL: the SplFixedArray class. Migrating our data from a standard array over to a SplFixedArray instance will not only improve performance but requires significantly less memory as well. Learning how to take advantage of the techniques that can have a substantial impact on the speed and efficiency of any program code currently using arrays with a massive amount of data.

Working with SplFixedArray in PHP 8

The SplFixedArray class, introduced in PHP 5.3, is literally an object that acts like an array. Unlike ArrayObject, however, this class requires us to place a hard limit on the array size and only allows integer indexes. The reason why we might want to use SplFixedArray rather than ArrayObject is SplFixedArray takes significantly less memory and is highly performant. In fact, SplFixedArray actually takes less memory than a standard array with the same data.

Comparing SplFixedArray with an array and ArrayObject

A simple benchmark program illustrates the differences between a standard array, ArrayObject, and SplFixedArray:

Get hands-on with 1200+ tech skills courses.