Integer vs Float: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. Integers represent whole numbers, while floats represent decimals.
  2. Integers take up less memory and are exact while floats are approximations.
  3. Floats can store a wider range of very large and very small numbers.

What is Integer?

An integer represents a whole number without any fractional or decimal part. It can be positive, negative or zero. It is used significantly in mathematics, computer science and data analysis.

In computer programming, integers are commonly used to perform arithmetic operations, store counts, and display discrete quantities. They have a fixed range depending on the number of bits used to store them. A 32-bit integer can hold values from -2,147,483,648 to 2,147,483,647. Similarly, a 64-bit integer can store values of a broader range.

Integers consume less memory, requiring less or no space to store fractional parts. That is why; integer operations are much faster on most computer programs. Integers support several mathematical problems like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. These operations are designed to follow specific rules defined by the number system and the programming language being used.

In programming languages, integers are used to increment or decrement values, compare them for equality or inequality, and convert them to other data types when required. They provide an efficient way to manipulate whole numbers and are a building block for many computations and algorithms.

What is Float?

A float is a versatile data type representing a whole number without any fractional or decimal part. It is suitable for a wide range of mathematical calculations where accuracy is essential, as it can hold absolute numbers and fractions.

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Floats are represented as a sign bit, an exponent and a significand. The sign bit determines whether the number is positive or negative, the exponent determines the scale or magnitude of the number, and the significand contains the fractional part. This representation allows floats to cover a wide range of values with varying precision.

Floats are implemented using the IEEE 754 standard in computer programming, which defines the operations for floating point numbers. These standard permits flow to have a more extensive range and higher accuracy than integers. Floats are used in scientific calculations, simulations and graphics and applications that involve real numbers.

The one drawback of floats is that they are only sometimes exact due to the limitations of their representations. This is because some numbers cannot be precisely represented in binary form, which leads to rounding errors in calculations. This is called floating point arithmetic or precision issues.

Differences Between Integer and Float

  1. Integers are represented as whole numbers without any fractional or decimal parts, while floats can represent entire numbers with fractional and decimal parts.
  2. Integers have exact precision as they display discrete values, whereas floats have limited accuracy.
  3. Integers consume less memory as compared to floats.
  4. Integer arithmetic operations involve simple mathematical operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, whereas floats involve more complex floating point arithmetic like exponentiation and handling fractional parts.
  5. Integers have a finite range, while floats have much more extensive coverage.

Comparison Between Integer and Float

Parameter of ComparisonIntegerFloat
Representation Whole numbers without any fractional or decimal partsReal numbers with fractional or decimal parts
Precision Exact Limited 
Memory usageLesser than floatsMore 
Arithmetic operationsSimple mathematical operations like additional, subtraction, multiplication and divisionComplex floating point arithmetic like exponentiation and handling fractional parts
Range Finite Larger than integers
References
  1. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/989786/?casa_token=vN_WT7wo6WEAAAAA:ybzgqS4ck8CK3SOidb9kWHJeeuN2TKBZwv1s0-ksw7qFah0bcerMugeScszZRIT-44czTPau
  2. https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/000282803769206250
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Last Updated : 25 November, 2023

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