Why should I choose GCD over NSOperation and blocks for high-level applications? Why should I choose GCD over NSOperation and blocks for high-level applications? ios ios

Why should I choose GCD over NSOperation and blocks for high-level applications?


The point being made here is the same one that Chris Hanson states in his article "When to use NSOperation vs. GCD":

The straightforward answer is a general guideline for all application development:

Always use the highest-level abstraction available to you, and drop down to lower-level abstractions when measurement shows that they are needed.

In this particular case, it means that when writing Cocoa applications, you should generally be using NSOperation rather than using GCD directly. Not because of a difference in efficiency, but because NSOperation provides a higher-level abstraction atop the mechanisms of GCD.

In general, I agree with this. NSOperation and NSOperationQueue provide support for dependencies and one or two other things that GCD blocks and queues don't have, and they abstract away the lower-level details of how the concurrent operations are implemented. If you need that functionality, NSOperation is a very good way to go.

However, after working with both, I've found myself replacing all of my NSOperation-based code with GCD blocks and queues. I've done this for two reasons: there is significant overhead when using NSOperation for frequent actions, and I believe my code is cleaner and more descriptive when using GCD blocks.

The first reason comes from profiling in my applications, where I found that the NSOperation object allocation and deallocation process took a significant amount of CPU resources when dealing with small and frequent actions, like rendering an OpenGL ES frame to the screen. GCD blocks completely eliminated that overhead, leading to significant performance improvements.

The second reason is more subjective, but I believe that my code is cleaner when using blocks than NSOperations. The quick capture of scope allowed by a block and the inline nature of them make for less code, because you don't need to create custom NSOperation subclasses or bundle up parameters to be passed into the operation, and more descriptive code in my opinion, because you can place the code to be run in a queue at the point where it is fired off.

Again, its a matter of preference, but I've found myself using GCD more, even in otherwise more abstracted Cocoa applications.


  • Prefer GCD where task is not much complex and optimum CPU performance is required.
  • Prefer NSOperationQueue where task is complex and requires canceling or suspending a block and dependency management.

GCD is a lightweight way to represent units of work that are going to be executed concurrently. You don’t schedule these units of work; the system takes care of scheduling for you. Adding dependency among blocks can be a headache. Canceling or suspending a block creates extra work for you as a developer!

NSOperation and NSOperationQueue add a little extra overhead compared to GCD, but you can add dependency among various operations. You can re-use, cancel or suspend operations. NSOperation is compatible with Key-Value Observation (KVO); for example, you can have an NSOperation start running by listening to NSNotificationCenter.

For detailed explanation, refer this question: NSOperation vs Grand Central Dispatch


Well, NSOperation has no equivalents to dispatch_source_t, dispatch_io, dispatch_data_t, dispatch_semaphore_t, etc... It's also somewhat higher overhead.

On the flip side, libdispatch has no equivalents to operation dependencies, operation priorities (queue priorities are somewhat different), or KVO on operations.


matomo