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Speeding up complex expressions with Numexpr

Complex expressions with large NumPy arrays present a bit of a catch-22 situation performance-wise.

On the one hand, using a one-liner for the expression is not a good idea due to high memory usage (unnecessary temporary arrays that are need for the evaluation).

On the other hand, evaluation of the expression with one operation at a time can lead into suboptimal performance. Effectively, one carries out multiple for loops in the NumPy C-code.

Numexpr package provides tools for fast evaluation of array expressions.

x = numpy.random.random((1000000, 1))
y = numpy.random.random((1000000, 1))

import numexpr
poly = numexpr.evaluate("((.25*x + .75)*x - 1.5)*x - 2")

The expression is enclosed in quotes and will be evaluated using a single C-loop. Speed-ups in comparison to NumPy are typically between 0.95 and 4. Performance improves normaly most with arrays that do not fit in CPU cache.

Supported operators and functions include e.g.:

  • +, -, *, /, **
  • sin, cos, tan
  • exp, log, sqrt

Thread support

By default, numexpr tries to use multiple threads, which can also speed up the execution. The number of threads can be queried and set with:


The number of threads can also be controlled by the environment variables OMP_NUM_THREADS or NUMEXPR_NUM_THREADS.

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This article is from the free online course:

Python in High Performance Computing

Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE)