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If you are not following PHP closely or you are new to PHP programming, you should know that before PHP 7, PHP 5.6 used to be the stable version. PHP 5.6 was first released back in August of 2014, and PHP 7 came out on December 2015, one year later. With the release of PHP 7, people started to compare it with its previous version. If you fall into that category of people, the following detailed comparison of the major differences between PHP 5 and PHP 7 will be immensely helpful for you.

Major Differences between PHP 5 and PHP 7

When anything gets upgraded to a new version, most of the parameters get upgraded for the better. In all the different parameters listed below, PHP 7 has made massive improvements that are worth mentioning in performance, declaring return types, error handling, anonymous classes, security, and other features.

Performance is one of the first major differences between PHP 7 and PHP 5. Supposing that you have written a PHP code in PHP 5, if you run the same code in both the versions, the performance of PHP 7 will be significantly higher than PHP 5. PHP is powered by Zend Engine even since the release of PHP 4. PHP 5 uses Zend II but PHP 7 uses a brand new model of engine called PHPNG or Next Generation.

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This new PHPNG engine improves the performance as much as twice with optimized memory usage. This has been proved by the benchmark provided by the company. As a matter of fact, the new engine requires fewer servers to serve the same number of users as before. Zend, the world wide web infrastructure software company that developed Zend Engine, did some benchmark tests on the performance of the PHP 7, PHP 5.6, and HHVM 3.7. The results of these tests are published on their website

The table below summarizes the benchmark results:

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Another difference between PHP 5 and PHP 7 that is a benefit of the latter is the ability to declare return types. In PHP 5, the programmer cannot define the return type of a function or method. This has been a huge drawback in the real-life coding scenario as the programmers were unable to prevent unwanted return types and generate exceptions in otherwise case. Fortunately, PHP 7 allows programmers to declare the return type of the functions as per the expected return value. This is certainly going to make the code robust and accurate. PHP 7 offers are four different return types: bool, int, string, and float.

PHP 7 also offers improved error handling. Handling fatal and catchable fatal errors has never been an easy task for PHP coders, but the new Engine Exceptions in PHP 7 will allow you to replace these kinds of errors with exceptions. If the exception is not caught, PHP will continue to return the same fatal errors as it does in the current 5.X series. The new \Engine Exception objects don’t extend the \Exception Base Class. This ensures backward compatibility and results in two different kinds of exceptions in error handling: traditional and engine exceptions. To enable programmers to catch both, PHP 7 introduces a new shared Parent Class under the name of \Base Exception.


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The use of anonymous classes, a well-established practice in other object-oriented languages like C# and Java, is also available with PHP 7. An anonymous class is a class without a name. The object it instantiates has the same functionality as an object of a named class.

The syntax is the same as what we are used to in traditional PHP classes, except the name is missing. If anonymous classes are used well, they can speed up coding as well as execution time. Anonymous classes are excellent when a class is used only once during execution, and in some cases, when a class doesn’t need to be documented.


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PHP 7 has also added a new operator that had been the center of attention when the stable version of PHP 7 came out. It is called the Spaceship operator.

The Spaceship operator runs under the official name of Combined Comparison Operator. The notation of the new operator looks like this: <=> (kind of like a simplified spaceship, if you imagine it right).

The Spaceship operator returns 0 if both operands are equal, 1 if the left operand is greater, and -1 if the right operand is greater. It is also called a three-way comparison operator, and it already exists in other popular programming languages like Perl and Ruby.

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There are other noteworthy new features and capabilities in PHP 7. Improved Security features are another benefit of PHP 7 that makes it different from PHP 5. Among the important security features added in PHP 7 are support for the Argon2 password-hashing algorithm, support for the Sodium library, and support for cryptographically secure pseudorandom numbers. In addition to function parameter type verification and return value typing, PHP 7 has added exception handling using the Try-Throw-Catch approach used by other object-oriented languages. Also, PHP 7 introduces Group Use Declaration according to which, the programmers will be able to include classes from the same namespace. Group Use Declaration is going to save a lot of typing time and will make the code look crisp and readable and debugging will also be easier. PHP 7 has done away with various deprecated functions and unsupported extensions and APIs.

The Benefits of a PHP 7 Conversion

It is important to stay on top of the latest developments in technology today. As such, PHP users and programmers who still use PHP 5.6 are strongly encouraged to convert to PHP 7. PHP 7 is a superior language due to its improved performance, higher security, and better error handling.  These features of PHP 7 address the most frequent criticisms of the PHP language. In addition, the performance of pages written in PHP 7 is comparable to pages written in Python, Ruby, Java, or .Net. Lastly, PHP 7 added important security features and introduced important features to make your PHP scripts more error-free.

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