As experts in the electronic embedded systems industry, we see plenty of companies hiring engineers and software developers with experience in C++. C++ has been a popular programming language for embedded system development for a while now, thanks to its low-level functionality and code efficiency.
However, a new programming language has been growing in popularity over the last decade that was developed as an improvement of C and C++. Rust is a modern language that has been voted the most admired programming language in the 2023 Stack Overflow Developer Survey and is regularly chosen over C++ as a safer and more efficient alternative.
When it comes to Rust vs C++, there are a lot of similarities between the two languages which means they can be used with similar positive results for a wide range of projects. However, certain features of Rust and C++ make them better suited for certain project requirements or types of program, as well as presenting different advantages and disadvantages that developers might prefer.
In this article, we compare Rust vs C++ performance, uses and efficiency to help you learn more about both programming languages and decide which is best for you.
What is the Rust Programming Language?
The Rust programming language was developed in 2010 by Mozilla, a software organisation that develops and distributes free software and standards for anyone to use. It’s a relatively modern way of coding that was initially created to overcome memory and security issues that developers faced when using C or C++.
Developers use Rust to create secure applications for a wide variety of purposes. It’s a multi-paradigm, statically-typed language that is memory-efficient and very fast, which is why a lot of people have started using it over C++.
Some of the key features of Rust include the ability to conduct different performance services, manual memory management, pattern management, move semantics and no extra runtime overhead. It’s faster to code in Rust than in languages like C, enhanced error messages make bug fixing easier, and it can integrate with other programming languages.
Rust has grown from a coding language created to overcome memory issues to one of the most popular languages used by developers all over the world. A wide variety of leading companies use Rust in their systems and programs, from Dropbox to Discord.
Advantages of Rust
- Rust is considered to be one of the most secure programming languages out there, thanks to its error-prevention features and statically typed environment
- The language’s memory model means that it is safe to write code around shared data structures
- It’s quite easy to scale coding projects up and down with Rust, as it was designed by web browser developers
- Concurrent code is easy to write without relying on synchronisation options or locks
- You can give your compiler information that makes it easier for it to identify and flag bugs
- High-performance code is safe to write without reliance on libraries, thanks to low-level control over system resources
- Coding in Rust has the option to use a compiler that offers error messages and tooling support
- Rust is considered to be a relatively ‘new’ and ‘up-and-coming’ language, which means there are a lot of exciting potential development to be made
Disadvantages of Rust
- The multi-thread programming model that Rust has is generally considered to be over complicated and over-sophisticated for what developers actually need
- There’s a very steep learning curve when it comes to getting to grips with Rust, so it’s not a particularly beginner-friendly language
- Having to give instructions to a compiler is sometimes deemed unnecessary
What is C++?
C++ was developed between 1979 and 1983 as an extension of the C programming language. It was originally named ‘C with classes’ because it is an object-oriented language where the groups of data are usually called ‘objects’ or ‘classes’.
Developers use C++ as a general-purpose, cross-platform programming language. It supports object-oriented, procedural and generic programming and is generally a very fast and efficient language to run.
You can use C++ for writing a wide variety of code, which is why it has earned the nickname of the ‘Swiss army knife’ of programming languages. A key feature and advantage of using C++ is that it allows you to reuse code instructions that you have already written, which makes programming quicker and more efficient. You can also create ‘classes’ which perform complex functions, many of which couldn’t be done with other programming languages.
C++ is commonly used in embedded software development because of its versatility and compatibility with embedded devices. Experience programming with C++ is a desirable quality for developers that want to work with embedded systems, and it’s one that a lot of our clients are keen to hire.
Advantages of C++
- You can sort data very easily with C++ because it’s an object-oriented language
- Memory is managed by the program manager with C++, which offer the programmer more control
- Code written in C++ is easy to reuse
- The similarities between C and C++ mean that C programs written without any errors can also run as C++ programs
- The portability of C++ means that it can run the same program on different operating systems and interfaces
- Low-level manipulation for firmware projects is possible with C++, thanks to its similarities with machine languages
- The scalability of C++ is very broad, meaning it can be used for very small or very large projects
- The multi-paradigm aspect of C++ means that programmers are given a useful framework from which they can code in a range of styles.
- C++ has a large community of users, meaning that there’s a lot of support and tutorials available online
Disadvantages of C++
- C++ isn’t a particularly beginner-friendly programming language because the syntax is very complex
- It is said to be quite difficult to get your head around using ‘pointers’ when coding in C++
- Built-in code threads are not supported with C++
- Object-oriented programming languages like C++ are known for having certain security issues
- The object orientation system that C++ has is often considered basic, in comparison to other programming languages
- Manually managing memory and not having a garbage collector feature can make the coding process longer
Read our full guide to the advantages and disadvantages of C++ on our blog.
The Differences Between Rust Vs C++
One of the key differences between Rust and C++ is memory safety. Whilst updates have been developed that have improved the memory safety of C++ code, Rust still has much safer memory management because of its inbuilt functions for management procedures.
Another key difference is that Rust is statically-typed whilst C++ is dynamically-typed. This means that the validation process for code written in Rust is much more thorough, meaning that Rust programs are usually considered to be more secure than those developed with C++.
This improved security also tends to make Rust a better-performing language than C++. Higher safety standards mean lower development process costs, as Rust assesses the code’s viability and deals with memory issues whilst the code is compiling, not running.
On the flip side of all of these Rust advantages is the fact that C++ has been around for and used a lot longer, which means that there’s a lot more information and examples of what you can do with the code. Whilst Rust standard libraries are very good, C++ has more stable and feature-full libraries, which gives it an advantage in this sense. There are also more compilers for C++ than Rust.
C++ is an object-oriented language and Rust is not. Many people consider this difference an advantage, as C++ has features like polymorphism, templates, objects and inheritance.
Finally, whilst Rust is growing in popularity as a programming language, there are still currently more products being created using C++. Therefore, it’s easier right now to get a job as a C++ software developer than one that works primarily in Rust, although this could change in the future.
What Is the Rust Programming Language Good For?
Rust is a programming language that is ideal for embedded software development. The safety and security of the language are the main reasons for this, but its higher-level concepts are also an advantage when you’re creating programs for embedded devices. You can also use Rust for a lot of low-level software generally, as developers have a lot of control over the software they create and the run time is very fast.
Mozilla originally developed Rust, so it’s also a great language to use to build web browsers. Concurrency is a key feature of Rust, so it’s easy to run multiple computations at the same time without impacting functionality.
Whilst Rust isn’t as accessible as other programming languages, it’s generally easier to code in because it’s easier to prevent unwanted behaviour. Therefore, Rust is a great language if you want to quickly and productively write code without having to worry about memory issues or unnoticed bugs.
Rust is a very versatile language, so there’s no particular type of coding project that it’s good for. Instead, it’s perfect for any kind of task where safe code is necessary, the programs need to be able to scale up or down, and you potentially need to integrate with code written in C.
What is C++ Good For?
In the Rust vs C++ argument, C++ is still generally considered to be the best language for game development. The language is very close to the hardware that games run on, so it’s an ideal choice for complex, 3D games that run quickly and smoothly.
Any kind of object-oriented programming is better with C++, due to the functional nature of Rust. This makes C++ a better choice for large and complex coding projects that may need maintaining or updating regularly, or for collaborative projects where multiple developers work on the code at one time.
Rust’s ‘newness’ in comparison to C++ means that many developers recommend that you still use C++ when creating interactive programs, as Rust won’t work as well handling interactions from external sources. The fact that C++ has been around longer also means that, if you’re looking to do something really specific or unconventional with your code, there’s likely to be more existing support or guidance out there about C++ rather than Rust.
When it comes down to it, choosing between Rust vs C++ is more about the specific requirements of your projects rather than the type of program or system that you’re trying to build. Whilst Rust does have advantages over C++ that stem from why it was created in the first place, C++ has been around a lot longer and is preferred by a lot of developers because of this.
In the embedded systems sector, C++ and Rust are both used to develop embedded software, with very positive results. Rust is still in the relatively early stages of its popularity, so it’s still to be determined whether it will overtake C++ as the preferred programming language for this kind of software.
If you’re a software developer with Rust experience looking for an opportunity in the embedded systems sector, KO2 is a specialist recruitment agency that can help you find your ideal role. Take a look at our current Rust jobs or get in touch for more information about what we offer our candidates.