Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

For many people, Samsung is Android. It’s the brand most associated with the platform, and certainly the most popular in terms of units sold. Purists will argue the Korean giant changes the software too much, and that the best way to experience Google’s operating system is to use one of its own devices.

So, which is the way to go for those who want the ultimate Android experience? We compare the Google Pixel 2 and the Samsung S8 to see how the different visions hold up.

Price and availability

With both of these devices being flagships you’re going to paying a fair amount whichever route you choose.

The Google Pixel 2 can be bought directly from the Google Store, with the 64GB version costing £629 and the 128GB model rising to £729.

Both are available in Just Black and Clearly White liveries, but Google has taken the unusual decision to offer the Kinda Blue variant only on the 64GB unit.

If you prefer a larger screen then there’s the Pixel 2 XL, which boasts a 6in display rather than the 5in found on its smaller sibling. This costs £799 (64GB) or £899 (128GB), both coming in either Just Black or the rather inverse Guinness-like Black & White.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Samsung offers the S8 in a single 64GB storage configuration which can be bought directly from the company for £689. This is expandable though, thanks to a microSD card slot. The S8 comes in four colour schemes: Midnight Black, Orchid Grey, Coral Blue, and Artic Silver.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Again, there is a bigger version available, the S8 Plus (£779), which offers the same configurations as its diminutive brethren.

As always, you can shop around for reductions on all of the models mentioned above, and there will be various offers available from your mobile service provider. We’d recommend checking out our buying guides below for the best current deals.

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 deals

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus deals

Best Google Pixel 2 deals

Design

The Samsung S8 is regularly hailed as one of the best-looking smartphones currently available, and when you hold one for the first time it’s easy to see why. 

A 5.8in Infinity display dominates the front of the device, curving around each side of the device, and going almost top to bottom. This is possible because the traditional Home button has been removed, with Samsung opting for software controls instead.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

There is a fingerprint sensor, but it’s now on the back. This decision divides opinion, as although a rear sensor is fine (in fact the Pixel 2 has one also), its placement is up next to the camera lens. Having it here can lead to fingerprints on the lens rather than the sensor, but after a while muscle memory kicks in and you get used to it.

The dimensions of the S8 are very similar to that of its predecessor, except for being slightly taller. This allows the screen size to increase from 5.1in to 5.8in while keeping the device comfortable in the hand.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Gorilla Glass 5 adorns the back of the S8, meaning the device can be charged wirelessly, and the unit comes with an IP68 rating to certify that its fully waterproof.

Read our Samsung S8 review for a full breakdown of all the features of this truly impressive device.

Google has continued its unique design philosophy with the Pixel 2. This mainly boils down to the upper section on the rear of the device being glass, while the rest of the body is made from textured aluminium. A fingerprint sensor nestles just below the glass area, making it better placed than its Samsung rival.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

A 5in display makes up the majority of the Pixel 2’s front, with large bezels housing stereo speakers. While undeniably useful, this does make it look a little dated when compared to the sleek, futuristic visage of the S8.

Sadly, Google has also decided to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack, a trend in smartphone design that still has yet to prove its worth to us in terms of how it benefits consumers.

Both devices have USB-C ports for fast-charging and connections, but the Pixel 2 doesn’t have wireless charging capabilities. Google’s device this year is waterproof with an IP67 rating too, which is just short of the more robust S8 with its IP68 rating (in the real world you won’t notice the difference though).

The Pixel 2 is a good, solid design, but it’s never going to win a hardware fight with the gorgeous and premium equipped S8.

See the full Google Pixel 2 review for more details.

Display

A 5in full HD OLED display can be found on the Pixel 2, and its again a solid performer. The 1920 x 1080 resolution seems to be less demanding on the hardware than some of the higher resolution displays we’ve seen on other smartphones, resulting in the Pixel 2 being fast and smoothly response.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

It’s a little unfair then that Samsung has placed such an impressive panel into the S8. At 5.8in, the SuperAMOLED display delivers a Quad HD 2960 x 1440 resolution, with vivid colours and crystal-clear definition.

The S8 is also one of a handful to support HDR playback for video. The pickings are slim at the moment, but Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube all have content available that looks stunning on the Samsung display.

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

When compared to the Pixel 2, the Samsung offering is bigger, brighter and more colourful, plus the curved edges just feel exotic. Truly we think it’s the best you can get on an Android phone right now, with only the S8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 giving any serious competition.

Cameras

Picking up either of these phones will give you great photos and videos. Samsung sticks with the unit that found so much favour in the S7, giving the main camera a 12Mp sensor, f/1.7 aperture, and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS).

All of this means the S8 can record high-quality 4K video at 30fps, or 1080p at 60fps. There’s also support for Slow Motion video capture at 240fps in 720p.

The Pixel 2 has a fantastic 12Mp unit with an f/1.8 lens and OIS, plus plenty of Google trickery with the digital image stabilisation that does and incredible job of keeping video recordings rock-solid. Like the Samsung S8 is can capture 4K at 30fps, but the results from both stills and video are in our opinion are superior on the Pixel 2.

As we said, both are excellent, it’s just that the Pixel 2 is better.  

Software and Performance

Here’s the area where things get muddy. Yes, both run Android, but the experience is different on either handset. Samsung has worked hard in recent years to make its TouchWiz interface less busy and more refined.

This work has paid off. Gone are the cartoon colours that used to gouge the eyes, and instead there’s a classy looking, highly versatile control system in place. Menus are tasteful, pages look good, and there’s still a ton of features under the hood so you can customise the device to suit your tastes.

Google takes a more minimalist approach. Options are still plentiful, but not quite to the level offered by Samsung. This can be a positive thing though. The Pixel 2 is good to go, and as such there doesn’t seem much need to mess with additional tweaks or settings. 

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2 v Galaxy S8

Both perform smoothly in operation, with the S8 not seeming to suffer from the classic Samsung lag that eventually appeared on previous models. This, of course, could change over time. The S8 comes with Android 7.0 on-board, but the Pixel 2 boasts Android 8.0, and we’d expect it to receive future updates to the OS faster than the S8.

Using the Pixel 2 is a rapid, unhesitating experience. Everything is immediate and flowing, with the OS just making sense. This is Android as Google always envisioned it would be, and we think it makes a compelling argument.

Samsung Galaxy S8 vs Google Pixel 2: Specifications

Here’s a comprehensive list of the technical features on both devices.

Specification Google Pixel 2 Samsung S8
Price £629 (64GB); £729 (128GB) £689 (64GB) 
Operating System Android 8.0 Oreo Android 7.0 Nougat
Display 5in Full HD 1920×1080 5.8in Quad HD display 2960×1440
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Exynos 8895 octa-core
GPU Adreno 540 ARM-Mali-G71
RAM 4GB 4GB
Storage 64GB/128GB 64GB (Expandable to 256GB with microSD)
Primary Camera 12.2Mp Single lens, dual-LED flash, OIS 12Mp with OIS
Selfie Camera 8Mp 8Mp
Speakers Stereo, front facing Single, downward facing
Fingerprint Scanner Yes, at rear Yes, at rear
Waterproofing IP67 IP68
WiFi Dual-band 11ac Dual-band 11ac
Bluetooth 5 5
Battery 2700mAh, with Fast Charging support  3000mAh, with Fast Charging and Wireless charging support
Dimensions 145.7 x 69.7 x 7.8mm 149 x 68 x 8mm
Weight 143g 155g

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The best iPhone X cases

Seagate wants to launch a 20TB hard drive by 2019

In the jostling battle for the biggest hard drive between Seagate and Western Digital – the latter of which holds the title at the moment with its 14TB helium-filled offering – Seagate is claiming to have struck a fresh blow with the development of drive tech which will allow HDDs in excess of 20TB to come to market in 2019.

As Tom’s Hardware reports, Seagate’s new technology is HAMR or Heat Assisted Magnetic Recording, which utilizes tiny lasers to boost storage density.

Western Digital is taking a different route: MAMR or Microwave Assisted Magnetic Recording, using microwave fields to achieve the same end. WD has previously said that by employing this technology it will offer up to 40TB hard disks come 2025.

Put the HAMR down…

Seagate’s claim with HAMR is to have a 20TB drive on the market in 2019 as mentioned, whereas the company reckons it will have 40TB+ HDDs ready to roll in 2023, so it’s effectively claiming it will beat WD to the punch by a couple of years in this respect.

At this point, though, this is obviously ‘guesstimation’ (and indeed more than a certain degree of posturing between hard disk rivals, both of whom are convinced that their method is the best way to increase drive storage density, naturally). Only time will tell who actually wins the race…

In the near future, Seagate is readying a 16TB hard drive for launch next year, intending to steal the title back off Western Digital’s current 14TB storage capacity champion.

Meanwhile, SSDs are truly pushing capacity boundaries – last year, Seagate showed off a whopping 60TB model which uses 3D TLC NAND.

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AOC AG352UCG Curved G-Sync Gaming Monitor Review

To be classified as a gaming monitor, a display must meet two minimum criteria: adaptive sync and a high refresh rate. These days, G-Sync or FreeSync is a must for anyone who cares about motion quality. Putting the video card in the driver’s seat means the panel only draws a frame when ordered to. It isn’t locked into a fixed refresh cycle. So then the choice comes down to Nvidia or AMD.

It seems that most premium screens choose G-Sync, with its more consistent low framerate support. If you can’t support high speeds with your current video card, it’s nice to know there won’t be tearing when the action drops below 40 FPS. To get that consistency with FreeSync, you have to check the specs carefully, because not all monitors work the same. On the other hand, G-Sync also adds a $200 tariff to the price of entry compared to FreeSync generally speaking.

Today, we’re checking out the AG352UCG, an ultra-wide member of AOC’s Agon gaming display line. It sports an 1800mm curve radius with a high-contrast AMVA panel running at 3440×1440 pixels. G-Sync is there too over a range of 24-100Hz. It’s all wrapped in a stylish chassis with colorful LED effects and a solid-aluminum stand. Let’s take a look.

Specifications

Once you’ve satisfied with the refresh rate equation, the choices in gaming displays are vast. Ultra-wide curved screens are popular for their immersive wraparound effect and greater use of the player’s peripheral vision. Many people use multiple 16:9 monitors to achieve the same thing, but now you can have a more seamless, single-screen experience. The AG352UCG’s 1800mm radius curve is about as tight as it gets. And a generous 35” size means you won’t have to sit super close to lose yourself in the game world.

Users who place resolution high on the priority list will be attracted to the Agon’s 3440×1440 specification. That means a pixel density of 106ppi, which is close to a 27” QHD monitor’s 109. We’ve long considered that good balance between clarity and speed. Speaking of the latter, 100Hz is the max refresh here, which may look a little weak next to the latest 240Hz screamers coming from Asus, Acer, and AOC. But the AG352UCG has something else to recommend it: an AMVA panel. It offers double the contrast of the best IPS or TN screens, and that’s something anyone can readily see. It might just be worth a little framerate sacrifice.

Packaging, Physical Layout & Accessories

The AG352UCG is a substantial display and it comes in a carton to match. The panel, upright, and base are separately packed and well protected by large foam blocks. Assembly requires the use of a Phillips-head screwdriver to attach the upright, while the base bolts on without tools.

Bundled cables include DisplayPort, HDMI, and analog audio. The latter is intended to complete a mic interface between the monitor and your PC. Although there is a built-in USB 3.0 hub, no cable is included. To use it, you’ll need a cable with a micro-B plug, which is somewhat unusual. The power supply is external like most ultra-wide displays, and occupies a large brick. Documentation and drivers can be downloaded from AOC’s website.

Product 360

AOC typically puts a lot of effort into its product’s styling, but the Agon line is a cut above the norm. The AG352UCG has generous amounts of silver trim and a unique LED array that not only lights up the panel’s bottom edge but adds four large accents across the back. You can choose a red, green, or blue effect in the OSD. We only wish the color would change to indicate G-Sync operation like with some other displays.

The anti-glare layer is 3H hardness like most others but has a little more shine than is typical. This increases the clarity factor noticeably, but you’ll need to take a bit more care when setting it up to avoid reflections. Luckily, curved screens are easier to deal with in this regard. The bezel is finished in a gloss black and is relatively wide with a 15mm top and sides, and 25mm at the bottom. Underneath is the aforementioned LED bar, which emits a soft glow, almost like a bias light.

The stand is one of the most substantial we’ve seen. It’s made from solid aluminum finished in a premium satin sheen. Both the base and upright are made from the same material, and the latter is capped by a useful handle. Movements are solid and sure, as good as any premium monitor we’ve laid our hands on. In addition to a 4.3” height adjustment, there’s 30° swivel in each direction and 29° back tilt with 5.5° forward. A small hook flips out from behind the upper-right to hang a pair of headphones. The stand can be removed if you wish to use the 100mm VESA mount holes.

Video inputs include one each of HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2. The former can be used at the monitor’s native resolution up to 60Hz. For G-Sync and 100Hz, DisplayPort is the only choice. You also get one upstream and two downstream USB 3.0 ports along with headphone, mic in, and mic out. Two small speakers can be seen behind the up-facing grill, just above the large silver trim piece on back. They play louder than you might expect, but there is some distortion at higher volumes.

MORE: Best Gaming Monitors

MORE: Best Professional Monitors

MORE: How We Test Monitors

MORE: How To Choose A Monitor

MORE: All Monitor Content

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Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb review: Alexa-ready and budget-friendly smart lighting from Anker

Wi-Fi-enabled smart lights are rapidly becoming commodities, and it’s exciting to see prices plummeting to the point where they make sense for just about everyone. The latest: Eufy, a sub-brand of everything-goes electronics manufacturer Anker, just hit the market with two new affordable Edison-style smart bulbs: a $30 tunable-white bulb and a $20 fixed-white bulb.

Eufy ticks off nearly all the specs one could ask for in a smart lighting system. Both the tunable and white-only bulbs operate at a solid 800 lumens while drawing 11 watts of power, work without a hub, and can be controlled with voice commands via Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant. The bulbs even support external dimmers (though you may encounter trouble with the wireless radio working while they’re dimmed). Finally, while both bulbs are a little on the large side, as the heat sink at the base is a bit elongated, they should fit fine in most fixtures.

Setup is straightforward with both bulbs, the EufyHome app walking you through joining each bulb’s temporary Wi-Fi network, then moving it over to your home’s standard Wi-Fi network. Setup didn’t take on the second bulb I tried to install, but a quick reset (as guided by the app) got me up and running with just a few extra minutes of work.

Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb Tunable White Anker/Eufy

The tunable-white version of Anker’s Eufy Lumos Smart bulb produces 800 lumens of brightness, but its color temperature can be varied from warm 2700K to a very cool 6500K.

Within the app you’ll find a straightforward control system, including the ability to share control with other users, tweak bulb settings, and set up schedules. The app is well-designed and easy to use, and even includes a handy away mode, which turns the lights off and on randomly while you’re on vacation. (That said, “randomly” could probably be more aggressive—it’s not a flicker-style away mode; rather, it leaves the lights either on or off for minutes or hours at a time.)

As a bonus feature, the bulbs include support for Alexa out of the box. After adding the appropriate skill, Alexa found both of my bulbs immediately, and voice commands—though basic, as is common for smart bulbs—worked just fine.

Eufy Smart Bulb app Anker/Eufy

Note that the two different bulb types can’t be placed in the same group.

If there’s a hiccup with the app, it’s in the way groups work. You can’t assign different types of bulbs to the same group, so if you have tunable bulbs and white bulbs in the same room, you’ll need to manage them separately. While a nuisance, this probably won’t affect many users.

Looking at the bulbs individually, the Eufy Lumos Tunable White Smart Bulb offers a solid range of color temperatures, from 2700K to 6500K, and it’s easy to pick a temperature and set brightness without delving into sub-menus. Changes are nearly instantaneous, and the app includes several mood-centric presets if you tire of picking out colors from the selector. At full strength, it offers plenty of brightness, and its versatility makes it appropriate for almost any environment.

While it’s more limited, the Eufy Lumos White Smart Bulb features the same light quality, although it’s tuned to a static 2700K, but this axes the price down to a mere 20 bucks. While you can’t change the color temperature, brightness changes are as immediate as the temperature changes on the tunable bulb. One tiny nitpick: The bulb doesn’t dim in real time. You can drag your finger on the brightness slider from 1- to 100 percent to make your selection, but the chosen level doesn’t take effect until you release your finger.

Link-U security camera review: 4G connectivity and battery backup let this camera deliver security anywhere

An irony of Wi-Fi security cameras is that the very thing that enables their many strengths—internet connectivity—is also its their most glaring weakness. All it takes is a spotty connection for your camera to go dark at the wrong time. The Link-U, billed as the world’s first ever “hybrid connection” camera, promises to eliminate that risk.

The Link-U’s hybrid design refers to a couple of features. Most significantly, it can connect to the internet via hardwired ethernet, Wi-Fi, or an internal LTE modem. This allows it to automatically determine the best connection option depending on your situation, and to switch fluidly between them as you move the camera to different environments. Just be aware that you’ll need to sign up with a 4G LTE service provider to take advantage of this feature (in the U.S., that would be AT&T, T-Mobile, or any reseller using those networks).

It also refers to the camera’s dual power sources: Power over ethernet (PoE), courtesy of a 24-watt PoE injector accessory, or an internal 3700 mAh battery that provides up to eight hours of life. Curiously, one thing that’s not included is a conventional AC power adapter. The upshot of this unique design is if an intruder cuts your electrical power, and by extension your internet connectivity, the Link-U will remain operational to capture evidence of the break-in.

link u hybrid smartcam front 2 Link-U

The Link-U uses hybrid connectivity to provide always-on security.

A smart-home hub, too?

The Link-U is also outfitted with a Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) radio that allows you to connect to a range of Sigma Casa smart-home devices, including door and window sensors, light bulbs, power plugs, and smoke detectors. So it’s not only a security camera, it can also function as a smart-home hub.There’s an important limitation on this score, however: The Link-U can support only eight Bluetooth devices.

Beyond those unique design elements, The Link-U boasts most of the now standard security camera features: a wide-angle (130-degree field of view) lens, 1080p resolution, LED infrared night vision (up to 25 feet), and sound and motion detection. Event-triggered video clips are recorded locally to up to a 32GB microSD card (not included).

Setup and usage

img 0143 Michael Ansaldo/IDG

The Link-U app doesn’t include a timeline of video clips but requires you to search for them instead.

Setting up the Link-U is a pretty smooth and simple process. Just tap the plus sign in the companion app to add the device; plug the Link-U into its PoE injector; connect the injector to your internet gateway, router, or switch; and scan the QR code on the back of the camera. With that, you have a live feed of the room.

I wanted to untether the camera from my modem, though, and that proved tricky as the included documentation is scant and the app doesn’t walk you through the process. After poking around the app for a bit, I finally found what I need to enable Wi-Fi connectivity under the settings.

The camera’s video quality is excellent, with sharp detail and balanced lighting even at lower resolutions. When viewing the live stream, you can trigger the camera’s built-in mic to speak with any family members at home, soothe your pet, or startle and intruder. You can also capture a video clip by tapping a record button that displays on screen and selecting a duration of 5, 15, or 30 seconds.

How to get better results when converting video

When converting videos, most people use presets for ‘iPhone’ or simply ‘MP4’. But using them might result in poor video quality, or you might end up with files that are too big, and use up a lot of your phone’s storage. If you want to be more precise about things such as resolution, bitrate and aspect ratio, you need to understand what the jargon means. We explain what you need to know.

Resolution

If you’re converting video from an 4K source, such as a GoPro, you’ll start with a big, high-quality file. Let’s say you want to watch that video on your smartphone. There’s little point in retaining the video’s full resolution of 3096×2160, even if your phone can play it.

Manual video settings

Manual video settings

In your video converter, enter the resolution of your phone’s screen. This will reduce the size of the resulting video file, and it should also make it look better on your phone, as well as saving the phone from having to downscale the video to fit.

Aspect ratio

This brings us neatly to aspect ratio. 1080p video has an aspect ratio of 16:9. Divide 16 by 9 and you get 1.77, which is the same as dividing 1920 by 1080. To find your phone’s aspect ratio, divide the resolution of its longest size by its shorter side.

Some of the newest phones have 18:9 screens, or 2:1 – they’re twice as wide as their height.

When your converted video has a different aspect ratio to the original, you either lose information (chopping off the sides or top and bottom) or gain black bars at the sides or top and bottom.

Each video converter is different, but it should give you the option of how to handle an aspect ratio change. Here’s how Freemake handles it: 

Aspect ratio of video

Aspect ratio of video

Framerate

This is the number of video frames captured or displayed per second. In the UK, we have a standard (PAL) which is 25fps (frames per second). Movies use video with 24fps. We’d advise leaving the framerate alone, unless your device can’t play the video at its original frame rate. The original Apple TV, for example, is limited to playing 720p video (1280×720 resolution) at 24fps.

Container

Codec and container are two frequently confused terms. One reason for this is that the codec and container can share the same name, such as MP4 (MPEG-4).

Put simply, the container is a way of packaging the audio and video together in one file. You can think of it like a zip file which can hold several files of different formats. Examples of containers include: .MP4, .MKV, .AVI, .MOV, .OGG, .ASF.

Codec

Within a video container is an audio file and a video file. A codec describes the method by which each has been compressed.

For example, an .AVI container might contain DivX video and MP3 audio files. An .MP4 file might contain MPEG-4 video and AAC audio. One of the most popular containers for HD video is .MKV, which can include H.264 video and AAC audio. But the latest is H.265 which is used for most 4K video as it’s much more efficient that H.264 and results in smaller files without a loss in quality. It’s also used to broadcast 4K video and virtually all 4K TVs support it.

For the vast majority of uses, including for Android and iOS devices, the MPEG-4 video codec is best. To be specific, H.264 (also known as MPEG-4 AVC) is the most efficient rather than plain MPEG-4, so you’ll get the best image quality for the smallest file size by choosing H.264. Video converters sometimes call it x264. 

Bitrate

The video and audio within a container file have their own bitrates. Bitrate is a measurement of the number of bits that are transmitted over a set period of time. The bottom line is that the more bits in your video, the higher quality the image.

For video, bitrate is usually expressed in Mbps – megabits per second. Blu-ray discs typically have a bitrate of between 20 and 30Mb/s. That’s way too high for a smartphone or tablet, where you can get away with perhaps only 2-5Mb/s.

Bitrate is related to file size – you can calculate the expected file size by multiplying the bitrate by the video’s duration. Don’t forget to add the bitrate and duration of the audio as well. Audio bitrate is much less than video, and is typically less than 320Kb/s (kilobits per second). 1Mb/s = 1,000Kb/s.

You’ll have to experiment with bitrate to find the optimum setting for your device. Set it too low and you’ll end up with a nice small file, but poor quality – especially when there’s a lot of movement on screen.

Constant vs. variable bitrate

Making matters more complicated, you can opt for a fixed or variable bitrate. With variable bitrate, you may (or may not, depending on your video converter) be able to set a minimum and maximum bitrate. The encoder then tries to compress the video as efficiently as possible, using the minimum bitrate when there’s little or no movement, and the maximum when there’s movement in the entire frame.

The advantage is that you should get better quality video with a smaller file size, but variable bit rate isn’t usually the best option if you’re streaming the video across the internet.

Fixed bit rate means the bitrate is constant throughout the video. This usually gives smoother playback, at the expense of a larger file.

Again, you may have to experiment to see what works best on the device on which you’re playing the video.

If you’re unsure about the video specifications for your device, look in the user manual or search online to find them.


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