Those of you lucky enough to have received your Nintendo Switch today - along with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, no doubt - then you may have already tried the game in both its docked and portable iterations.
Given that the docked mode is supposed to give the console a performance boost, it's perhaps surprising that Digital Foundry has discovered that the game actually runs more smoothly in the Switch's undocked, portable mode. As we noted in our own review, there are moments of stutter when playing on the TV, but nothing game-breaking.
We'll let the tech experts take it from here:
In terms of performance, it's immediately clear to the naked eye that the docked Zelda stutters in places where the mobile experience does not - and to confirm this, we manually counted frames by eye based on our camera shots to ensure accuracy in producing the performance test below. It's really easy to isolate this issue as it occurs frequently in the open world, right from the beginning of the game. In some places, we see the smooth 30fps update while docked drop down to a momentary 20fps - confirming a basic double-buffer v-sync implementation.
What's curious is that the stutter is fleeting, effectively ruling out GPU rendering as the cause - as the on-screen content doesn't change. And that begs the question - if it's a CPU issue, why do we have these issues at all bearing in mind that we know that docked and undocked CPU clock-speeds are identical at 1020MHz? Well, one thing we have to bear in mind is that although there is a big jump in GPU clocks as we move from docked to mobile, there's not a great deal of difference in memory bandwidth between the two modes.
This is only a theory, but it does make sense based on the data available. Laying out the maths here, docking increases pixel count from 720p to 900p, a 56 per cent in resolution. However, memory bandwidth only rises by 20 per cent, from 1331MHz to 1600MHz. Bandwidth is shared between CPU and GPU, so the higher resolution in the home console mode may be sapping memory bandwidth away from the main processor cores, making us more prone to slowdown when the CPU is under load. Bandwidth concerns may also explain why resolution doesn't scale closer in line with the difference in clock-speeds (307.2MHz or 384MHz undocked, 768MHz docked). Suffice to say, if you're looking to play Breath of the Wild with minimal performance drops, running undocked is the way forward.
Digital Foundry asserts that in purely visual terms, the experience is almost identical between docked and undocked, although there are some benefits to be had from running it via the TV:
...playing while docked highlights one visual improvement: texture filtering still isn't great, but it's clearly improved over the handheld version, resolving more ground detail in particular further away from the player. Will you actually notice outside of eyeballing screenshots? It's highly unlikely. Miniaturising the action onto the 6.2-inch screen makes the difference virtually indistinguishable, and the improvement - such as it is - manifests as a 'band' of additional texture detail just ahead of the Link character.
We'd argue the difference is a little more notable between portable and TV in terms of the visual impact, but that's just an opinion!
Given that Breath of the Wild is an early Switch title - and one which began life as a Wii U game, lest we forget - we'd imagine that things will improve as time goes by and Nintendo gets a grip on the hardware. Even so, the moments of stutter when playing docked are miles away from being deal-breaking, and in both docked and portable forms Breath of the Wild represents a stunning technical achievement - what's interesting is that playing docked doesn't offer the performance benefits that many had expected.
That's bad. Jose on IGN's NVC said on last weeks episode that this game was pushing the Switch to its absolute limit.
Watch around the 50:15 mark.
Remember the good old days when everyone was worried that the handheld mode would basically be unplayable compared to when it was docked?
@SLIGEACH_EIRE But it comes with a free frozen yogurt, which I call Frogurt!
Anyway, this isn't a big deal to me, as the game has still been getting 10/10 scores in spite of any technical hiccups at all. Can't wait!
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Posting a couple words and then editing your post afterward in order to get the top comment again, I see.
I mean, I love the Witcher 3, but the game is filled with technical hiccups here and there. If we can praise TW3 then we should allow Zelda the same standard. I actually think, so far, that BoTW is way more polished.
@Equinox no you're not. It's been reported in multiple reviews of both the hardware itself and Zelda.
Joy Cons appear to be all hype for most folks, sadly. They're a necessity for portable play, but a nightmare when docked (in the Grip or using free hand). This is because of the smaller nature of the controllers themselves and the placement of buttons, especially on the R Joy Con.
@gatorboi352 A nightmare? A lot of people don't seem to have trouble with them. They're probably not preferable, but they work.
@KirbyTheVampire Ya providing a link to the video, terrible. How dare I? I'm delighted that it bothers you so.
Have DF dissected the Switch hardware yet to find out what's inside, X1, X1.5, X1.6667? Last I recall reading Switch was more powerful, even in handheld mode, than Wii U, and since this is a Wii U game it makes sense the portable mode would be able to handle it at 720p. I'll just assume Wii U is running in 720p mode to try and keep things running smoothly and for whatever reason, I did read the full article on EG, 900p is a problem.
If Nintnedo wants to get with the cutting edge times maybe they'll install an options menu that lets you run docked mode at 720p? Seems like Switch portable vs Switched docked is a similar situation to PS4 and PS4 Pro so options may be the way to go for people who like their framerate rock steady. How much different can 720p vs 900p be visually if DF is saying they look the same?
Makes me wonder, maybe the stuttering is from the Switch outputting a 1080p signal from a 900p game source? I really don't know how that works. Maybe if the Switch output 900p and let the TV upscale to 1080p there wouldn't be a problem. Or just letterbox the 900p for a cinematic look?
Oh well, they have at least 9 months of "expansion pass" time until they are done supporting the game, plenty of time to patch, update, firmware the Switch, whatever, to improve things.
Day 1 in 2017 is not day 1 in 1987.
@JKRiki My comment isn't a dig at the game(it's a masterpiece). It's a concern about the hardware going forward.
But how does it perform on Wii U?!?!?!?
Still being soo... negative with portability ?
What is so sad ?
You are wrong.
Mostly people here enjoy the portability.
Hopefully that will be fixed with an update
"Those of you lucky enough to have received your Nintendo Switch today ... then you may have already tried the game in both its docked and portable iterations."
Makes no grammatical sense. Needs to be re-written.
I noticed it here and there when I was playing last night but it didn't really bother me whatsoever. I guess I'm just used to a crappy frame rate from when I had a crappy PC when I was into that kinda gaming.
Meh, I'll still probably play the game docked most of the time. The difference isn't significant enough for me.
@rjejr I edited it 4 times I think. Who cares? I'm going to edit this comment too.
First said that's bad. Then talked about IGN. Then added the Youtube links. Then changed listen to watch in the last edit.
I'm not worried about the hardware. More powerful is always nice but the biggest improvements come when devs get to grips with best coding methods for the platform.
Zelda and Mario Kart looking/running as they do is still insane for a portable.
@KirbyTheVampire "they're not preferable" THEY'RE THE MAIN DEFAULT CONTROLS!! lol... seriously though, it's a little ridiculous that Nintendo even has to offer an alternative that's OH BY THE WAY also a much more preferred (and objectionably superior) way to play.
Same went for Wii U too. Why even offer the Pro controller as an option? Because people hated playing games on the TV with the Gamepad.
Nintendo has learned nothing, and it's beyond frustrating.
I think you misread my comment.
Does anyone know if it's possible to have the docked mode output a 720p signal as opposed to 1080p (effectively 900p)? I have a screen that handles only 720p, so if I could trade pixels for fluidity, it would be a good thing.
@Excalibur_120 no there's not. Also, that's not the issue at play here.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE On the third edit you posted the link, judging from what I saw anyway, lol. Just saying.
I don't care either way, though. Fine with me if you wanted the top comment or you just wanted to add more to it.
@gatorboi352 Well, the JoyCons are really the first controllers of their kind from what I've seen, so who knows how difficult they were to make. They couldn't exactly throw a Pro controller into the box along with the JoyCons, either. I don't really see how they could have done anything very different without completely resizing the screen.
Come on. It's Nintendo. We're all use to it by now. 😉
@SLIGEACH_EIRE when has a launch game ever pushed a console to its absolute limit?
Its a game initially designed for a different console, running on an engine I'd imagine was not designed with the switch in mind.
For what it is, I'd say its quite a feat to even get it to the level it is. I'd imagine a with another 6 months development time it might well have run perfectly, but targets had to be met so we get the experience we do.
I find that funny! So the dock does improve the game...but not in all areas!
@gatorboi352 I have a pro controller for the wii u. I think I used it once and that was about it. It really wasn't that necessary.
30fps really? I guess i'll have to deal but this makes me sad
@RainbowGazelle yes, although not much. Ditch "then", and the sense adds up; I suspect the kind of typo when a sentence is paraphrased midway but not all the previous content gets deleted. Stepped on that rake a lot myself, much to my shame.
@rjejr Its not a hardware issue though, Mario Kart runs in 1080p 60fps when docked and 720p 60fps when undocked.
Its a game optimisation issue, maybe they should have just left the game in 720p in handheld and docked mode to save any issues.
I kinda wish they'd have a native 720p setting for TV Mode too for this game.
But I don't mind the occasional stutter. I hope it's not too frequent.
Can't wait till Wednesday when I receive my copy!!
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Fair enough, but also fair (I think) is that BotW is a Wii U game not designed and built for Switch from Day 1. Let's see if Mario Odyssey has any issues like this, and if so, I give your worry all the fair credit it deserves. Otherwise, it's a win all around because it shows the Switch will be just fine.
"The higher the resolution, the bigger the framerate challenge", as per the teachings of Piesu Fuoropurou-sensei.*
*I acknowledge I may have got the spelling COMPLETELY wrong.
Definitely true. I noticed the same thing, but it's all still very playable though.
I know right. Watch Odyssey turn out close to being flawless whether docked or not. Hopefully anyway
@Yorumi same. Frame rate > all.
@Yorumi It's probably an optimization issue, at least partly. After all, it was originally designed for the Wii U.
@KirbyTheVampire perhaps then, Nintendo should stop trying to be a jack of all trades, eh? Seriously this is the second straight gen of this kind of approach and i really don't see it being a mainstream success.
Maybe it runs better on PC when I play this on Cemu Wii U emulator next year. Then I also don't have to deal with the 900p resolution and I can go straight to 2160p.
HANDHELDS MASTER RACE
Give full credit to Nintendo. Breath of the wild looks great on Wii u.
@KirbyTheVampire breath of the wild was delayed over a year to meet the switch launch date. Optimization is not an excuse, if that's actually the case.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE Ok everything makes sense now. You are trying to be a troll. I mean a horrible one at that but I can see now. Anyone who links IGN and takes their word as gospel has to be a troll. If you want people to take you serious link to someone who's more reputable and trustworthy. HAHAHA linking IGN that's cute.
@AlexSora89 yeah sure lol. There's nothing I enjoy more than gaming epic AAA masterpieces on a 6 inch screen with cramped controls.
@Equinox Tabletop mode + Pro Controller.
I wish they just left it running at 720p docked, then we wouldn't have this issue. But damn the aliasing is just putrid in this game.
@gatorboi352 Maybe, but that's what they're going for I guess. Might just have to wait a couple weeks for more opinions on the controllers to start rolling in and see what the majority of people think. It is pretty soon, after all, and it takes time to get used to any controller.
@gatorboi352 I'm not excusing them for anything, I'm just saying it might be less hardware related than people think. I have no idea, though. Maybe it's all hardware.
@KirbyTheVampire people seem to have gotten pretty used to that Pro controller already 😉
My 3DS begs to differ.
@gatorboi352 True, but I'm not seeing very many complaints about the JoyCons or the grip either. It seems to vary whether people prefer the grip or the separated JoyCons, though. Either way, I can't say for sure whether they really are good or not until I actually get a Switch in my hands.
@KirbyTheVampire they are really good. Depends what games your playing. its all about you and your personal options.
This game is one of the highest rated games of all time, in one of the most critically discussed hobbies in the media, and some of you are hanging your over the top negativity on a frame drop?
Oh please, it's laughable.
Hmm, interesting. I'm guessing that the framerate drops and possible memory lag are artifacts of the game's origin as a Wii U title and being ported to the Switch, which, to be fair, uses a very different architecture than the Wii U.
Also, I wouldn't put too much stock in DF calling the portable the "definitive way to play." DF has always put too much emphasis on high framerates, IMO, while frequently ignoring visual issues that bother me more, like issues resulting from resolution upscaling or screen-tearing (my biggest issue when it comes to games, since if physically hurts my eyes). It's an interesting bit of analysis, but let's not defer to DF too much on this point.
Are there any frame rate issues? Some. Did it mess up my enjoyment of what seems to be a wonderful game? Not in the slightest. I put in over 100 hours on the Witcher 3, and I had stutter, and I loved the game. I do think as we get more made for Switch games, there will be less issues.
As for the controllers, I didn't think I would love the joy cons. And I don't lol. But I don't HATE them either. Coming for the PS4, they aren't set up quite the way I want. Running is a bit uncomfortable. The joycons aren't terrible though. I probably will get a pro at some time.
Dude I can hardly tell the difference between 60fps and 30fps unless I look at them back to back. The game looks gorgeous and 30fps is fantastic.
People whining about the frame rate, to me, shows that they're grasping for straws to find a something, anything, to complain about, rather than just enjoying the experience for what it is.
If the frame rate is the only thing bothering you, then otherwise the game must be a damn fine experience. I look forward to getting this game and the Switch!
Amen. As I have said, the switch isn't perfect. I'm all for balance and there are things I would love to improve, but to see people talking about BOTW frame rate as if this makes a great game unplayable, or meh...idk it reeks of trollery. Anyone that has put 5 hours into BOTW and feels that the game isn't great because of the frame rate, I would like to know what games they feel are steps better.
Personally I have played some of my favorite games in this generation, BOTW I think will make my top 10, and I look forward to seeing what they can make with a AAA game dedicated purely to the Switch.
Doesn't the Switch have TV resolution options? You can force it to output 720p
The only thing that matters is this: is the game giving you a good time? Resolution, cpu speed, and technicals does not matter. Nintendo and REAL gamers has known this for years. Only morons are feeding the so called "consoll war". These morons are missing out all the really good games. Period...
I don't get it. Nothing is ever LITERALLY perfect. They're getting lost in the twigs and ignoring the forest.
@Agent721 There are certain people, like the gaterboy, that are looking for any reason to be negative about Nintendo. It really is sad. I don't come here much but every single time I check out NL comments gaterboy and that person who always posts first are being negative.
Isn't this old news? I remember people reporting about this weeks ago during pre-realease events even after the game went gold.
@Yorumi Keeping in mind it's a game stuck for 4 years in development-[heck] and then ported from a PPC machine to an ARM machine, but needed the code base to support both, I think it's fair to say the inefficiencies in the code are going to be massive. Even asset handling is designed around the limits of WiiU. It merely had to function properly on Switch, it didn't have to be redesigned to get the best out of the system. I imagine ground-up games can push the system further in the future. We're talking about a launch-day game that's only been in the porting process for less than a year with the hardware not even finalized until months later. Darned impressive!
@SirRandall The very same IGN who gave it a perfect score, mind you
@gaga64 I've had no issues so far in open world parts. I've noticed one instance of frame rate dip that lasted for maybe 2 seconds.
Even with 5 enemies at a time there it ran like a dream (digital version btw).
I went to my local game today to pick up a copy of horizon!! I ended up walking out with a switch and Zelda 😂
Who else is going Wii U on this one?
Switch becomes a need when at least ARMS releases.
@rjejr didn't they think that it may be due to memory bandwidth which doesn't scale with the large gpu increase when docked, this could lead to cpu unable to be fully utilised as the gpu load increases. It'll be interesting to see what happens with future open world games such as Skyrim.
Personally I've been playing undocked anyway as it looked quite poor on my 4K set and that joycon controller isn't very comfortable, it looks great on its own screen though
No game is perfect that includes Breath of the wild.
I really like the Switch so far but they should have put a CPU and gpu into the dock. It costs 90$ for a 10$ accessory and only serves as a stand and an hdmi cable. This is a huge fail from Nintendo. It's no better than a Wii U. So disappointed about the home console aspect but the handheld aspect is amazing.
"Laying out the maths here, docking increases pixel count from 720p to 900p, a 56 per cent in resolution."
Bad English aside, unless I'm missing what's being said completely, that's a 25% increase in resolution.
Honestly people are blowing this out of proportion, it only happens in literally a few places. Basically if there's an area with loads of long grass there's a chance of a bit of stutter just as you walk into it. It's very rare during combat (had it happen once when a guardian shot and set a load of grass alight). Besides that I haven't had it happen in snow, water, being high up, or any of the shrines so far. I basically think it's an issue with the grass, but damn that grass looks sexy!
Also heard from a few people that the game runs just as well on the Wii U, which would make sense since it was being developed for that system for most of its duration. Does anyone here own both versions, or have played both at the very least to confirm this is the case?
@ProjectCafe Me. It looks like the exact same experience (I don't care about portability) and I don't like buying consoles at launch.
Potential Switch launch money will go into Zelda and NiER Automata instead!
So... got my Switch... I love it! It's so tiny, like really itty bitty. And the Joycons are small too, but they work so well. They're not missing any buttons and they're easy to use and comfortable, Plus they have motion so you can do things like adjust your aim with your bow on the fly...
Ya, these Joycons are brilliant. Best part is having each of your hands free. It's weird... but in a good way.
I'd be down for that. When I use Dolphin I've rendered games in 720p and simply output in 1080p/1440p/2160p and the games looked fine. Not quite as good but good enough. I'd be OK with having an option between rendering at 720p and upscaling (or just letting the TV upscale to 4K directly), or going the 900p/1080p route.
Then again, this is a really big open world game which was started on Wii U. I've got a feeling the vast majority of future games are not going to have major issues.
That's only accounting for one axis (how many horizontal lines of pixels there are). You also have to factor in the increase in vertical lines as well. Pretty sure that's why the 56% isn't the same as your 25
@JaxonH ah right that would make sense yes. Of course the 720p/900p isn't the total number of pixels, just one axis as you say.
I should have known better than to question to Digital Foundry. I feel dumb now!
Still pretty good either way, 30FPS is whatever we should be thankful for what we have
Well that is not the headline you would hope to read on launch day.
@Yorumi Yeah. All things being equal though, BotW still runs better docked than portable....they just opted for running higher res docked so when it dips it might dip a little more....but at 720 for both it would still be the other way around!
And I would think for most handheld modes they'd be a little more battery conscious than they were with BotW and reduce some geometry, lighting, shadows etc. BotW is kind of a handheld tech demo at the cost of battery in a way
@Equinox I hear the joy-cons take an hour or two to get used to but I tried them for ten mins and went straight for my much more comfortable pro controller.
I know what player two will be using in the future.... lol
Nice. It's tiny, much smaller than I expected. Joycons too.
I'm also happy to report my Joycons work flawlessly. Even trying to block signal behind the back, covered in a fist all the way across the room, I can't get either of them to cut out even for a split second. Can't guarantee that'll be the case for everyone but...
For posterity, I'm using grey Joycons and updated with Joycons attached to the Switch, also while rebooting after update. And it seemed to need a 2nd update after the first. Weird. But ya, no Joycon issues, so happy! They're awesome little controllers. Not the best sideways but, they work. Certainly will do in a pinch.
That said, I'm worried about the screen. I never use screen protectors, but I'm getting tempered glass with 9H hardness rating just to be sure. If you apply with a hot shower running the steam works to eliminate dust, so you can avoid air bubbles. I'd strongly recommend considering doing the same. I read a few reports of scratched screens. But with tempered glass, there won't be any worries sliding in and out of the dock
seems more like a bug to me. hopefully they can fix it.
@Bruh I played Witcher 3 on PC and it ran pretty much flawlessly. That must be a console issue.
Well, whenever I do decide to get a Switch, I hope this isn't an issue anymore. I want to experience this in its full glory on a TV.
The game is gorgeous on the portable. Haven't tried it docked yet. Honestly... is there really a need to dock it? I'll try it once to say I did it, but...
This thing is probably only getting docked when I'm playing local multiplayer with someone.
What about on Wii U? does it have the same problems?
@SLIGEACH_EIRE you have to be a bit of a loser to care about this sort of stuff. It's like playing online and suffering from lag occasionally, it happens, and everybody plays on anyway. What a total snorefest
@HollowGrapeJ I've played it on a tv and it's fine. Don't believe the hype. Zelda runs really well. Dont believe me? Watch some of the live streams on YouTube and you'll see the game running perfectly
@gatorboi352 Actually, I quite like the Joy-Cons. They feel nice and fit my hands very well.
I played Breath of the Wild in both handheld and docked mode and I did notice some hiccups in docked mode, but nothing that hindered the gameplay in the slightest.
@SLIGEACH_EIRE yeah yeah nintendoomed we get it.
@Yorumi Glad to see you're in on launch day and excited about it!
People getting so worked up for some frame rate drops. When have we become such spoiled brats? The game is great! I played the Wii U version last night for 6 solid hours straight and I have no issues with it. To hell with frame rate drops!
@gatorboi352 Following our conversation the other day, now that I'm holding the Joycons in hand I have to say they're quite comfortable. The Joycons in the grip are, to me, WAAY more comfortable than the Gamepad ever was. It really feels good in hand. The grip fins are at just the right angle (for me anyway). It feels great handheld as well. The machine is wide enough that it spreads your arms more comfortably apart than, say, 3DS (not that 3DS feels bad at all.) The only mode that the right Joycon is less comfortable than I thought it might be is holding them side by side (nunchuk mode)....in that mode because there's not much else to brace the controller when you rotate your thumb from the stick to the buttons I imagine it can get fatiguing....I thought I'd prefer that mode best, and I may, but right now I'm really pleased with the ergonomics of the gripped mode.
The sticks ARE a little small, but it's all stunningly comfortable. If I have a change of heart after a few hours straight of Zelda I'll let you know. I suspect my headphones will annoy me before the controllers ever do.
Joycons are a big win. For those for whom they aren't, though there's always the Procon.
@NEStalgia well, yeah. I'd imagine the most comfortable use of the Joy Cons is in portable mode. For the reason you just said.
By and large though, the feedback today has been "Joy Cons are alright but OMFG I NEED A PRO CONTROLLER". Hence why they are literally sold out everywhere.
I'd rather have a lower resolution in console mode if it meant a better framerate
@gatorboi352 They're sold out everywhere because Nintendo did the usual short supply of them. I checked my local Gamestop....they started with 5 of them which all sold during the Midnight launch. Most of the online preorders sold out because for the past month and a half the internet forums have been assuming they MIGHT need a Procon and wanted to make sure to secure one
Honestly I spent the rest of the night (waaaay past when I should have been sleeping...) on BotW. Played a few hours with the Joyon in the grip. Played a few hours with the Joycon side-by-side...honestly both were quite comfortable (and I'm someone who is sensitive to ergonomics and tends to have wrist issues if it's not right.....so far it's really comfortable. It doesn't LOOK like it should but but it actually is.) I managed to get a Procon on order, and I also have a second set of Joycon that I got with my console. Procon should be in in a few days, but honestly I'm liking the Joycon....might stick with them for most games. Splatoon may need the Procon just for the larger stick range for precision (I'm not the very top crazy-Japan level play in Splatoon, but I was a steady S-rank in Splatoon 1, so I probably would benefit from the precision.) And 2D platforms that need a real D-Pad. But most games I'm probably going to stick with the Joycon. They feel good. And are SOOO light weight, that it offsets other ergonomic concerns I think. Sticks feel "weird" at first, but that's not to say they feel bad, it's just decades of muscle memory adjusting.
@Nin10doh cool, thanks!
@RainbowGazelle Needs 're-writing' or needs 'to be' re-writing. 'needs re-written' makes no grammatical sense
Better in handheld form...yep for about five minutes then charge.repeat repeat..Oh the battery where out thou
@HotPipes Fair dues. Fixed accordingly.
@kokirii It's all they have.
@DonkeyKongBigBoy Well, that's good to hear.
Thanks for the screenshot! If changing the output resolution from 1080p to 720p does not provide any benefit to the smoothness, then there is little point in reducing the output resolution unless the screen can handle the lower resolution better.
@Morph "Mario Kart runs in 1080p 60fps when docked and 720p 60fps when undocked."
Well that's what we've been told, but the game doesn't even come out until next month, so we'll have to wait and see how it actually plays.
Well there you have it, the Switch's handheld hardware is just not that powerful, it's already at its limit with BotW (a Wii U title!).
Now don't get me wrong, I don't want to start a performance discussion because console gaming is not about graphical performance.
But right from the beginning Nintendo has been trying to fool everyone into believing that the Switch is a powerful state-of-the-art (by emphasizing the nVidia collabo so much) device. They desperately try to depict the Switch as a huge improvement from the Wii U on a technical level - hence the push for 900p with BotW instead of keeping 720p with a slightly better framerate - when actually it's only slightly better.
That's totally fine, but the way they're communicating it is not honest.
@NEStalgia IGN can be ok once and a while. But overall it's a place to stay away from.
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