After reviewing the highly-competitive AMD Ryzen based versions of the IdeaPad 5 and Slim 7 earlier this year, we’ve finally got our hands on the ThinkPad T14s business ultrabook based on AMD’s Ryzen Pro hardware series, the 2020 follow-up of the popular ThinkPad T490s from 2019.
This time around Lenovo lend it to us for this review, which is standard practice and has no impact on our findings. The laptop was returned to them once the article was published.
However, Lenovo only sent us a very basic variant of this ThinkPad T14s built on an AMD Ryzen Pro 5 4650U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a small SSD, as well as the entry-level panel option available for this line. Nonetheless, the bulk of this review covers the laptop as a whole and applies to any of the configurations you’ll end up choosing, with the positives and the potential quirks you should be aware of before jumping on one of these.
Specs as reviewed – Lenovo ThinkPad T14s
||Lenovo ThinkPad T14s
||14-inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS 60 Hz, 16:9, non-touch, matte, Lenovo B140HAN04.0 panel
||AMD Renoir Ryzen Pro 5 4650U, 6C/12T
||AMD Radeon Vega 6, 6 CUs, 1.5 GHz
||8 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (soldered)
||1x 128 GB SSD (Samsung PM991 MZALQ128HBHQ-000L1)
||Wireless 6 (Intel AX200), Bluetooth 5.0, LTE, Ethernet via dongle
||2x USB-A 3.1 gen 1, 2x USB-C gen2 with DP and power delivery, HDMI 2.0, micro SD card reader, headphone/mic, Kensington Lock, dock/Lan-extension port, optional smart card reader, optional SIM slot
||57 Wh, 65 W USB-C charger
||329 mm or 12.95” (w) x 226 mm or 8.89” (d) x 16.1 mm or .63” (h)
||1.28 kg (2.8 lb), .36 kg (.8 lbs) power brick, EU version
||white backlit keyboard, spill resistant, 2x 1W stereo speakers, HD webcam with Shutter cover, optional IR, finger-sensor
Much like with their entire Thinkpad lineup, Lenovo offers the T14s in a multitude of different other options, with either Intel or AMD hardware, up to 32 GB of memory, and a bunch of different panels to choose from. Our test model is the most basic entry-level configuration, and as you’ll find out from the review below, I’d advise ticking at least some of the extras over what we have here.
Design and build
This is a ThinkPad and it looks and feels much like all the other ThinkPads of recent years.
That means it’s a lightweight and well-built portable laptop with a metallic (magnesium and aluminum alloys) chassis and a sober, black color scheme, with a handful of ThinkPad elements sprinkled on the lid-cover and arm-rest. As a particularity, this model gets a Ryzen sticker on the left side of the arm-rest, which you can easily peel off if you want to.
Now, what I appreciate about these modern ThinkPads is their oleophobic coating. Despite the black materials, the interior does a good job of repelling smudges and finger oil. You’ll still have to wipe clean the lid, the keys and the clickpad, though, and Lenovo no longer offers the series in a Silver version as they used to in the past several years.
As far as I can tell, Lenovo have also improved their finishing quality over the years. I’m not seeing any scratches and dents on my unit, despite having my watch on all the time, which has been an issue for me with some older models. This will still show its age over time and probably the paint will peel off around the ports, but these materials seem to be more resistant than the softer rubbery coating I’ve experienced in the 2017/2018 models.
As far as portability goes, this is not the smallest or the lightest 14-incher on the market, but it’s portable enough. The larger chassis helps with everyday use ergonomics, allowing for a full-size keyboard, a generous arm-rest, and the ThinkPad standard clickpad with physical buttons on top. Lenovo also blunted and rounded the front lip and corners, so this just feels excellent with daily use.
At the same time, I’m not a big fan of that thick top bezel, that’s dated for this day and age. It does accommodate a camera with a physical shutter, but those could well be implemented on a thinner bezel. Perhaps Lenovo could consider adding a 16:10 or even a 3:2 screen on their next generations, or maybe make the overall design more compact.
The hinge mechanism hasn’t been changed from the previous generations and that’s fine, as it allows to easily pick up and adjust the screen with a single hand and lean it back flat to 180 degrees, just what I want in a portable laptop.
The IO is lined-up around the sides, and includes most of the required connectors, including an optional SIM-tray and Smart card reader. Keep in mind there’s no Thunderbolt support on this AMD version, though, which remains exclusive for the Intel-based T14s configurations.
Lastly, I should also mention the thermal design, which sucks fresh air from the bottom and blows it out to the right side, and not into the screen as with most other modern laptops. I prefer this design, even if pushes the hot air towards your mouse area. That’s less of an issue than on a gaming laptop, though, as ThinkPads are generally optimized for low fan speeds and noise. At the same time, that also takes a toll on the performance, as you’ll find out in a further section.
And while we’re looking at this laptop’s underbelly, you’ll notice the tiny rubber feet implemented on this laptop, not as grippy as I’d prefer on a flat surface, as well the small speaker cuts on the angled laterals of this D-panel.
Keyboard and trackpad
A lot of people swear by these ThinkPad keyboards and consider them the best in the business, but I’m just not one of them. And it’s not that I’m regretting the old pre-2014 layouts (which I do, as those were awesome), I just cannot adjust to the feedback of these recent ThinkPad keyboards.
I gave this T14s a good try and typed-in several thousands of words on it, yet I still couldn’t get used to this clicky feedback and deep stroke that requires a firm-press to properly actuate. It’s true I’m used to shallower keyboards, the kind you get with most other modern ultrabooks, but at the same time, I’ve gotten along very well with firmer keyboards in recent reviews, such as the one of the Gigabyte Aero 15 or the Asus ZenBook 14. Not with this one, though, and I’m having a hard time figuring out what exactly is my problem here.
Now, we’re all different, and given the high praises that these ThinkPad keyboards normally get, I’d expect many of you to get along well with this. So don’t let my subjective experience stand in your way and give it a try if everything else checks your requirements.
Feedback aside, I’ll also mention that this is a mildly chatty keyboard, not the quietest out there, but fine for library use and quiet office/class spaces. It’s also backlit, with two brightness levels to choose from (by hitting FN + Space). The LEDs are averagely bright and uniformly lit, but the light creeps out quite annoyingly from underneath these taller keycaps.
For mouse, Lenovo goes with a mid-sized glass clickpad, quick and reliable with everyday use and gestures. It’s also a sturdy implementation that doesn’t rattle with taps and includes quiet physical clicks in the bottom corners, so not much to complain about.
On top of that, this T14s also gets the standard red Thinkpad nipple and the extra set of physical click buttons at the top of the glass touchpad, for the die-hard ThinkPad users among you. Combined, these two make for one of the most compelling mouse-experiences you can get in a modern Windows laptop.
Lastly, I should also mention that a finger-sensor is included on all T14s configurations, at the right of the clickpad, and an IR camera + webcam is also available as an option in most regions.
Lenovo offers no less than four different screen options for this AMD-based ThinkPad T14s, listed below:
- 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, 250 nits
- 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, touchscreen, 300 nits
- 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, low power, 400 nits
- 14.0″ FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, anti-glare, touchscreen with Privacy Guard, 500 nits
Our base-level configurations ships with the former option, which I recommend avoiding. This is fairly dim and washed out, with sub-60% sRGB coverage in our tests, but otherwise good blacks, contrast, and viewing angles.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with a X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: Lenovo LEN40A9 (B140HAN04.0);
- Coverage: 57.5% sRGB, 39.9% AdobeRGB, 41.0% DCI P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.31;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 269.03 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 13.51 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1370:1;
- White point: 7100 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.19 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
Nonetheless, any of the other options is a major step-up in terms of color coverage and brightness. You’ll find more details on the high-efficiency 400-nits non-touch option in this article, which is what I’d personally spec-up on this laptop. Touchscreens are also available if that’s your thing, though.
It’s worth adding that Lenovo do not include the 4K panel-option with 100% AdobeRGB color coverage and HDR 400 support for this AMD-based variant of the ThinkPad 14s, which is another of the exclusives only offered with the Intel-based configurations. That’s a pity, as the beefy AMD hardware could have paired well with that kind of a screen for color-accurate work on the go.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a basic-specced configuration of the Lenovo ThinkPad T14s, with an AMD Ryzen Pro 5 4650U APU, 8 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, 128 GB of Samsung SSD storage and Radeon Vega 6 graphics baked into the AMD APU.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit is a retail model running on the software available as of mid-October 2020 (BIOS V1.09, Lenovo Vantage 3.3.332.0).
Spec-wise, the Ryzen Pro 5 4650U is a 6C/12T processor with a design TDP of 15W, but able to run at higher TDP and clocks if supplied with enough power and properly cooled. Lenovo also offers a Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U 8C/16T configuration of this laptop.
Graphics are handled by the Radeon Vega 6 iGPU embedded within the APU, and we’ll talk about its performance down below.
Our configuration also gets 8 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz RAM, in dual-channel, and a Samsung PM991 128 GB PCIe x4 SSD, fast-enough for everyday use, but way too small for a Windows laptop these days. Everything but the SSD and wi-fi module are soldered on the motherboard, and accessing the components is a basic task, you just need to pop-out the back panel that’s held in place by a handful of Philips screws. Our unit gets a warranty sticker on the back screw; luckily this is illegal in most markets, but not here.
As far as software goes, everything can be controlled through the Lenovo Vantage app, which offers access to the power profiles, keyboard customization options, system updates, battery settings, etc. I find this unified implementation one of the better system control apps in the business.
However, unlike on the IdeaPads tested earlier, this ThinkPad implements a different way of switching between power/performance modes. They’re no longer implemented in the Vantage app, instead, you choose between them in the Windows power modes section (and can no longer switch between with Fn+Q). These are the three power profiles available on this laptop:
- Better Battery – limits the CPU at 10+ W;
- Better Performance – limits the CPU at 15+ W;
- Best Performance – full power CPU running at 19+ W.
I’ve kept the laptop on Best Performance most of the time. This keeps the fan silent with daily use, rarely kicking in with heavier multitasking, and the chassis only runs mildly warm.
The Ryzen platform is not just meant for browsing and Netflix, though, it can actually churn through heavier loads as well.
We start by testing the CPU’s performance in taxing chores by running the Cinebench R15 benchmark for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
On Best Performance, the Ryzen 5 Pro 4650U runs at 2.8+ GHz and 19+W of power, but also fairly high temperatures in the 85-90 degrees Celsius. The fan rests quietly, barely audible with this test, and the laptop stabilizes at roughly 1050 points. Similar performance is delivered when unplugging the laptop from the wall.
Switching over to Better Performance limits the CPU at around 15W and cooler temperatures in the 76-80 degrees Celsius, with a roughly 8% loss of sustained performance. Switching over to Best Battery further limits the CPU, but you’re not going to run these kinds of loads on that profile anyway.
To put these results in perspective, here’s how a couple of other AMD and Intel ultraportable notebooks score in this same test.
This Ryzen 5 Pro is about on par with a higher-power implementation of the Ryzen 7 4700U and beats the 15W implementation of the same chip in the Asus ZenBook 14. Intel Ice Lake and Tiger Lake 4C/8T i7s are definitely not a match, but the 8C/16T beast that is the Ryzen 7 4800U smokes everything else in this test. Expect 80-90% of that performance with the Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U configuration in this ThinkPad 14s, considering the power limitation compared to the IdeaPad Slim 7.
We went ahead and verified our findings with the more demanding Cinebench R20 test and the gruesome Prime 95. In this case, the Ryzen processor runs at 20+W for a very little while, and then stabilizes at 19W.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook, on the same Best Performance profile. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it just fine. Luxmark 3.1 fully loads both the CPU and GPU at the same time, but it’s not properly supported by the Ryzen platform.
Next, here are some benchmark results. We ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks on the Best Performance profile, which allows the APU to run at 19+W of power, with power boosts of up to 25W in shorter peak loads. Here’s what we got.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 2585 (Graphics – 2840, Physics – 14540, Combined – 890);
- 3DMark 13 – Night Raid: 10846 (Graphics – 11630, CPU – 7849);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 934 (Graphics – 819, CPU – 4621);
- AIDA64 Memory test: Write: 35570 MB/s, Read: 37391 MB/s, Latency: 96.5;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 1757;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 527;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 27.34 average fps;
- PassMark: Rating: 4028 (CPU mark: 13567, 3D Graphics Mark: 2229, Disk Mark: 4161);
- PCMark 10: 4556 (Essentials – 8626 , Productivity – 6987 , Digital Content Creation – 4288);
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 4852, Multi-core: 20558;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1113, Multi-core: 5058;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1075 cb, CPU Single Core 177 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 2386 cb, CPU Single Core 451 cb;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 185.22 fps, Pass 2 – 60.28 fps;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 54.18 s.
We also ran some Workstation related loads on the same Best Performance profile:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 7m 0s (Extreme);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 17m 25s (Extreme);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU not properly recognized.
These are solid results for a U-type mobile platform, but not amazing, due to the limited power supplied to the APU in this implementation. The 6C/6T Ryzen 5 in the IdeaPad 5 scores within 10-15% of this laptop, while running at 25+ W of power, while a higher-power implementation of the 6C/12T Ryzen 7 4700U outmatches the 6C/12T 4650U in this laptop. Even so, this platform greatly outscores the Intel-based alteratives in all the CPU tests, and only looses to the TigerLake i7s or those models paired with dedicated MX graphics in GPU-heavy loads.
Next, we ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the Extreme Performance profile and Low/Lowest graphics settings. Here’s what we got:
||ThinkPad 14s – AMD R5 + Vega 6
||IdeaPad 7 – AMD R7 + Vega 8
||UM425 – AMD R7 + Vega 7
||IdeaPad 5 – AMD R5 + Vega 6
||UM433 – Ryzen 7 + MX350
|Bioshock Infinite (DX 11, Low Preset)
||64 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||81 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||66 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
||63 fps (50 fps – 1% low)
||97 fps (45 fps – 1% low)
|Dota 2 (DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
||38 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||53 fps (40 fps – 1% low)
||39 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
||74 fps (39 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Low Preset, no AA)
||20 fps (15 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (17 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||35 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||43 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (24 fps – 1% low)
||45 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (30 fps – 1% low)
||65 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
|NFS: Most Wanted (DX 11, Lowest Preset)
||58 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
||60 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||32 fps (19 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider (Vulkan, Lowest Preset, no AA)
||25 fps (18 fps – 1% low)
||38 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||27 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (20 fps – 1% low)
||40 fps (35 fps – 1% low)
|Strange Brigade (Vulkan, Low Preset)
||31 fps (25 fps – 1% low)
||41 fps (36 fps – 1% low)
||37 fps (32 fps – 1% low)
||33 fps (27 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Low Preset, Hairworks Off)
||21 fps (17 fps – 1% low)
||28 fps (22 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (14 fps – 1% low)
||21 fps (16 fps – 1% low)
||29 fps avg (18 fps – 1% low)
- The Witcher 3, Dota 2, NFS – recorded with MSI Afterburner in game mode;
- Bioshock, Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
I’ve added a couple of other configurations for comparison, all of them Ryzen based ultraportables previously tested. Make sure to check out the dedicated reviews for more details on each implementation and the different power-profiles, as these vary between each unit.
This is a fair implementation of the Ryzen U platform, with the APU running at around 15-19W between the tested titles. The processor takes a hit compared to other higher-power implementations, and that can impact some of the CPU-heavier titles and well as take a toll over the 1% lows, but the GPU is kept at around its standard speeds of 1.5 GHz, that’s why the results are mostly on par with our findings on the IdeaPad 5, which gets the same Vega 6 graphics and runs the APU at 26+ W on the highest-performance setting.
Overall, these results are better than I expected, but even so, this is not the most capable implementation of this hardware and not suitable for AAA games launched in recent years. Older titles or casual games such as Fornite, Minecraft, or Dota2 will run alright here.
Looking through those logs above you’ll also notice that the APU runs at between 80-90 degrees in the tested titles, which are fairly high temperatures. As mentioned already, Lenovo favors a quiet fan profile on their ThinkPads, and that’s why it has to power-limit the hardware in order to prevent it from overheating and throttling.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
Lenovo went with a basic thermal design here, with a single fan and single-heatpipe. The radiator is placed on the right edge, and not at the top, and that means that the hot air is pushed-out and not into the display.
As explained in the previous section, the APU runs at around 19W of sustained power in demanding loads and games in this laptop, and heats-up to 80 and 90 degrees Celsius.
A fair bit of that heat also spreads onto the exterior. We recorded temperatures in the mid-50s in the middle of the keyboard, on top of the AMD processor, and high-40s around the radiator on the right edge and on the bottom.
At the same time, the fan rests idle with daily use and I haven’t noticed any sort of electronic noises, making this a completely silent device. No guarantee you won’t get any coil whine with your unit, though, that can be a random flaw with modern laptops.
The fan ramps up with games, but even in this case it’s barely audible and easily covered by the speakers, at a maximum of 36-38 dB at head-level in our tests. This is one of the quietest ultrabooks on the market right now.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Quiet Mode, fans at 0-33 dB
*Gaming – Extreme Performance mode – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 36-38 dB
For connectivity, there’s latest-gen WiFi 6 with an Intel AX200 module on this laptop, as well as Ethernet through the provided dongle and optional LTE. We’ve used our model on Wi-Fi and it performed fine with our setup, yet not as fast as some of the other AX200 implementations we’ve tested over the last months.
Audio is handled by a set of stereo speakers that fire through those small grills on the bottom panel. They’re fine for daily use, but still not much in terms of either volumes or quality. We measured them at up to 70-72 dB at head-level, without distortions at higher volumes, and they seem to lack somewhat in both lows and mids.
The HD camera placed at the top of the screen isn’t much either. Again, it’s fine for occasional calls, but the quality is muddy and dim.
There’s a 57 Wh battery inside the ThinkPad T14s, which is fair sized for a mid-range 14-inch laptop. Combined with the efficient AMD hardware implementation and the dim screen, this notebook lasts for a fair while on a charge.
Here’s what we got on our review unit, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120 nits (~70 brightness).
- 6.5 W (~8+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Quiet Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 5.0 W (~11+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Quiet Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 4.8 W (~12+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Quiet Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 9.5 W (~5-6 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Intelligent Cooling Mode, screen at 70%, Wi-Fi ON.
Expect the higher-quality panels to impact these numbers, with the touch-models lasting a little bit less, and the high-efficiency non-glare option a little longer.
The laptop comes with a compact 65W charger that plugs-in via USB-C. It’s a dual-piece design with a compact brick and long cables, and a full charge takes about 2 hours, with quick charging filling up a big chunk of it in under an hour.
Price and availability
The Lenovo ThinkPad T14s is available in stores all around the world in both the Intel and the AMD variants.
My recommendation goes towards the AMD variants, unless you want one of the specific features only available with the Intel configurations: the 4K screen or Thunderbolt 3 support. Otherwise, the AMD Renoir platform is more powerful and more efficient, and the AMD models also tend to sell for less than their Intel counterparts.
Pricing differs between regions, with this base variant tested here starting at a little over $900 in the US and over 1000 EUR in Europe. However, I’d make sure to get at least a higher-capacity SSD and a better display on my unit, which will push the price a fair bit higher. For example, a well-specced configuration quickly jumps to around $1500, and there are a fair bit of other devices you could also consider at that price range.
Follow this link for updated prices and configurations in your region.
This 2020 ThinkPad T14s is a refreshed iteration of last year’s ThinkPad T490s and I’m mostly OK with this “If it’s not broken, don’t change it” approach.
On the outside, this looks and feels just as you’d expect from a modern ThinkPad: sober, simple, and well made. It’s a bit dated though for this day and age, with only 16:9 display options and those thick bezels around. On the plus side, this is an ergonomic laptop and as far as I can tell, Lenovo have refined the materials from their previous generations and these new ones might age better, but that’s something only time will tell.
Inputs and the IO haven’t changed from the previous ThinkPads either. I for one can’t get along with this keyboard implementation on most of the modern ThinkPads I’ve tested in recent years, but at the same time, most people swear by them, so don’t be swayed by my subjective opinion and give it a try and see how it works for you.
The multitude of configuration options is something else I appreciate about ThinkPads in general. Most of the components are soldered on this T14s though, so make sure to pick the right specs from the get-go, as you’ll be stuck with them. And make sure to stay away from the base-level screen.
All these aside, the hardware implementation is what primarily sets this T14s apart from most of the other business ultraportables out there. AMD’s Ryzen Pro hardware is highly competent in all sorts of loads and highly efficient at the same time, allowing for excellent performance even in this slim ThinkPad T14s chassis, as well as solid runtimes.
On the other hand, the basic thermal design and the fact that the system is primarily optimized for low noise levels take a toll on the performance. As explained in the review, this is not as fast as a high-power implementation of this AMD hardware could be. Furthermore, even this power-limited hardware implementation runs fairly hot with demanding loads in this chassis, both compromises you’ll just have to accept here.
Drawing the line, I still feel that this ThinkPad T14s is a competitive mid-range ultraportable laptop, but not necessarily a must-buy for everyone. Alongside its quirks, this also gets fairly pricey once specced up, so I’d consider my options carefully at that level, especially if you’re not set on an AMD platform.
Anyway, this wraps up my time with this Lenovo ThinkPad T14s, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. What do you think?
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