Introduction

With the dust slowly settling after the initial clamor of the MWC announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6, we got to spend a few more relaxed moments with the Korean flagship pair. While they're impressive from any angle, we tried to focus on a few key points which we considered most important to the buyer, namely looks, camera output and performance.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge have their differences, but they all come down to design, and consequently handling. In terms of camera and hardware they are identical, display curves aside. Hence, for the purposes of this article you can assume that when we mention the Galaxy S6, we're referring to both versions at once. Naturally though, if there's a distinction to be made, we'll point it out.

The high-end duo was designed from the ground up to offer the coveted premium feel, which was sadly missing in previous generations. Samsung was clearly lagging behind the competition in terms of materials, even if the word flimsy could never be spotted in the same sentence as build quility. With the new generation flagship in our hands, it's become obvious that rivals and customers alike will have a hard time finding fault with Samsung's design.

After numerous contradicting rumors claimed a Sony 20MP sensor one day, and then a Samsung-made imager the next day, eventually the Galaxy S6 ended up with a Sony unit. Not only that, but it happens to be the same sensor, employed in the Galaxy Note 4/Note Edge combo, the Sony Exmor IMX240. What sets the Galaxy S6 apart from the company's latest phablets is the new faster lens.

Moving on to performance, the Galaxy S6 comes equally well prepared. Whether the Qualcomm issues forced Samsung to utilize its own silicon or the company was going to move to an in-house solution either way, has become irrelevant by now. The fact is, that the Galaxy S6 is fitted with the most advanced chipset currently in a smartphone.

The specs are very much what we anticipated from a high-end device, released in 2015 by one of the market leaders. The company's expertise in putting excellent hardware to work for the end user is undeniable and we expect nothing short of a blazing fast experience with the image output quality to match.

No definitive conclusions can be drawn from the demo units, suffering from the constant abuse of curious press folk and often running non-final firmware. That said, the first impressions we'll share with you on the following pages can be taken as an indication of what to expect, when the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge hit the shelves.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge design

With the major press events behind us, we were able to spend some quality time with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, and appreciate their design. Conceived as Project Zero, the devices carried the massive responsibility of bringing something entirely new to the table in light of constant criticism for Samsung over their unimaginative designs.

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge offer a smooth blend of novel design concepts with the familiar Samsung of old. The shape and proportions are unmistakably Samsung all over. The ever-present home button remains a key point in the interaction with the smartphone. The earpiece might as well be the same as in the original Galaxy S. The central camera is dramatically sticking out the back.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

And then comes the new. To begin with, there's all that glass. It's obviously not the first time we've witnessed a _phone_ with a glass back panel, but it's the first Samsung one in the top-tier. Arguably it's the easiest way to achieve the upmarket feel while keeping weight down. Adding to the high-quality appeal, the body has been kept reasonably thin at 6.8mm for a proper balance between handling, appearance and battery capacity.

However, this new design has meant a few compromises had to be made, and with core Samsung features at that. A long-time selling point of the Galaxy lineup has been the user-replaceable battery, allowing instantaneous 0 to 100% charge. Not any more though, as the new body is sealed. A quick charge capability will attempt to offset that, but it still requires a power source. MicroSD expansion has been sacrificed as well. Perplexingly, the all-glass design carries no IP certification for protection against the elements, a feature that glass Xperias had from the get-go.

Moving on to the frame, it's a subtle throwback at the Galaxy Alpha with its bulging corners, only here the look is a lot more refined. It's a four piece affair with the sides curving towards the top and bottom, where separate strips house various connectivity interfaces.

The bottom on the Galaxy S6 is pretty crowded and is home to the USB port, standard 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and speaker. The top is simpler, with only an IR blaster and a pinhole for a secondary microphone. In typical Samsung fashion, the left side houses the volume rocker, while the power button is on the right. Just under it is the pop-out SIM card tray.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 sides

The Galaxy S6 edge is largely the same in terms of controls distribution, with the only difference being the SIM card tray. The thin frame on the sides brought about by the dual edge display leaves no room for such bulky components and the tray has found its home on the top, next to the IR blaster.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge sides

Speaking of the dual edge, the Galaxy S6 edge is a joy to handle. Swipe-in gestures from the sides meet the gentle curves for a pleasant tactile experience. The display takes up just enough of the sides to provide a novel feel, without resulting in unintentional activation of the edge features.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

The Gorilla Glass 4 panels cover a color layer, which plays with incident light and produces a glittery effect. Both phones will come in a choice of four colors with White Pearl, Black Sapphire, and Gold Platinum shared between the two.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 color options

The conventional Galaxy S6 will offer a Blue Topaz option while the Galaxy S6 will sport a more restrained Green Emerald. We heard a few cries of disappointment that one will need to make a choice between the edge and the Blue Topaz color, and hope Samsung releases such a combination.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge color options

A range of accessories will naturally accompany the Galaxy S6, among them a semi-transparent flip cover case that will wrap around the back and double as a mirror. It's recognized by the _phone_ and flipping the case unlocks the phone an takes you straight to the homescreen. When closed, the phone displays just a clock underneath the cover, producing a neat floating effect.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 flip case

In the end, there will be those that say that Samsung copied Apple. While the similarities are uncanny, there are only so many ways you can make a smartphone, and if lawsuits aren't being filed and patent authorities are silent, so should we. What we held in our hands were two beautifully crafted devices, possessing their own personality, and that's good enough in our book.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge flanking the iPhone 6

Improved fingerprint reader

Another area where Samsung took plenty of hits, was the fingerprint reader implementation on the previous generation flagship. The swipe motion was a hit-or-miss affair and it hindered universal use of the feature.

The company certainly took its time addressing it but it finally came with a genuinely better solution after using the same sensor not only in the Galaxy S5, but also in the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4.

The speed and ease of use is now on par with the iPhone 6, as you can see in the quick comparison video below.

Follow us on the next page, where we'll share our experience with the new Galaxy S6 camera.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge still camera

The new high-end smartphones come with identical imaging capabilities. The main camera on the back is a 16MP unit, boasting optical image stabilization. The imager is the Sony-made IMX240, which a teardown confirmed was in the Galaxy Note 4. It has a native ratio of 16:9 and photos come out at resolutions up to 5,312 x 2,988 pixels.

Key camera features:

  • 16MP Sony Exmor IMX240 sensor with 16:9 native ratio, 1/2.6" diagonal and 1.2µm pixel size
  • Fast lens with an f1.9 aperture
  • Optical image stabilization, complemented by a software digital image stabilization algorithm
  • IR white balance detection
  • Auto HDR mode when shooting stills
  • Video recording at 2160p@30fps (4K), 1080p@60fps and high-speed 720p@120fps, HDR mode available

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

With that solid base under our feet, we went ahead and shot a few photos of our own in the venue hall, and there was no shortage of subject material. The camera produced images with plenty of detail and punchy colors without any oversharpening.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 camera indoor samples

We also hit the streets of Barcelona to see how the camera performed in real life. Exposure was consistently accurate on the overcast day and the images contained a lot of detail.

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Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 camera out in the open

We tried the HDR mode which worked conservatively and produced natural looking images, while opening up some of the shadow detail.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 HDR mode: Off • On

We took a shot at the camera's panorama mode and the results didn't disappoint. The stitching was precise and the exposure offered a good balance between the brightly-lit and shadowed areas.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 panorama

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge video recorder

A self-respecting modern flagship must set the trends in terms of video recording as well. The Galaxy S6 is properly equipped to do so, and offers 2160p@30fps and 1080p@60fps modes as well as high-speed 720p@120fps shooting capability. HDR video recording is also an option.

Naturally, we captured a few videos with the Galaxy S6 starting with a 2160p one of the Galaxy S6 edge itself, in action.

A nifty little robot caught our attention and was a good subject for an indoor clip, shot at the 1080p@30fps setting.

We then let ourselves out and grabbed a couple of videos of the Barcelona traffic, the first one again at 1080p@30fps.

We proceeded to shoot a video in the headline 2160p@30fps mode, starring the Barcelona public transit.

All four videos can be downloaded straight from our server, unedited, the way they came out of the camera (interface 2160p, indoor 1080p, outdoor 1080p, outdoor 2160p).

The camera indeed looks quite promising. We'll be passing judgments once we got our hands on a retail unit, but we are setting our hopes high for sure.

TouchWiz on top of Android 5.0

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge boot Android 5.0 Lollipop straight out of the box, with the latest iteration of Samsung's TouchWiz overlay.

We grabbed a few improvized screenshots of the new and improved user interface, which Samsung claims to have largely freed from the bloatware of previous generations. At first glance it offers the same look, familiar from Lollipop updates of the current lineup.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 lockscreen, homescreen, app drawer, notification panel

You get a nicely grouped Settings menu with a search function, and a tabbed dialer in a combined interface with the phonebook. The task switcher is the latest TouchWiz iteration with a helpful "close all" button.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Settings menu, keyboard, dialer, task switcher

The new bits come with the added functionality of the dual edge screen. Swiping in from the edge allows access to favorite contacts, as well as offering a quick view at incoming notifications.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Favorites, missed call notification

Performance

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge are the first two smartphones to utilize Samsung's first chipset to be manufactured using a 14nm fabrication process - the Samsung Exynos 7420.

Built on the big.LITTLE concept, the CPU features four Cortex-A57 cores at 2.1GHz for power-hungry scenarios and four Cortex-A53 cores at 1.5GHz for energy-efficency. That's almost the same setup as the Snapdragon 810 found in the LG G Flex2 and HTC One M9 (except the A57 cores are clocked at 2GHz), but Samsung's advanced manufacturing process (14nm vs. 20nm) promises less heat and thus less reason for throttling.

Key hardware features:

  • 64-bit Exynos 7420 chipset, the first one manufactured on a 14nm production line
  • big.LITTLE processor architecture with quad-core Cortex-A57, clocked at 2.1GHz for performance tasks and Cortex-A53 ticking at 1.5GHz for power efficiency
  • Mali-T760 GPU
  • 3GB of high speed LPDDR4 RAM, clocked at 1600MHz
  • Android 5.0.2 Lollipop on board bringing the latest in Google's optimizations

We managed to put both phones through a the full array of benchmark tests that we usually use for our reviews.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge start off strong with colossal numbers in the CPU-centric Geekbench and the compound AnTuTu banchmark.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    4916
  • HTC One M9
    3873
  • LG G Flex2
    3604
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    3285
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3214
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3120
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    2970
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    2884
  • LG G3
    2370

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    68896
  • HTC One M9
    57422
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    51905
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    49803
  • LG G Flex2
    47680
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    45660
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    45348
  • LG G3
    42038

The Galaxy S6 doesn't fare equally well in the next overall benchmark Basemark OS II. The Snapdragon 810 leads the crowd here inside the LG G Flex2, but the Exynos 7420 still inches ahead of the iPhone 6.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • LG G Flex2
    1601
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    1509
  • LG G3
    1327
  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    1269
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    1222
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    1173
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    1147
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    915

Kraken 1.1, which tests JavaScript performance, is a closer call, but the Galaxy S6 pulled ahead with the G Flex2, One M9 and iPhone 6 posting similar numbers.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    4323
  • HTC One M9
    4578
  • LG G Flex2
    4621
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    4911
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    5968
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    6088
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    6260
  • LG G3
    7632

Graphics performance is up next. Samsung has opted for an ARM GPU, while Snapdragon 810 relies on Qualcomm's own Adreno 430 chips. The iPhone 6 Plus is equipped with a PowerVR GX6450 GPU.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    22752
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    20901
  • HTC One M9
    19836
  • LG G Flex2
    19360
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18297
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    12190
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    11798
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    11065
  • LG G3
    10580

The Galaxy S6 pair also uses a QHD screen - 1,440 x 2,560px - while most of the rest are at 1080p (except the Nexus 6 and LG G3). 1080p is close to half the number of pixels compared to QHD, so look at off-screen benchmarks to compare raw power and on-screen scores to compare gaming performance.

Mali-T760 seems evenly matched with the Adreno 430 and is enough to offer a playable framerate for games with GFX 2.7 level graphics.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    49
  • LG G Flex2
    49
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    44.6
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    38.9
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    31.3
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    27
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    27
  • LG G3
    26

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    23
  • HTC One M9
    23
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18.6
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    18.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    13.4
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    12
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    12
  • LG G3
    11

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    48.4
  • LG G Flex2
    48
  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    35
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    29
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    28
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    27.4
  • LG G3
    20

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (onscreen)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    25.3
  • HTC One M9
    24
  • LG G Flex2
    22
  • Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 edge
    16
  • Motorola Moto X (2014) Lollipop
    13
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    12
  • Motorola Nexus 6
    11.9
  • LG G3
    7.7

The Samsung Galaxy S6 duo will launch on April 10 so the time for tuning the software is running short. The overall difference isn't that huge, but we still see why Samsung was keen to go with its in-house chip. Given the right workload, the Exynos can come ahead of Qualcomm's top dog. It's also well-suited for modern games even with the huge jump in screen resolution.

Conclusion

Our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge after seeing them in person and playing with them for a while paint the picture of a trend-setting 2015 flagship smartphone. The company has finally achieved the premium feel to match the top end specs, and the Galaxy S6 edge in particular is quite the looker.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Whether the software is final or will receive some finishing touches remains to be seen, but even in pre-production state the camera delivers. Yes, it's the same proven sensor from the Galaxy Note 4/Note Edge, but behind a new lens, and thus a detailed comparison is due in the near future. Still, even at this point, one can safely assume that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge will satisfy demanding photography enthusiasts on the move.

On the performance front things are as expected and the Galaxy S6 scores top-notch benchmark results. The Exynos 7420 was the computing beast, it was rumored to be, and may start raising questions if Samsung at all needs the collaboration with Qualcomm for its top-tier devices.

We're genuinely excited with Samsung's latest high-end pair and we're looking forward to seeing them at the office for the usual routine.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge design

With the major press events behind us, we were able to spend some quality time with the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge, and appreciate their design. Conceived as Project Zero, the devices carried the massive responsibility of bringing something entirely new to the table in light of constant criticism for Samsung over their unimaginative designs.

The Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge offer a smooth blend of novel design concepts with the familiar Samsung of old. The shape and proportions are unmistakably Samsung all over. The ever-present home button remains a key point in the interaction with the smartphone. The earpiece might as well be the same as in the original Galaxy S. The central camera is dramatically sticking out the back.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

And then comes the new. To begin with, there's all that glass. It's obviously not the first time we've witnessed a phone with a glass back panel, but it's the first Samsung one in the top-tier. Arguably it's the easiest way to achieve the upmarket feel while keeping weight down. Adding to the high-quality appeal, the body has been kept reasonably thin at 6.8mm for a proper balance between handling, appearance and battery capacity.

However, this new design has meant a few compromises had to be made, and with core Samsung features at that. A long-time selling point of the Galaxy lineup has been the user-replaceable battery, allowing instantaneous 0 to 100% charge. Not any more though, as the new body is sealed. A quick charge capability will attempt to offset that, but it still requires a power source. MicroSD expansion has been sacrificed as well. Perplexingly, the all-glass design carries no IP certification for protection against the elements, a feature that glass Xperias had from the get-go.

Moving on to the frame, it's a subtle throwback at the Galaxy Alpha with its bulging corners, only here the look is a lot more refined. It's a four piece affair with the sides curving towards the top and bottom, where separate strips house various connectivity interfaces.

The bottom on the Galaxy S6 is pretty crowded and is home to the USB port, standard 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and speaker. The top is simpler, with only an IR blaster and a pinhole for a secondary microphone. In typical Samsung fashion, the left side houses the volume rocker, while the power button is on the right. Just under it is the pop-out SIM card tray.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 sides

The Galaxy S6 edge is largely the same in terms of controls distribution, with the only difference being the SIM card tray. The thin frame on the sides brought about by the dual edge display leaves no room for such bulky components and the tray has found its home on the top, next to the IR blaster.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge sides

Speaking of the dual edge, the Galaxy S6 edge is a joy to handle. Swipe-in gestures from the sides meet the gentle curves for a pleasant tactile experience. The display takes up just enough of the sides to provide a novel feel, without resulting in unintentional activation of the edge features.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

The Gorilla Glass 4 panels cover a color layer, which plays with incident light and produces a glittery effect. Both phones will come in a choice of four colors with White Pearl, Black Sapphire, and Gold Platinum shared between the two.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 color options

The conventional Galaxy S6 will offer a Blue Topaz option while the Galaxy S6 will sport a more restrained Green Emerald. We heard a few cries of disappointment that one will need to make a choice between the edge and the Blue Topaz color, and hope Samsung releases such a combination.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge color options

A range of accessories will naturally accompany the Galaxy S6, among them a semi-transparent flip cover case that will wrap around the back and double as a mirror. It's recognized by the phone and flipping the case unlocks the phone an takes you straight to the homescreen. When closed, the phone displays just a clock underneath the cover, producing a neat floating effect.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 flip case

In the end, there will be those that say that Samsung copied Apple. While the similarities are uncanny, there are only so many ways you can make a smartphone, and if lawsuits aren't being filed and patent authorities are silent, so should we. What we held in our hands were two beautifully crafted devices, possessing their own personality, and that's good enough in our book.

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter
Galaxy S6 Second Encounter

Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 edge flanking the iPhone 6

Improved fingerprint reader

Another area where Samsung took plenty of hits, was the fingerprint reader implementation on the previous generation flagship. The swipe motion was a hit-or-miss affair and it hindered universal use of the feature.

The company certainly took its time addressing it but it finally came with a genuinely better solution after using the same sensor not only in the Galaxy S5, but also in the Galaxy Alpha and the Galaxy Note 4.

The speed and ease of use is now on par with the iPhone 6, as you can see in the quick comparison video below.

Follow us on the next page, where we'll share our experience with the new Galaxy S6 camera.

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