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Reviews > Navigation and Map Gear > GPS > Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS > Test Report by Brian Hartman

MAGELLAN EXPLORIST 710
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
February 04, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been hiking and camping for over 20 years and enjoy backpacking solo and with my kids in Scouting. I especially enjoy fall and winter backpacking and camping. My backpack and gear are older and weigh 40+ lbs (18 kg). This has limited the distances I have been able to cover while hiking. My goal over the next several years is to replace my existing clothing and gear with more suitable and lighter weight alternatives.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Mitac International Corporation IMAGE 1
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.magellangps.com/
MSRP: US $549.00
Listed Weight: 6.87 oz (195 g)
Measured Weight: 7.1 oz (201 g)
Dimensions: 2.57" (65.3 mm) x 5.04" (128 mm) x 1.45" (36.8 mm)

Magellan describes the eXplorist 710 as a premium, rugged, handheld GPS receiver with outdoor recreation maps and driving directions to navigate from doorstep to summit. It is Magellan's top-of-the-line handheld GPS for outdoor exploring. It sports a 3 inch (7.62 cm) color touchscreen, 3.2 mega-pixel digital camera, 3-axis electronic compass, barometric altimeter, speaker, microphone and micro-SD slot for memory expansion.

Specifications:
Battery Type: 2AA
Battery Life: 16 Hours
Waterproof IPX-7
3 inch (76.2 mm) sunlight readable touch screen
WQVGA Color Display
Speaker
Internal Memory 8 GB
MicroSD slot
3.2 mega-pixel camera with auto focus
Preloaded City Series USA Turn-by-Turn Navigation
Preloaded Summit Series USA Topographic Maps
Preloaded Maps World Edition
3-Axis Electronic Compass
Barometric Altimeter
Turn-by-Turn Routing
Area Calculation
Hunt & Fish Calendar
Sun & Moon Information
Accepts GPX Files
Paperless Geocaching

Data Storage:
2000 Waypoints
200 Routes
10000 Geocaches
500 Legs Per Route

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The eXplorist 710 came with a quick start guide that explained the most commonly used functions of the GPS. A detailed manual can be viewed online or downloaded from their website.

INITIAL IMPRESSION AND HARDWARE OVERVIEW

After several days of anticipation, the Magellan eXplorist 710 arrived at my house last Monday afternoon. I had checked our front doorstep each evening the previous week, but with the number of after-school activities going on with our kids this particular day I almost forgot to look outside. I remembered just before pulling out of our driveway and hurried back to the front of the house where there sat a small cardboard box. I spent the next few hours playing with it while waiting for dance, cross country, soccer practice and scouts to end.

The eXplorist 710 was packaged neatly in its retail box along with a USB cable, quick start guide, 30 day premium membership to Geocaching.com and two AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries. Upon holding the GPS I was immediately struck by its solid feel. The front of the GPS is enveloped in a rubber, impact resistant casing that should protect the display screen from drops etc. while the overall design and weight of the GPS unit gave the appearance of being very rugged and well built. Based on my initial observations, I expect it to hold up well during field testing.

Having read the user manual on Magellan's website a few days prior, I tossed aside the quick start guide and installed the batteries. The battery compartment is accessed by raising the arm of the battery door lock on the back of the GPS, and turning it 90 degrees counterclockwise. According to Magellan the eXplorist 710 can use lithium, alkaline or rechargeable batteries and the lithium will provide approximately 16 hours of normal use. Being waterproof, a rubber seal was visible when I opened the battery door to install the batteries. The specifications say that this receiver can withstand immersion in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. I have no plans to verify this. A micro SD card slot is located behind the battery compartment. This slot can accommodate micro SD and micro SDHC cards with up to 32 gigabytes of memory. However a micro SD card is not required to operate this unit as the eXplorist 710 comes with 3GB of on-board user memory. The micro SD card can be used to store additional maps and/ or to save and share tracks, waypoints, routes etc with someone else. Also visible on the back of the unit is the camera lens, speaker, a rubber flap which conceals the mini USB port, a handle for attaching a lanyard, and a metal slot which can be used to mount the GPS to one of several accessory brackets. In addition, there is a small microphone on the front of the unit. With its on-board camera, microphone and speaker the eXplorist 710 can take photos, video and voice recordings and then attach them to a geocache to share with others. The digital camera has autofocus and 3.2 megapixels while video is displayed with resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. The front of the GPS has a very clean appearance as it utilizes the touch screen for almost all interactions except powering up the receiver. The power button is located on the top of the receiver. In addition, there are two hard buttons located on the left side of the receiver which duplicate touchscreen controls. These buttons are setup by default to manage the "mark waypoint" and "camera" functions; however, they can be customized to perform other functions.

SOFTWARE OVERVIEW

IMAGE 2
4 CORNERS MENU
The eXplorist 710 comes preloaded with worldwide base maps, topographic maps, and detailed city maps. The World Edition maps include a complete road network in United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and major roads throughout the rest of the world. These maps also display water features, urban and rural land use with shaded relief background. The Summit Series topographic maps include contour lines, land use areas, trails, waterways, and points of interest and are based on 1:24,000 scale source maps. The City Series USA maps provide turn-by-turn directions to navigate through city streets and roadways along with search functions for finding a variety of locations, including address book entries, waypoints, geocaches, or previous destinations.

The default screen that loads on power-up is the map screen. From here all of the features and functions of this receiver can be accessed by simply tapping the center of the screen to reveal what Magellan describes as their new Four Corners Menu. The Four Corners Menu is simply four icons which are positioned in the four corners of the map screen. These icons represent the Main Menu, Dashboard, One Touch Menu and the Options Menu. When touched, they provide quick access to all of the features and functions of this unit. In the upper left hand corner is the Dashboard icon. This icon opens a menu page that allows you to select one of the nine customizable displays such as a conventional compass display, a "Road" display that gives a 3D display of the road, a rotating strip-style compass, a satellite display, a barometer display, an altimeter display, satellite, a display filled with data fields only, and a profile display. Tapping the upper right icon in the Four Corners Menu brings up the OneTouch menu. This menu provides easy access to destinations, searches or tools that you define. There are total of twelve icons on this screen. Nine of these icons are assignable while the other three are predefined as home, camp and car. The Options Menu is in the lower right corner. It provides quick access to the most commonly used functions associated with the screen that is currently displayed. This menu allows you to do things like calibrate the compass, reset the trip odometer, add waypoints, save a track, backtrack etc. Finally, the main menu is in the lower left corner. This menu provides access to waypoints, tracks, geocaches, maps, routes, POIs etc.

IMAGE 3
MAIN MENU
IMAGE 4
DASHBOARD
IMAGE 5
ONE TOUCH MENU
IMAGE 6
OPTIONS MENU
IMAGE 7
COMPASS MENU


In addition to the features mentioned above, the eXplorist 710 is set up for paperless geocaching. When using this function, you can download and view more than 20 unique characteristics of each geocache as well as view, search and filter caches on the device. Details that are stored in the 710's memory include name, location, description, size, difficulty, terrain, hint, and recent logs created by other geocachers. The 710's GPS receiver supports GPX file format and connects to a PC as an external drive. Files can be saved to and from the receiver and shared with online communities.

TRYING IT OUT

While preparing my initial report I've used the eXplorist 710 in a variety of settings to familiarize myself with its capabilities. These included walking around our neighborhood, biking in the community, driving around town and hiking through our local park. It has been easy to find most of the functions I searched for and they were typically accessed with no more than a few taps on the screen. In this regard I have found the Four Corners Menu to be simple to use and intuitive. One more thing I should mention is that so far the eXplorist 710 has been fairly quick to power up, averaging between 30-45 seconds before it is ready to use. Whether inside, outside, in my car or on my bike in our local park the receiver has gotten good satellite reception.

Yesterday I downloaded Magellan's VantagePoint and Communicator software packages to my computer. According to Magellan, you can use VantagePoint to view and search the preinstalled software maps to create waypoints and routes and then download them to the eXplorist 710. It also allows you to upload tracks, waypoints, and multimedia files from the GPS receiver. Communicator is a software driver that enables data transfer from Geocaching.com website to the eXplorist GPS via the mini USB cable. Once the software was installed I updated the receiver to the latest software version, which was V6.06. The update took approximately 10 minutes and went seamlessly. Next I cycled power on the receiver to complete the install. Once back up and running, I noticed a few changes within the receiver's user interface. Previously, several of the menus required scrolling with a thin slider bar in order to access additional features that did not all fit on the same page. It appears that Magellan added up and down arrows at the bottom of these menus in the new software update. This was a great addition as I found it difficult during my first few days of testing to scroll up and down the slider bar with my finger. Since loading the software I have downloaded several geocaches off Geocaching.com's website and found this process to be straightforward and easy to accomplish. My kids and I will be heading out this afternoon to attempt finding some of those geocaches and I will report back on our success as well as that of the eXplorist 710.

As part of my Field testing I plan to check the accuracy of the receiver for both position and elevation. I am also planning to spend more time with VantagePoint to further test its communications interface to the GPS for uploading and downloading data.

SUMMARY

My initial impressions of the eXplorist 710 have been very favorable. It feels solid and well built and it has several unique and innovative features which will undoubtedly come in handy on the trail.

This concludes my Initial Report. Thanks to Mitac International Corporation and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this GPS receiver.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have used the Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS extensively during the past two months throughout Central and Southern Indiana. My outings included two backpacking trips, several day-hikes, two bike rides of approximately 22 miles (35 km) each, numerous geocaching excursions and two car trips of approximately 250 miles (402 km) each. Temperatures during the test period ranged from 34 F (1 C) to 76 F (24 C). Weather conditions while backpacking and geocaching were generally mild with mostly sunny skies and light winds. Elevations, as recorded from the GPS, ranged from 530 ft (161 m) to 882 ft (269 m).

I have also spent several hours at home on my computer becoming familiar with VantagePoint and Geocaching.com's website. I used VantagePoint to create the routes and waypoints that guided me during my car trips and bike rides and of course I went to Geocache.com to search for 'hidden treasures' in our area.

Hoosier National Forest, Indiana: This was a three-day trip that involved backpacking and dayhiking. Temperatures ranged from 56 F (13 C) to 72 F (22 C) with elevations ranging from 530 ft (161 m) to 720 ft (219 m). Skies ranged from partly cloudy to sunny during this outing with light winds that were nearly constant. I covered a distance of 14.1 miles (22.7 km) during this trip.

Charles Deem Wilderness, Hoosier National Forest, Indiana: This was an over-night backpacking trip. I followed the Hayes Trail and Grubb Ridge Loop around the park. Temperatures ranged from 39 F to 55 F (4 to 13 C) and skies were overcast. I logged 9.8 miles (15.8 km) during this outing.

Monon Trail, Indiana: I used the GPS while biking down the Monon Trail and surrounding areas in Hamilton County, Indiana. My predetermined route took me 22.4 miles (36 km) out and back. Temperatures started off cool at 41 F (5 C) but quickly warmed up throughout the day.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I really like the Magellan eXplorist 710. It has performed wonderfully during my Field Testing and has proven, so far, to be an excellent GPS with a lot of really nice features. From day one, I found that the eXplorist was easy to use and the menu pages were intuitive. Thanks to Magellan's new user interface and Four Corners Menu, I haven't had to read through a manual to figure things out. Everything I've wanted to do has been accessible via a few touches on the screen. I have also found that because the menu pages are designed with a common sense approach, I can come back to the GPS after a few days away and pick up right where I left off. Consequently, most of my time has been spent discovering new features and functions that this GPS has to offer as well as deciding what I want my user experience to look like. As it turns out, with the eXplorist 710 I am able to completely customize the look and feel of the GPS to suit my personal taste. Among other things, I can set the number and type of data fields that appear on the map screen. This allows me to display information regarding the barometer, altimeter, average speed, sunrise, sunset, start time, end time and various other parameters. On the Dashboard Menu I can choose from up to nine templates that can also be configured to provide the information I want displayed. On the One Touch Menu there are nine buttons that I can assign to perform certain tasks or functions. In fact, it's possible to make the entire user experience almost exactly as I want it.

The Magellan eXplorist 710 has been quick to power up, usually within 30-45 seconds, and it typically locks onto six to ten satellites depending on my location. Satellite reception has been impressive regardless of terrain and I have been able to get a signal everywhere I've traveled, including the dense forests in the Hoosier National Park. However, since most of the leaves are now off the trees, my test results should be considered inconclusive until next summer. I have not found a big difference in reception whether the GPS is carried horizontally or vertically. It also seems to perform well on overcast days and even in heavy rain, as experienced while navigating during my car trip to Bloomington. Maybe if I showed this device to my satellite TV provider they could figure out how to improve their TV signal in inclement weather. Although the satellite fix on the eXplorist 710 is quite good, accuracy is only within 25 ft (7.6 m) or so. This makes it difficult to navigate slowly, as when looking for geocaches. It is for this reason that I really like having the built-in electronic compass. The compass stands alone in situations like this as it can easily discern my orientation even when I'm standing still.

Most of the hiking I've done during the Field Test Period has been on well established trails and so detailed route preparation was not necessary. However, I have tested the Backtrack function and it provided me with a good trail of 'breadcrumbs' to follow on my return trip. To enable this feature, I simply set track logging so that it logged my position every 50 feet (15 m). Other options that are available when using track logging are to record position automatically (continuous) or by time.

I have been really impressed with the rugged design and solid feel of the eXplorist. It inspires the confidence that this is a reliable piece of equipment. Even though I have had it out in wet weather and accidentally dropped it on several occasions, I was never concerned about whether it would power up or function correctly. Because the touch screen is recessed into the GPS case and surrounded by rubber, it is protected from most accidents. Likewise, the camera lens is recessed far into the back cover so that it too is protected from harm. The back cover fits snuggly onto the GPS and the battery compartment is sealed with a rubber gasket. Although I have not submerged the eXplorist 710 under water, I am fairly confident from my examination of the unit, that its insides would remain dry.

The screen has good resolution and with the brightness setting turned up, I have found it to be easily readable outdoors in full sunlight. Although it is not as sharp and bright as my iPhone, it's certainly good enough for use while navigating in the backcountry. In this regard, I have had no issues reading map features or seeing what I'm doing on the GPS. It has vivid colors and the display is plenty sharp. Most of the time I set the screen brightness to 50% and the display still has plenty of contrast and colors remain vivid. Although the brightness setting can be increased it should be noted that screen brightness has the greatest impact on battery life.

Regarding battery life, it has been good to average in my experience so far. I got great performance out of the lithium ion batteries that came with this unit, as they lasted roughly 14 hours. The rechargeable Energizer batteries which I am currently using have averaged 8-9 hours between charges. Of course, a lot of things affect battery life and I am still experimenting with the GPS to determine which settings give me quality performance while still maintaining great run-time.

The touch screen has been easy to navigate using my index finger. It also responds to the touch from a finger nail as I've sometimes used while selecting small buttons or scrolling across the map screen. The touch screen is plenty sensitive so that I have never had to push it hard to get a response. Zooming in and out with the plus and minus buttons is smooth and controlled. Scrolling across the map screen is equally smooth although it can be slow at times. When new pages are selected, they come up quickly and data fields don't take long at all to refresh.

IMAGE 1 IMAGE 2 IMAGE 3 As mentioned in my Initial Report, up and down arrows keys are located at the bottom of most pages that have more information than can be displayed on one screen. The one exception to this is the alarm page, which does not have these arrow keys and consequently is very difficult to maneuver through. The arrow keys are much easier to use than the slider bar on the right side of the screen. The slider bar is too narrow to use without a stylus pen. One other option has been to move the screen up and down with my finger, similar to scrolling through a song list on the iPod or a contact list on the iPhone, but I found this feature doesn't work well with the eXplorist. Due to the sensitivity of the touch screen, it's very easy to accidentally highlight and change a menu option when using this technique. In fact, I have rarely been able to scroll up or down on a page with my finger without changing at least one setting. As stated earlier, the up and down arrow keys solve this issue most of the time. Unfortunately several pages in the settings menu have drop-down menu boxes that are not sized suitably for one page and so they are cut off at the bottom of the screen. This makes it hard to read the menu titles and/or select from the drop-down menu boxes without scrolling up or down to the next page. Unfortunately, when this is done with the arrow keys the page moves down by an amount equal to the full screen size and so now the information is cut off at the top. I don't think this would be difficult to fix and given what I've seen so far regarding Magellan's responsiveness and commitment to the eXplorist product line, I suspect they are already aware of this issue and are planning to address it in a future firmware upgrade. One final note is that the touch screen can be used while wearing gloves, unlike the iPod Touch and iPhone which are only sensitive to bare fingers.

Magellan's VantagePoint software was mainly tested on my home computer. The software was easy to use once I became familiar with it. It had no problem running on Windows 7 and did not consume a lot of system resources. I mainly used it to create routes and waypoints which I subsequently downloaded to the eXplorist 710. Connection to the eXplorist was straightforward as was the process of transferring data to and from the GPS. Sync buttons are located on the top of the screen to send and receive data and a simple check mark determines which items (routes, waypoints, media files etc) will be transferred. Scrolling and zooming worked well and refresh rates were not too bad given the graphics that needed to be redrawn. In addition, the maps can be panned in 3D which is a really neat way to view topo maps. Although entering the GPS coordinates for waypoints was straightforward, it would be nice if the program allowed me to enter coordinates in more than one format. Conversely, Magellan might consider incorporating a coordinate conversion utility in VantagePoint for decimal degrees (WGS84), degrees, minutes and seconds, and UTM.

One really nice feature in VantagePoint is the inclusion of DigitalGlobe's satellite imagery, which overlays digital aerial photos on top of Magellan's maps. This feature, when enabled, streams the imagery from an online server. Of course an internet connection is required for this feature to work and a yearly subscription is required to download this imagery to a PC or the GPS. Still, having access to satellite imagery can be extremely helpful when planning a new route or when navigating in the field. Overall VantagePoint is a capable, albeit simple, software package and a nice complement to the eXplorist.

IMAGE 4IMAGE 5

















STREET NAVIGATION
Soon after receiving the eXplorist 710, I purchased a handlebar mount from Magellan for use on a 22 mile (35 km) bike trip I had planned. Before setting out, I created a route with several waypoints in VantagePoint and then downloaded everything to the eXplorist. I used the GPS to track my entire route and found that it was dead-on accurate with perfect turn by turn directions. While in-route, I compared the speed and direction information on the GPS with that on my Cateye bike computer and found they matched perfectly. I also went on two car trips of approximately 250 miles (402 km) each. I created all my waypoints ahead of time in VantagePoint and then downloaded them to the GPS. I was excited to see that the eXplorist 710 mimicked the directions of my Garmin NUVI and provided voice navigation to 4 distant waypoints with no hesitation or missteps.

One last minute update to this report is that over the past few days, VantagePoint refuses to connect with the GPS. It works fine on its own but immediately closes down when it detects the eXplorist 710. I have been working with Magellan's application support department to solve this issue and they believe it is a corrupted file, but our attempts to solve the problem have not been successful so far. I will provide an update regarding this issue in my Long Term Report.

SUMMARY

I am very happy with the Magellan eXplorist 710 GPS. It is a rugged GPS with a lot of very nice features including an electronic compass, altimeter, barometer and digital camera. It includes detailed maps of the USA along with topo maps and World Maps. It acquires satellites quickly and has proven very accurate while backpacking. In addition, it has turn by turn directions and voice navigation which have come in very handy while driving to the trailhead.

This concludes my Field Report. Thanks to Mitac International Corporation and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this GPS receiver.



LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 During the past two months I took the Magellan eXplorist 710 with me almost everywhere I traveled. As it relates to this test series, I used it on three backpacking trips and four day hikes for a total of twelve days. The weather during this period was unseasonably warm with daytime temperatures twice reaching 60 F (15.5 C). Consequently it was muddy both on and off trail. The terrain I crossed varied from rolling hills to flat paths and creek beds.

1. My first trip was to Devil's River in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. I hiked 14.2 miles (22 km) during this three day adventure, mainly on established trails. Temperatures were in the upper 20's to low 30's F (-2 to 3 C) with traces of snow still on the ground from earlier in the week.

2. My second trip was to Brown County State Park. Daytime temperatures during this three day backpacking trip ranged from 28 F (-2 C) to 34 F (-7 C), with nighttime temperatures around 22 F (-5 C). The weather was cloudy with light winds and intermittent showers. The terrain was hilly and trails were slippery and quite muddy. I hiked 12 miles (19 km) over the course of this trip. Elevations ranged from 530 ft (161 m) to 720 ft (219 m).

3. My third trip was near the town of Oldenburg in southeastern Indiana. During this two day outing I mainly hiked off-trail through woods and farmland several miles outside of town. I covered 9.5 miles (15.28 km) across moderately hilly terrain while temperatures ranged from 39 F to 50 F (4 to 10 C).

4. All of my other trips were day hikes at local parks in Central Indiana including Cool Creek Park, Koteewi Park and McGregor Park. The distances I covered varied from 4.5 miles (7.2 km) to 13.1 miles (12 km). Weather conditions during these trips were generally pleasant with mild winds and sunny skies.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 2 During the past 4 months of testing I upgraded the eXplorist firmware twice and the VantagePoint PC software once. Installing new updates was quick and painless. On all three occasions, I was notified by a pop-up menu as soon as the updates were available for download. As mentioned in my Field Report, I started experiencing problems with VantagePoint a few days before the end of that test period. As a follow-up to this, I spoke twice with a customer service rep who investigated the issue. He was courteous and knowledgeable but unfortunately the solution he provided only worked temporarily and VantagePoint continues to shut down as soon as I connect the GPS to my PC. I suspect that a corrupt file is causing the problem but I am unsure at this time how to resolve the issue.

Regarding the eXplorist 710, its Four Corners menu screens have continued to exceed my expectations. They are easy to navigate and provide any information I need within a few clicks. I also remain impressed with how good the receiver is at holding onto a satellite signal once it has established its connection. I have had no problems with satellite reception even when backpacking through forests or traveling in my car.

While backpacking in Wisconsin, I was shocked that I only got 3-4 hours of use from the eXplorist before the batteries went dead. Knowing I had fully charged them before leaving home, I figured I had mistakenly put the GPS in 'suspend' mode the night before instead of powering down, like I normally do. Suspend mode can drain the batteries after several hours because it continues to log track information even though the screen is turned off. However, the next two times I used the GPS, I had similarly low battery life. At this point I suspected the rechargeable batteries were failing prematurely as they were only 1 year old. Sure enough, after installing a fresh set of batteries, I was able to get eight hours of use out of the eXplorist.


SUMMARY

I really enjoyed using the Magellan eXplorist 710 during the past four months of testing. It is a rugged GPS with lots of very nice features as detailed in my report. Once powered up, it locks quickly onto its satellites and provides reliable data and good positional accuracy. In addition, the eXplorist 710 has a straight forward, easy-to-use interface that makes navigating with it a pleasure.

Despite ongoing difficulties with the VantagePoint PC software, I am confident that Mitac will help me resolve this problem. The factory provided good customer support when I spoke with them and they seem to regularly update their software with bug fixes and new feature releases. I look forward to being able to utilize this software to its fullest extent.

Pros
Rugged design
Strong GPS lock
Accurate position location
Intuitive interface
Great features

Cons
VantagePoint software shuts down when GPS is connected

This concludes my Long Term Report and this test series for the Magellan eXplorist 710. Thanks to Mitac International Corporation and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to test this receiver.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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