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Chippy, Sascha and a bag of UMPCs at the Techlounge.

What a pleasure it was to have a few minutes (well it seemed like a few minutes) to take a look back at UMPCs from 2006-2010 at the Techloungelast week.  If you want to know where the roots of the consumer-focused tablet are look no further than the Origami project. Others had done tablets before but Microsoft, Intel, VIA and a few manufacturers and brands did research from 2004 that resulted in the consumer-focused UMPC. While the research was correct (hat tip to Otto Berkes, wherever he is) the results, as products, were too big and lacked adequate software. Hey, It wasn’t until 3 versions of Windows later that it gained an internet-focused ‘share’ option! Perhaps the initial buzz was too much but there was certainly a craving for something out there. Origamiportal, the former name of this site, rose to 1.4 million page views per month until 2010 when Apple launched the iPad and took over the market. Intel never gave up and today we’ve got UMPCs costing just $99.

Sascha and Chippy look back at the UMPCs

Sascha and Chippy look back at the UMPCs

Take a look at the video for a fun look back at 2006-2010 and some inside stories.

Five brand new low-cost Core-M products from CeBIT 2015

I was working at CeBIT with Mobilegeeks on their Techlounge product last week. If you haven’t heard of them it’s because they’re big in German but not so big in English. I’ll explain more in another post but it meant that my focus was on creating videos (with the talented German, Rob Vegas) that would fill-in between the live sessions. In all we created around 25 videos in German and English and it was interesting to take a look at stuff I don’t normally look at. Curved monitors, for example. More interesting for me though were five Core M-based products that tell me one thing – Core M will move into the low-cost market.

Core M is built for low-cost. Its small die means, when yields are good enough, it’s cheap to produce but initial products, as always, tend to be a little more costly. Did you take a look at that Macbook yet? More mainstream are the Acer Switch 12 (reviewed here) and the UX305 which, at $699-$799 represent good value 2014-era Ultrabook performance without fans. But prices will drop further…

Trekstor: Core M at CeBIT 2015

The first product likely to hit the market, or at least the one that looks closest to market so far, is the one that looks very much like the Ainol Novo Cube i7 that I haven’t reported on yet.  The Trekstore Core M 2 in 1 is known as the Wintron 11.6 3G but that’s likely to change.

Trekstor 11.6 3G

Trekstor 11.6 3G

What can I tell you about it, and the matching Ainol Novo Cube i7? The build is really nice. There are sturdy metals and a good fit and finish. I mentioned a 499 Euro price but after reflecting on what Trekstor said to me (Trekstor wouldn’t commit to a price but suggested a range to me) I’m expecting  a Euro 599 launch with a basic 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. It’s possible that 3G will come within that price too. That would make it the cheapest Core M product on the market in Germany/Europe, alongside the Lenovo Yoga 3 11 which is also available for pre-purchase at 599 Euro.

P N Devices: Core M at CeBIT 2015

The second two devices look to me to be aiming for an even cheaper price. P N Devices , an OED/OEM (original equipment designer/manufacturer) out of China, already manufactures the TrekStor SurfTab Wintron 8.0 which is being sold for 129 Euro in Germany so it was a surprise that Trekstor has two other Core M tablets on offer. One has a case-cover keyboard which is, in my opinion, a sign of trying to push the prices down, and the other has a 360-degree rotating screen. Both look good enough to be picked up for the western markets as low-cost devices. For these products we could be talking about a 499 Euro (post tax) price point which would equate to roughly the same (pre tax) in dollars.

 

P N Devices

P N Devices 360M

P N Devices

P N Devices 116M

The 11.6-inch Core M detachable – 116M – is also nicely built although I had some feedback to give to the P N Devices team as I saw the keyboard balancing on a stiff cloth hinge. That bounce needs to go. The screen stand is a little wobbly too. There’s a good choice of ports, including USB 3.0 and optional SIM card slot. Full HD screen. The screen looked acceptable .

The P N Devices 360M is a Core M version of the 360F which has Baytrail inside! Given that P N Devices are aiming for a super cheap price with the Baytrail version it’s only a matter of price difference in the processors that needs to be taken into account and about $150 should cover that initially with prices falling quickly after the summer in my opinion. The screen wasn’t as good as I would have liked to see but the keyboard felt good and there’s potential for a good set of ports. Build quality was OK. As far as pricing, P N Devices gave us information that hinted again at 499 Euros Of course final prices depend on what the market will bear but with tier-1 brands coming in at $599, second-tier brands will have to go lower.

Pipo: Core M at CeBIT 2015

Pipo Devices came to CeBIT with two OED Core M offerings and one of them was the first 10-inch product based on Core M that could be hitting the market. But first, the Pipo W9, an 11.6-inch 2-in-1.

Nice keyboard, good build quality, a nice set of ports. From the outside this looks really nice but it’s a bit heavy at 1.6-1.7 KG (3.75 pounds.) It sounded like Pipo already have a customer for it as they say it’s going into production soon but maybe that’s just a test run they’re talking about. If Pipo haven’t found a customer yet you can expect it to take at least 3 months to reach any western markets. The same timescales would apply to all the devices here unless the OEM has already started working through details with customers.

Pipo W9

Pipo W9

Pipo W8

Pipo W8

After videoing the Pipo W9 a representative of the company stepped forward to offer me a look at a new 10-inch Core M device. The Pipo W8 is being considered as a lightweight alternative with a case cover and a ‘retina’ (I hate that expression – everything becomes ‘retina’ if you move it far enough away from the eyes) display. This product is in an early stage but I like the idea, especially if Pipo can squeeze in a 3G/4G module and a big enough battery without it being too dense.

Take a look at the Pipo W8 and W9 below.

 

Keep a look-out for these devices popping up under local brands soon and enjoy some good competition in the Core M market, from 499 Euro to over 1500 Euro! Cough!, Macbook, Cough!

And quickly, on that subject (USB-C of course) I was speaking to some Chinese cable manufacturers at CeBIT that told me that a $19 USB-C to video converter is possible today, but that early market prices might be higher. Thanks Apple!

Did ASUS just poke the Macbook too hard?

The use of this Shutterstock image might have just landed ASUS in trouble and it might cost them more than the €79.50  it cost to download the image from Shutterstock.  While they’re not in trouble with Shutterstock as far as I can see, they appear to have changed an image such that it misrepresents an Apple product. That’s the last company you want to be doing that with!

B_5PtXAVIAAdDya (2)

ASUS have been poking fun at the Macbook today. Actually, there’s lots of that going on today (and this is the best one.) This twitter post might have gone one step too far though. The image sent out by ASUS on Twitter is modified by hand in my opinion as 1) there’s little chance they got the two products side-by-side like this and 2) The image itself is rendering on my screen at around 90 pixels high. It’s (near) impossible that you would see so much difference in sharpness at this resolution on two screens that have 30% difference in vertical resolution. I’m no imaging scientist but what about the color and dynamic range? That’s not a function of screen resolution at all!

I might be wrong. ASUS might have the two products side by side right now and there could be this much difference, but I doubt it. If it is true, I’ll happily correct or even take-down this post. (If this post disappears, you know what happened!)

I like ASUS products and the UX305 is an amazing bit of kit at a much lower price than a Macbook. I like the Macbook too. I also like banter on Twitter but I think ASUS just stepped over a line here, at least in some countries.

Original tweet on Twitter.

asustweet

 

Yes, I may have also stepped over a line by reproducing part of a Shutterstock photo but I hope my intentions here do something to promote the image rather than abuse it.

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet and Keyboard – Ultra mobile Android productivity, at a price.

Launched at MWC last week was the latest Sony Xperia Z4 10-inch tablet. Ignore the internal specifications for a moment and consider that this rugged, waterproof tablet weighs under 800 grams, with the keyboard. With Android 5.0’s security features and knowing that Microsoft Office is available we can’t ignore it as an ultra mobile PC. I took a closer look at it and spoke to Nicole Scott of Mobilegeeksabout it on the video embedded below.

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Nicole Scott of Mobilegeeks with the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

 

 

The tablet is incredibly light for a 10-incher. 389 grams includes a 22 Wh battery, an impressive 2K screen and 3GB of RAM. Add the keyboard, a Bluetooth and NFC-enabled 383 gram unit and you’ve got 772 grams in total. Add about 30 grams for an LTE-enabled unit. Battery life on the keyboard is one month when typing for 2 hours per day.

Of course there are questions over how ‘productive’ you can be on Android but one must remember that Microsoft Office is now available and in some cases there are apps available on Android that you won’t find on Windows. Gaming will be a lot of fun too. There’s a decent 8 MP camera on the back and that’s something we don’t see on the 10-inch Windows tablets because they’re mostly for the low-cost market.

Battery life for the unit is said to be 10 hours video playback. Expect 6-8 hours of work and a few days active-standby.

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While testing the keyboard I felt like I was back in the netbook years. It’s a little cramped compared when compared to even the $200 11.6-inch Windows and Chrome OS laptops. This isn’t an all-day keyboard but there’s a multi-touch, clickable touchpad and the quality seems good enough for emails, blog articles, note-taking and efficient use of social networks.

27 GB of usable internal storage means you’ll be able to manage a holiday’s worth of snaps and videos and the IP65 and IP68 ratings for water and dust resistance will help on the beach while you’re out there. Be careful though because this isn’t a cheap bundle at all.

The keyboard, I’m told, is going to cost $180. I had to ask again but I got the same answer. That is a crazy price for a keyboard and it makes me wonder whether the Microsoft universal folding Bluetooth keyboard (my test here) might be a better choice but as it doesn’t protect the screen in transport it’s not really a substitute. It’s certainly a lot lighter though. As for the price of the tablet…559 Euro for a WiFi-only model. You can get a tablet/keyboard bundle for 659 Euro.  (via Sony France.)

Having a waterproof tablet is a big advantage and Android is really coming along in terms of productivity. I like the camera and screen and I suspect the Snapdragon 810 will be powerful but with devices like the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 10 with Windows at 369 Euros, there’s much better value around if you don’t need Z4-levels of ruggedness. If you need Android, why not go for the Yoga 2 10 Android version which is even cheaper?

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Sony Xperia Z4 tablet keyboard is $180

Awesome Apple Macbook engineering, slightly out of my reach.

It’s easy to poke criticism at the new Apple Macbook because it breaks new ground for a laptop but we must pay respect to the incredible engineering and confidence that Apple are showing with this ultraportable. In reality there’s little to worry about with the Macbook, if you can afford it.

macbook 2015 details (3)

Apple Macbook USB-C USB 3.1 connector

Full specifications, videos, information in our Apple Macbook information page.

Macbook USB-C and USB 3.1 standards.

I use a range of ultra mobile PCs in my work and one thing is for sure, whatever ports I have available on my device I’m always carrying adaptors. USB-SD, USB-Gigabit Ethernet, USB-SSD, USB-HDMI, MicroHDMI, MicroUSB and others. If it’s not me using them, it’s someone else in my circle that needs them and you can guarantee that if I haven’t got them with me, I’ll need one of them. It’s why I’m not scared of the new Apple Macbook port choice.  The single USB-C port is, in my opinion, a good signal that we’re converging on USB standards for power, AV and data and beyond that USB-C port with USB 3.1 is a very similar, even more interesting moment. The WiGig dock, now seen on the HP Elite X2 might be $239 but it weighs 400 grams (0.92 lb) and provides all the ports you need. These will get cheaper, smaller and lighter and, if manufacturers don’t implement the vendor-lock feature in WiGig docking, can be universal. USB 3.1 ports will still be needed for fall-back (think of the crowded press room where WiGig would never work smoothly) but as both are coming from the same standards body they should co-work well.

By using USB-C connectors we’re doing two important things. 1 – removing space used for other ports. 2 – converging on a standard for charging and connecting. Both of these will bring improvements with more space for battery, lower costs, lighter weight and it will help to take us to the ‘no-fear’ all-day laptop and that means leaving the power brick at home. It might also generate a better market for WiFi and BT enabled products too. Displays, storage, cameras and keyboards can all work cable-free.

Apple have implemented USB 3.1 Gen 1 which only has a single 1080p 60 FPS max output capability but that won’t stop you being able to add DisplayLink solutions for the third screen if needed. The down-side of USB 3.1 AV profiles is that there aren’t any monitors out there supporting it so the cables you need are actually adaptors. They’ll always be expensive relative to a bulk HDMI cable.

Early pricing will indeed be high for a USB 3.0 converter or hub and the display adaptors but although you’ll need to add $100 to the cost of a Macbook for the adaptors, I’m sure they’ll reach half that price within 6 months.

The USB-C connector on the Macbook isn’t the problem.

Core M Processor

Again, there’s a lot of potential for complaints here. The new MacBook Air is going to offer a full Broadwell-U CPU which will be much more powerful. It’s going to be cheaper too, but not by much. An 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD MacBook Air with Core i5 is $1199. The Macbook is $1299 and it’s quieter, has a bigger screen with higher resolution, has a slightly bigger battery, should be more efficient and is lighter and smaller. Apple are including the 1.1 Ghz Intel Core M 5Y51 too which not only will be faster than the models commonly found on Windows Core M laptops (like the comparable Samsung ATIV Book 9) but you just know that Apple will have squeezed more out of the platform through better OS optimizations and, possibly, better thermal properties that Core M can really take advantage of. The fast SSD means you’ll have no problem editing full-HD videos although rendering highly processed clips will be a big task for the Core M CPU. If Quick Sync optimizations are available to the editing software and you keep edits simple you’ll have no problem. I’ve produced a couple of basic videos on Core M under Windows and it was painless. A 1.3 Ghz CPU option is also available and that should boost power even more. [If it’s the 6W ‘TDP-UP’ Core M version then expect a little warmth but it’s an indicator that there’s going to be good thermal headroom for the 4.5W TDP 1.1 Ghz Core M in the standard build.]

General performance is going to keep most desktop-style users happy. I use a 2012 Ivy Bridge Ultrabook as my desktop at home and it’s never caused me problems. That’s the sort of performance you can expect from Core M. Office, many, many tabs, background programs, anti-virus and music will run concurrently with no issues. 1080p video playback performance is going to be a delight on the new Macbook. 10 hours is claimed and I don’t see why not.

The Core M processor isn’t the problem with the Macbook.

Apple Macbook 12 2015 (8) (4)

 

Macbook Battery life.

The new battery inside the Macbook has a 39.7 Wh battery inside. In general, on Core M with a 12-inch screen at medium backlight, a laptop needs about 5W of power to drive a web browsing experience. I expect Apple to do better than this through better software and the new screen.  9-10 hours of web browsing, 10 or more hours of video playback, 3 hours of gaming and, if you’re a typist – and we’ll have to see just how good that keyboard is – expect to be able to use the keyboard for 15 hours straight in offline mode.  Only the Surface Pro 3 with Type Cover, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2015) and the Dell XPS 13 (2015) come close in terms of battery capacity / product weight.

Battery life is certainly not the problem with the Macbook.

ID.

Design and style is not a problem with the Macbook. That’s all I have to say!

macbook-2015-gallery3

Macbook Keyboard.

I can’t comment with any authority on the keyboard because I haven’t tried it but feedback from hands-on videos has been good even if you take into account the excitement  generated among journalists and bloggers at the launch event. This is one area where you need to focus on before buying a Macbook.

Maybe the keyboard could be a problem with the Macbook.

All Core M PCs listed here.

Trackpad.

This is interesting. The large trackpad is not only going to be Apple-smooth in operation but it will now incorporate pressure response into software and will even give haptic feedback. Like the keyboard, this new, non-moving design will need some fingers-on but this feature, if well-integrated into software, could be a major advantage for Apple users. I doubt Windows laptops will ever catch-up to the Apple Macbook touchpad experience.

The touchpad isn’t going to be a problem with the Macbook.

macbook 2015 details (9)

Summary and opinion.

The Macbook is a real showcase for Core M. Not only is it fanless but it uses a tiny, highly integrated motherboard and a single data/power connector to give space for a relatively large battery in just 930 grams of weight. The only comparable product is the Samsung Ativ Book 9 but that’s not going to be a global product. In terms of ultra-mobile productivity, Apple have just stolen the show with the new Macbook.

I’m not an Apple fan but I’ve always been able to tip my hat to the Macbook Air which was a leader in mobile PC engineering. The Macbook breaks even newer ground and is so attractive as an ultraportable that it’s now only a matter of money that’s stopping me from buying it. I’ve paid $1200 for ultra mobiles before but times have changed. The Dell XPS 13 with Core i3 will be as powerful and productive at just $799. The ASUS UX305, also fanless on a Core M platform, is only 1.2KG with a 10% bigger battery at just $699. I can’t justify double the price for an engineering showcase and dongles.

It’s the price that’s the problem with the Macbook. If you can afford it though, I tip my hat to you too.

My notes on the differences between the Apple Macbook and the Samsung ATIV Book 9. Select an ultra-mobile PC from 100’s in our database.

Long-term technology trends developers need to know
Justin James highlights some factors developers should consider when making tech decisions about languages, Web Services, databases, and more.
Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard. Hands-on test.

Some people came away from Mobile World Congress wanting the Samsung Galaxy S6. Others were blown away by a VR headset from HTC. Me, I came away from MWC thinking about the new Microsoft universal folding keyboard. This Bluetooth keyboard is an amazing bit of engineering and I had two chances to check it out at MWC. The videos are below.

Microsoft universal folding keyboard.

Microsoft universal folding keyboard. My estimate: 120 grams  / 0.3 pounds

If you’ve used the Surface Pro type-cover you’ll have an idea of the mechanics of this mini keyboard. It’s slightly smaller than the Surface Pro 3 keyboard I was comparing with and there’s no backlight but, and this is very important, the split keys will take some getting used to. I estimate the weight (the official weight has not been published) at 120 grams. Sizing is about the same as a CD case.

Microsoft universal folding keyboard with type cover and Surface Pro 3

Microsoft universal folding keyboard with type cover and Surface Pro 3

In the 2 minutes of testing before I shot the video below I was all over the place. I had to concentrate on the layout which is never a good experience but after those few minutes I was getting into the groove and found it to be easy to use. The problem is that if you just use this occasionally you’ll have that 5-10 minute familiarization period every single time. Think about that.

The usefulness of the two device switch buttons are questionable, at least at the $99 asking price, but the three keyboard layouts, Windows, Android and iPad/iPhone are definitely useful.

The launch price of $99 is something that takes more than 5 minutes to get used to. This keyboard costs more than a cheap 8-inch Windows PC and that’s just wrong so we’re hoping it drops to the $50-$70 level very quickly. I won’t call this a must-have keyboard, even at $50, but it’s something that serious travellers should take a look at and indeed a great bit of engineering.

Take a look at the hands-on videos below.

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The Microsoft universal folding keyboard comes with two device switch buttons.

 

Lenovo Miix 300. Solid spec’s on this budget 8-inch Windows tablet.

I took a look at the Lenovo Miix 300 after it launched at MWC on Sunday and I was impressed to see such good specifications for a $149 Windows 8 tablet. There are a few things missing though.

Lenovo Miix 300 is low-cost but still has 2GB RAM

Lenovo Miix 300 is low-cost but still has 2GB RAM

I handled a Lenovo Miix 300 with 2GB RAM and 32GB of storage and the quoted price was $149 which is competitive. The screen was OK and the battery size, 17 Wh, is good. On the downside though there’s a basic case design and there’s no HDMI output. Weight is good.

There’s nothing ground-breaking here but if the starting price is $149 then you can probably expect offers at 20% below that. With the Lenovo branding this low-cost tablet could be an easy choice if you’re concerned about memory usage in desktop scenarios.

Microsoft flappy-keyboard looks like a wallet. I love it!

The new Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is tiny and desirable, but pricey. Here’s my hands-on thoughts and video.

mk_UFK_blk_large

If there’s one sub-thread that has existed throughout the last 9 years of UMPCPortal it has to be mobile keyboards. PDAs generated a reasonable market for folding, rolling, laser-projected and even fabric keyboards but it hasn’t been until recently that the market picked up again with practical engineering, materials and features. I run a Microsoft Wedge keyboard across a number of tablets and am currently typing this article on a Type Cover with a Surface Pro 3. It’s that Type Cover technology that appears in one of the lightest keyboards I’ve seen since my all-time favorite, the Samsung Q1 UMPC keyboard. The Microsoft universal folding keyboard is incredibly light and although it has a slightly split keyboard I like the layout.

 

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The key sizes are slightly smaller than you get on a Type Cover but not by much and there’s dual Bluetooth connectivity option for switching between two devices. My guess is 120 grams in weight but I could be wrong. Microsoft haven’t made the weight official yet.

What Microsoft have declared is an integrated a battery that lasts for three months, auto-shutdown on close, a spill-resistant design and a total height, when folded, of 11.5mm. Naturally, the Bluetooth HID profile support means it’s going to work across many, many devices and that includes some of those old PDAs!

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There’s a problem though. Where simple portable Bluetooth keyboards start at around $20, this one is going to set you back just under $100. That’s more than a low-cost Windows 8, 8-inch tablet PC!

Microsoft have a sales page up now. It’s ‘Coming Soon.’

Atom x3, x5, x7 – More Z8000-series details revealed at MWC

Pay attention mobile computing fan, because the Intel Atom X3, X5 and X7 are looking good! Intel have just released more details at MWC.

We heard about the new Intel Atom naming scheme last week and it was fairly clear that Intel would be using the new designations on the 14nm Cherry Trail range of processors. Those processors (Z8000-series) are actually going to slot into the x5 and X7 ranges with Sofia (C3000-series with integrated 3G and/or LTE) sitting in the Intel Atom x3 slot. While all ‘x’ ranges could include Windows products it’s the x5 and x7 that will interest us more as the Cherry Trail architecture leans towards more productive, feature-full tablets and 2-in-1s. Intel have announced that 6 partners have products coming in the first half of 2015.

Here’s a round-up of the product types that Intel are aiming at.

intelx 1

Intel has revealed today that Cherry Trail comes in three variants. The Z8700 series will fit into the x7 range as the performance option with Z8500 and Z8300 dropping into the middle-range.

 intelx 8

It’s not clear if x7 will also include more features than x5 but if you look at the key features that Intel are highlighting on Cherry Trail it would make sense if x7 were to host them.

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RealSense is going to appear in both R100 form (post-processed selective focus, special effects as seen in the Dell Venue 8 7000) and R200 with real-time depth imaging. Intel Pro WiDi is highlighted too which means business-class WiDi (with more security features) comes into the Atom range. True Key is a facial recognition security feature that we suspect is only enabled by RealSense. We’ll check that for you over the coming hours and days.

 

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The x5/x7 block diagram shows us that we’re still going to be stuck with eMMC as the storage interface but there’s a new audio processor which should improve battery life on video playback as it does on Core M products. HDMI 1.4b (4K/30 fps) is supported as are internal displays of up to 2K resolution.

The GPU gets an upgrade to Generation 8 and it looks like we might be into smooth Minecraft territory…

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Those performance figures were based on the following products:

  • Intel Reference Platform: Intel® AtomTM x7-8700 processor 2.4GHz, 4GB LPDDR3-1600, eMMC, Windows* 8.1 64bit, Display: 8” 1920×1200, Battery assumption: 21WHr
  • HP* Elitepad 1000 G2 based on Intel® AtomTM Z3795 processor 1.59GHz, 4GB LPDDR3, eMMC, Windows* 8.1 64bit, Display: 10.1” 1920×1200, Battery: 30WHr

 

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One the unanswered questions is battery life and TDP. We should be able to track that information down for you at MWC where we’re expecting to get hands-on with one or two demo systems and maybe even a product from the vendors listed above. In the meantime, here’s the round-up slide for Intel Atom x5 and x7:

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