The next NCASE project: a Steam Machine-style case (indeterminate)

Necere

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This thread was originally for the NCASE "LRPC" concept, first presented in August 2014. After prototype testing, further development on that design was halted in 2015. The original post is preserved at the end of this post.


On March 17th, 2017, a new, smaller concept was presented. Discussion about this new concept starts here.

Current status: As of late 2017, wahaha360 has branched off development on his own version of the case. The various concepts presented by me (Necere) are no longer being worked as of 2018.



A new approach: 7L console-style case with short GPU support


KQcxxPa.jpg


Preliminary specs:
  • Dimensions: 75 x 340 x 280mm, 7.1L
  • CPU cooler: up to 47mm
  • GPU: up to 175mm
  • PSU: FlexATX
  • Drives: 2x 2.5"
  • Fans: 2x 120x15mm (one shares CPU cooler space), dust filtered


hTiF7n1.jpg


gZoliwh.jpg

Alternate design

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Size comparison to Fractal Design Node 202




Original LRPC project post said:
This is the original "LRPC" concept first shown in August of 2014. Development on this design was halted in 2015. Read why here.

The original post and concept presentation is preserved here for posterity.


***


August 26th, 2014

As I mentioned the other day in the M1 thread, I've been working on a Steam Machine-style case for some time, and it's now at the point where I feel it's ready to be shown publicly.

I did a lot of iterating with this design - much more so than with the M1, and I went through a lot of different layouts. One of the things that became apparent was the need to decide if it was going to support a bunch of different hardware, like the M1, or really trying to keep it compact by focusing only on the essentials. Valve's Steam Machine prototype is in the latter category at 7L in size, but most of the commercial 'slim gaming towers' that it's spawned (Silverstone RVZ01, Digital Storm Bolt II, etc.) have been more than twice as large in order to accommodate 3.5" drives, an optical drive, watercooling, and so forth. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to take the road less traveled, so to speak, and aim for a pared down design that condensed the essential elements of a performance gaming PC into a living room-friendly package that is as small as reasonably possible.

That goal is what drives much of the design. While short "ITX" cards have made large strides in recent days, the greatest performance, not to mention selection and availability, still lies with long GPUs. The power supply had to be SFX; ATX PSUs are far too large, and 1U designs need to be customized to get their noise levels under control (and may still be too loud anyway), and aren't as easily replaceable. Drives other than 2.5"/SSDs are unnecessary for the intended purpose, so they had to go. As a console gaming replacement/living room PC, the expectation is for a certain form factor, hence the slim design utilizing a riser to lay the GPU parallel to the motherboard. Valve's designers went through this same calculus to arrive at their design for the Steam Machine prototype, and as it turns out, its layout is pretty much the only layout possible, with these components, below a certain size. So this design follows Valve's layout pretty closely, as far as the major components go (motherboard, GPU, PSU).

Compared to the Steam Machine prototype, this as-yet unnamed NCASE project (which w360 and I have been referring to as the LRPC - 'living room PC') is a little larger at about 9L, exclusive of the stand/feet. Valve used some proprietary parts to shrink the size down (notably the GPU bracket and angled PCIe power connectors), so some of the increase is due to the need to support standard hardware. I also wanted to be able to support 60mm tall CPU coolers, since there are a couple of decent low-profile options at that size (e.g., Thermalright AXP-100, Scythe Big Shuriken). An option for either vertical or horizontal orientation was another thing I wanted to get in, thus the removable stand and feet.

Like the Steam Machine prototype, there are no case fans. Each component (CPU, GPU, PSU) draws air in through the side vents and exhausts it through the top and bottom. Valve manages this through the use of custom plastic ducting, which is designed specifically for the hardware they include with the case. Since we need to support a broader range of hardware, that's not a viable option. Instead, component intakes are right up against the side vents to ensure they get outside air. Filters are also something I'm looking at for the intakes.

The aesthetics of the case have been particularly challenging with this design. Often times what you want it to look like and what you can do with the space and engineering requirements are completely at odds. I threw out a lot of designs that simply wouldn't work for one reason or another. Something that works visually both horizontally and vertically is also a challenge to do well. Ultimately my inclination to minimalism won out, and while I can't say I'm completely satisfied, at least I don't hate it. In its horizontal orientation, it's nondescript, which is appropriate for a media center IMO. Stood vertically, the curved base adds some visual interest. Some might be bothered by the sideways logo and power light, but I don't personally find it to be problematic. Any of this is subject to change, however.


Preliminary Specifications: (updated, see below)

  • Model: unnamed Steam Machine-style case by NCASE (referred to internally as the LRPC)
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 330 x 80 x 334mm (case only; stand adds 20mm to height with a footprint of 120x334mm)
  • Motherboard: Mini-ITX
  • GPU: Dual-slot, ~12" max
  • CPU cooler: 60mm max
  • PSU: SFX
  • Drives: 2x 2.5"
  • Front ports: 2x USB

Again, this is a work in progress and pretty much anything about the specs and design can change.


Exterior renders:

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Prototype #1 pics from Lian Li

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dvzrE7A.jpg


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c7QK1iM.jpg




Prototype Specifications:
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 348 x 84 x 333mm, 9.7L (excludes stand or feet)
  • Motherboard: Mini-ITX
  • PSU: SFX, SFX-L
  • Drives: 3x 2.5" mounts, 1x 3.5" mount (usable with short GPUs only)
  • CPU cooler height: 60mm
  • GPU length: 305mm+ (TBD)
  • GPU height: 153mm
  • Front I/O: 2x USB 3.0, HD audio mic and headphone jacks
  • Magnetic dust filters on intakes
  • Full aluminum construction
  • Included PCIe x16 3.0 shielded flex riser

Pics of prototype #1:

cCPhsoPh.jpg


PWVW2wdh.jpg


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fvhqLgIh.jpg


NW6yoTgh.jpg


K2fIIXth.jpg


odogV4Uh.jpg


Rhpoa7Sh.jpg


XhsMQhsh.jpg
 
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rawrr

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This. Looks. Fantastic. Can't wait to get on it, ncase M1 didn't really appeal to me (please don't kill me) but this is awesome.

Good luck.
 

Ulti

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Yes! Take my money!

As I'm not an enthusiast, like rawrr, the Ncase M1 didn't really appeal to me either but this is perfect!
 

rawrr

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Only thing is dondan has pretty much exactly the same idea for his B3 case. You'll probably have more success due to your reputation and name with the M1.

Oh well.
 

Urelure

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This looks great. There is only so much you can do with a "box" like this, but i think you really got the proportions right. I love how you wrapped the Side panels (in standing orientations) around like you did. It's details like that that makes all the difference. I also like the stand a lot.

Two things i am a little unsure about:
- If you decide to go Silver/Black otions like the M1, the inused holes for the feet will to some degree ruin the clean look in a standing position.
- The vents on the two "short sides". I think it would look better with either some sort of mesh grille all the way from front to back or the same type of vents that are on the other panels.

That being said i am already looking for an excuse to get an HTPC for the living room.

Edit: After looking at it for a while i also think it would look better if the USB ports wer turned 90 deg to form an "imaginary" line from the Power button to the logo.
 
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Necere

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Only thing is dondan has pretty much exactly the same idea for his B3 case. You'll probably have more success due to your reputation and name with the M1.

Oh well.
Yeah, I know :/ I was actually waiting to post this thread contingent on some feedback from LL regarding the stand design, which I actually got the same day he posted his thread. I did contemplate holding off even longer, but w360 has been bugging me about it for at least the last month (the design is something he's personally very interested in), so it's already well overdue. And you know, there can be room for more than one of this style of case, though tbh I think he should focus on getting one design out the door first.
 

rawrr

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Yeah, I know :/ I was actually waiting to post this thread contingent on some feedback from LL regarding the stand design, which I actually got the same day he posted his thread. I did contemplate holding off even longer, but w360 has been bugging me about it for at least the last month (the design is something he's personally very interested in), so it's already well overdue. And you know, there can be room for more than one of this style of case, though tbh I think he should focus on getting one design out the door first.

Yeah I really want him to get the A4 done first. By the way, how did you attract all that attention for M1? Dondan wants to go crowd funding too.

I'm thinking posting on loads of other forums could really help him out.
 

Necere

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Yeah I really want him to get the A4 done first. By the way, how did you attract all that attention for M1? Dondan wants to go crowd funding too.

I'm thinking posting on loads of other forums could really help him out.
A big part of it was simply the active thread we had going here. That's where we got most of our initial support from. But besides that, when we launched the first crowdfunding campaign for the prototype costs, we did write a press release and sent it to a number of different PC hardware sites, a few of which did run it. I will tell you though - presentation is key. High quality pics or renders and decent written material is very, very important if you want any hope of success.
 

Necere

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Two things i am a little unsure about:
- If you decide to go Silver/Black otions like the M1, the inused holes for the feet will to some degree ruin the clean look in a standing position.
I suppose we could potentially offer two versions of the case - the difference being the inclusion of the stand or holes for the feet on the side panel. The side panels are removable much like the M1, so swapping them out isn't a major issue either.

- The vents on the two "short sides". I think it would look better with either some sort of mesh grille all the way from front to back or the same type of vents that are on the other panels.
I have mixed feelings about mixing vent designs as well. The slots are less restrictive than the holes, which is what you want for passive exhaust. I may try holes on the short sides, though.

Edit: After looking at it for a while i also think it would look better if the USB ports wer turned 90 deg to form an "imaginary" line from the Power button to the logo.
Funny you should say that - the last thing I did before I made these renders was change from that exact layout for the USB to this one. It's one of those things I'm still undecided on. Probably need to do some more renders and see what people think.
 

jalex3

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Super exciting, loved this style since the steam machine! I even got a rvz01.

Edit, Couple of comments

I actually like the hole/slot combination. I also like that the power cable is not right at the top.

The Stand is nice, the boltv1 and tiki were a little big and flashy for me. The rubber feed on the RVZ01 are not very nice. Not stable and can fall off when moving it.
 
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Phuncz

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1st.
Wow, this looks promising. Certainly going to get one, even if I don't need it at all.
I'm really liking the overall design and I like you are going for a more efficient case without suiting to everyone's needs. This case needs to be small to be a Steambox/LRPC, otherwise it's just another desktop case. And if that means that we need reference graphics cards and a small selection of CPU coolers, I'm fine with that.

It's not like you can just buy a random GPU and stuff it in the M1 either, but you just have more luck that a random choice will fit. Most people (luckily) still check or ask what components are supported with the Ncase M1, so I don't see this as a problem. Clear compatibility information will be handy and I recommend Necere and Wahaha360 to maintain a list of compatible GPU's and CPU cooling. While the Ncase M1's Google Doc is nice, it's still a massive jumble of info that some people fail in using correctly (like filling a single cell about GPU cooling used with a 10 page essay on their motivation).

Suggestion:
Allow hardware donations for testing. With the Ncase you used Kickstarter funding to manufacture the prototype and purchase testing hardware.
Maybe this time around, make a list of hardware you'd like to buy to test and let people buy it, ship it to you and you return it at a later point, with shipping costs for the sending party ? I don't know if you guys live in the US (I expect you do), but this might not be hard to pull off.
Maybe even people outside the US could buy from Newegg or Amazon and have it shipped to a local P.O. box for pickup in your area ?

2nd.
I'm hoping people won't be seeying Necere/Wahaha360's and Dondan's case as being competition, both have designed and released cases without any issue, so please let these designers work in peace without saying one or the other is better or worse.
 

Urelure

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I suppose we could potentially offer two versions of the case - the difference being the inclusion of the stand or holes for the feet on the side panel. The side panels are removable much like the M1, so swapping them out isn't a major issue either.

Thats a lot of extra logistics for four holes, though in the M1, the no ODD top panel seems to make a huge visual impact. Stil waiting to see it in real life though.

I have mixed feelings about mixing vent designs as well. The slots are less restrictive than the holes, which is what you want for passive exhaust. I may try holes on the short sides, though.

Holes would certainly look better, but that dosen't matter if it doesnt work. I have to admit i have no idea how a "nuetral" air pressure cenario would work.

Funny you should say that - the last thing I did before I made these renders was change from that exact layout for the USB to this one. It's one of those things I'm still undecided on. Probably need to do some more renders and see what people think.

hehe. I totally agree on having Power Button/USB/Logo on the top instead of the bottom though. I also like that you opted for no headphone/mic in front. In the livingroom it will, in most cases, be hooked up to some sort of sound system anyway, and if its on the desk, the back I/O is prettty accessible.
 

xinux

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Sign me up for one! Too bad I'd need to decide if I move my parts from the M1..
 

Phuncz

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I personally like the slots like they are. It's not the first time this discussion happened:
http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1040761619&postcount=154

In the end, most patterns (other than the original) for the M1 were ugly, restrictive or a manufacturing issue. I'm sure Necere has already done more than a few vent hole iterations and he knows the technical issues that could arise from certain patterns.
 

medeyer

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I'm going to be honest, it's just another steam box, i.e. slim ITX case. The market is flooded with enough of these right now, so introducing another one is a bit of a long shot. Don't get me wrong, it looks good and I'm certain you would have the exact same quality standards as you did with the M1, but it brings absolutely nothing new to the table. Granted, you'll get a lot of support here, but unless you do something vastly different that sets it apart from other similar cases (which was the main selling point with the M1), it probably won't take off.

However, that's just my opinion so don't let that deter you. I'm guessing you'll be doing another kick-starter campaign and using Lian-Li again. I hope I'm wrong and it does take off.
 

milkcow

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I'm going to be honest, it's just another steam box, i.e. slim ITX case. The market is flooded with enough of these right now, so introducing another one is a bit of a long shot.

pls show me all those steam machines with similar dimensions made out of aluminium which flood the market ;)
 

Phuncz

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Yes I'm curious which ~9L Steamboxes there are for sale currently. Apparently, I have missed the entire flood !
 

zoob

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Been waiting a long time for something like this. Wonder if anyone will design a blower style heatsink that will fit this?
 

Phuncz

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No need:
I also wanted to be able to support 60mm tall CPU coolers, since there are a couple of decent low-profile options at that size (e.g., Thermalright AXP-100, Scythe Big Shuriken).
 

Activate: AMD

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very nice. Very minimalist, but that definitely works for this application. As "obvious" as this layout is, especially after Valve's steambox prototypes, there really does seem to be a lack of well executed cases like this on the market.
 

wahaha360

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Only thing is dondan has pretty much exactly the same idea for his B3 case...

I think CMadki4 was the first one to post about his "console design" on [H].

In our case, we been talking about this design before finishing the M1. The conversation is driven by me and I been harassing Necere about this case for a *long time.

I wanted the smallest box possible (with powerful GPU) since the day I started the M1 thread, and Necere owes me to complete this case :cool:

We didn't post earlier because the design was far from "manufacturing ready". The internals are very complicated, particularly arranging the internal brackets to allow for a clean outer design. Many times we just wanted to give up, because it was overwhelming. I even personally bought a Valve Steam Machine and mail it to Necere so that it's presence will challenge him to finish the design ;)

The hardest part is not the outside, it's the inside.

Necere, what happened to the angled "stand"?

 
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NickJames

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Looks awesome, I will definitely jump on board. I still haven't built my Ncase M1 :(
 

Urelure

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@Necere

When looking at the pictures W360 posted it's obvious you've been through a few diferent solusions as to which panels wrap where on the edges.
This, I think, is an intresting topic. can you say something about why the render in the first post have the large (lets's call them top/bottom) panels wrap over the sides, while on this (probably older) one the front wraps to the sides? Structural?/Manufacturing process?/Aesthetics?
 

ellroy80

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Necere, nice job!! A couple of things that immediately stick out to me:

Could you put the USB/Power at the bottom/RHS of the case?

Overall, it's lost its "NCASE" look. By that I mean angled edges at the front etc. I know you were going for a minimalist look, and you've certainly achieved that. It would look great in a home theater setup, no doubt about that. IMO it has just lost a little bit of what makes an NCASE an NCASE.
 
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EdZ

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Dangit guys! My M1 just arrived, and now you dangle the New Hotness in front of us!
 

DG25

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I'm curious why you didn't placed the video card towards the top of the case, just like SteamBox has done. This could allow the card to draw air from the lateral side vents, removing the need for large feet and large vent panel, like in SteamBox's case. Though i would place the 2.5" drive(s) just below the video card or/and side mounted on the back of the front bezel, not next to the CPU (the only thing i hate about SteamBox's design).

Also, about the design, would it be hard to make the sides of the front bezel (left and right in horizontal position) angled, in the style of the M1 case? Or maybe the long top side of the front bezel (in horizontal position) curved or angled, in order to make it look a bit slimmer (if you decide to keep the 80mm height)?

Thanks!

ps: i think the usb ports would look nicer on the side of the case, like in the picture from post #22.

And just my 2cents and personal preference, i would go with SteamBox's height. There are a lot of slimmer coolers available nowadays. For example, i love my Noctua L9i cooler. Just go small. I loved the design and technical achievement of the M1 case, but it was still too large. If this would also end up too large because of better cooling accommodations, it would be a shame. Again, i don't want to be rude, this is just my personal preference, i understand not many share my pov.
 
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@Necere, Beautiful design. I'm sure anyone with any interest in case design has thought of doing a "Steam Machine" case, myself included. I haven't seen another this well done that appeals to my tastes. Love the slotted vent.
 

Blorgon

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Here we go again.

Very cool design. Looking forward to seeing how this progresses.
 

osirus35

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I love the renders.

I know it kind of goes against what you are trying to accomplish with this case but it would be amazing to figure out a way to fit a 120mm or 140mm AIO system in there with minimal dimension changes
 

Skripka

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I love the renders.

I know it kind of goes against what you are trying to accomplish with this case but it would be amazing to figure out a way to fit a 120mm or 140mm AIO system in there with minimal dimension changes

I don't think there's anyway for a rad/fan stack to fit internally without enlarging the dimensions greatly....

I was wondering if there was a way for have water hose grommets
 

Flowmotion

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Very interesting!

But i am missing the "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW" feature. There have been a lot of steam-machines around in this forum. So where is the unique feature? The M1 is still unique (Cougar is up to mainstream the case).

So i can buy the silverstone Milo 07 for little money and the reviews say its very good at cooling and noises. Lian Li shows us their new 19er pc case. Very small and very high and its another "steammaschine":
Why should i buy another Steammaschine pc case?


So where do we start now?

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M.2 <--- fist choice for a new SSD. I dont need optical or 2,5" drives for gaming.
2. http://www.techpowerup.com/204507/sapphire-radeon-r9-285-itx-compact-edition-pictured.html <-- da new 285 ITX (wow: small and powerful)
3. Some new ITX motherboards support zero fan stop features (fan wont work below a certain temperature)
4. The design is very important: http://hardforum.com/showpost.php?p=1041045244&postcount=51
The UMX1 is very sexy.
5. For a HTPC i still need more than 2x2.5"
6. I am missing an optional light-effect. (just kidding)
7. No water oder aio water. Just air.
8. Perhaps some new air technology (noiseblocker eloop...) or radial coolers (they might be extict).
9. I would like to connect my new, imaginary XBOX One controllers. Where is the place to put the reciever? Is there a way to integrate any wlan aerial and boost the signal quality?

There might be a problem about buying some components. You need cooler A and you need psu B and you need mainboard C.
 

Phuncz

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Overall, it's lost its "NCASE" look. By that I mean angled edges at the front etc. I know you were going for a minimalist look, and you've certainly achieved that. It would look great in a home theater setup, no doubt about that. IMO it has just lost a little bit of what makes an NCASE an NCASE.
I myself don't associate the beveled edges with the Ncase "brand", but with the M1. I associate Ncase with spatial effiency, quality build and intelligent design. And this has those pointers written all over it.
 

Motaa

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SOLD. But I do have to agree, Making it compatible with everything is great but you do need a special draw to the case. Something no one else can do.
 
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AFD

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Looks very nice! Really like the curved see-through vertical stand.

Any chance you can post your next rendering with another object to show scale? (Coke can, M1, X1/PS4, or another Steam Machine) It's a shame there aren't higher-powered mini GPUs out by now (I'm hopeful there will be very soon).. full-length GPU support is nice, but it's just making me wonder if this case is still a little large for the living room.

Also, while it's hard to say without seeing the internal layout, you could possibly have one angled edge on the upper-front to keep the iconic styling of the M1, if that was desired. Looks great as it is though.
 
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