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Radeon HD 3650 Showdown - ASUS vs. HIS
Date: May 12, 2008
Author: Robert Maloney

Just last week, we posted an evaluation of a Radeon HD 3650 card by Diamond Multimedia, where said manufacturer decided to one-up ATI's reference specifications by raising the amount of on-board memory to a full one gigabyte.  The results, unfortunately, were not overly favorable as the memory happened to be of the inexpensive, low-speed DDR2 variety.

Today, however, we take a look at two more HD 3650s, one each from ASUS and HIS, where the emphasis was placed more on clock speeds than on memory buffer size.  While the default speeds set forth by ATI's reference specifications were listed as 725 MHz for the GPU core and 800 MHz for the memory, the two cards represented in this article are decidedly faster: 800 / 900 MHz for ASUS and 790 / 890MHz for HIS.  The 10 MHz variance is not the only thing that separates the two cards, however.  ASUS' EAH3650 TOP comes with the standard 256 MB frame buffer, whereas HIS doubles this to 512 MB on their Radeon HD 3650 IceQ Turbo.  One card has slightly higher speeds, the other has twice the memory - let's see who wins this showdown of overclocked Radeon HD 3650s.



ATI Radeon HD 3650
Features & Specifications

  • 378 million transistors on 55nm fabrication process
  • PCI Express 2.0 x16 bus interface
  • 128-bit DDR2/GDDR3 memory interface
  • Microsoft DirectX 10.1 support
    • Shader Model 4.1
    • 32-bit floating point texture filtering
    • Indexed cube map arrays
    • Independent blend modes per render target
    • Pixel coverage sample masking
    • Read/write multi-sample surfaces with shaders
    • Gather4 texture fetching
  • Unified Superscalar Shader Architecture
    • 120 stream processing units
      • Dynamic load balancing and resource allocation for vertex, geometry, and pixel shaders
      • Common instruction set and texture unit access supported for all types of shader
      • Dedicated branch execution units and texture address processors
    • 128-bit floating point precision for all operations
    • Command processor for reduced CPU overhead
    • Shader instruction and constant cache
    • Up to 40 texture fetches per clock cycle
    • Up to 128 textures per pixel
    • Fully associative multi-level texture cache design
    • DXTC and 3Dc+ texture compression
    • High resolution texture support (up to 8192 x 8192)
    • Fully associative texture Z/stencil cache designs
    • Double-sided hierarchical Z/stencil buffer
    • Early Z test, Re-Z, Z Range optimization, and Fast Z Clear
    • Lossless Z & stencil compression
    • Lossless color compression
    • 8 render targets (MRTs) with anti-aliasing support
    • Physics processing support
  • Dynamic Geometry Acceleration
    • Programmable tessellation unit
    • Accelerated geometry shader path for geometry amplification
    • Memory read/write cache for improved stream output performance
  • Anti-aliasing features
    • Multi-sample anti-aliasing (2, 4 or 8 samples per pixel)
    • Up to 24x Custom Filter Anti-Aliasing (CFAA) for improved quality
    • Adaptive super-sampling and multi-sampling
    • Temporal anti-aliasing
    • Gamma correct
    • Super AA (ATI CrossFireX configurations only)
    • All anti-aliasing features compatible with HDR rendering
  • Texture filtering features
    • 2x/4x/8x/16x high quality adaptive anisotropic filtering modes (up to 128 taps per pixel)
    • 128-bit floating point HDR texture filtering
    • Bicubic filtering
    • sRGB filtering (gamma/degamma)
    • Percentage Closer Filtering (PCF)
    • Depth & stencil texture (DST) format support
    • Shared exponent HDR (RGBE 9:9:9:5) texture format support
  • OpenGL 2.0 support

ATI Avivo HD Video and Display Platform

Dedicated unified video decoder (UVD) for H.264/AVC and VC-1 video formats

  • High definition (HD) playback of both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats
  • Hardware MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and DivX video decode acceleration
  • Motion compensation and IDCT
  • ATI Avivo Video Post Processor
    • Color space conversion
    • Chroma subsampling format conversion
    • Horizontal and vertical scaling
    • Gamma correction
    • Advanced vector adaptive per-pixel de-interlacing
    • De-blocking and noise reduction filtering
    • Detail enhancement
    • Inverse telecine (2:2 and 3:2 pull-down correction)
    • Bad edit correction

Two independent display controllers

  • Drive two displays simultaneously with independent resolutions, refresh rates, color controls and video overlays for each display
  • Full 30-bit display processing
  • Programmable piecewise linear gamma correction, color correction, and color space conversion
  • Spatial/temporal dithering provides 30-bit color quality on 24-bit and 18-bit displays
  • High quality pre- and post-scaling engines, with underscan support for all display outputs
  • Content-adaptive de-flicker filtering for interlaced displays
  • Fast, glitch-free mode switching
  • Hardware cursor
  • Two integrated DVI display outputs
  • Primary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI) or 2560x1600 (dual-link DVI)
  • Secondary supports 18-, 24-, and 30-bit digital displays at all resolutions up to 1920x1200 (single-link DVI only)
  • Each includes a dual-link HDCP encoder with on-chip key storage for high resolution playback of protected content
  • Two integrated DisplayPort outputs
  • Supports 24- and 30-bit displays at all resolutions up to 2560x1600
  • 1, 2, or 4 lanes per output, with data rate up to 2.7 Gbps per lane
  • Two integrated 400 MHz 30-bit RAMDACs
  • Each supports analog displays connected by VGA at all resolutions up to 2048x153623
  • HDMI output support
  • Supports all display resolutions up to 1920x1080
  • Integrated HD audio controller with up to 2 channel 48 kHz stereo or multi-channel (5.1) AC3 enabling a plug-and-play cable-less audio solution
  • Integrated AMD Xilleon HDTV encoder
  • Provides high quality analog TV output (component/S-video/composite)
  • Supports SDTV and HDTV resolutions
  • Underscan and overscan compensation
  • MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, WMV9, VC-1, and H.264/AVC encoding and transcodingSeamless integration of pixel shaders with video in real time
  • VGA mode support on all display outputs

ATI PowerPlay

  • Advanced power management technology for optimal performance and power savings
  • Performance-on-Demand
  • Constantly monitors GPU activity, dynamically adjusting clocks and voltage based on user scenario
  • Clock and memory speed throttling
  • Voltage switching
  • Dynamic clock gating
  • Central thermal management – on-chip sensor monitors GPU temperature and triggers thermal actions as required

ATI CrossFireX Multi-GPU Technology

  • Scale up rendering performance and image quality with two GPUs
  • Integrated compositing engine
  • High performance dual channel bridge interconnect

ASUS                                                    HIS

With the Radeon HD 3650 marketed as a low-cost alternative for gaming on a budget, it's no surprise that each card's accompanying accessories are a little light.  Each company includes a multi-language user's installation guide and a drivers CD, and ASUS also provides a digital copy of the guide on a second CD-ROM as well.  To cover the various setup options, each card also ships with a single VGA-DVI adaptor and an additional HDMI-DVI adaptor.  The major difference between the two bundles comes down to a single cable.  ASUS plays it safe by offering one last S-Video connection cable.  HIS, however, hope users may choose to purchase a second card, thus needing the CrossFire bridge found here.  HIS also throws in a case badge for good measure. 

A closer inspection - It's in the cards

Besides the clock speeds and amounts of memory, there's a number of other things to consider when comparing these two cards.  In fact, aesthetically, they couldn't be any more different...


First up is the ASUS EAH3650 TOP, a card with a red PCB whose visage is dominated by the Glaciator fan centered directly over the GPU.  The top-down pictures shown here might actually be a bit deceiving as one might get the impression that the EAH3650 TOP only requires one slot.  The truth is, the depth of the Glaciator makes it impossible to place another card next to it.  While many a PC enthusiast might not take issue dual-slot card taking up additional slots when the card offers ultra high frame rates, they may not make the same concessions for a lower-performing HD 3650, especially with the noise output we encountered.  Thermal testing, shown later on this page, also make a case for less-intensive cooling methods.


The Glaciator itself consists of an aluminum heatsink attached directly to the GPU, which is surrounded by a plastic shroud.  Although the plastic covering gives the Glaciator a much larger imprint, we saw that it provides little, if any, cooling for the memory underneath.  Four ICs from Qimonda marked as part number HYB18H512321BF-12 are rated for 1000 MHz operation, which might provide a bit more wiggle room in the overclocking department, even with the lack of direct cooling.  Output consists of dual DVI ports and an S-VIDEO / HD Component output port nestled in between.


One cannot mistake the HIS Radeon HD 3650 IceQ Turbo for a single-slot card as the well-known IceQ cooler is used here as it is on most of HIS' other overclocked cards.  Coloring is the complete opposite as well, utilizing cooler blues and greens for the board, fan, and designer graphics.  The IceQ cooler runs the entire length of the card, with a rear-mounted fan that pushes cooler air over the GPU and RAM and out the chassis through a ventilated bracket.  Again, the same argument regarding taking up two slots applies here, as the HD 3650 really doesn't run all that hot.


Thankfully, although the fan has the same diminutive size as the one found on the EAH3650 TOP, sound output was far less noticeable.  Air pulled in by the fan actively cools the heatsink, which in turn keeps the memory chips on the front side cooler, but those on the rear of the card receive no such treatment.  Taking a closer look at these, we found eight Samsung K4J52324QE-BJ1A ICs in total, four each on the front and back, rated at 1000 MHz as well. Output options mirror what ASUS offers: dual-link DVI and S-VIDEO / HD Component ports are the catch of the day.

 Manufacturer / Card






 HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo



We monitored the temperatures of both cards while sitting at Idle for 15 minutes, and then while under a stressful run of PT Boats.  At idle, the Glaciator fan kept the ASUS EAH3650 TOP at 31 degrees Celcius - 2 degrees cooler than the HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo.  This came at the cost of extra noise output, as we mentioned earlier.  Under load, however, we noticed the same peak temperature of 44 degrees.

Base System and 3DMark06 Results


We tested all of the graphics cards used in this article on an MSI P6N Diamond motherboard powered by a Core 2 Duo E6550 processor and 2GB of low-latency Corsair RAM. The first thing we did when configuring our test system was to enter into the BIOS and set all values to their "optimized" or "performance" default settings. Then we manually configured the memory timings and disabled any integrated peripherals that wouldn't be put to use. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the installation was complete we fully updated the OS, and installed the latest DX10 redist and various hotfixes along with the necessary drivers and applications.

 HotHardware Test System
 Intel Inside!

Processor -

Motherboard -

Video Cards -

Memory -

Audio -

Hard Drive -


Intel Core 2 Duo E6550

MSI P6N Diamond
nForce680i SLI Chipset

Diamond Radeon HD 3650 1GB
Sapphire Radeon HD 3670 512MB
HIS Radeon HD 3650 IceQ Turbo
NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS

2GB Corsair Dominator DDR2
2x1GB, 4-4-4-12 (1T)

Integrated Creative X-Fi

Seagate Barracuda 7200.10
750GB - 7200rpm - SATA

OS -

Direct X -

Video Drivers -


Synthetic (DX) -
DirectX 9 -
DirectX 10 -
OpenGL -
DirectX 10 -
DirectX 10 -
DirectX 10 -


Windows Vista Ultimate

DirectX 10

NVIDIA Forceware v169.25
ATI Catalyst v8.4


3DMark06 v1.1.0
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Company of Heroes
ET: Quake Wars 1.4
Crysis Single-Player Demo
Bioshock 1.1
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea

Performance Comparisons with 3DMark06 v1.1.0
Details: www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06

3DMark06 is one of the most recent addition to the 3DMark franchise. This version differs from 3Dmark05 in a number of ways, and includes not only Shader Model 2.0 tests, but Shader Model 3.0 and HDR tests as well. Some of the assets from 3DMark05 have been re-used, but the scenes are now rendered with much more geometric detail and the shader complexity is vastly increased as well. 3DMark06 also employs much more lighting and there is extensive use of soft shadows. With 3DMark06, Futuremark has also updated how the final score is tabulated. In this latest version of the benchmark, SM 2.0 and HDR / SM3.0 tests are weighted and the CPU score is factored into the final tally as well.


Overall results in 3DMark06 tells us a story with three acts: a shaky beginning, solid middle, and great finish.  The Diamond HD 3650 1GB is by far the worst performer even though the 1GB memory buffer is the largest of the group.  As we've reported before, the slower DDR2 memory utilized on that card only serves to cripple the performance rather than enhance it.  The other three Radeon HD 3650s from ASUS, HIS, and Sapphire all come in with scores that are too close to call a winner.  In general, the Sapphire model typically gave us the highest of the trio, and it is this card that has the fastest clocks matched with 512MB of GDDR3; the ASUS version ships with 256MB, and the HIS with slightly lower clock and memory speeds.  In 3DMark06, at least, the GeForce 8600 GTS was the overall leader, even though Shader Model 3.0 comparisons were right alongside the HD 3650's levels.

Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Details: http://orange.half-life2.com/hl2ep2.html

Half-Life 2:
Episode 2

Thanks to the dedication of hardcore PC gamers and a huge mod-community, the original Half-Life became one of the most successful first person shooters of all time.  And thanks to an updated game engine, gorgeous visual, and intelligent weapon and level design, Half Life 2 became just as popular.  Episode 2 offers a number of visual enhancements including better looking transparent texture anti-aliasing. These tests were run at resolutions of 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled concurrently.  Color correction and HDR rendering were also enabled in the game engine as well.  We used a custom recorded timedemo file to benchmark all cards in this test.


As our only game based on DirectX 9 technology, Half-Life 2 has a breakdown that is very much in line with what we saw with 3DMark06.  Diamond's HD 3650 is overmatched by the rest of our testing suite including three HD 3650s from other manufacturers and a mid-range card from NVIDIA's camp.  Additionally, the cards from ASUS, HIS, and Sapphire are operating on quite similar levels - only a frame per second or less separated them at either resolution.  To make the comparison with 3DMark06 complete, the 8600 GTS takes a relatively big lead at 1280x1024, yet falls back into the pack at 1600x1200.

Company of Heroes

Company of Heroes
Details: www.companyofheroesgame.com

Company of Heroes

Relic Entertainment's World War II era real-time strategy game Company of Heroes was originally released as a DirectX 9 title for Windows.  But recent upates to the game have incorporated support for new DirectX 10 features that improve image quality and enhance the game's finer graphical details.  The game features a built-in performance test which which we used to attain the results below. Our Company of Heroes tests were run at resolutions of 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with 4X anti-aliasing and all of the game's image-quality related options set to their maximum values.


Company of Heroes breaks the trend set so far, by having the GeForce 8600 GTS and Radeon HD 3650s swap places.  We also notice that in this benchmark, the amount of onboard memory does seems to make a difference.  The two cards with a 256MB memory buffer - the Gigabyte 8600 GTS and ASUS' EAH3650 TOP - both find their way to the bottom of the pack.  Even the beleaguered Diamond HD 3650 1GB outguns them here, able to mix and match the slower DDR2 with four times as much memory to put up better numbers, especially at the higher resolution.  Cards from Sapphire and HIS are architecturely more similar, yet Sapphire has slightly higher core and memory speeds allowing it to move to the head of the pack.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars


Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
Details: www.enemyterritory.com

Enemy Territory:
Quake Wars

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is Based on id's radically enhanced Doom 3 engine and viewed by many as Battlefield 2 meets the Strogg, and then some.  ET: Quake Wars also marks the introduction of John Carmack's "Megatexture" technology that employs extremely large environment and terrain textures that cover vast areas of maps without the need to repeat and tile many small textures.  The beauty of megatexture technology is that each unit only takes up a maximum of 8MB of frame buffer memory.  Add to that HDR-like bloom lighting and leading edge shadowing effects and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars looks great, plays well and works high end graphics cards vigorously.  The game was tested with all of its in-game options set to their maximum values with soft particles enabled in addition to 4X anti-aliasing and 16x anisotropic filtering.


Our Quake Wars results pretty much reconfirm some of what we've seen in the other benchmarks thus far.  The HD 3650s in this article, minus Diamond's card of course, are running neck and neck with each other, making it a tough call.  We will need to look into areas other than performance to determine the overall winner here.





If you're at all into enthusiast computing, the highly anticipated single player demo of the hot, new, upcoming FPS smash-hit Crysis, should require no introduction. Crytek's game engine visuals are easily the most impressive real-time 3D renderings we've seen on the computer screen to date.  The engine employs some of the latest techniques in 3D rendering like Parallax Occlusion Mapping, Subsurface Scattering, Motion Blur and Depth-of-Field effects, as well as some of the most impressive use of Shader technology we've seen yet.  In short, for those of you that want to skip the technical jib-jab, Crysis is HOT.  We ran the SP demo with all of the game's visual options set to 'High' to put a significant load on the graphics cards being tested.


The GeForce 8600 GTS has slightly lower speeds that the HD 3650, and only a 256MB buffer.  As such, it's one of the worst performers in Crysis.  Diamond's sample has the most memory, but anemic memory speeds, and it too suffers an untimely fate.  The remaining HD 3650s have similar speeds for both GPU and memory, but one, the ASUS EAH3650 has half the memory of the other two, causing it to fall back from 5-15% in frame rates.  HIS actually came out on top here, even though the speed differential should have caused this to fall into Sapphire's favor.



Details: www.2kgames.com/bioshock/


BioShock is the "genetically enhanced" first person shooter with RPG elements, that has a feel very reminiscent of System Shock 2 or Deus Ex.  It uses a modified Unreal Engine 3.0 with heavy emphasis on enhanced water effects to the extent that Irrational Games actually hired a water programmer and water artist just for this game.  Part horror flick, part sci-fi novel, BioShock is an experience that one won't soon forget.  We gathered our testing results by measuring frame rates through FRAPS while performing the same set of actions in the opening corridors of Rapture at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 with all graphical settings turned to High.


Not much new to report, what with four cards performing on quite similar levels and one that isn't.  Leaving the Diamond HD 3650 out of the equation, each of the HD 3650s and the sole 8600 GTS are only removed from each other by 1.29 fps at 1280x1024, and even closer at 1.09 fps at 1600x1200 - roughly a four percent delta from top to bottom.  Perhaps the only noteable thing here is that the GeForce is near the top of the tight-knit pack at the lower resolution, yet falls flat at the higher one.

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea


PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Details: www.pt-boats.net

PT Boats:
Knights of the Sea

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval war-sim based on a substantially modified version of the Storm engine.  It takes a full grip of all DirectX 10 graphics and film-quality features to create a more realistic gaming experience. These improvements include: advanced ocean rendering, soft particles, reflections, light beams and advanced transparency, and advanced HDR for gunfire and sun reflections.  We used the DX10 Benchmark available from their website using High Quality settings at 1280x1024 and 1600x1200 without any Anti-Aliasing applied.


Again, as with Company of Heroes, there's a bit going here with the haves and the have-nots.  Cards with only 256MB of memory are squashed, with frame rates in single digits.  The 512MB or higher cards fare much better, outperforming the other cards by frame rates that are nearly double in the case of Sapphire and HIS, or at least a third better by Diamond's card.

Overclocking Results


Further overclocking factory overclocked cards can get interesting, as the cards come with decent boosts in speeds right out of the box.  It's sort of like taking a Ferrari, and then adding Nitrous tanks.  All kidding aside, we went into the Overdrive section of ATI's Catalyst Control Center to see just how far we could push each card's GPU and memory speeds past the manufacturer's specs.  The answers just might be a little surprising...

Overclocking the ASUS EAH 3650 TOP and HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo
Overclocking the overclocked

The curious thing about Overdrive is that it typically offers you a range of speeds to choose from, and although both of these cards are based on the same GPU, the range shown differed.  For example, when the ASUS card was installed, the highest speed available was 890 MHz.  The same screen for the HIS IceQ Turbo showed 850 MHz.  Raising speeds and testing along the way, we found that the highest stable speeds we arrived at were 875 MHz for the GPU and 970 MHz for the GDDR3 memory on the ASUS EAH3650 TOP and "only" 840 MHz / 990 MHz, respectively, with the HIS Radeon HD 3650 IceQ Turbo.

ASUS EAH3650 TOP Overclock - GPU=875 MHz, Memory=970 MHz
HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo Overclock -
GPU=840 MHz, Memory=990 MHz

ASUS EAH3650 TOP Overclock - GPU=875 MHz, Memory=970 MHz
HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo Overclock -
GPU=840 MHz, Memory=990 MHz

As one might expect, the higher GPU clock speed achieved when overclocking the ASUS EAH3650 TOP allowed it to rise to the top of each benchmark and best the HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo (these tests we not sensitive to frame buffer size).  New frame rates for the ASUS card were just over 6% better in each game engine, which is obviously a good thing, yet the speeds we arrived at were closer to 10% higher than the originals.  HIS saw approximately a 4% increase in performance, which is more in line with the 5% increase in GPU speed.

Performance Summary and Conclusion


Performance Summary: This could have been a much closer showdown if ASUS had shipped the EAH3650 TOP with an additional 256MB of memory.  As it stands now, the two cards are tweaked to similar speeds and as such performance was nearly identical, but only when frame buffer capacity did not come into play.  Game engines that used larger amounts of memory for texture caching, such as Crysis, PT Boats and Company of Heroes, ran much better on the HIS HD 3650 IceQ Turbo equipped with 512 MB of GDDR3.



Looking at ASUS' line of Radeon HD 3650s left us a bit puzzled.  Currently, they offer two versions of actively cooled HD 3650's, both shipping with 256 MB of memory, and two "silent" versions that come with, and we quote, "Gigantic 512 MB DDR3 on board".  We're not sure why ASUS used the term "gigantic" here, as many other manufacturers have 512 MB installed on their own HD 3650s.  Ironic as well, is that we would expect the silent boards to probably be considered less by gamers and more by HTPC - oriented folk, so the frame buffers here seem to be a bit out of whack.

With all that being said, limiting the amount of memory should help in keeping costs lower, and the HD 3650 is all about gaming on the cheap.  From the prices we could find online, the ~$70 EAH3650 TOP seems to be about $20 cheaper on average than the HIS Radeon HD 3650 IceQ Turbo which sounds like a win until you realize that availability of this card seems to be close to nil.  Summing it up, we've got a cooler card (at idle), but with a somewhat noisier fan and half the memory of the competition, that also happens to be difficult to find out in the wild. 

  • Cheap card for the masses 
  • Low idle temps
  • Combine a couple in CrossFire
  • Stuck with 256MB of memory
  • Takes up two slots
  • Hard to find in retail
  • Noisier of the two cards


HIS Radeon HD 3650 IceQ Turbo

HIS' version of the HD 3650 comes with slightly lower clock and memory speeds than ASUS' - both lower by exactly 10 MHz to be exact - yet in almost each and every benchmark or game we used in this article the HIS card came out on top, even if the differences were sometimes trivial.  Where the IceQ Turbo really shined in comparison to the ASUS EAH3650 TOP was in some of the more graphically challenging game engines, where the extra 256 MB of memory (512 MB total) helped keep frame rates anywhere from 10% to as much as 50% higher.  

Also in HIS' favor, we had no problems finding a number of outlets that had the card in stock, a few of which were currently offering $20 rebates, thus nullifying the difference in price between the two cards.  Idle temps were found to be slightly higher on the HIS card, although under load we found both coolers to have identical heat levels.  The IceQ Turbo solution, however, was the quieter of the two options.  The only downside, if you will, might be the lower overclock speeds that we achieved when overclocking.  Even then, we were running the GPU 120 MHz faster than the original specs called for, meaning more performance basically for free.  Summing up the positives and negatives, we're declaring HIS as the winner of this showdown. 

  • Top card in our testing suite
  • 512 MB buffer
  • Quieter operation 
  • Comparatively easier to find and buy
  • Dual-slot cooler for mid-level performance
  • Higher Idle temps

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