Review: The 10.2-inch iPad is more of the same, and that's not a bad thing

Posted:
in iPad edited October 1
Almost a footnote to the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, Apple announced the new seventh generation 10.2-inch iPad for 2019 at its "By innovation only" event. The new iPad isn't revelatory, and is an enlargement of an iteration that Apple delivered in 2018 with the education-focused sixth-generation iPad.

The new 7th-generation iPad
The new 7th-generation iPad


Right off the top, the seventh generation has the same build quality, solidity, and ease of use as the previous generations.

Just like it was over a year ago after Apple's spring 2018 event, AppleInsider telling you about an iPad and what it can do for you is a waste of time. The odds are pretty good you're reading this review on one.

Instead, we're going to look at what sets the new iPad apart from older gear.




What's the same?

Non-laminated display

Based on what we've been hearing from users, the biggest complaints about the iPad are the re-use of the A10 processor that Apple used for the sixth-generation iPad and the non-laminated screen.

For the screen, every other generation of iPad plus the iPad Air used a non-laminated screen, so upgraders from a very old iPad or even the fifth generation from two and a half years ago will have the same screen that they've always had. They'll have a better one if they're coming from the original non-retina iPad or the immensely popular iPad 2.

The iPad still has a non-laminated display
The iPad still has a non-laminated display


Apple decided in 2017 to use the non-laminated screen going forward with the lower-end of the product line, and 2019 is no different. The slimming laminated display is on the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad mini -- all more expensive than the seventh generation iPad.

Given the educational focus of the seventh generation iPad, there is clearly an advantage to the non-laminated screen from a service standpoint. If the glass breaks on the new iPad, it no longer necessitates a multi-hundred-dollar whole-screen replacement.

There were complaints in 2017, carried forward to 2019, that the lack of a laminated screen detaches users from the interface. We aren't going to deny that the laminated screen is nicer, but from an operational standpoint, the non-laminated screen induces no lag or delay in user input -- nor has it ever.

Also as with the 2018 iPad, the display is not a Wide Color with True Tone display, like in the iPad Pro, nor should anyone have ever expected it to be. However, color fidelity is the same as the iPad has always had, prior to Apple's enhancements for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro.

A10 processor

In regards to the A10 processor, Apple told us while demoing the unit that it not just twice as fast as competing PC laptops, but also twice the speed the previous sixth-generation iPad. Even when pressed about it, they repeated this refrain about the difference between the sixth generation iPad and the seventh several times, very specifically. We were very skeptical of this claim.

The 7th-gen iPad gets a 697 and 1397 in the Geekbench 5 test
The 7th-gen iPad gets a 697 and 1397 in the Geekbench 5 test


Turns out we were right to be so, despite the new iPad having more application RAM. In Geekbench 5.0 testing, the new iPad got a single-core score of 697 and a multi-core 1397. The sixth-generation delivers 692 and 1367. That's no difference at all, so why they repeated this mantra isn't at all clear to us. We'll chalk it up to confused and revised marketing messages not getting promulgated correctly on the floor.

There's another implication of the A10 used in this iPad, and the A9 used in the fifth-generation iPad, though. Apple likes supporting an A-series processor in iOS for five years since the release of a product that last used it.

So, in this case, that means that A9 devices like the iPhone SE and iPhone 6s, and A10 devices like the iPhone 7 are likely going to be supported for a long time -- two more years at least on the former, and now five more years for the iPhone 7.

Apple Pencil support

Responsiveness from the first generation Apple Pencil on the seventh generation iPad is about the same as it is on the original 12.9-inch iPad Pro -- meaning pretty great. Our artists that we tapped to test it out still liked it just a hair better on the 2017 iPad Pro lineup, and far more than any Android equivalent that they had tried to that point.

First-generation Apple Pencil support
First-generation Apple Pencil support


But, they preferred the second-generation Apple Pencil on the iPad Pro to the first generation. Even with the adapter included with the Apple Pencil, charging the stylus is awkward, and much more refined on the new Apple Pencil.

Two speakers

Charitably, iPad speakers are adequate. Physics applies here, and the iPad simply lacks room for large speaker chambers. The 2019 iPad has two speakers, like last year's model -- with the iPad Pro having four.

7th-gen iPad speakers
7th-gen iPad speakers


To test the speakers, we again did a blind test with 10 participants of varying ages. Without telling the participants which hardware they were listening to, we played back an assortment of tracks on an iPad mini 2, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, 2018 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the 2019 iPad including audio books purchased from iTunes. The tracks we used were streamed from Apple Music.

Out of our 10 testers, at three feet, three identified the four speaker iPad Pro as having better quality, with the remainder calling the difference too close to tell between the four-speaker iPad Pro, the iPad Air 2, and the 2018 iPad. At eight feet, none of our testers could tell the difference.

Connectivity

The connectivity suite remains the same. Bluetooth is still version 4,2, Wi-Fi is still 802.11ac, and the wired connector is still Lightning.

In the real world, we're not seeing any faster web page loads than we did with the sixth-generation iPad. This is as much a testament to that device from 2017, as it is a comment on the seventh generation iPad.

Cameras

We're only making a slight nod in this direction. The cameras are identical to those on the fifth generation iPad, and are functional. They aren't nearly as good as the cameras on even the iPhone 6 -- but they aren't intended to be.

7th-gen iPad camera
7th-gen iPad camera


Picture quality between the 2018 iPad, the 2017 iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the first generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and the iPad Air 2 are essentially indistinguishable.

What's different

Screen resolution

The stand-out feature of the seventh generation iPad is the larger 10.2-inch screen. The new display has a resolution of 2160x1620 pixels at 264 pixels per inch. In our testing, we got a brightness of about 482 nits on the seventh generation unit.

Multitasking is better with a bigger screen and iPadOS
Multitasking is better with a bigger screen and iPadOS


The sixth generation iPad from 2018 has the same pixels per inch, giving it a 2048x1546 resolution, with about the same brightness as the new model.

The new iPad Pro models deliver the same pixels per inch, but more brightness. Our 12.9-inch iPad Pro from 2018 delivered about 584 nits, in a Wide Color with True Tone display -- which the seventh generation does not have.

Dimensions

With that larger screen, comes a bigger iPad enclosure.The new unit is 250.6m tall, 174.1mm wide, and 7.5 mm thick. It weighs 483 grams with Wi-Fi only, and the LTE model weighs 493 grams. For comparison, the 2018 iPad is 240mm tall, 169.5mm wide, has a thickness of 7.5mm, and weighs 469 grams with Wi-Fi and 478 grams with LTE.

To keep this all in perspective the original iPad was 242.8mm tall, 189.7mm wide, 13.4mm thick, and came in at 680 grams.

Smart connector

The seventh generation 10.2-inch iPad is the first entry-level model to support the Smart Connector. That also means that it can use Apple's Smart Keyboard for the first time.

7th-gen iPad Smart Connector
7th-gen iPad Smart Connector


To us, the Smart Connector is potential unrealized. When it debuted on the iPad Pro line, we envisioned a large variety of peripherals and use cases for the connector, but so far, none of these have materialized, and we're not seeing many signs of this improving.

Repetita iuvant

The new iPad repeats nearly every cue, and follows very closely in the footsteps of the the 2017 and 2018 iPad in all but screen size. All three are the closest thing we've seen from Apple that approaches the lower end of the tablet market.

Again, the new iPad isn't going to revolutionize education any more than the technology as a whole may or may not have already. It still isn't cheap enough to really draw in administrators already dealing with tight education budgets, but more importantly, it isn't making educational content any cheaper.

2019 7th-gen iPad
2019 7th-gen iPad


Also again, despite Apple's educational focus, the seventh iPad still excels and is aimed at people with older iPads, in an effort to convince them to get a new device. The 2018 sixth generation iPad is an inexpensive entry-level device, that keeps on hitting the target that it zeroed in on more than two years ago with the fifth generation iPad.

If you have the iPad Air 2 or older, or the 9.7-inch iPad Pro and are looking to upgrade, the 2018 sixth generation iPad is unquestionably a good buy. Realize, though, that if you have the iPad Air 2 or that first generation 9.7-inch iPad Pro, you'll lose the laminated display -- but the better performance may be worth it.

But, if you have the fifth generation iPad, and certainly the sixth generation, there may not be enough here to upgrade unless you really want that bigger screen. Had Apple shifted to the A11 processor, this would be a different conversation, though.

Like early last year, those looking for Apple's mightiest iPad regardless of cost just need to sit this one out.

Score: 4 out of 5

Pros

  • Entry-level price.
  • Smart connector.
  • Everything you liked about the sixth generation iPad, just bigger.

Cons

  • We'd rather the seventh generation iPad use the A11, not the A10.
  • None of your old cases fit.
  • If you're used to a laminated display, this is a step backwards

Deals on Apple's new 10.2-inch iPad

Instant discounts on Apple's new 2019 iPad are already available, with Amazon knocking $30 off 128GB Wi-Fi models at press time.

For the latest deals and product availability, be sure to check out the AppleInsider 10.2-inch iPad Price Guide, which is updated daily.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 23
    I wonder how many years of software support will the new iPad get, and so will other devices based on A10. Even if it’s ‘only’ three years, that makes buying iPhone 7 safe.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 23
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    It has nothing to do with cost. If anything it costs more to produce an A10 than a A12 or A13, simply because they have to keep manufacturing yet another chip, at low volume.

    It has everything to do with differentiation. If this newly released iPad had an A13 or even an A12, it would give everyone a reason to consider instead of an iPad Pro.

  • Reply 4 of 23
    I am really glad that I grabbed the 2018 128g at $329 when they were blowing them out on Amazon. That was a real sweet spot of a deal. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    thtwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 23
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,463member
    DuhSesame said:
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    Well, I don’t care what chip is installed or how efficient it is. I care about using the device to do what I need to do and the experience while using it. The iPad is the very best tablet on the market anywhere.
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 23
    lkrupp said:
    DuhSesame said:
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    Well, I don’t care what chip is installed or how efficient it is. I care about using the device to do what I need to do and the experience while using it. The iPad is the very best tablet on the market anywhere.
    Well, Apple didn't think it's unusable, otherwise, it will be long gone, so does the MacBook Air.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 23
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,504member
    lkrupp said:
    DuhSesame said:
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    Well, I don’t care what chip is installed or how efficient it is. I care about using the device to do what I need to do and the experience while using it. The iPad is the very best tablet on the market anywhere.
    I bought a launch day iPad because I could see sitting in a chair like Steve did at that (admittedly a bit strange) on stage demo and consuming content. That's all I really want an iPad for. I want the best screen, fastest loading thing available. I don't need a stylus, keyboard, kickstand or any of that. 

    I would like the ability to turn a lot of things off. Much of the multitasking stuff is rather unintuitive, and nothing is more annoying that having a computer device do something not intended, and then not knowing how to reverse it. I'm all for added capability, just don't force it on me. 
    cy_starkmanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 23
    thttht Posts: 3,316member
    Does the keyboard have full key spacing? Not squished?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 23
    thttht Posts: 3,316member
    To us, the Smart Connector is potential unrealized. When it debuted on the iPad Pro line, we envisioned a large variety of peripherals and use cases for the connector, but so far, none of these have materialized, and we're not seeing many signs of this improving.
    Yeah. Apple seemingly has some big gates for accessories developers to climb for this, and it is not just a paper or certification thing. It seems all they want it to be is a simple connector for a keyboard, that’s it. There are driver limitations, OS limitations, port capability limitations, etc, that limit what you can do. 

    The iPad Pro smart connector location pretty much put the nail in the coffin for the connector being anything other than a keyboard connector. 

    I am am hoping they come to realize that their iPad customers want more than they can provide, and put either USBC or TB on both the bottom edge and on the left edge. Ports that can output 5 W at least, preferably 10 W, enough to at least drive an external drive by itself. 

    Something like a solar panel folio, something I would be interested in for the kids, might be doable for the Smart Connector, but I don’t think the hardware can take anything more than 1 W of power, if that. 




    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 23
    hentaiboyhentaiboy Posts: 1,034member
    tl;dr it’s bigger
  • Reply 12 of 23
    MisterKit said:
    I am really glad that I grabbed the 2018 128g at $329 when they were blowing them out on Amazon. That was a real sweet spot of a deal. 
    I did the same thing. For my needs (watching videos, reading magazines and newspapers, editing documents in Pages), it's just fine. It's a big upgrade from the iPad Air (the original version) that it replaced.
    MisterKitwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    Apologies - slightly OT. What's the likelihood of an October announcement of new gen iPad Pros? There are some rumors out there...
    edited October 1 watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    Eric_WVGG said:
    …presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines…
    It has nothing to do with cost. If anything it costs more to produce an A10 than a A12 or A13, simply because they have to keep manufacturing yet another chip, at low volume.
    I definitely think that was the case in the old world. But it's notable that A10 is where they started adopting names like "Fusion" and "Bionic" and multiple low-power cores and  whatnot, and they really are much more impressive CPUs (more than just year-over-year speed improvements).

    I think there's every possibility that the A11 Bionic + are more expensive in similar ways to how Xeons are more expensive to produce than Intel Celerons or Cores.
    cy_starkmanwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 23
    lkrupp said:
    DuhSesame said:
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    Well, I don’t care what chip is installed or how efficient it is. I care about using the device to do what I need to do and the experience while using it. The iPad is the very best tablet on the market anywhere.
    A 3 year old chip in a brand new device makes you wonder if it will only run iOS for two more years, then get cut off.  That’s the problem.  Next year they’ll likely drop the A9, and a year after that, the A10.
    cy_starkmanmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 16 of 23
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,919member
    lkrupp said:
    DuhSesame said:
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    Well, I don’t care what chip is installed or how efficient it is. I care about using the device to do what I need to do and the experience while using it. The iPad is the very best tablet on the market anywhere.
    A 3 year old chip in a brand new device makes you wonder if it will only run iOS for two more years, then get cut off.  That’s the problem.  Next year they’ll likely drop the A9, and a year after that, the A10.
    So they should not update the 6th Gen and leave it as is? Why bother for the 6th Gen because in two years we'll drop the A10? 

    Even if it lasts two years, an update is an update nevertheless. Besides there is no reason to think that Apple will drop the iOS support for A10 in two years, the period an Apple device becomes vintage is measured not since its release date but since its last production date. If A10 is dropped in 2021, if will become vintage in 2026 and until then iOS support will continue.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 23
    Dropped models are not always because of which A series CPU it has.  For iOS 13, the models dropped did not have enough RAM.  This is more likely the reason future models will be dropped vs. because of CPU model.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 23
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,902member
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    Inevitable?   No it is more about a change at Apple that focuses on milking product lines and screwing over the consumer.     This new iPad release is simply a more disgusting example of that trend.  

    The biggest problem here is the A10 processor and the lack of any widely usable AI / ML support.   AI talks about 5 years of support but that ignores the lack of AI support for apps.  This chip will age very quickly because of that, thus making this iPad a bad long term investment.   You simply will not be able to leverage in a performant matter any of the new software products leveraging ML processing.  

    As for hardware costs I really see concerns about hardware costs to be completely bogus.  If any thing the attempt here by Apple is to make the new IPad Pros (when they come) look that much better.  The problem is you are paying good money for a 3-4 year old processor in these iPads.  New iPads that barely improve the performance numbers and that Apple has apparently lied about.  So in reality you end up with a performance delta that is more like 5-6 years over the new iPad Pros.  It is a bit of a whitewash to imply that there is anything good on offer here.  
    muthuk_vanalingamcanukstorm
  • Reply 19 of 23
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,902member
    I wonder how many years of software support will the new iPad get, and so will other devices based on A10. Even if it’s ‘only’ three years, that makes buying iPhone 7 safe.
    This is where it gets complicated!   Support can mean different things to different people, however even if A10 based devices get another 5 years of “support” it doesn’t mean that you will be running modern software on the chip.  In that regard I fully expect a much larger proportion of the IOS software base to require some sort of AI/ML hardware to work in 5 years (probably much shorter than 5 years).  So you could easily have a supported chip with terrible software support.  

    It comes down to what you expect from your computing device.  Some people literally use iPads for just e-mail and web access so the device might age better for them.  

    In any event the use of the A10 over a more recent processor just boggles the mind here because cost isn’t the significant issue.  Even if an A11 or A12 added $10 - $20 to the cost this new iPad would have been a significantly better value to most users.  Hell they. could have under clocked an A12 a bit and still offered far better value. 
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 20 of 23
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,902member
    lkrupp said:
    DuhSesame said:
    Eric_WVGG said:
    The slow processor is the most interesting thing about these new iPads. 

    Historically, Apple always puts their latest chips in new devices, even "low-end" devices like consumer iPads and most notably the iPod Touch. For years analysts would predict that Apple would put slower chips in these units (presumably to save on costs, or to differentiate the lines). Instead they'd get the latest and greatest, but then stay on the shelf without updates for several years at a time.

    This pattern finally broke the the latest release of the iPod Touch, and now these new iPads. The old chips are now "fast enough" and the new chips presumably too expensive. This change in strategy was inevitable, but nonetheless disappointing. 
    If you think about it, the i5-8210Y isn't any faster than the 6th-gen Core-U series, despite being much efficient, it's quite similar to the iPad situation.
    Well, I don’t care what chip is installed or how efficient it is. I care about using the device to do what I need to do and the experience while using it. The iPad is the very best tablet on the market anywhere.
    That is great if you are somebody that doesn’t manage their money carefully.   However for most people focusing on the “experience” is nonsense, being practical  is far more important.  Part of practical is good value for the dollar.  This new iPad just sucks in this regard and yes a good part of that is a processor that is ancient and doesn’t support modern techniques.  
    canukstorm
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