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Samsung Galaxy Note 4 review: the best of the best

Kris Carlon

The Galaxy Note 4 is, without a doubt, Samsung's greatest smartphone ever. The fourth generation of the Note series, Samsung has perfected the line in ways that other OEMs can only dream of. For every mistake Samsung makes in their Galaxy S series, they seem to rectify them in the Note, making it the true Samsung flagship. And the Note 4 is the best they've ever made and tops our best Android phones list, followed closely by the LG G3 and the Xperia Z3. Here is our Galaxy Note 4 review.

samsung galaxy note 4 teaser04


  • Excellent screen
  • Great battery
  • S Pen stylus and software
  • Better user interface
  • Great camera
  • High price
  • Too large for some people

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Video

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Design & Build Quality

The build quality of the Note 4 is impeccable. I've been critical of Samsung's plastic fantastic material choices in the past, but the Note 4 strikes the perfect balance between metallic and plastic. The aluminum trim with flared corners we saw introduced on the Galaxy Alpha finds its true home on the Note 4, where it seems less peculiar and more suited to the larger, premium feel of the device as a whole. It's a little taller and thicker than the Galaxy Note 3, and a tiny bit heavier, but not by much.

samsung galaxy note 4 teaser04
The Note 4 introduces metal to the Note series. © ANDROIDPIT

The Note 4 in our hands has a black metallic trim with beveled silver edges, giving the Note 4 a very sophisticated appearance. The home button is also given a silver lining, as is the camera lens, flash and heart-rate sensor on the back as well as the S Pen. Everything echoes everything else and the effect is impressive.

Even the leatherette plastic battery cover is more subdued and nicely done. While I still don't love it, it's definitely the best faux leather I've seen on a Samsung device so far and it is suitably sticky and feels good enough. The back panel is removable and provides access to the SIM card, microSD slot and removable battery.

samsung galaxy note 4 back top
The Galaxy Note 4 gets a touch of Galaxy Alpha style, with bevelled edges and a silver trim. © ANDROIDPIT

The buttons are in their usual places, but the volume rocker takes its design cue from the Alpha. Up top is an IR blaster, pinhole mic and the headphone port, which is enclosed by the metal frame. Power is on the right, volume on the left and the bottom features a pair of mics, a USB 2.0 charging port (no more USB 3.0 here) and the S Pen.  

The back looks like the Galaxy S5, with square protruding camera lens, heart rate sensor and LED flash and the speaker grill at the bottom. I guess I can still hope that Samsung will move to a front-mounted speaker at some point in the future.

samsung galaxy note 4 top closeup
The QHD display of the Galaxy Note 4 is super sharp and brilliant, setting a high standard. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Display

This is the best display Samsung has put on a device. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's the best display I've ever seen. I'm not always a fan of the heavy saturation in Samsung displays, but the QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixel) 5.7-inch AMOLED screen is sufficiently perfect to make a convert out of anyone and you can adjust screen settings to your preference as well.

It is incredibly sharp, super bright, has great contrast, rich colors, great viewing angles and a ridiculously impressive pixel density of 515 ppi. Anyone unimpressed by the LG G3's QHD display should take a look at this beauty. This is how displays should look. Our unit had a slight cool tint to whites but, all in all, it's near perfect.

samsung galaxy note 4 s pen close up
The legendary S Pen sits in its familiar spot on the bottom edge of the Galaxy Note 4. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Special Features

The Galaxy Note 4 is all about the S Pen. The main reason to buy a Note has always been the S Pen and as a multi-tasking business tool, the Note 4 is unsurpassed. When the S Pen is removed from its slot the Air Command window is automatically launched, providing shortcuts to Action Memo, Smart Select, Image Clip and Screen Write. (The Air Command window can also be brought up by pressing the small button on the S Pen when it is close to the screen.)

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 s pen
The S Pen functionality and handwriting recognition is better than ever. © ANDROIDPIT

Action Memo launches a small Post-It notepad which you make notations on. These notations can be linked to actions like the dialer, contacts, email, browser, maps and more. The handwriting recognition is excellent and you can pin your memo to the home screen just like a sticky note. You even get to choose which physical S Pen tip you want out of the included plastic and rubber options in the box.

Smart Select lets you drag a rectangular window around anything on-screen to screen grab the selection which you can then share, save or collect with other grabs (including meta data). Image Clip is a free-form clipping tool which also has options for circular, rectangular and ''magnetic lasso'' selections. If you're a frequent image editor and sharer then you'll love these tools.

samsung galaxy note 4 front s pen
The S Pen truly makes the Galaxy Note 4 special. © ANDROIDPIT

Screen Write does what it sounds like: lets you make notes on top of the screen you're currently looking at. It will screenshot the page and then bring up an editing tool bar. You have options for the type of digital pen tip (including calligraphy), thickness and color. The greatly improved S Pen now recognizes speed, pressure and the angle at which the stylus is touching the screen. Writing with the calligraphic tip even gives you variations on the density of the ''ink'' based on pressure and speed.  

samsung galaxy note 4 s pen air command
Samsung's innovative software for the S Pen stylus is very well integrated. © ANDROIDPIT

The S Pen can also be used like a mouse on your PC. If you hover above an on-screen element it will preview it for you (like a mouse-over on your computer) and you can also select sections of text by pressing the button on the stylus to highlight. A small action menu will appear so you can copy the selection, share it, search for it on the web, look up a particular word in the dictionary or find other instances of it on the page. The more you use the S Pen you more you realize how indispensable it is. Once you're used to using the stylus, using your finger again feels painfully clumsy and imprecise.

samsung galaxy note 4 home button fnger
The Galaxy Note 4 also has a finger scanner, although this time it actually works. © ANDROIDPIT

The Note 4 has other special features beyond the stylus too. The oft maligned heart-rate monitor from the Galaxy S5 makes it's perhaps less-than-triumphant return. It works, but it is still a little slow and inaccurate to be truly useful. The finger scanner embedded in the home button also returns, but it has been improved since the S5 and works more accurately than its slightly embarrassing predecessor.  

The Note 4 finger scanner gives you options for security, web sign-in and to verify your Samsung or PayPal accounts. It still doesn't hold a candle to the iPhone Touch ID sensor or the Huawei Ascend Mate 7 scanner though, but it's definitely an improvement on the S5 and is actually a viable option for unlocking your phone without going crazy in the attempt.

samsung galaxy note 4 bottom micro usb s pen
On the bottom of the Galaxy Note 4 sits the USB port, S Pen slot and two microphones. © ANDROIDPIT

The Note 4 has a total of three microphones, which can be used in unison for noise cancellation (like removing background noise during a call) but also for cleaning up audio recordings. Each mic can pick up different sounds so you can isolate and disable the parts you don't want. If you record interviews like we do, this can be a great addition. I'm not sure how useful it will be for everyone else, but it's a nice tool to have and it works reasonably well in practice.

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 home screen settings
Samsung seems to have finished the TouchWiz overhaul in the Note 4, and it looks great. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Software

The Galaxy Note 4 features include Samsung's TouchWiz user interface on top of Android 4.4.4. When I saw the new-look TouchWiz on the Galaxy S5, it felt a little rushed and inconsistent. At the time I hoped that Samsung would clean it up for the Note 4 and I haven't been disappointed.

The settings menu has lost the big irregularly colored circles and opts instead for a more subdued list or tabulated view, with a dedicated section up top for Quick Settings being the only hint of the previous interface. Sections are now color-coded consistently, which makes a lot more sense.

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 notifications quick settings
The notifications area is still a little crowded, but the new TouchWiz looks better than it ever has. © ANDROIDPIT

The notifications menu is still a little crowded but the super flat circular icons for Quick Settings look good and the teal-and-green color scheme is pleasant enough. Interestingly, Samsung has given the Note 4 a white background in the settings menu (which is not the best choice for an AMOLED display, which benefits from darker colors) but it adds a little freshness to the interface.  

The dedicated Flipboard Briefing home screen lives on the far left but it can be easily removed if you're not a fan. It can still be painfully slow to launch at times though. S Health, of course, gets a central position and can be used to track your exercise, heart rate, step count and other health data. It's great if you're into that kind of thing and of course, your Samsung wearables are a great addition to the app.

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 recents battery
The recent apps gets an Android 5.0 look, and Multi-Window icons in the top right corner for selected apps. Even with that big, bright and high resolution display, the Note 4 posts solid screen-on times. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung has recently made the move to including a recent apps button on the Galaxy range, replacing the previous menu button. The recent apps menu is a scrolling card stack that is very reminiscent of what is to come in Android 5.0 Lollipop. A long press on the recent apps button brings up a home screen management screen for wallpaper changes, widget selection and home screen settings. Double pressing the home button brings up S Voice (which is best disabled immediately) and a long press gets you Google Now.

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 smart select multi window
Smart Select lets you batch screen grab elements and Multi Window mode is great for multi-tasking. © ANDROIDPIT

A long press on the back button brings up a quick access app list for floating mini apps that can be moved or resized for convenience and collapsed to floating bubbles if you need to attend to something else. You can also make full screen apps into mini apps just by swiping diagonally from the corner, but only with supported apps. You can resize the windows, but the proportions are constrained, making this feature a little less useful than it could be.

Multi Window mode lets you stack two small app windows for true multi-tasking. You can now launch Multi Window apps direct from the Recent Apps list. Just look for the Multi Window icon in the top right of the app card. Unfortunately not all apps are supported by Multi Window but your main bases are covered with Google and Samsung apps.

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 benchmark
Despite some odd lags and freezes, the Note 4 is a serious power house. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Performance

The Note 4 is super fast, but there are still some tell-tale TouchWiz delays to be noted. As always, Flipboard (and before it, My Magazine) can be painfully slow to launch, and some apps take way longer than they should considering the beastly internals of the Note 4 specs. If you can survive a bit of good old Samsung lag, then the Note 4 will not disappoint when it comes to performance in other quarters.

The quad-core Snapdragon 805 clocked at 2.7 GHz with 3 GB of RAM in our version is very fast and powerful, equaling or besting any other phone around right now and posting very impressive benchmarks that blow everything else out of the water. There is also an octa-core Exynos 5 (5433) version of the Note 4, which is even more powerful.

In daily usage, you won't notice the Note 4 slowing down, except on the occasional app launch or return to the home screen, but for resource-hungry tasks, the powerful processor and RAM really deliver. Hi-res games and other tasks that demand a lot from the processor are met with ease, although our Note 4 does have a bit of a tendency to heat up when placed under a lot of stress.

samsung galaxy note 4 back camera
The 16 MP camera on the Galaxy Note 4 finally adds image stabilization (Smart OIS). © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Camera

The Note 4 adds optical image stabilization to its super-fast 16 MP Sony IMX240 camera, a feature we've been waiting on for quite some time. The camera is typically brilliant, although it can get slightly noisy at times, a quirk I wouldn't have expected from such a high end device and certainly not from a Samsung. Take a look at the picture gallery to judge the results for yourself.

Link to Gallery

The camera shoots well in daylight as you would expect and macro shots are great, as is color reproduction. Low light is not perfect, but is still very decent with OIS really adding to the crispness, although image noise still makes itself felt, sometimes even in interior shots taken during the day time. HDR is just as good as we've found in the past, shooting with the flash is perfectly acceptable without washing anything out and skin tones are great on the Note 4.

The Note 4 camera has a very light preset mode selection, consisting of just Auto, Rear-cam Selfie, Selective Focus and Panorama. You can download plenty of other modes from within the camera interface, including favorites like Sports, Sound and Shot and Food Shot for the foodie loving Instagrammers out there. You can also use the volume button to take pictures, shoot video or zoom, if that's your thing, but it doesn't work as a shortcut from a screen-off state.

AndroidPIT Galaxy Note 4 camera
The Galaxy Note 4 camera settings and the floating viewfinder. © ANDROIDPIT

The Note 4 has HDR mode with real-time preview and 4K video recording. Strangely though, image stabilization is not possible when shooting in 4K or WQHD (only at Full HD or below). To shoot photos at 16 MP resolution, you need to be in an 16:9 aspect ratio. If you want 4:3 photos you'll need to drop the resolution back to 12 MP.

You've also got a timer, a range of real-time filters and other settings including voice control, tap-anywhere-to-shoot, slow motion video (down to 1/8th normal speed) and a few manual controls like exposure settings, white balance, ISO (up to 800) and metering modes. Sadly though, even opening the extended settings in the camera app is a pretty slow process.

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The Galaxy Note 4 has a great 16 MP camera with optical image stabilization. © ANDROIDPIT

The front-facing camera is a respectable 3.7 MP sensor with a maximum aperture of f/1.9, which will give you better low-light selfies than before. The heart-rate sensor can also be used as a camera shutter button when in Selfie Mode. Sometimes it takes a while to recognize your face though, and I even had the camera app freeze while switching between front and back facing cameras. The selfie camera is capable of Full HD video too.

Wide Selfie Mode is basically a selfie panorama and it works fine if selfies of yourself alone are not enough. It's sort of a shame the sensor is so close to the camera lens though, as you tend to smudge the lens by accident when going for the sensor. One last cool feature of the Note 4 camera is that you can drag your finger in from the top corner of the viewfinder to make it a floating mini window.

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The Note 4 has a removable battery and quick charging capability. © ANDROIDPIT

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Battery

The Galaxy Note 4 houses a 3,220 mAh battery that may not sound like much for a device with QHD and a screen this size, but just as LG showed us with the G3, a 2K display doesn't have to mean the battery suffers. Samsung's LucidLogix technology does wonders with the battery and on full display brightness and with no power saving mode enabled, I breezed through nine hours of screen-on time.

The Note 4 also features the Ultra Power Saving Mode we saw introduced on the Galaxy S5, and it is just as impressive. You'll be switched to a simplified grayscale interface with access to limited apps - although you'll still be able to browse the web - and you can still add your favorites like Facebook, WhatsApp and Google+.

samsung galaxy note 4 gold back
The Note 4 also comes with a quick charge function to get up to 50% capacity in half an hour. © ANDROIDPIT

You'll lose Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity as well as mobile data when the display is off, but Ultra Power Saving Mode will get you over a week of battery life if you're desperate. It's not the most practical way to extend your phone's battery, but in a pinch it is brilliant and the most useful power saving mode I've seen so far.

Of course, the Note 4 also has a regular power saving mode which limits background data, disables haptic feedback and and limits CPU and display performance. These settings are all optional so you can select only the settings you want or need. The Note 4 also has a quick charge function that will get you 50% battery life in just half an hour using the supplied charger.

Brazil Samsung Note 4 social ANDROIDPIT
The Note 4 sets the bar pretty high, but the price is also pretty high. © ANDROIDPIT

Galaxy Note 4 Price and release date

The Galaxy Note 4 price is not its best feature. It is a great phone to be sure, but the price may not feel justified to some users. Those users would most likely be the ones that don't feel the need for the S Pen. If you use it, there is simply no competition, but if you don't use it, then you have some other solid options like the LG G3 or even the OnePlus One in terms of size and specs with a lower price point.

The Galaxy Note 4 with 32 GB of internal storage is available now and costs 845 USD on Amazon for an unlocked international version, or you can grab one on AT&T for 299 USD on a two-year contract. T-Mobile is also offering the Note 4 outright for 750 USD. In the UK, you can the Galaxy Note 4 with Carphone Warehouse, Amazon and Clove for around 650 GBP but this depends on retailer and carrier. The Galaxy Note 4 release date was October 17th, 2014, alongside the Gear VR headset (a companion accessory exclusively for the Galaxy Note 4), which sells separately for 199 USD.

amazon buy big
amazon buy big

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Technical Specifications

  Samsung Galaxy Note 4 specs
System Android 4.4.4, TouchWiz
Display 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED (2,560 x 1,440 Pixel), 515 ppi
Processor Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805, 2.7 GHz / Octa-core Exynos 5 5433 (quad 1.9 GHz, quad 1.3 GHz)
Internal Memory 32 GB (+ microSD up to 64 GB)
Connectivity LTE, HSPA+, WLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, USB 2.0, MHL 3.0
Extras S Pen, heart rate sensor, finger scanner, IR blaster, barometer, UV sensor
Camera 16 MP with Smart OIS (rear), 3.7 MP, f/1.9, 90° wide angle (front-facing)
Battery 3,220 mAh
Dimensions 153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm
Weight 176 g
Price/Availability TBC/October 2014

Final Verdict

I'm happy to finally have the pendulum swing the other way and say I can barely pick a fault with the Note 4, other than the nitpicking I've pointed out here. This is the phone I've been waiting for Samsung to make since I can't remember when. Everything has been streamlined, in terms of design, specs, interface and even bloat and gimmicks. The specs are rock solid, the design change is minimal but very effective, the battery and camera are top notch, TouchWiz looks the best it ever has, the S Pen remains the biggest selling point and the display is a thing of pure beauty.

If you've ever considered buying a Galaxy Note, this is the Note you've been waiting for. It's a big phone, with a big price tag, but it promises big things too, and thankfully delivers. The back to basics approach Samsung started on with the S5 has been near perfected in the Note 4. The Note 4 is almost bereft of gimmicks, bloat or useless features or settings. Almost everything on the Note 4 is essential, and almost everything is done extremely well, leaving nothing but distilled Android excellence.  


Write new comment:
  • Daniel Westerdale 3 months ago Link

    I agree with Andrew , it is also terrible on the Note 2. Another thing not mentioned is the sound quality. I tend to chill out watching rock videos on YouTube so before I upgrade I am keen to compare the Nexus 6 with the Note 4 - to see if the stereo speakers are just a gimick. Also, I have seen a review of the the same photo taken with: Note 4, iPhone 6 and Nexus 6 an put it his way, the Nexus wasn't in the top 2!

  • ALVARO LOPEZ BARREIRO 4 months ago Link

    Here is a incredible test of video record on galaxy note 4. is really AMAZING:

  • Andrew Chambers 4 months ago Link

    Something rarely noted in reviews... When used outdoors in bright sunlight, I hate to say it, but the screen is a complete failure. Can't see to take photos, can't read the screen etc. Who decided to use smoky gorilla glass? My old iPhone is MUCH better in sunlight and the gorilla glass is clear. Having said that I much prefer the Note 4 and Android to iOS based devices, I even find my old iPad to be annoyingly too simple now.

  • Ayyaz Raja 4 months ago Link

    Still waiting to pick up my own Note. The official sale of Samsung Galaxy Note 4 will start from Oct 29 in Pakistan. I have already booked my Note with Telenor Pakistan. Let me see how excellent is the Note 4. Your article has given me a hope that i have taken the right decision to opt for Note 4 instead of Nexus 6!

    • Kris Carlon
      • Admin
      • Staff
      4 months ago Link

      I'm sure you won't be disappointed. I can't wait to get my hands on a Nexus 6 though.

  • Timothy Cremeans 5 months ago Link

    Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is without one of the best in the market today. Many have wished to own this thing because they assumed it has all which can be true.

  • ljhaye 5 months ago Link

    I wonder why Samsung is now reporting massive drops in both their earnings and revenue when they are creating some spec worthy phablets and smartphones? Are they the canary in the android coal mine for the other OEM's in regards to owning the easily commoditized hardware stack? What OEM can create an Apple Pay competitor without Google? None of them have the leverage nor vision individually and this has me worried, as Google controls the pace of innovation on both the software and services stacks.

    • Kris Carlon
      • Admin
      • Staff
      5 months ago Link

      I think the issue is not just a few fizzers recently (even though the S5 and S4 both sold well) but the rise of better competition. Previously Sammy had it pretty easy but now you've got the upsurge of Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Oppo as well as giants like Lenovo and Huawei. Plus LG and Motorola are gaining serious speed and the Z3 and One (M8) are awesome phones from Sony and HTC. So I think there's a lot of factors at work and if Samsung got a bit lazy (as it seems they did) at the wrong time, they're now paying the price. This just means renewed efforts which benefit us all.

      • ljhaye 5 months ago Link

        I understand those dynamics but can these OEM's turn a profit at Samsung's expense? So far they either lose money or break even only Samsung makes money. This fact has disturbed me over the past several years as innovation costs money and they (except samsung) simply don't make any. I made my comment because those OEM's you mentioned earlier have always made nice hardware but nobody was buying them. Xiaomi (Shenzhen android ecosystem) and Samsung (google play android) ape apple the most and have the most impressive sales/revenue.

  • Petter Blaze 6 months ago Link

    The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the biggest player in the tech world due to its amazingly designed software and hardware. The Note 4 is drool worthy and easy to carry like your true companion.

  • JAG 6 months ago Link

    I had a chance to handle the Note 4 and Edge a few days ago at a Bestbuy event. I will say that it is without a doubt the nicest device that Samsung has ever produced. I was very surprised and a lot of people who own the N3 will be very surprised as well. It is a different phone in the hand. I will upgrade without a doubt. You will be blown away when you see it! Best device of 2014 bar none.

  • Nancy Trant 6 months ago Link

    Sounds like a great device!
    the only thing that drives me nuts about all the new Samsung phones is they keep designing them so the camera lens protrudes from the back of the phone making it very easy to scratch it unless you add a somewhat thick case. If they just made the device a little thicker, that problem would be solved!

  • liljom 6 months ago Link

    I don't think the competition is so behind.
    I own a G Pro 2, and I'm quite satisfied. I can't fill the 3GB RAM either. The Snapdragon 800 functions quite well, and the IPS screen is a relief after my Note 2 (the pink elixir in Clash of Clans doesn't burn my eyes now)
    And it has OIS too with 4K, and FullHD@60Hz

  • Stephanie Lawrence 6 months ago Link

    Another let down. Now I'm glad I didn't wait for the 4 and bought the Note 3. Definitely nothing here to make me drop another 600+ and of course the size is "slightly" different than the 3 so one would have to buy new cases. I love my Note 3... Pass.

    • Najib Dajani 6 months ago Link

      Same here. The screen on my Note 3 is great. I read a lot on it and I am addicted to ebooks. The text is laser sharp and I am not sure that a QHD screen will look all that better.

      The performance on the Note 3 is more than good enough for all my needs. I don't really play games. For me, it is mainly a business phone for taking notes and organizing projects.

      I am not interested in the biometric scanners or upgraded camera.

      So what does that leave? New S Pen functionality. That is about the only thing that intrigues me about the Note 4.

      I think I will stick with the Note 3 until next September when perhaps the Note 5 will be a bigger leap in features and functionality.

  • gbswales 6 months ago Link

    I noticed the absence of the USB3 extra socket but I wonder if this means that they have got USB3 and fast charge working through a standard socke - if they have well done but if not shame for dropping this.
    What I don't see here is anything that makes me want to upgrade from my note 3 and this could be their undoing on this model. Those on contracts may upgrade "because they can" but there is not much for those of us who buy our phones. The HD quality is already better than I can actuall see (if you get my meaning).
    What I do have are concerns that they may have introduced the Samsung trickery that prevents the use of third party products with the phone - it was widely reported about a year ago but never occurred on the note 3 but is it coming with the note 4?

  • BARON 6 months ago Link

    I am seriously considering upgrading to the Galaxy Mega

  • Daniel Westerdale 6 months ago Link

    I thought they have might increased the screen size closer to say the Mega 2. Would be good if the review would also compare and contrast the other phatlets out there such as the Norkia 1520- helps to decide which phone to consider in an upgrade cycle

    • Kris Carlon
      • Admin
      • Staff
      6 months ago Link

      It's early days still, we'll get around to comparing everything soon enough!

  • james easton 6 months ago Link

    Why did they get rid of the usb 3.0? My transfer speed and charging time is amazing on my note 3!

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