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Cloud gaming in the test: Geforce Now, PS Now, Shadow and Stadia in comparison


Has the gaming PC been replaced?

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Stadia, Geforce Now und Co: Cloud Gaming im Überblick

Four streaming services want to replace game PCs and consoles: Google Stadia, Nvidia Geforce Now, Blade Shadow and Sony Playstation Now. But who will win the test? We compare the properties and prices, test image quality and stability under different conditions and tell you what developments you can expect.

Cloud gaming in the test: Subscription of four video games

Nobody knows the pioneer of cloud gaming in this country: Onlive tried years ago to build a network of data centers in North America to almost play games to bring latency-free into apartments without oversized gaming PC. The service was 2015 bought and discontinued by Sony, but the legacy lives on: with Geforce Now , Stadia , Shadow and Playstation Now there are four promising providers in Germany. All you need to gamble is a cheap notebook, a subscription and fast internet – and in some cases not even that.

You can read this in this article : First, we’ll introduce you to the four streaming providers we tested. Then we tell you what you get for your money and how we tested. Then we move on to the purchase advice, state in detail the advantages and disadvantages of the individual services and which properties are important for whom and when. We end the post with an outlook on the future of cloud gaming services.

Cloud gaming providers compared

Blade Shadow Google Stadia Nvidia Geforce Now Sony Playstation Now

Result

1.6 (good)

2.1 ( Good)

2.2 (good)

3.5 (satisfactory)

Price per month

14, 99 Euro

9, 99 Euro

5, 49 Euro

9, 99 Euro

Price per year

155, 88 Euro

119, 88 Euro

65, 88 Euro

59, 99 Euro

Free trial subscription

No

yes (3 months)

yes (3 months)

yes (7 days)

To shadow.tech To stadia.com To nvidia.com To Amazon
  • Source: Blade

    Blade Shadow

    Strong cloud gaming platform on which you can install pretty much all games. However, quite expensive.

Benefits
Free digital installation
Most beautiful picture quality
Also supports exotic image formats such as 21: 9
Up to 4K at 144 fps
Disadvantage
Noticeable dropouts
Expensive
Games must first be installed on the server

Who a little bit of convenience can give up and accept subscription costs with Shadow the all-round best cloud gaming service. Here you get remote access to a strong Windows PC, whose 256 GByte hard disk space you can paste to your heart's content with your own games and applications. Accordingly, you have the free choice among all digital platforms such as Steam, GOG, Uplay, Epic and more. If you're a little crazy, you can even double-stream the exclusive Stadia or PS Now games through the service. We tried it and it works terrifyingly well – even via the shadow app for the smartphone.

With a good internet connection, the service runs stably and impresses with few image disturbances – but there are it all nasal one or two stutters. For this, you can stream to 4K resolution and up to 144 turn on fps. Shadow is currently the only service that can do this. Whereby the GTX – 1080 – Of course, the graphics card also reaches its 4K limits somewhere. 2021 should more expensive configurations with RTX- 2080 – graphics cards or even RTX-Titan -Graphics cards to follow.

In our opinion, Shadow has only two clear disadvantages: First, games have to be downloaded first and the standard memory is quite limited. The shadow servers suck the files with 40 to 60 MByte per second, but this can still take half an hour for large games like Destiny 2. Other providers have prepared their games for instant streaming. On the other hand, the price is a disadvantage: Even in the cheapest configuration, Shadow still costs 12, 99 euros per month and is by far the most expensive service in comparison.

Shadow is also not yet available: Shadow is in the pre-order phase and is only available from June 2020 available. Our test data are based on the “Official” pre-version, in which the servers do not have to work under heavy loads. This version is also available to early adopters.

Shadow offers a nice clean Windows user interface, and with a push of a button you get an overview of streaming and device settings. Picture: CHIP

Shadow (beta) in the test

  • Source: Nvidia

    Nvidia Geforce Now

    Good streaming quality, large game selection and very cheap tig.

    free / 65, 88 Euros per year

Pre Hurry
Free Access & amp; cheap subscription
Large game library
HDR and surround sound
Disadvantage
Availability uncertainty

If you sniff into cloud gaming rn want, it is not cheaper than with Geforce Now – this is free of charge, unless too many people want to access the servers at the same time. But even with the current annual subscription, which gives you preferred server access and ray tracing functions, you only have to pay mathematically due to the three-month trial period 50 Euro for 12 Months – a top price.

With this service you can access the games in your Steam or Epic store library via MacOS, Windows or Android device . But not for everyone, the games must also be unlocked for Geforce Now. Games can also disappear from service overnight – as happened, for example, with the Call-of-Duty series and games from Bethesda. Nevertheless there are over 1. 000 titles available, mostly games of the past few years. These only rarely have to be loaded and installed on the server, usually you can start playing in a few seconds.

The maximum resolution extends to 1080 p with 60 fps. You get these in good quality with HDR support as soon as an undivided 50 – Mbit / s line is available – then control latencies, frame drops, image artifacts and noise are not gone, but low. Under 50 Mbit / s the result, however, is not so plump, but is still suitable for mobile devices.

Who the streaming player Nvidia Shield also benefits from 5.1 surround sound.

To find games in Geforce Now, either use the search or click through the categories. It would be nice if you could link your own libraries to the service and get directly displayed which games are actually available on GFN. Picture: CHIP

Geforce Now in the test

  • Source: Google

    Google Stadia

    Excellent streaming quality and convenient login through the Chrome browser. The subscription is quite expensive, as is the purchase. A free version should 2020 appear .

Benefits
HDR and surround sound
4K at 60 frames per second
Free games on subscription & Exclusive title
Best streaming quality at 50 and 32 Mbit / s
Disadvantage
Expensive and high purchase price
No stream app for most smartphones yet
Games must be purchased through the Stadia Store

Shadow is the most expensive in terms of subscription costs, but at Stadia g There is a lot of additional payment required – at least until Google delivers the promised free base version. For a pro subscription, you currently have to 10) pay euros per month. Games that are not included in the Pro subscription must be bought in the Stadia Store – and the choice of games is by far the smallest of all streaming services. Add to that 129 Euro for a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia controller. You have to buy the latter, even if you only want to play with the mouse and keyboard using the Chrome browser. Another weak point: Google does offer to stream Stadia to mobile phones too – at the moment, however, only if it is a pixel phone.

Who has all these limits can get a really great streaming service. The login via the Google browser is super simple: control stadia.com, log in, done. Already with one 32 – Mbit / s line you get a good, stable gaming experience, from 50 Mbit / s the experience is hardly distinguishable from a local system. In addition, you get exclusive games, HDR images, 5.1 surround sound and 4K at 60 frames per second – whereby games are often not rendered in 4K, but are 1080 p-upscaling. Compared to other services, you can also see Stadia games that they run more in console quality. For example, we weren't allowed to check the graphics settings on Destiny 2, but textures and anti-aliasing didn't give the impression that the graphics were being rendered with the highest details.

Stadia has in our opinion, a lot of potential, provided that Google not only rests on the pure technology, but also delivers mass and class of games.

You start the Stadia games directly from the Chrome browser – no further installations required. Image: Google

Google Stadia in the test

  • Source: Sony

    Playstation Now

    Enormous number of Playstation exclusive titles playable on the PC. Quite cheap and runs well with low bandwidths, but quite poor streaming quality.

Benefits
Many exclusive games
Quite cheap
Also works liquid at low bandwidths
Disadvantage
Just 720 p-resolution
No mobile app
Fluctuating frame rate

Sony's streaming service is brilliant and terrible at the same time. On the credit side, the service offers only 60 Euro several hundred games a year to stream, many of them exclusive titles, also from the PS2 and PS3 era – so you can play games like Uncharted or Horizon: Zero Dawn on the PC. A PS4 controller is recommended, but not necessary. In addition, the service runs extremely stable with a measly 6 Mbit / s line and can hardly be distinguished from a much better connection. You can also download many games on the PS4 and then play them locally.

But the streaming quality is the worst of all services. We did not notice any frame drops in the test and the tax latency is low enough to make fighters like Mortal Kombat X fun. But the maximum stream resolution is only 720 p with 60 fps. 1080 p have been under discussion for a while, but so far no update has been made. In addition, compression artifacts and cracks form in the image. Fast movements or blue skies are very unsightly. Playstation Now is therefore not for the large 4K TV and not a real replacement for the console, but for a fairly low annual price you have access to a huge collection of classics and are already with a 16 – Mbit / s line well served – even if no Playstation is connected.

The 720 p window from PS Now looks pretty lost on a 4K screen – and stretched to screen size, the result is not very good either. On a small screen, that's fine. Picture: CHIP

This is how much money you should spend on a cloud gaming service

If you just want to try cloud gaming, we have good news for you: You don't have to pay a cent! If you have a little patience, Geforce Now is free. Google Stadia should also 2020 yet get a free model. And Playstation Now can be tested for free for at least seven days.

If you already have a large Steam or Epic library, the cheapest way to get there is with Geforce Now: Here you only pay around 50 Euro for the first year. At Playstation Now you pay with 60 Euro only a little more, but get access to many exclusive titles. If you don't have a digital library, Google Stadia could be worth it – here you have to buy games in the Google Store, but you also get free games and the best picture and sound features as a pro subscription. Currently you have to be an early adopter 129 one-off payment for entry.

If you have a large digital library and want more than just gaming, Shadow is the place to go. The service is by far the most expensive, but you can install games and programs to your heart's content – so the remote computer is also suitable for image and video editing.

So we tested

For our test we have the services on several days between 12 and 17 clock both tested on a work notebook. If a service offers an Android app, we have it on a Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact tested. We have Google Stadia accordingly on a Google Pixel 3 tested. For the test we have our editorial internet line with the program NetLimiter on 50 Mbit / s, 32 Mbit / s and 16 Mbit / s limited to on a five-stage scale the occurring frame drops, the control latency, artifact formation, the stability of the frame rate and any image noise that may appear. We also checked whether a service can still be used even at low 6 Mbit / s. For the test, we used a notebook with an Intel Core i7 – 8550 U without dedicated graphics card and 16 GByte RAM.

We also evaluate the available distribution channels , the existence of an app, advantages of a (paid) subscription, whether exclusive games are offered, whether there is free access and other features. All ratings, features and data can be found in the following table.

Cloud gaming providers compared (full table in desktop view)

Nvidia Geforce Now Blade Shadow Google Stadia Sony Playstation Now

Available on

Windows, MacOS, Android

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android

Google Pixel, Windows, MacOS, Linux, Chromecast Ultra

Playstation 4, Windows

PRICES

Acquisition cost

No

No

129 Euro

No

Free access

Yes

No

No

No

Free trial subscription

yes (3 months)

No

yes (3 months)

yes (7 days)

Price per month

5, 49 Euro

14, 99 Euro

9, 99 Euro

9, 99 Euro

price three Months

16, 47 Euro

44, 97 Euro

29, 97 Euro

24, 99 Euro

Price twelve months

65, 88 Euro

155, 88 Euro

119, 88 Euro

59, 99 Euro

FEATURES

Difference free / subscription

Preferential access, extended session duration, RTX, free 90 – day introductory phase

4K @ 60 FPS instead of 1080 p @ 60 FPS, 5.1 surround sound, free games, streaming quality adjustable

Exclusive games

No

No

few

lots

Family release function

No

No

No

No

voice chat

About the game clients

Via freely selectable clients

About Stadia

Playstation 4 only

Subscription benefits (e.g. B. free games)

Free games (only Shield)

Free games

Minimum bandwidth (manufacturer)

15 Mbit / s

5 Mbit / s

10 Mbit / s

no information

Minimum bandwidth (Full-HD, manufacturer)

25 Mbit / s

10 Mbit / s

20 Mbit / s

no information

Recommended bandwidth (manufacturer)

50 Mbit / s

50 Mbit / s

35 Mbit / s

5 Mbit / s

Maximum stream -Quality

1080 p @ 60 FPS

4K @ 144 FPS

4K @ 60 FPS

720 p @ 60 FPS

Streaming settings can be adjusted manually

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Supported display features

HDR

HDR

Supported audio features

Stereo, Surround 5.1 (Shield only)

stereo, hi-fi audio (experimental)

Surround 5.1

Stereo

Supported screen formats

16: 9 and 16: 10

16: 9

16: 9

16: 9

Supported number of screens

1

1

1

1

screen while Interchangeable use

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Hardware in the data center

256 Gbyte memory, 16 Gbyte RAM, Nvidia Tesla P 40, Xeon E5 – 2697 v4 or Nvidia Tesla RTX T 10, Intel CC 150

GTX 1080, 3.4 GHz / 4 cores, 12 Gbyte RAM, 256 Gbyte memory, Windows 10

Intel CPU with 2.7 GHz, AMD GPU with HBM2 and 10, 7 TFLOPs

Information not available

Available distribution channels

Steam, Epic

Free digital installation, Steam, Battle.Net, Origin, Epic, Uplay, GOG, Microsoft Store, Bethesda

Stadia

Playstation Store

Unusual hardware required

No

No

No

No

Optional hardware

Nvidia Shield

Shadow Ghost

Google Chromecast Ultra, Stadia Controller

Playstation 4

Non-proprietary re controller compatible

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Other features (e.g. B. free PC access)

Video recordings and screenshots

real-time data, free PC access

Video recordings and screenshots

Download games locally, multiplayer subscription not necessary

App available

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

MEASUREMENTS

Continuation after interruption (10 s)

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Starts at 6 Mbit / s

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Minimum playable bandwidth

16 Mbit / s

16 Mbit / s

16 Mbit / s

6 Mbit / s

Minimum recommended bandwidth (Full-HD)

50 Mbit / s

32 Mbit / s

32 Mbit / s

16 Mbit / s

Recommended bandwidth

50 Mbit / s

50 Mbit / s

50 Mbit / s

32 Mbit / s

Impression: 16 Mbit / s

still playable

still playable

still playable

still playable

Framedrops

lots

some

some

no

Tax latency

still playable

still playable

still playable

low

artifacts

lots

some

some

some

Fra merate

stable

fluctuates more often

fluctuates more often

fluctuates more often

noise

high

medium

no

low

Impression: 32 Mbit / s

still playable

still playable

Good

still playable

Frame drops

some

some

few

no

Tax latency

low

low

no

low

artifacts

few

few

few

some

Framerate

stable

seldom fluctuates

seldom fluctuates

fluctuates more often

noise

medium

low

no

low

Impression: 50 Mbit / s

Good

Good

excellent

still playable

Framedrops

few

some

no

no

Tax latency

low

low

no

low

artifacts

few

no

few

some

frame rate

stable

stable

stable

fluctuates more often

Noise

low

no

no

low

Result

good (2.2)

good (1.6)

good (2.1)

satisfactory (3.5)

How does cloud gaming work?

Most readers should be familiar with Netflix: as soon as you have a subscription, select a film or series episode from an offer in an application . Netflix then gradually sends the file to your player from a nearby server via the Internet.

Cloud gaming works very similarly: Basically, Stadia and Co. only transmit one Video with sound to your home. The actual work does not take place on your (play) device, but on the provider's servers – there are fat graphics cards, craving CPUs and tons of working memory. The only big difference is that you not only receive data packets, but also send them – after all, you have to control the game somehow with the mouse, keyboard or controller.

This results in a fundamental problem: latency. There may be several federal states between your home and the data center. So while Netflix and Amazon Prime can conveniently preload the video, a game stream has to react quickly – within a few milliseconds. And this is a time factor that can be felt in video games.

While this problem was considered almost impossible to solve a few years ago, all current providers have found their tricks, to reduce control latency to an acceptable minimum. Google has even gone so far as to say that Stadia should receive a so-called “negative latency” in the future – the software should analyze gaming and guess in advance when a key will be pressed. Google calls this negative latency because it should be lower than on home gaming PCs.

Whether you believe the whole thing or not: Tax latency is hardly an issue these days in cloud gaming. Only with action-packed online games you shouldn't expect too much at the moment, because here the few frames delay can decide whether you win or lose.

Another point of criticism will remain: If the servers are unavailable or overloaded, the pleasurable gaming is first of all a scythe. Of course, PCs and consoles also have their problems – but at least not this one.

If all the prerequisites are right, the graphics quality of a normal PC can only be distinguished from a cloud PC if you look very closely. (left: local PC with GTX 1080, right: Shadow with GTX 1080) Picture: CHIP

Cloud gaming at 50 Mbit / s: Not nice, but possible

Who is an undivided 50 – Mbit / s line owns, all cloud gaming providers can enjoy unlimited, and owners of a 100 – Mbit line get another justification for the increased expenditure thanks to the stability gained. Then the services can shoot through the Internet the highest picture and sound quality that is available to them. At PS Now this is only one 720 p-resolution, but everyone according to their abilities.

Cloud gaming is under 50 Mbit / s only recommended to a limited extent. If you fall below a certain performance potential, you can no longer get a full HD stream smoothly – in other words, the standard resolution for PC monitors. The reduced resolution is a little less important on the smaller screen of a notebook, but hardly or not at all on tablets or even smartphones.

In addition to the resolution, there are many more Loss of quality that you can hit with a bad connection. For example, individual images can be skipped (“frame drops”), which pulls you out of the action. An unstable frame rate, on the other hand, can lead to unwanted slow motion moments. It feels like you're being pulled on a speedboat with a rubber rope. Variable tax deferrals, on the other hand, spoil every possibility of a minute-targeted headshot. And lastly, compression artifacts, image tears or an ugly noise appear when bad connections occur – after all, most algorithms prefer a smooth gaming experience over a beautiful one. Screen texts in particular then become completely illegible.

If you always have to fight with a scratchy line, cloud gaming as a PC or console replacement is not recommended – it is better than nothing , but not much. On the other hand, this opens up opportunities for mobile gaming: thanks to the smaller resolution of a mobile phone display, the services have to put a lot less strain on the internet connection and in the corresponding apps this ensures astonishingly good results. But be warned: As long as you don't have an LTE or 5G flat rate, you should refrain from gaming at the bus stop, because the data choke is already waiting at the next corner.

Geforce Now at 16 Mbit / s is still just playable, but cloud gaming is really nice only from 32 Mbit / s upwards. Picture: CHIP

4K, HDR, Surround and Co.

The overall streaming quality is only one side of the coin. It is great if the game runs smoothly and without unsightly image disturbances – but current PCs, consoles and televisions can do much more. For example, the contrast feature HDR is not supported by all services. Surround sound has not yet arrived everywhere and costs extra: With Google in the form of a pro subscription, with Geforce Now there are enveloping thunderstorms only if you operate the service via the shield player.

Streams in 4K quality are only available from Shadow and Stadia. So far, Google has added an asterisk to the feature: On the one hand, many “4K” games are only played by 1080 p sampled and upgraded a bit, secondly, most users can only access the feature via the Chromecast Ultra. The function is currently being rolled out step by step via the Chrome browser. With Shadow, on the other hand, there is unabashed 4K enjoyment, even up to 144 fps. However, the GTX – 1080 – Graphics card in the shadow data centers was not designed to achieve such quality even with demanding games.

App: Two are great, two do not play

One of the best possible uses of game streams is on smartphones and tablets: due to the smaller display, the services can lower the quality without being noticed. So you can enjoy your favorite games in the WiFi in the bedroom, during lunch break or at a really boring party – even if there is no ax router available on the fiber optic network.

Both Geforce Now and Shadow are very good here. Connecting a Bluetooth controller can take a bit of patience depending on the device, but once this hurdle has been overcome, it comes into play at lightning speed. Stadia also offers an excellent app – but only for owners of pixel smartphones. Anyone who owns an Android device (which actually runs with a Google operating system) will initially go empty-handed. And Playstation Now does not currently offer an app. This is a pity, especially because the service runs perfectly even with weak connections and the maximum 720 p resolution would be sufficient for smartphones thick.

The Geforce Now app is easy to use and thanks to the screen controller and keyboard, games can be played even without peripherals. Picture: CHIP

Exclusive games: only here, not anywhere else

Zelda is only available from Nintendo, Control is until 2020 only in the Epic Store: If you don't own all platforms, you know the pain that you could never own all games. Streaming providers bring even more separation into play: For example, GYLT is currently only available at Stadia. Playstation titles like Uncharted or God of War, on the other hand, are only available on PS Now. Geforce Now does not currently offer any exclusive games, but it cannot be ruled out that Nvidia will also grab one or the other deal in the future. Only Shadow has no exclusive offers – but since you can access almost all digital platforms here, that's not really a loss either.

PS Now is only available on PS4 and PC. Shadow is also available for Android – so we streamed the Sony service to our smartphone via Shadow. We didn't expect a lot of performance, but the combo worked surprisingly well. Picture: CHIP

Availability: Fleeting games in the digital age

Your game collection at home will not suddenly disappear. Even the games that you buy in the digital shop do not vanish in advance. However, the situation is different for cloud-based providers.

With Geforce Now you only have access to games that the platform currently supports. The 400 You will hardly be able to select all of the entries in your Steam library – even titles like Battlefield V and Shadow of the Tomb Raider are missing. There is also no guarantee that the title you played yesterday will still be playable today. Shortly after the launch, for example, Activision-Blizzard left the program. If you wanted to gamble Destiny 2, Call of Duty or World of WarCraft, you suddenly got nothing. Also Bethesda with Skyrim, Dishonored 2 and Doom (2016) had suddenly disappeared a few days later.

At Shadow, there is rather no danger. Here you get a loan computer on which you can install everything that fits on the virtual hard disk. You can play the game as long as it can be downloaded to the PC via the Internet.

Google Stadia maintains its own infrastructure, detached from other digital distributors. As a pro subscriber, you get free games that you can only access as long as you stay a subscriber – similar to Xbox Live Gold and Playstation Plus. If you buy games in Google's own store, they will remain intact, even if they eventually fly out of the store – at least that's what Google promises.

Playstation Now is too good Finally, the pure Netflix model: If a game disappears from the offer, you can no longer access it. At least with Sony's exclusive figureheads, it is quite unlikely that the titles will suddenly go missing.

Information for paranoid people: password protection

If you log on to a remote desktop that you did not set up yourself, you always give up control. At this point, there is no reason to accuse the streaming service providers of anything bad. But for the sake of completeness, we would like to point out that the service could of course record your keystrokes at any time – including your passwords for all services that you use via Geforce Now or Shadow.

So it goes on with cloud gaming

Cloud gaming is no longer in its infancy, but there is still a long way to go before the services are completely socially acceptable. The biggest obstacles are in the German market for stable and high quality streams at 50 Mbit / s and below. In the future, premium image and audio features must also count towards the capabilities of PC applications. Alternatively, it would of course be even nicer if most households had a good connection to the Internet. The available platforms also need to be expanded – Stadia and Playstation Now absolutely need apps on all mobile operating systems, and Stadia in particular should be integrated into Chromebooks as soon as possible. And Geforce Now would be a Linux and iOS support to face.

It is also important that the providers take away the fear that their games suddenly disappear. The sudden jumps at Geforce Now have seriously damaged the image of the services and gambled away trust.

If you do not expect Shadow to leave the pre-order phase, then that is it Stadia launched half-finished most under construction. As soon as Google 2020 the free version published, the market should gradually go round. We will then see whether the competition from the technology giant will stall some services – or whether there will even be some that fill the other niches.

What is cloud gaming?

With a cloud gaming service you only need minimal hardware – like a cheap laptop or on Smartphone – to stream current games in high quality via the Internet at home. High-quality graphics cards, CPUs, etc. work in the provider's data center. You usually rent the services with a monthly subscription.

How does cloud gaming work?

cloud gaming is not that different from Netflix or Amazon Prime: a compressed video file with sound is sent to your device, with the high-quality gaming equipment working in the provider's data center. The controller, mouse and keyboard are of course still at home – you only play on far-away hardware. This usually results in low control latency.

What internet speed / bandwidth do you need?

The minimum bandwidth for a nice cloud Gaming experience differs from provider to provider. PS Now is playable from 6 Mbit / s. Stadia, Shadow and Geforce Now work from 16 Mbit / s, from round 32 Mbit / s we would Recommend services only gradually. With 50 Mbit / s you are on the safe side. An even better line serves as a buffer if you want to do other things besides just gamble.

Rian Voß

Rian Voß

Rian Voß always has the latest developments in graphics cards and CPUs in mind and writes about everything that conjures up pretty pictures on the monitor. His other passion is household electronics: from simple kettles to smart vacuum robots, he tests what makes everyday life easier.

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