Roomba S9 vs. Roborock S5 Max

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max

For a long time, iRobot has been a market leader in robotic vacuums, but other brands have come in to challenge them.

One of which is Roborock, and in this article, we’ll be looking closely at the top-spec Roomba S9+ and mid-priced Roborock S5 Max.

The Roomba S9+ is currently the best-in-class vacuuming robot I’ve tested.

In comparison, the Roborock S5 Max is one of the best value-for-money options.

And it’s the first robot I’ve reviewed with a proper electronic water tank, making it one of the best robot vacuum and mop hybrids.

I’ve spent many hours testing these robots individually to check how each performs in various categories like cleaning, navigation, and more.

A quick look at the Roomba S9+ and Roborock S5 Max

I did independent tests with these two robots and summarized the results below.

Airflow is taken using an anemometer at the brush assembly to measure air velocity going through the roller.

It’s not an entirely accurate reading, but it’s one way of checking power where it matters most – the brush roll.

I rubbed 100 grams of sand on mid-pile carpet for deep cleaning to see how much of it these robots pick up.

Noise levels are taken using a sound meter from a few feet away.

There are other variables with loudness, such as the pitch, that can’t be measured by a sound meter, but I’ll try to explain it in the noise comparison section.

Roomba S9+

Roomba S9+
  • Airflow: 25 CFM
  • Deep cleaning: 93%
  • Navigation: VLSAM
  • Self-empty: Yes
  • Map saving: Yes
  • Number of maps: 10
  • Containment: Yes
  • Selective Room cleaning: Yes
  • Recharge & Resume: Yes
  • Brush roll: Dual rubber extractors
  • Dustbin capacity: 500ml
  • Mopping: No
  • Water tank capacity: N/A
  • Side brush: One
  • Battery: 3200 mAh Li-ion
  • Run time: 75 minutes
  • Noise: 74.1 dB

Roborock S5 Max

  • Airflow: 17.74 CFM
  • Deep Cleaning: 84.75%
  • Navigation: LIDAR
  • Self-empty: No
  • Bag capacity: N/A
  • Map saving: Yes
  • Number of maps: 4
  • Containment: Yes
  • Selective Room cleaning: Yes
  • Recharge & Resume: Yes
  • Brush roll: Combo brush
  • Dustbin capacity: 460ml
  • Mopping: Yes
  • Water tank capacity: 290ml
  • Type: Electronic
  • Side brush: One
  • Battery: 5200 mAh Li-ion
  • Run time: 180 minutes
  • Noise: 62.4 dB

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Introduction to the Roomba S9+ and Roborock S5 Max

Roomba and Roborock are two of the more popular brands in the robot vacuum space.

Each has its core beliefs, and you can see it in how they design their products.

iRobot believes in simplicity and robustness, which was the case with most of their products before the Roomba 980.

All iRobot variants before the 900-series were random navigating robots that pinball around.

First iRobot with a D-Shape: Roomba S9+

Roomba S9

That changed with the Roomba 980, and the S9+ is a radical change with iRobot’s direction.

It utilizes a D-shape frame, something that their main competitor, Neato, uses, and I was surprised to see it in a Roomba product when it was launched.

Pros

  • Best-in-class vacuuming performance (hard floors and carpet)
  • Excellent at deep cleaning carpet (93% average)
  • 9.8 inch wide extractors pick up debris cleanly
  • The self-emptying feature adds a lot of convenience of not having to empty the dustbin manually
  • Utilizes iRobot’s smart imprint technology, so it can save maps and has access to zoned and selective room cleaning

Cons

  • Crazy expensive
  • Large motor and dual extractors make it very loud
  • Short run time of just 75 minutes
  • VSLAM isn’t as precise as LIDAR

The new shape enabled iRobot engineers to put in wider extractors and relocate the side brush to a more favorable position upfront.

All these upgrades, plus the uptick in power, propels the Roomba S9+ into a league of its own with cleaning performance.

I’ve said this in my other reviews, and I’ll repeat it here. It’s the best performing vacuuming robot vacuum I’ve tested so far on hard floors and carpet.

Another element that the S9+ has over the Roborock S5 Max is the clean base station that empties the robot’s dustbin for you.

Roomba ramp

This self-emptying feature is another aspect iRobot has perfected. iRobot wasn’t the first to have this idea, but they were the first to mass-produce it successfully.

Regardless, the Roomba S9+ isn’t as popular as the Roomba I6+/I7+ since it’s costly. But if you’re willing to pay for the cleaning performance, it could be worth it if you don’t mind the issues.

Better Precision and Versatility: Roborock S5 Max

Roborock S5 Max

Roborock founder Richard Chang decided to create his own robot vacuum (in 2014) after not satisfied with the 20 models he bought and tested.

Hence Roborock was born, adding never before seen features in robotic vacuums, particularly containment and navigation.

Pros

  • Much cheaper than the Roomba S9+
  • More efficient navigation thanks to LIDAR and the SLAM algorithm
  • Better versatility since it can also mop floors
  • LIDAR enables it to be more efficient than any Roomba option

Cons

  • Doesn’t deep clean as well
  • No auto-empty dock

In a way, it opened the floodgates and fast-tracked the rise of other brands like Dreame, Viomi, Wzye, and much more.

The S5 Max, represents that vision when Roborock was founded in 2014.

It’s the first robot vacuum I’ve tested with a true electronic water tank.

Roborock S5 Max Water Tank

Before it, nothing I tried had the same efficiency and were just gimmicks, but the S5 Max tank proved its worth in numerous experiments I did on different stain types.

One feature the S5 Max has over the Roomba S9+ is navigation, thanks to LIDAR.

I’ve tested many robots over the past few years. Laser robots (in most cases) are far more efficient with traversing and precise with map creation.

Most camara-based robots like Roomba (except for the Yeedi Vac Station) don’t do as well and struggle to keep up.

It’s better at avoiding obstacles, taking full advantage of LIDAR’s 360-scanning ability.

But it won’t be as good as the Roomba, especially on carpet.

However, the variance isn’t much and doesn’t reflect the price difference.

This model doubles as a robot mop, and it’s one of the best at mopping floors thanks to its thorough three-pass run and efficient water usage.

Roborock S5 Max mopping module attached

Only the Roborock S7 did better, primarily because it had the vibrating pad. Plus, it costs much more with the auto-empty dock.

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05/12/2021 09:52 am GMT

Similarities of the Roomba S9+ and Roborock S5 Max

Let’s quickly go through the similarities of both robots.

1. Smart navigation

Both models have smart navigation, meaning it moves in straight lines. iRobot coins it “neat rows.”

Roomba and Roborock utilized SLAM but with variations.

The S9+ relies on VSLAM (or Visual SLAM), which relies on a top-mounted camera, floor sensors, and SLAM for mapping and tracking location.

In comparison, the Roborock S5 Max uses LIDAR and SLAM.

Both have recharge and resume, so it continues cleaning after recharging until it finishes the task.

2. Map saving

Thanks to SLAM, these robots can save maps. iRobot app can save up to ten, while Roborock saves up to four.

Consumers can customize each map level by adding partitions, containment and naming them for quick identification.

3. Containment

Lastly is containment. Each robot has its own version of a containment feature, blocking the robots from entering off-limit areas.

The Roborock app offers more options with invisible walls and no-go zones.

iRobot only has the latter but instead calls it keep-out zones.

Differences between the Roomba S9+ and Roborock S5 Max

Next, let’s look at how these robots differ, and there’s plenty.

1. Navigational algorithm

I mentioned earlier that these robots are similar because both are smart navigating robots, but the similarity ends there.

The Roomba S9+ utilizes VSLAM, while Roborock uses SLAM.

What’s the difference?

VSLAM is heavily reliant on a top-mounted camera to take snapshots of its surroundings and remember (what iRobot terms) “landmarks.”

If you’ve taken Photographs before, you’ll quickly learn that a camera is heavily reliant on light.

Light plays a huge factor in photo quality.

It’s the case with VSLAM robots like the S9+. You’ll need to turn on the lights for it to create the map and navigate properly.

Another facet that hinders VSLAM is how the camera operates.

The S9+ camera faces upward and doesn’t fire any signals around the robot.

So iRobot had to add another device – an optical sensor to help it measure distance, mark borders, and track location.

It’s a similar sensor used in cheaper smart robots like the Roomba I3+ and Roborock E4.

One huge downside to this is the lack of accuracy with map creation and overreliance on a light.

iRobot used floor tracking sensors as a redundant technology to traverse through low light areas, but it won’t be as efficient.

Roborock doesn’t have this issue as the S5 Max uses LIDAR or a laser sensor, making it more precise and will work even in pitch black conditions.

LIDAR’s 360-degree scanning ability gives that edge over camera sensors.

The continued firing of infrared signals helps Roborock create maps more efficiently and precisely.

If you look at the map screenshots below, the difference is evident.

2. Containment

This variance piggybacks to the navigational technology used.

Aside from precise map creation, LIDAR robots have more containment options – like the use of invisible walls.

Roborock S5 Max invisible wall

These are lines drawn on the map that block the robot from going past it.

What makes it highly useful is creating diagonal lines, adding more to the areas you can block.

Technically, iRobot has a virtual wall, but it’s a physical device that fires a signal to a range of about 10 feet or a four-foot diameter keep-out zone to block stuff within its radius.

It’s an added expense purchasing it plus the batteries over time.

My preference would be the app version since it does the job and offers more options to consumers.

Both models also have containment boxes to block a square or rectangular area.

iRobot calls this keep-out zones, while Roborock coins it no-go zones.

3. Shape

The Roomba S9+ is the only iRobot option with a D-shape, similar to a Neato BotVac.

This upgrade, plus the upgrades, enables it to vacuum better than any robot I’ve tested.

In comparison, the Roborock S5 Max utilizes a more traditional round frame.

4. Brush design and layout

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max brush design and layout

Flip the robots, and you’ll see how the shape affects its design.

The Roborock S9+ has these wide extractors spanning nearly the entire width.

With a tape measure, it was around 9.8 inches wide, broader than any robot vacuum except the Neato Botvac.

The Roborock S5 Max brush only measures around 6.5 inches or 30% narrower than the S9+.

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max brush comparison

Another noticeable difference is the side brush.

Roomba’s side brush has a smaller diameter having two more prongs, while Roborock has an all-rubber, three-pronged side brush.

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max side brush comparison

Both spin slow enough, so it doesn’t scatter as much debris around.

5. Dustbin size and design

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max dustbin inside robot

Another advantage of the S9+ is the larger capacity dustbin at 500 milliliters versus the S5 Max’s 460 milliliters.

It’s not only bigger, but it also has a broader opening with scissor-style hinges on the side, making it easier to empty.

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max dustbin open

With the clean base station, dirt volume shouldn’t be much of an issue as it adds to the capacity by a factor of 30 (depending on how you use it).

Roborock’s dustbin is not only smaller but it has a narrower opening.

Not an issue when disposing of dirt, but it can be when cleaning.

Both utilize a high-efficiency filter that helps keep allergens at bay while running.

But the S9+ bagged system ensures allergens stay inside it when emptying.

There’s no exposure to dust or dirt since the bag seals itself when you pull it out.

6. Clean base station

Roomba S9+ base station

Only the Roomba S9+ has the option for a self-emptying dock, while the Roborock S5 Max does not.

You’ll have to look at the S7+ if you want a Roborock with an auto-empty dock.

7. Battery and run time

All new Roborock products utilize a high capacity 5200 mAh Lithium-ion battery with a claimed run time of 180 minutes.

I like the Roborock battery because it holds a charge longer than iRobot’s lithium-ion battery that loses its charge if not in use.

The Roomba S9+ uses a large-capacity 3200 mAh li-ion battery, nearly twice the Roomba I6 and I3 capacity.

Roomba S9 battery out

However, the powerful motor limits its run time to around 75 minutes. I tested it at the max setting, and the run time was reduced to approximately 45 minutes.

App features

The Roomba S9+ and Roborock S5 Max have smartphone apps, unlocking all the features we’ll closely look at in this section.

While there are similarities between the two, there are much more variances.

So I’ll highlight notable features only available in each app.

1. Live map [Roborock S5 Max]

Roborock S5 Max live map

One huge advantage a LIDAR-based robot has over a camera-based robot is the live map.

This feature shows users in real-time the robot’s exact location and cleaning status through the lines.

The only VSLAM robot I’ve tested with a live map is the Yeedi Vac Station, and it still pails in comparison with the Roborock version.

2. Invisible wall [Roborock S5 Max]

Roborock S5 Max invisible wall

In addition to the live map, the S5 Max has the invisible wall feature or the option to draw straight or diagonal lines for blocking off-limit zones.

3. Containment boxes [Both]

Roomba S9 vs Roborock S5 Max containment boxes

iRobot and Roborock have access to containment but with different names for blocking square or rectangular areas.

It’s an excellent tool for securing smaller zones like the kitty litter or your toddler’s play area.

As I’ve said earlier, iRobot calls it keep-out zones, and Roborock calls it no-go zones.

The Roborock also has another variation called the no-mop zone, which has a similar function but blocks the robot from mopping selected zones.

4. Mapping run [Roomba S9+]

Roomba S9 mapping run

iRobot has a feature they call the mapping run where the robot goes into an exploratory mode with the vacuum motor shut off.

One purpose for this feature is to maximize the range and capture the map as quickly as possible.

To get the most out of it, you’ll have to ensure the area is well lit, open all doors, and remove any obstacles.

5. Map saving [Both]

The iRobot and Roborock apps have map saving. iRobot wins this category since it can save (up to) ten map levels, while Roborock can only save a max of four.

However, the Roborock app has the automatic map detection feature, so it loads the correct map, based on its initial scan.

6. Clean zones [Roomba S9+]

Roomba S9 clean zones

One feature in the iRobot app not available with Roborock is clean zones.

What sets the iRobot’s zoned cleaning feature apart from Roborock is the option to save it for quick reference.

The Roborock app has a similar zoned cleaning feature, but users can’t save it, unlike the iRobot version.

7. Custom room naming [Both]

Both apps have custom room naming, so users will not be limited to a fixed list and have more options for naming different areas.

8. Scheduling [Both]

These apps also offer a scheduling feature to automate the vacuuming process fully.

One benefit of the S9+ is its auto-empty dock that empties the robot’s dustbin after it docks, so folks don’t need to do this menial task.

The S5 Max doesn’t have the self-emptying feature, so users will have to empty the dustbin by hand.

Nonetheless, iRobot’s scheduling feature has one quirk. There’s a minimum gap of three hours between runs.

Roborock’s app does not have this limitation, so you can schedule as often as needed.

Navigation comparison

These robots have intelligent navigation and will move in straight lines, but there are two main differences.

The Roomba S9+ relies on a top-mounted camera, floor sensors, and VSLAM for navigation, while the S5 Max has LIDAR and SLAM.

I’d go with LIDAR between the two since it offers better precision with map creation and location tracking.

Laser sensors don’t rely on light, so the S5 Max is usable in total darkness, whereas the S9+ needs illumination to function optimally.

Coverage test

The Roomba S9+ is better with the amount of debris vacuumed per pass despite the not-so-efficient navigation.

It picked up nearly every crumb of debris by the end of the first pass, beating nearly every other brand in this category.

Roborock’s narrow brush roll hurts it somewhat as it didn’t have the same wide cleaning path.

But it’s the second-best robot vacuum with how cleanly it picks up dirt.

It’s better than other brands I’ve tested like Ecovacs, DreameTech, Yeedi, and Shark, to name a few in this torture test.

Airflow comparison

Power setting
Roomba S9+
Power setting
Roomba S9+
Low
11.33 CFM
Quiet
9.8 CFM
Mid
14.52 CFM
Balanced
12.49 CFM
Max
25 CFM
Turbo
15.68 CFM
N/A
Max
17.74 CFM

One reason why the Roomba S9+ cleans so well is its high airflow. It has the most (so far) of all the robot vacuums I’ve tested at 25 CFM.

In comparison, the Roborock S5 Max has up to 17.74 CFM based on the anemometer test.

But despite airflow advantage, there isn’t much difference between the Roomba S9+ and Roborock S5 Max in the cleaning tests.

Cleaning performance

Model
Roomba S9+
Roborock S5 Max
Overall
97.93%
94.68%
Hard Floor
99.5%
100%
Sand on hard floor
100%
99.8%
Carpet (Surface Pickup)
99.25%
99.31%
Carpet (Deep Cleaning)
93%
84.75%

Wow, as I was crunching the numbers, I didn’t expect the S9+ and S5 Max to be this close.

Roomba’s high airflow only gave it an advantage on two areas – sand on hard floor and deep cleaning test.

And there wasn’t much difference with the sand test since the variance is too little (only half a percent).

One thing going for Roborock is the extra pass it has, as it could go around up to three times.

None of the other brands I’ve reviewed has that third-pass, even Roomba.

Which robot is better on hard floors?

Based on these tests, it’s too close to call, with the Roomba S9+ better at cleaning sand and the S5 Max picking up more with the other debris (on average).

The S9+’s high airflow wasn’t a deciding factor against the S5 Max as other brands, which wasn’t a surprise as the Roborock S7 also did better versus the S9.

Edge cleaning comparison

The Roomba S9+’s square front is the best robot I’ve tested so far at cleaning edges. It’s also the most efficient, only needing one pass to pick up nearly all the debris.

Roomba S9 edge cleaning

Roborock’s round frame isn’t as optimal for cleaning dirt on this area as it left this much.

Hair wrap comparison

Model
Roomba S9+
Roborock S5 Max
5-inch strands
81%
95%
7-inch strands
82%
48%

Results with the hair wrap test are mixed as the Roborock S5 Max did better with the five-inch test, whereas the Roomba S9+ picked up more seven-inch strands.

Roomba S9 seven-inch hair wrap

This experiment shows that Roomba’s extractors aren’t maintenance-free and hair will wrap on the axles.

Roomba S9 five-inch hair on axles

Longer strands can wrap on the roller, but not having any bristles makes cleaning much easier.

Roborock’s combo brush is also is simple to clean (no need for scissors), but not as easy as a Roomba.

Roborock S5 Max brush after 7-inch hair wrap test

Which is better on carpet?

Again, it’s a close one, but I’d give the slight edge to the Roomba S9+ since it picked up more during the deep cleaning test (93% vs 84.75%).

But the S5 Max was still excellent with picking up surface debris, scoring higher than the S9+, which is a feat considering the airflow gap.

Mopping comparison

Not a contest since the Roomba S9+ doesn’t have this feature.

And its this versatility elevates the Roborock S5 Max over most of its peers in this price bracket.

It’s one of the best (if not the best) robot vacuums at mopping floors, behind only the Roborock S7.

Here are the results.

Roborock S5 Max on red wine stains

Even with large red wine stains, it did well and cleaned most of it after one three-pass cycle.

It’s this three-pass run that separates it from the competition, even the Viomi V3.

If mopping is a priority and you don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars more on the Braava, then strongly consider the Roborock S5 Max.

Even with the positive results, I wouldn’t recommend using the S5 Max on heavy, sugary stains since it’ll leave a stick residue.

Run time comparison

The S5 Max wins this category, running much further, up to 180 minutes in the lowest power setting.

This isn’t a surprise since Roborock utilizes a higher capacity battery than iRobot at 5200 mAh.

Roomba’s high-powered motor hurts it in this category and will run for a max of 75 minutes and around 45 minutes with the max setting.

I wouldn’t recommend the Roomba inside large homes since it’ll take longer to finish the whole area.

Noise comparison

Another negative consequence of the S9’s powerful motor is the noise.

Power setting
Roborock S5 Max
Power setting
Roomba S9+
Quiet
58.2 dB
Low
66.3 dB
Balanced
59.3 dB
Mid
68.5 dB
Turbo
61.2 dB
Max
74.1 dB
Max

62.4 dB

It tipped the sound meter scale at over 74 decibels, while the S5 Max didn’t even crack the 64-decibel mark.

Roomba products are notoriously noisy, which is a negative effect of the dual rollers.

Maintenance

All robot vacuums will need some upkeep to function optimally over the long haul, and these models aren’t exempt from it.

I’ll quickly run through a list of items you need to clean and replace.

  1. Primary brush roll: It’s the most abused component since it’s responsible for debris pick up. Clean it once a week using a clean microfiber towel.
  2. Side brush: Next most abused part is the side brush, as hair tends to wrap on the tentacles and base. Detach to clean any build-up once a week or more if you have pets.
  3. Dustbin and filter: Empty the dustbin after every run (for the S5 Max). If you’re purchasing the S9+ with the clean base station, this won’t be a daily chore, but you’ll have to check once a month and clean any debris build-up. Tap the filter on a solid surface to dislodge dirt sticking on the folds. Replace it once every two or three months.
  4. Drop sensors: Wipe these sensors once a month to clean dust build-up.
  5. Robot body: Use a clean, dry microfiber towel to wipe the robot’s body as dust and fingerprint smudges accumulate over time.
  6. Clean base station: Roomba owners should dispose of the bag and replace it once full. And keep the inlet port free from any obstructions.

Availability of Parts

iRobot is the winner here since it’s probably the most popular option here.

Consumers will have countless options for purchase parts, both consumables (filter, brush, bag) and hard-to-find items from third-part manufacturers and iRobot.

Roborock customers won’t enjoy that much variety, but more and more brands are selling S5 Max-specific parts since it has grown in popularity.

But components like the battery or the side brush motor will be harder to find.

Product Specifications

Model
Roomba S9+
Roborock S5 Max
Roomba S9+
Roborock S5 Max
Width
12.6"
13.8"
Height
3.5"
3.8"
Filter
High-Efficiency
High-Efficiency
Navigation
Smart Navigation
Smart Navigation
Run time
75 mins.
180 mins.
Recharge and Resume
Yes
Yes
Map Saving
Yes
Yes
Number of Maps
10
4
Dustbin capacity
500 ml
460 ml
Auto empty capacity
2.5-liters
N/A
Water tank capacity
N/A
297 ml
Airflow
25 CFM (Max)
17.74 CFM
Warranty
1-year limited
1-year limited
Price

Where can I buy these robots?

The Roborock S5 Max and Roomba S9+ are available in online stores like Amazon. Check the links below for the latest pricing information.

  • Roomba S9+ on Amazon (with clean base station)
  • Roomba S9 on Amazon (no clean base station)
  • Roborock S5 Max on Amazon

Disclaimer: I will earn a commission if you purchase through the links above, but at no extra cost to you, so it’s a win-win for us!

Which is the better option, Roomba S9+ or the Roborock S5 Max?

In my recent comparisons, I’d lean towards the Roomba S9+ because of its advantages with cleaning performance.

This isn’t the case with this comparison, as the S5 Max held its own in most of the tests.

Roomba only won in two of the five main cleaning categories: sand on hard floors and deep cleaning tests.

And it didn’t win by much with the sand experiment.

Its only advantage is deep cleaning, where the high airflow and dual extractors shine.

4 Reasons to choose the Roomba S9+

  1. Prioritize carpet cleaning: The S9’s high airflow, dirt detect, and wide extractors, enable it to score the highest in deep cleaning tests.
  2. Self-empty convenience: iRobot’s clean base station offers an auto-empty aspect not found in the S5 Max.
  3. Better at edge cleaning: The square front and wide cleaning path make the S9 the more efficient option for this zone.
  4. Part availability: iRobot sells a lot of the parts, not just consumables but also internal components.

5 Reasons to choose the Roborock S5 Max

  1. Much cheaper: The S5 Max won’t cost as much as the Roomba S9+, but it cleans almost as well.
  2. More versatile: It has a mopping feature not found in any Roomba product and does it excellently.
  3. Better navigational algorithm: Roborock’s algorithm is more efficient and precise thanks to the LIDAR sensor and SLAM.
  4. Extended run time: I’d go with the S5 Max inside larger homes since it will run longer and have better efficiency.
  5. Better app features: The Roborock app offers better features and more frequent updates.

The Verdict: Roborock is the Better Option Unless

After testing these robots extensively, I have to go for the Roborock S5 Max for several reasons.

It has smarter and more efficient navigation, better app features, and it can mop floors!

And despite the airflow discrepancy, it’s almost vacuumed floors as well as the S9+.

The clincher for me is the price, making the Roborock S5 Max one of the best value-for-money alternatives.

I’d only recommend the Roomba S9+ if you need the self-emptying feature and you high-prioritize its deep cleaning ability in a small home.

Other than that, save the $$$ and go with the Roborock S5 Max.

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