Milwaukee M18 2850-20 vs Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 (Gen 4)

Milwaukee 2850-20 Angle 5

Milwaukee 2850-20

Quick take

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 is the better impact driver for most people, though it is more expensive. Both impact drivers are impressively compact. However, the 2953-20 is faster driving lag bolts, pushes out more torque, and includes four drive modes for more versatility and precision. The primary reason to opt for the 2850-20 is the slightly lighter weight and to save money.

Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 850.2
IPM 4,200.0
Drive modes 1
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as -
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 1,236.0
IPM 4,400.0
Drive modes 4
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as M18 gen 4

Editorial opinion

Rating

3.79 / 5 ⭐️’s

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Brushless motor
  • Great driving speed
  • High impacts per minute
  • Long tool and battery warranty

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Single drive mode
  • Requires two hands to change bits

Rating

4.72 / 5 ⭐️’s

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Best-in-class driving performance
  • Versatile drive modes improve accuracy
  • Compact footprint fits into tight spaces
  • Brushless motor improves efficiency and durability
  • Long tool and battery warranty

Cons

  • Poor battery run time

Global rankings

21 models tested

TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)14.75
Torque (in-lbs)850.23
Battery run time (min.)38.014
RPM3,240.06
Bare weight (lbs)2.018
Impacting noise (dBA)96.810
TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)11.21
Torque (in-lbs)1,236.01
Battery run time (min.)26.018
RPM3,788.01
Bare weight (lbs)2.2017
Impacting noise (dBA)95.25

Kit and bare tool options

2850-21P

Includes (1) M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

2850-22CT

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

2850-20

Bare tool

Lab results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright w/o battery: Yes
Stands upright w/ battery: Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Handle angle (deg.): 75.0
Head angle (deg.): 90.0

The 2850-20 has no bit holder or magnetic fastener holder for convenience. Those are rare but nice-to-have convenience features that most impact drivers forego. Ryobi impact drivers more commonly include a bit holder and/or magnetic fastener built into their tools instead of requiring you to buy aftermarket holders.

Otherwise, the grip is wrapped in a rubber overmold that reduces shock and vibration. The forward-leaning handle angle is also one of the more aggressive stances, giving you more reach in specific scenarios.

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright w/o battery: Yes
Stands upright w/ battery: Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Handle angle (deg.): 75.0
Head angle (deg.): 90.0

The 2953-20 stands upright with and without a battery and has a moderately aggressive forward lean, providing ample reach in certain driving situations. The entire grip is also covered in a soft rubber overmold for shock absorption. The quality of the overmold feels noticeably more premium than most impact drivers, including within Milwaukee’s M12 and M18 lineup.

The included belt hook is mountable on either side, but no bit holder is included and there’s no onboard magnetic fastener storage. Several Ryobi impact drivers have these built-in features, which would enhance the 2953-20’s versatility.

Weight

Milwaukee 2850-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.01
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 2.96
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 3.62

The bare tool weight is moderately light for an 18V impact driver. It isn’t as lightweight as other drivers with a battery when adding Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery, which is a slightly heavier 2Ah battery than several different manufacturers.

The working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup. To keep it lightweight, we recommend combining the 2850-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for a good balance of performance and weight.

If weight is less of a concern, pair the 2850-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance.

Compare weight test results

Weight

Milwaukee 2953-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.20
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 3.15
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 3.81

The 2853-20 is designed for brute performance, not reducing weight. In its bare tool form and with a battery, it’s a reasonably heavy impact driver.

The working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup, which is why we tested the weight in different configurations. To keep it lightweight, we recommend combining the 2953-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for a good balance of performance and weight.

If weight is less of a concern, pair the 2953-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance.

Compare weight test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2850-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2850-20 Footprint2

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.625
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Collet to back length (in.): 5.125
Base length (bare tool, in.): 3.125
Base width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.500
Handle circumference (in.): 5.125

The 2850-20 has a middle-of-the-road compact design that makes it versatile for tasks around the home. One of the more essential measurements, the collet-to-back length, isn’t too long, giving you solid clearance in tight spaces.

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Footprint

Milwaukee 2953-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2953-20 Footprint2

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.875
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Collet to back length (in.): 4.375
Base length (bare tool, in.): 3.250
Base width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.500
Handle circumference (in.): 5.125

The 2953-20 has an incredibly compact stubby-like head, rivaling the collet-to-back length of many sub-compacts. However, it’s a bulky tool viewed from certain angles. The max width and height are somewhat extended.

Compare footprint test results

Motor

Motor: Brushless
Impacts per minute: 4,200.0

The 2850-20’s advertised 4,200 impacts per minute is high for an impact driver. Our in-house driving speed tests demonstrated that the elevated number of blows results in exceptional driving performance at this price point.

The 2850-20 also Includes a brushless motor, which helps with battery life, smoothes out driving performance, and should improve long-term durability. However, we haven’t tested the multi-year durability to confirm its shelf life.

Motor

Motor: Brushless
Impacts per minute: 4,400.0

The 2953-20 includes Milwaukee’s Powerstate brushless motor, which improves driving efficiency, battery performance, and durability over comparable brushed motors.

The high advertised impacts per minute, combined with its torque and RPM profile, explain why the 2953-20 so capably breezes through heavy-duty tasks, as demonstrated in our driving tests.

Drive modes

Drive modes: 1
Drive mode 1:  High speed 
Drive mode 2:  N/A 
Drive mode 3:  N/A 
Drive mode 4:  N/A 
Variable speed trigger: Yes

One critical missing factor is that 2850-20 includes only one drive mode, though the variable speed trigger helps in scenarios where a lighter driving force is needed. Additional drive modes would improve the driving versatility, albeit increasing the price tag.

The Makita 18V LXT XDT14Z and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887 are good alternatives with more driving versatility.

Drive modes

Milwaukee 2953-20 Drive Modes

Drive modes: 4
Drive mode 1:  High speed 
Drive mode 2:  Medium speed 
Drive mode 3:  Low speed 
Drive mode 4:  Self-tapping 
Variable speed trigger: Yes

Four driving modes on the 2953-20 improve driving versatility over single-mode models. Drive modes we label as 1, 2, 3, and 4 correspond to high speed, medium speed, low speed, and self-tapping screw modes. The advertised impacts per minute for the speed modes are 4300.0, 3400.0, and 1200.0, respectively.

Drive mode 1 is ideal for heavy-duty tasks, such as driving lag bolts, decking screws, and structural screws. This mode doesn’t offer a clean and accurate screw finish with such high torque and speed.

However, drive mode 2 offers better accuracy while retaining solid torque. This driving mode has sufficient power to drive screws into dimensional lumber, treated lumber, plywood, and hard and softwood.

Drive mode 3 is ideal for the most accurate and consistent screw finish in most materials, including harder woods and dimensional lumber.

The 2953-20 is more powerful across each drive mode than competing models set to equivalent high, medium, and low-speed modes. This powerful performance profile explains why we suggest using the low-speed mode to finish screws. In contrast, we typically prefer using the medium-speed mode to accurately recess screws with other, less powerful impact drivers.

In the self-tapping mode, the collet spins until impacting and stops shortly after. Milwaukee has optimized this setting for driving #8, #10, and #12 self-tapping screws between 1/2-inch to 1-inch in 18-22 gauge sheet metal.

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 14.7
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 2.9
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 11.0
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 2.2

In our driving speed tests, few impact drivers we’ve tested broke the threshold of averaging less than three seconds per screw. The 2850-20’s high impacts per minute undoubtedly explain some of the performance, particularly when finishing the last leg of driving long lag bolts and structural screws.

Higher-end models, such as the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20, Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z, and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845, beat out the 2850-20 with impressive driving speed performance.

Compare driving speed test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 11.2
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 2.2
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 8.7
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.7

Milwaukee generated impressive driving speed performance in our heavy-duty tests. The 2953-20 powerfully drives big screws and lag bolts, resulting in one of the fastest results driving GRK screws in our speed test. The 2953-20 is among the few impact drivers to buy if brute force driving power is essential.

Also consider the Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845 for impressive driving performance.

While the 2953-20 offers solid accuracy and driving versatility in its class, we don’t recommend it as an all-around impact driver around the home. It is overpowered for many DIY tasks.

Compare driving speed test results

Torque

Milwaukee 2850-20 Torquemeter
Milwaukee 2850-20 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 850.2
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): N/A
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): N/A
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

Torque output is one of the calling card features of the 2850-20, as evidenced in our testing. The 2850-20 generated some of the highest torque output we’ve seen in the 18V class, impressive for such a modestly-priced impact driver.

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 offers considerably more torque and better handles demanding applications, should you be looking for best-in-class performance.

Compare torque test results

Torque

Milwaukee 2953-20 Torquemeter
Milwaukee 2953-20 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 1,236.0
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): 857.4
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): 390.6
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

The 2953-20 is a torque beast, generating the highest torque output we measured among the best impact drivers in our test fleet. It did so by a long shot as well, which is impressive in such a compact and agile footprint.

The torque output isn’t surprising since this is Milwaukee’s flagship gen-4 impact driver that’s designed for brute force over all else. The performance is even more impressive knowing the robust torque profile doesn’t come at the expense of slow driving performance. The 2953-20 shines at both, partly explaining its high price tag and why many pros carry it in their tool belt.

Compare torque test results

Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 38.0
Battery tested: 18V Red Lithium CP 2Ah (48-11-1820)
Voltage: 18

One letdown of the 2850-20 is the run time performance in our battery tests. The brushless motor significantly improves run time over comparable brushed motors. But 38 minutes of no-load battery run time isn’t much to write home about, especially considering that some cheaper impact drivers have a longer battery run time, more driving mode versatility, and higher torque.

Expect running with any of Milwaukee’s higher Ah 18V batteries to increase run time, but still lag behind other impact drivers running a similar Ah setup.

The Ryobi 18V One+ P237 is an excellent alternative budget option with better run time and several drive modes. The Makita 18V LXT XDT13Z is a better pick than the 2850-20 due to the Makita’s exceptional battery performance at a comparative price point.

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Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 26.0
Battery tested: 18V Red Lithium CP 2Ah (48-11-1820)
Voltage: 18

The 2953-20 had underwhelming no-load run time performance in our test, the primary letdown we came across.We tested battery run time with the 2Ah battery version. With a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery, expect the battery run time to continue underperforming competing models running the same Ah setup. However, run time is significantly improved over the 2Ah battery.

At the same time, we recognize the limitations of our run-time tests that don’t currently test battery performance under load. Once testing the battery performance under load, we’ll update this review.

Compare battery test results

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M18 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, 6Ah, 8Ah, and 12Ah batteries in its M18 lineup. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves driving performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Having at least two batteries in your setup is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah and a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for most M18 impact driver setups for a good performance, price, and size balance.

Many Milwaukee impact drivers come in kits with a hybrid 12V and 18V charger in one, which conveniently saves space in your shop if you have multiple tools in the ecosystem.

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M18 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, 6Ah, 8Ah, and 12Ah batteries in its M18 lineup. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves driving performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Having at least two batteries in your setup is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah and a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for most M18 impact driver setups for a good performance, price, and size balance.

Many Milwaukee impact drivers come in kits with chargers that charge multiple voltage batteries in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Charging time

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 98.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 20.1
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Milwaukee M12 and M18 multi-volt charger (model 48-59-1812) included in most kits is reasonably fast at charging batteries, including to beat out team red’s most frequent adversary, Dewalt. It takes 41 minutes to charge an M18 2Ah battery and 98 minutes for a 5Ah battery, or approximately 20 minutes per amp-hour.

Milwaukee’s 48-59-1812 charger charges multiple battery voltages in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Compare charging test results

Charging time

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 98.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 20.1
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Milwaukee M12 and M18 multi-volt charger (model 48-59-1812) included in most kits is reasonably fast at charging batteries, including to beat out team red’s most frequent adversary, Dewalt. It takes 41 minutes to charge an M18 2Ah battery and 98 minutes for a 5Ah battery, or approximately 20 minutes per amp-hour.

Milwaukee’s 48-59-1812 charger charges multiple battery voltages in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Compare charging test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2850-20 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 3,240.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 3,139.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.):  N/A 
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.):  N/A 
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.):  N/A 

The 2850-20 achieved solid results in our RPM tests. The high RPM performance is a con, especially with only one drive mode, but it can be a helpful feature in certain situations. The high RPM sets fasteners quickly into your workpiece.

But such a high RPM too frequently results in cam-out. The cam-out potential is exacerbated by the fact that there’s a single drive mode, leaving the cam-out possibility to how delicately or not you feather the variable speed trigger.

There is no significant RPM difference between forward and reverse driving, unlike some impact drivers that increase the reverse RPM to remove stubborn screws more easily.

Compare RPM test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2953-20 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 3,788.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): 2,874.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): 1,427.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): 3,334.0
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 3,735.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.): 2,905.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.): 1,560.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.): 3,177.0

The 2953-20’s impressive driving performance is also a result of its RPM profile. The max RPM confidently drives screws and lag bolts quickly, albeit risking cam-out in the highest speed setting.

There is no meaningful RPM difference in forward or reverse. Some impact drivers increase RPM in the reverse direction for specialty drive modes to power through loosening stubborn nuts and deeply embedded screws.

Compare RPM test results

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.750
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.125
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.125

We don’t recommend the 2850-20 if you consistently drive fasteners in tight spaces. A sub-compact or smaller footprint compact impact driver can squeeze into tighter spaces, especially if they have shorter collet to back lengths.

Compare driving clearance test results

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.375
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.250
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 5.750

The 2953-20 performed well in our clearance tests, especially for such a powerful impact driver. It impressed most in our interior 45-degree and width tests, finishing near the top of the pack, making it a solid all-around choice to squeeze into tight spaces.

Compare driving clearance test results

Noise

2850-20 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 83.7
Max impacting noise (dBA): 96.8

Our noise performance tests demonstrate that the 2850-20 is not a quiet impact driver.

If you want a comparatively quiet impact driver, consider hydraulic models, such as the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 or Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20.

The Ryobi 18V One+ P237 and Ryobi 18V One+ PBLID02 are worth considering if you want to squeeze out a few decibels of lower noise at a similar price point and with equivalent driving performance.

Compare noise test results

Noise

2953-20 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 86.4
Max impacting noise (dBA): 95.2

No impact driver peacefully says hello when impacting. But the 2953-20 is quieter than many other models when impacting.

Jump to Milwaukee’s Fuel Surge lineup for best-in-class noise performance, albeit lower torque. The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are hydraulic impact drivers with quieter impacts.

Compare noise test results

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 37.6
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 1.9

Compare vibration test results

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 26.4
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 1.9

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Light

Milwaukee 2850-20 Light
Milwaukee 2850-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 1
Light time delay (sec.): 10.0

The light on the 2850-20 does the job but is not as bright as most other models. The single LED light has a blue tint that we didn’t encounter with other models. You also don’t get the versatility of having the option to turn off the light when pressing the trigger, like many Makita impact drivers.

Light

Milwaukee 2953-20 Light
Milwaukee 29530-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 3
Light time delay (sec.): 9.0

The work light illuminates a moderately large work area. The work light can’t be disabled and doesn’t act as a dedicated flashlight. Several Makita impact drivers include a dedicated flashlight functionally with the forward/reverse switch set to neutral.

Collet

Milwaukee 2850-20 Collet Closeup

Collet size: 1/4-inch hex
Quick-change collet: Yes
Bit-eject collet: No
Easy-insert collet: No

It takes two hands to change bits on the 2850-20, one hand to slide the collet and the other to insert or remove the bit. The collet has no easy-insert or bit eject feature, which helps with one-handed bit changes.

Most Dewalt impact drivers are ideal for one-handed bit changes since these impact drivers include a well-designed easy-insert and bit-eject collet.

Collet

Milwaukee 2953-20 Collet Closeup

Collet size: 1/4-inch hex
Quick-change collet: Yes
Bit-eject collet: No
Easy-insert collet: Yes

Milwaukee rarely includes a bit-eject feature on its impact drivers, but some models have an incredibly smooth easy-insert design, both of which are true with the 2953-20.

Many Dewalt impact drivers include easy-insert and bit-eject collets that are smooth with the best collet design we’ve come across.

App integration

App integration: None

There is no bluetooth app integration to review impact driver diagnostics or to customize driving profiles on your phone. Some high-end Milwaukee impact drivers come in a One-Key version which includes an app integration to track impact driver usage, displays tool diagnostics, and allows you to set custom driving profiles, such as adjusting the RPM for each drive mode.

App integration

App integration: None

There is no bluetooth app integration to review impact driver diagnostics or to customize driving profiles on your phone. Some high-end Milwaukee impact drivers come in a One-Key version which includes an app integration to track impact driver usage, displays tool diagnostics, and allows you to set custom driving profiles, such as adjusting the RPM for each drive mode.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 5
Battery warranty (years): 2-3 (depends on model)

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The 2850-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 batteries include a two-year warranty.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 5
Battery warranty (years): 2-3 (depends on model)

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The 2953-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah batteries include a two-year warranty and the M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah batteries include a three-year warranty.

Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

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