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Best gaming keyboard 2021: membrane, mechanical and more

Best gaming keyboards
(Image credit: Corsair)
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1. Best overall
2.
Best budget keyboard
3.
Best mid-range keyboard
4.
Best premium keyboard
5.
Best for FPS
6.
Best membrane keyboard
7.
Best mechanical keyboard
8.
Best hybrid keyboard
9.
Best TKL keyboard
10.
Best wireless keyboard

The best gaming keyboards can give you an edge in everything from single-player adventures to deathmatches, but knowing where to start is intimidating. We've gathered our favorites here, and there's something to suit every kind of gamer on the list. Besides being exceptionally responsive, they all have special functions that leave ordinary keyboards in the dust.

What's the best gaming keyboard for you, though? First you'll need to figure out whether you want a mechanical or membrane device. 

If you're new to all this, we'd recommend starting with a membrane option such as the Razer Cynosa. They're normally cheaper and ease you in gently. Meanwhile, those who want to upgrade their existing gear should check out mechanical decks like Corsair's excellent K95 RGB Platinum XT. It's one of the best gaming keyboards out there and snapped up the top spot in our GamesRadar Hardware Awards 2020

No matter what you choose, the best gaming keyboards will make the perfect companion to the best gaming mouse and the best gaming monitor, completing your setup and - if you stick to a single brand - unlocking some particularly cool RGB effects. 

Best gaming keyboards - top 10

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(Image credit: Corsair)
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1. Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT

The best gaming keyboard overall

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Extended
Switches: Cherry MX Blue or Cherry MX Speed
Keycaps: Double-shot PBT
Media keys: Dedicated keys, volume roller
Wrist rest: Detachable, leatherette
USB passthrough: USB 2.0 Type-A
Reasons to buy
+Excellent build-quality+Aircraft-grade aluminium frame+Large, comfortable wrist rest
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

For PC gamers that want it all, the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum XT is the only choice. A handsome, luxurious design joins forces with satisfying clicks for one of the best gaming keyboards around. Yes, it's expensive. But this is a phenomenal piece of kit that won't ever let you down.

It has all the trimmings, too. As well as dedicated media controls and USB passthrough, the Platinum XT sports gorgeous RGB lighting, six dedicated macro keys, compatibility with Elgato's Stream Deck technology, and a comfortable faux-leather wrist rest. A textured spacebar and alternate WASD caps build on that sense of luxury. 

However, it's the tactile feel of pressing a key that will win you over. Unlike the older K95 models, these keycaps have been coated with a ‘Double Shot’ material. Built from two layers of colored plastic, they offer a distinctly premium typing sensation (not to mention durability). 

All of that comes together to make a truly top-tier product. Frankly, the K95 Platinum XT is worth every penny.

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(Image credit: Razer)
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2. Razer Cynosa V2

The best budget gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Membrane (wired)
Size: Full
Switches: Rubber dome
Keycaps: ABS plastic
Media keys: Dedicated keys
Wrist rest: None
USB passthrough: None
Reasons to buy
+Feels great to type on+Quiet membrane keys+Affordable
Reasons to avoid
-Some keys can sound 'squeaky'

Gaming keyboards are an essential purchase if you play on PC, but they can break the bank. That's why the Razer Cynosa V2 is a godsend. Although it's not the best gaming keyboard on offer, it still puts in a very respectable performance at an affordable price.

As a 'membrane' device, this version of the Cynosa is much quieter than the competition. That's because its keys are pressing down on a rubbery sheet, meaning you don't get the distracting typewriter 'clack' of mechanical decks. In other words, it's perfect in a busy household or at work where you don't want to cause too much noise.

It's excellent under stress, too. More specifically, the speed and resistance of each key is spot on. Your fingers will fly across them in use, but they don't ever feel cheap. The smooth plastic keycaps are satisfying to type with, too. Considering the Cynosa V2's low cost, that's an impressive feat.

Macro settings which allow you to program each key add further value, while a smaller footprint means you won't have trouble fitting it on your desk. Once there, it certainly looks the part; RGB lighting adds a pop of color to its sleek black shell.

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(Image credit: SteelSeries)
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3. SteelSeries Apex 5

The best mid-range gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Full
Switches: Hybrid blue
Keycaps: Double-shot ABS
Media keys: Dedicated keys, volume roller, OLED display
Wrist rest: Detachable, magnetic
USB passthrough: None
Reasons to buy
+Soft matte key caps+Tactile and responsive+Powerful software
Reasons to avoid
-OLED display is underused

SteelSeries is well known for making some of the best gaming keyboards, but many of them are pricey. This is where the SteelSeries Apex 5 swoops in. It offers a stripped-back version of everything that makes the expensive models great. More specifically, you're getting a slimline design, snappy actuation, and an OLED smart display in the upper right-hand corner to go with its affordable cost. The mini screen is underused, but it's a cool touch nonetheless.

Although this model doesn't have customizable per-key actuation like the Apex Pro, it's still satisfying to game or type with. Its linear keys only require the smallest amount of pressure to activate, and your fingers will be flying across the deck once you're used to its sensitivity (that's thanks to hybrid switches which bring together mechanical and membrane tech for the best of both worlds). What's more, the matte keycaps are pleasingly soft to the touch. It's a memorable experience and the build quality never feels sloppy despite the lower price tag.

All this exudes the patented SteelSeries quality, but for much less than normal. It's superb value for money and a great keyboard all-round.

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Razer Huntsman V2 Analog

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Razer Huntsman V2 Analog

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Razer Huntsman V2 Analog

(Image credit: Razer)

4. Razer Huntsman V2 Analog

The best premium gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Full
Switches: Optical
Keycaps: Double-shot PBT
Media keys: Dedicated keys, volume dial
Wrist rest: Detachable, magnetic
USB passthrough: USB 3.0
Reasons to buy
+Analog function+Satisfying click+Comfy, bezel-less wrist rest
Reasons to avoid
-The price

The elevator pitch for this keyboard is right there on the tin - it exists to replicate the feel of an analog stick. That isn't something we've seen before when it comes to the best gaming keyboards, and the Razer Huntsman V2 Analog makes quite the impression as a result.

Designed with first-person shooters, racing games, and flight-sims in mind, the Analog achieves its goal via variable actuation points. That means you can use degrees of pressure to get a different response. In essence, push harder on a key and your character will run faster. 

This might not sound like a big deal, but it is. Although many keyboards struggle with nuance when it comes to in-game movement (changing from 'run' to 'walk' normally requires a hotkey, for example), the Analog imbues the WASD keys with a sense of precision they've never had before. You can gently amble around the map instead of pinballing across it, or get the drop on your foes by sneaking up on them slowly.

None of this is 'necessary', yet it feels borderline essential once you've gotten used to it. Because this is also one of the nicest keyboards we've ever gotten our hands on, it's a real contender if your budget can stretch that far.

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ROG Strix Scope RX

(Image credit: Asus)
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ROG Strix Scope RX

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ROG Strix Scope RX

(Image credit: Asus)

5. ROG Strix Scope RX

The best gaming keyboard for first-person shooters

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Full
Switches: ROG RX Optical Mechanical
Keycaps: PCB
Media keys: Integrated with function keys
Wrist rest: None
USB passthrough: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Visually awesome+Super-fast switches+Great build-quality
Reasons to avoid
-Keys can be noisy

Asus has done it again: the new ROG Strix Scope RX is a measured refinement of the already excellent Scope keyboard, retaining all the best features of the original while introducing new optical key switches. Speedy actuation with almost no lateral wobble means that accidental keystrokes are brought to a minimum, both in gaming and typing.

The only criticisms we can level at the Scope RX are trivial at best. There’s no included wrist rest, and the keys can be a bit loud at times (though still quieter than your average blue-switch keyboard). Overall, though, this is a stunning keyboard with top-notch build quality and a clean, appealing aesthetic.

Wondering what makes it such a winner for FPS games? Besides a compact design, it features a large Ctrl key to make crouching behind cover easier. In addition, the 1.5mm actuation point keeps mis-types to a minimum. It's easily one of the best gaming keyboards as a result.

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Roccat Magma

(Image credit: Roccat)
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Roccat Magma

(Image credit: Roccat)
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Roccat Magma

(Image credit: Roccat)

6. Roccat Magma

The best membrane gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Membrane
Size: Full
Switches: Membrane
Keycaps: ABS
Media Keys: Dual-function
Wrist rest: Detachable
USB Passthrough: None
Reasons to buy
+Fantastically low price+Smooth and satisfying experience+Extra macro functionality
Reasons to avoid
-RGB customization limited to five zones

You're not paying much for the Roccat Magma, and that places it in a particularly popular category. Unlike some other contenders in this space, though, you're still getting a smooth, responsive experience with 26 key rollover, anti-ghosting, extra macro functionality, and customisable RGB lighting zones.

There are some sacrifices to be made to achieve such a low price tag (for example, the RGB lighting is set across ten individual LEDs which means you're not getting per-key customization, and the membrane keys do have a heavier actuation force than more tap-sensitive switches), but if you're not interested in premium speed or aesthetic customization, those setbacks won't encroach on your day-to-day experience. There's a real sense of quality to the Magma, and each key-press offers a satisfying resistance.

In addition, Roccat's EasyShift macro control is still present and correct with the Magma. This allows you to customize dual-functionality for certain keys, giving greater flexibility that offers a fighting chance against the best gaming keyboards. 

Overall, you're getting an excellent piece of kit for your cash here - even if you are skimping on the luxuries a little.

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7. Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO

The best mechanical gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Full
Reasons to buy
+Great mechanical switches for typing+Durable+Drop-dead gorgeous lighting and design
Reasons to avoid
-Wrist rest isn't very useful

The Roccat Vulcan 121 AIMO is a keyboard that turns heads. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at thanks to its durable aluminium frame, exposed key stems, and vibrant RGB lighting. Much like the original Roccat Vulcan 120 AIMO, our test-copy consistently drew compliments whenever anyone saw it on our desk.  

It's not just a pretty face, either. The Vulcan 121's performance is every bit as good. While the bottom row's unusual convex shape won't suit everyone, we found this deck to be comfortable, reliable, and satisfying to use. It particularly shines for typing. Its switches provide a pleasant click (with the Cherry Red variety, anyway) and tactile bump with each press. Meanwhile, those exposed stems give it an air of a ye-olden-days typewriter. That special, transparent housing minimises wobble, too.

What's more, its Titan switches actuate between 20-30% faster "than standard" depending on the version you go for. That makes it a great companion for the equally quick Roccat Kain 120 AIMO mouse. Throw in an easy-clean design to avoid dust buildup and you're left with something special with one of the best gaming keyboards which is great for day-to-day use too.

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8. Razer Ornata V2

The best hybrid gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mecha-membrane (wired)
Size: Full
Reasons to buy
+Mixes membrane and mechanical switches+Low actuation+Pleather wrist-rest
Reasons to avoid
-Keycaps get greasy

New to the world of gaming keyboards? It can be tough to know whether you should choose a mechanical or membrane switch. That's why the Razer Ornata V2 exists - why decide when you can have both? 

This mecha-membrane device blends the two approaches to  great effect; it has a mechanical 'click' with the feel of membrane switches. To translate, that means its keys feature a rubber dome along with the mechanisms from a mechanical keyboard. As Razer itself says, the Ornata V2 "combines the best of both worlds by providing a soft cushioned touch for gaming comfort, along with a crisp tactile click".

It's responsive yet easy to use as a result, especially because the keycaps are such a comfortable distance from each other. You won't need to contort your hands into unwieldy shapes to press ctrl or shift with the Ornata V2, for example. That's good news if you're a fan of shooters.

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Corsair K70 RGB TKL

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Corsair K70 RGB TKL

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Corsair K70 RGB TKL

(Image credit: Corsair)

9. Corsair K70 RGB TKL

The best TKL gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: TKL
Switches: Cherry MX Speed / MX Red / MX Brown / MX Blue / MX Silent / MX Low Profile Speed / MX Low Profile Red
Keycaps: Double-shot PBT
Media keys: Dedicated keys, volume roller
Wrist rest: Sold separately
USB passthrough: No
Reasons to buy
+Wide range of switches available+Incredible speeds+Portable and convenient
Reasons to avoid
-TKL design does limit dedicated macro keys

The K70 is one of Corsair's most successful lines of mechanical gaming keyboards, so it makes sense for them to bring the speed of the full deck to a TKL form-factor. The result is a deck that feels tailor-made for tournament play, boasting 8,000Hz hyper-polling and 4,000Hz key scanning rates. It feels like an understatement to claim that the Corsair K70 RGB TKL is fast.

That's to say nothing of a feather-light actuation response, either. You'll be flying across these keys with minimal effort, but there's enough grip and anti-rollover at play here that we rarely had any trouble with multiple key presses. 

While you are losing out on some dedicated macro controls due to the TKL design, every key is programmable itself. However, a quick flip of the new Tournament switch can also reset your keyboard to competitive standards as well. 

Finally, that new TKL size makes for a far more ergonomic feel. Thanks to the detachable cable, you're all set up for travelling too. Although the build could be a little lighter to fully make the most of this competitive use, you're getting a stunning and durable brushed effect on top as a trade-off that's not to be missed. 

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10. Corsair K63 Wireless

The best gaming keyboard for wireless fans

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wireless)
Size: Tenkeyless
Reasons to buy
+Satisfying to use+Compact+Reliable brand
Reasons to avoid
-Short battery life

Alright, so it isn't normally the best idea to go wireless when it comes to keyboards.  The potential for latency between key-presses and action rises without a wire to ferry your signal. But if you do? Corsair's K63 Wireless is the deck to pick up. 

The reason is simple - it works as well as, or better than, a lot of its wired competitors. Its Cherry MX Red switches are just as satisfying to use as they are on wired keyboards, while USB passthrough and the dedicated media controls help round out a respectable feature-set. In addition, it's rather handsome. The backlight is a calming shade of blue (though the keyboard's battery life will last around 50 hours longer if those RGB lights are switched off), and its frame is constructed from anodized brushed aluminum. The K63 is a looker.

Being tenkeyless means it's much more compact, too. In fact, there isn't a better choice if you want a wireless mechanical keyboard that doesn't take up much room. Speaking of ditching those cumbersome cables, be sure to take a look at our wireless gaming mouse guide.

Best of the rest

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HyperX Alloy Elite 2

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HyperX Alloy Elite 2

(Image credit: HyperX)
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HyperX Alloy Elite 2

(Image credit: HyperX)

11. HyperX Alloy Elite 2

The best gaming keyboard with pudding keycaps

Specifications
Type: Mechanical
Size: Full-sized
Switches: HyperX Red
Keycaps: ABS pudding double-shot
Media keys: Dedicated keys, volume roller
Wrist rest: No
USB passthrough: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Smooth switches with low actuation+Powerful RGB lighting +USB passthrough
Reasons to avoid
-Cheap-feeling keycaps-No wrist rest

HyperX has brought its own red linear switches to the Alloy Elite line with the latest release and, combined with the RGB erupting from its translucent pudding keycaps, the result gives the impression of effortless power. 

Proprietary switches offer a smooth linear experience in the case of the HyperX Alloy Elite 2, but with a little less travel time than you may be used to. This makes for a faster feel while still keeping the control of a full bottom-out actuation. While that means you're dropping a little speed from a more competitive deck, the happy medium is a refreshing hybrid that feels just as good in everyday typing as it does on the battlefield.

Supporting those switches is a full steel plate, making for an incredibly durable chassis but also providing a dense weight. The trade here is you won't be able to take this piece of kit on the road with much ease, but there's no chance of your keyboard flying across the desk during more heated moments either. 

It's a shame that such a premium-feeling chassis is let down by a lack of wrist rest and the presence of cheaper ABS keycaps (within a couple of weeks of our testing we were already noticing a shine on them, and without the texture of a more expensive PBT material, you're losing grip which becomes particularly noticeable over longer sessions). However, that's easily forgiven considering the typing feel, USB passthrough, and solid build quality. 

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K65 Mini

(Image credit: Corsair)
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Corsair K65 Mini

(Image credit: Corsair)

12. Corsair K65 RGB Mini

A small form factor mechanical gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: 60%
Switches: Cherry MX red mechanical
Keycaps: Double-shot PBT
Media keys: None
Wrist rest: None
USB passthrough: None
Reasons to buy
+Compact design +Tactile key feel +RGB lightning is nice
Reasons to avoid
-Noisy

We've been using this keyboard both for work in the office and testing at home on our gaming rig and Razer Blade laptop as it's a great little deck for moving around between places without much fuss. 

If you're familiar with other members of the Corsair keyboard family, such as our pick for the best cheap gaming keyboard, the K55 Pro, then you'll know that they are all sturdy, if a bit less exciting looking than some other brands. But this doesn't mean they sacrifice the essentials of a great gaming keyboard, and the K65 is no exception.

A small caveat is that there's no wrist rest or any adjustable incline, so it's flat on the desk whatever you do, which isn't going to be for everyone. Good for both work and play, we actually ended up preferring it a bit more for due to its size.

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13. Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition

The best competitive gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Tenkeyless
Reasons to buy
+Exceptional responsiveness+Cheaper (and better?) than the Elite+Durable, customizable keycaps
Reasons to avoid
-Loud

Let's be clear from the start - the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition gaming keyboard is not just a Huntsman Elite minus the number pad. Instead, the main differences are in its keys. Underneath, you're getting Linear Optical switches here instead of the clicky Optical switches found on most Elites. With lower actuation points (now 1mm) and even less force required, you'll find that this is one seriously responsive keyboard. It's great once you get used to the sensitivity, but does take some getting used to for typing.

Elsewhere, Razer has finally opted for a standard bottom row (so you can customize the keys if you want to change things up) and glorious Doubleshot PBT keycaps instead of cheaper ABS ones found on the more expensive Elite. These more durable keycaps won't end up wearing out as eaily, so no more telltale glossy WASD keys for you.

And if you're hoping to use the Hunstman TE as a regular day-to-day keyboard? It'll do the job admirably. It's worth noting that this keyboard isn't quiet by any means (there's also a metallic 'ping' from the base that rings out whenever you stop typing), but if you're not a particularly heavy-handed typist, you'll be fine. At the end of the day, this is not just one of the best Razer keyboards you can get, but one of the best gaming keyboards full stop.

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14. Alienware 510K

The best low profile gaming keyboard

Specifications
Type: Mechanical (wired)
Size: Full
Reasons to buy
+Bouncy, responsive keys+Low profile+USB passthrough
Reasons to avoid
-A bit plain

The Alienware 510K isn't much to look at, but any criticisms about that appearance melt away the moment you get your hands on it. Those low profile Cherry MX Red switches are a delight to use, offering a lively bounce thanks to less travel time and low actuation force. 

This allows your fingers to jump from key to key without much effort at all, resulting in a satisfying flow when typing or gaming. It's a worthy contender for the title of 'best gaming keyboard' as a result, and it'll exceed expectations in everything from shooters to strategy epics.

The subtle design makes this Alienware deck a great choice for office use, too. In spite of sci-fi sensibilities that give it a futuristic air, it lacks obnoxious RGB lighting or sharp, 'edgy' angles. That makes it a good stablemate for the Alienware 610M mouse or Alienware gaming PCs like the Aurora R10 - it was designed to be used in tandem with them.

Finding the best gaming keyboard for you: mechanical or membrane switches?

This is perhaps the most subjective aspect of a gaming keyboard. Before you even dive into the world of different switch types, it’s worth researching whether you’d like a mechanical or membrane keyboard - or perhaps a hybrid version of the two. 

A membrane keyboard is cheaper and generally quieter, but won’t last as long and doesn’t offer the characteristic snap of a mechanical deck. That means actuation will feel a little mushier, and your key presses might not register as quickly. We’d recommend picking up a membrane keyboard if you’re new to kitting out your PC, or if you prefer a softer typing experience and don’t need that twitch reflex speed in the games you’ll be playing. 

A mechanical keyboard is the go-to in the world of PC gaming. That’s because of its durability, customization options, and response speed. Once you start spending a little more cash on your setup, it’s worth investing in a mechanical keyboard that feels good to you. Choosing a switch type is the next step, but for that we’d recommend picking up a cheap switch tester like the Griarrac Cherry MX switch tester ($15.99 at Amazon). 

What size gaming keyboard should you use?

Gaming keyboards come in a range of shapes and sizes. Thankfully these days we’re seeing fewer RGB bricks with jagged corners and a weight that would bend a desk. However, there’s still a good variety of size configurations to choose from. 

A TKL, 60 or 65% keyboard drops the number pad and may even lose your arrow buttons and function keys as well. That’s better for keeping your desk space, and making sure you can still swing your mouse around in the heat of battle, but can limit you functionally. 

If you’re using your desk setup just for gaming, and that happens to be faster paced, more agile shooter titles, this is an excellent option. However, if you’re working on your keyboard as well, or if you can’t do without your macros or media controls, a full sized board may be required. 

If you're fully upgrading your setup, it might be time to think about diving into the world of the best gaming PCs, or checking out our top pick for the best gaming laptop if you plan on taking your games on the go. 

We're also rounding up all the best gaming chair brands, and - if you're not interested in the best gaming headsets on the market - you'll also find all the best computer speakers right here as well. 

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