When selecting a dedicated graphics card for high-end performance, it is vital to also consider what will be doing all the other work in your machine: the CPU. Having a powerful CPU allows the other, non-graphics code in a graphically-intensive application or game to be processed smoothly and not bottleneck the GPU.2

Think of this review as a dating service for electronics: Hot dedicated GPU (has its own RAM!) looking for temporally-stable, standard-clocked CPU for mutual fun. Prefer motherboards with a wide and snappy data bus. Serious inquiries only. Text me at #shaders.noprobs.
CPU performance is critical for optimal GPU function and there are several considerations that must be addressed if you want to achieve the best results. Among these are motherboard design and cooling.

Building your own machine has come a long way from the days of Heathkit computers. Most electronics components retailers and wholesalers have complete DIY kit computer packages where all the children in the kindergarten are guaranteed to play well together.

FREE GUIDE: CUSTOM BUILD YOUR OWN GAMING PC

Get your step-by-step guide below.

Going it on your own, however, usually requires a bit of research to ensure that the motherboard has a compatible bus width and clock speed for your CPU of interest and that you can build in a cooling system and the right power supply to drive all the components, including the GPU. Custom builds are really a topic for a different time, so today we are going to focus on which CPUs play nicely with the GeForce RTX 2070 by Nvidia.

Comparison Table of the Best CPU for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070

PRODUCTFEATURESLATEST PRICE
1. AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT 8-core, 16-Threads Unlocked Desktop Processor Without Cooler + MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R - AIO RGB CPU Liquid Cooler - Rotating Cap Design - 240mm Radiator - Dual 120mm RGB PWM Fans
  • Architecture: 7 nm Zen 2 (generation 4)
  • Clock: 3.9 GHz (burst to 4.7 GHz)
  • Cores: 8
  • Cache: L2 (4 MB), L3 (32 MB)
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2. Ryzen 5 3600XT AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT 6-core 12-Threads Unlocked Desktop Processor with Wraith Spire Cooler + MSI MAG CORELIQUID 240R - AIO RGB CPU Liquid Cooler - 240mm Radiator - Dual 120mm RGB PWM Fans
  • Architecture: 7 nm Zen 2 (generation 4)
  • Clock: 3.8 GHz (burst to 4.5 GHz)
  • Cores: 6
  • Cache: L2 (4 MB), L3 (32 MB)
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3. Intel Core i9-9900K Intel Core i9-9900K Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 5.0 GHz Turbo unlocked LGA1151 300 Series 95W
  • Architecture: 14 nm (generation 9)
  • Clock: 3.6 GHz (burst to 5 GHz)
  • Cores: 8
  • Cache: L2 (2 MB), L3 (16 MB)
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4. Intel Core i7-10700F Intel Core i7-10700F Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 4.8 GHz Without Processor Graphics LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 65W
  • Architecture: 14 nm (generation 10)
  • Clock: 2.9 GHz (burst to 4.8 GHz)
  • Cores: 8
  • Cache: L2 (2 MB), L3 (16 MB)
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5. Intel Core i7-9700KF Intel BX80684I79700KF Intel Core i7-9700KF Desktop Processor 8 Cores up to 4.9 GHz Turbo Unlocked Without Processor Graphics LGA1151 300 Series 95W
  • Architecture: 14 nm (generation 9)
  • Clock: 3.6 GHz (burst to 4.9 GHz)
  • Cores: 8
  • Cache: L2 (2 MB), L3 (12 MB)
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6. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Processor with Wraith Prism LED Cooler - YD270XBGAFBOX
  • Architecture: 12 nm Zen+ (generation 2)
  • Clock: 3.7 GHz (burst to 4.3 GHz)
  • Cores: 8
  • Cache: L2 (4 MB), L3 (16 MB)
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7. Ryzen 5 2600X AMD Ryzen 5 2600X Processor with Wraith Spire Cooler - YD260XBCAFBOX
  • Architecture: 12 nm Zen+ (generation 2)
  • Clock: 3.6 GHz (burst to 4.2 GHz)
  • Cores: 6
  • Cache: L2 (3 MB), L3 (16 MB)
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8. EVGA 01G-P3-1312-LR EVGA 06G-P4-1163-KR GeForce Graphics Cards, GTX 1660, XC Gaming
  • Architecture: 14 nm Coffee Lake (generation 8)
  • Clock: 3.7 GHz (burst to 4.7 GHz)
  • Cores: 6
  • Cache: L2 (1.5 MB), L3 (16 MB)
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9. Intel Core i5-9600KF Intel Core i5-9600KF Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.6 GHz Turbo Unlocked Without Processor Graphics LGA1151 300 Series 95W
  • Architecture: 14 nm Coffee Lake Refresh (generation 9)
  • Clock: 3.7 GHz (burst to 4.6 GHz)
  • Cores: 6
  • Cache: L2 (1.5 MB), L3 (9 MB)
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10. Intel Core i5-10500 Intel Core i5-10500 Desktop Processor 6 Cores up to 4.5 GHz LGA1200 (Intel 400 Series chipset) 65W, Model Number: BX8070110500
  • Architecture: 14 nm Comet Lake (generation 10)
  • Clock: 3.1 GHz (burst to 4.5 GHz)
  • Cores: 6
  • Cache: L2 (1.5 MB), L3 (12 MB
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The GeForce RTX 2070 is the first GPU in a new approach to graphics processing, performing real-time ray tracing (42 ray-tracing operations per second), and utilizing an artificial intelligence system (Turing architecture) to interpolate graphics parameters. Graphics generation is surprisingly realistic and completely lacks the cartoonish image feel of earlier graphics cards.

The on-board RAM, which is an 8 GB GDDR6 operating at 1410 MHz (a maximum boost of 1620 MHz) and processing 14 Gbps, supports a total of 2304 CUDA (compute unified device architecture) cores producing a peak of 6 Giga rays/s.

As its default factory setting, the RTX 211070 is overclocked and is stabilized by a 6-phase power supply to provide all the power demands of the board. A pair of on-board 13-blade, dual-axis fans that drive airflow through a vapor chamber play some heat exchange tricks to maintain low operating temperatures, even under heavy load.

All this electronic goodness would be a moot point if you paired the RTX 2070 with a lemon of a CPU. In for a penny, in for a pound: if you are going to invest in a high-end GPU, you need a comparable CPU to handle all the other stuff.

You wouldn’t buy a 5000 square foot home and not have at least a part-time cleaning person, right? The same goes here for having a proper CPU.

Our list here will nit-pick the details and cast some aspersions on these processors to achieve some balance in our review, but keep in mind that there is not an ugly dog in the bunch. Even our last pick in the list (Intel Core i5-9600K) is quite a capable device and will definitely produce pleasing performance results.

Our Best CPU for the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Reviews and Comparisons

Below is our list of processors that work well with the GeForce RTX 2070 by Nvidia. They are listed in benchmarked order based on overall system performance in tests conducted by PassMark.

The processors vary in price per computing power and you may find processors lower down on the list more affordable and just as effective. Here are our top 10 for the year 2020.

1. AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT

Product Highlights

The Ryzen 7 3800XT by AMD is the latest release in their Ryzen 3000 line and features 7 nm Zen 2 architecture and excellent performance for in an 8-core chip. The 3800XT clock speed is 3.9 GHz with boosts to 4.7 GHz and also has an L2 (4 MB) and an L3 cache (32 MB).

However, the chipset does not include a CPU cooler (AMD says you do not need it for most applications). Intel has been selling their i7 chips for some time also without coolers

It is also an unlocked chipset, so overclocking with a maximum 1% increase in performance is an option. If you want to overclock and need a cooler, we recommended using either an AMD Wraith Prism or MSI MAG CoreLiquid 240R for heavy-duty gaming.

The 3800XT is marketed as a competitive gaming and video streaming chipset and is guaranteed to remain cool with standard heat exchange systems. The gaming rating by CPU Agent is 95%.

Features

    • Architecture: 7 nm Zen 2 (generation 4)
    • Clock: 3.9 GHz (burst to 4.7 GHz)
    • Cores: 8
    • Cache: L2 (4 MB), L3 (32 MB)

What We Like About AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT

The performance of the 3800XT is exemplary in gaming tests and runs on a par with Intel’s Core i9-10900K. This is a slight improvement over the earlier 3800X chipset by a 4% boost in performance and 6% boosts in single-core processing speed.

Considering that the 3800XT is basically the same price as the 3800X, the increase in performance has been well-received. The PassMark benchmark score is 23876 (current top of the commercial field is the AMD Ryzen ThreadRipper 3990X scored at 80748, which is a high-end chipset for graphics workstations).

What We Don’t Like About AMD Ryzen 7 3800XT

There are not too many bad things to say about eh 3800XT, other than its marginal performance improvement over the 3800X. The difference in price between the two processors is negligible (around $50 difference).

Under gaming load, the 3800XT ran somewhat warm at 78.5°C without a cooler. The chipset also uses a lot of power, consuming about 120-124 Watts.

Regardless of all the computer power, the 3800XT can still present a bottleneck to GPUs like the RTX 2070 if the display is run at 1080p under ultra-graphics settings. The average bottleneck loss is around 13.5% under those conditions.

PROS

  • Affordable compared with other chips of similar performance
  • Great for gaming
  • Efficient multithreading
  • New technology that will remain relevant for some time

CONS

  • Uses a lot of power
  • Can bottleneck GPUs on ultra-settings

2. Ryzen 5 3600XT

Product Highlights

The AMD Ryzen 5 3600XT is considered a mid-range CPU that features 6-cores with a base clock speed of 3.8 GHz and burst speed to 4.5 GHz. The 3600XT is another AMD offering in their Matisse Refresh 7 nm architecture series.

Overclocking is an option with the 3600XT, but stable speed increases will only be about 1%. One of the advantages of 3600XT is its price point, which is very affordable for a chipset of this capability.

Newer games are moving toward multithreading and this is where Ryzen architecture really shines, despite falling short of Intel processors in single-core performance. Boost mode tends to offset these shortcomings, and the AMD excels at handling multithreading code.

The gaming rating by CPU Agent is 94%.

Features

    • Architecture: 7 nm Zen 2 (generation 4)
    • Clock: 3.8 GHz (burst to 4.5 GHz)
    • Cores: 6
    • Cache: L2 (4 MB), L3 (32 MB)

What We Like About Ryzen 5 3600XT

The 3600XT is more energy-efficient than Intel chipsets of similar performance (up to 58% greater efficiency). This can add up over time in lower electricity bills, but it also means you could save a bit of money on a smaller power supply for the whole system you intend to build.

The Zen 2 architecture about 15% more instructions per cycle than comparable chips. Bottlenecking the RTX 20270 at 1080p with ultra-settings only comes up to an average of 15.4%.

PassMark benchmark score for the 3600XT is 19058.

What We Don’t Like About Ryzen 5 3600XT

The 3600XT is another offering from AMD that ships without a CPU cooler. Whether or not you feel this is a bad thing depends on how hard you intend to work the chip.

Overclocking options are, however, limited for this chipset.

PROS

  • Affordable
  • Tuned for gaming
  • Better multi-tasking than the competition
  • New architecture (futureproof)

CONS

  • Limited overclocking ability

3. Intel Core i9-9900K

Product Highlights

This is our first entry in the list for Intel Core processors, the i9-9900K, which is a newer offering from Intel released in 2018 using their Coffee Lake Refresh 14 nm architecture. The i9-9900K clocks at 3.6 GHz with a burst speed of 5 GHz and offers 8 cores of processing power.

The overclocking potential for this chip is about 1%, so performance is pretty much near the maximum under factory settings. The chipset is marketed as a desktop processor for Intel enthusiasts.

The gaming rating by CPU Agent is 97%.

Features

    • Architecture: 14 nm (generation 9)
    • Clock: 3.6 GHz (burst to 5 GHz)
    • Cores: 8
    • Cache: L2 (2 MB), L3 (16 MB)

What We Like About Intel Core i9-9900K

The i9-9900K with 8 cores is a multithreading powerhouse that really excels in terms of video editing and gaming prowess. Bottlenecking with 1080p graphics on ultra-settings was only on average 6.5%, which was quite surprising to us.

Running newer games and streaming straight to Twitch can be handled with no problems by the i9-9900K. The PassMark benchmark score is 18885.

What We Don’t Like About Intel Core i9-9900K

Despite its multithreading capabilities and ability to efficiently process code and drive fast refresh rates, freeing up the GPU and providing low bottleneck problems, what you get will be limited to factory settings as overclocking does not provide significant boosts in performance.

This is pretty much true for all the top-end processors we will review here. Basically, they are nearly maxed out straight from the box.

Power consumption is an issue with the i9-9900K, particularly under turbo boost mode which consumes 210 Watts of power. That is an important factor in your build, as you will need a power supply to cover it.

PROS

  • Adept at multithreading
  • Tops for gaming with low bottleneck score
  • Calculation speed for large spreadsheets is impressive
  • High boost speed (watch out for power requirements!)

CONS

  • Pricey
  • Thermal controls are not the newest
  • Despite being an i9, architecture is already dated

4. Intel Core i7-10700F

Product Highlights

The Core i7-10700F by Intel is a newly released, high-end processor that sports 8 cores built on 14 nm Comet Lake architecture (what is it with Intel and lakes, anyway?). The base clock speed for the i7-10700F is a hearty 2.9 GHz with burst speeds of 4.8 GHz.

Out of the box, there is basically no, we repeat, no overclocking potential in this chip as it already is cranking at maximum. Although we mentioned that overclocking is limited in the chips reviewed above, we feel the need to take a moment to explain why going forward, overclocking may well become passé for higher-end chipsets.

Both Intel and AMD have made great strides in boosting computing power as well as a lot of progress in temperature control for their newer chips, as many are sold without accompanying CPU coolers. The need for coolers is also moot since the chips are not really capable of being overclocked.

Overclocking in the past was mainly because chips were sold locked and underclocked to control heat, so newer chipsets are now more optimal for maximum performance based on their architecture.

The gaming rating by CPU Agent is 96%.

Features

    • Architecture: 14 nm (generation 10)
    • Clock: 2.9 GHz (burst to 4.8 GHz)
    • Cores: 8
    • Cache: L2 (2 MB), L3 (16 MB)

What We Like About Intel Core i7-10700F

Multithread processing is a developed talent for the i7-10700F and will give this chip some legs for future use. The in-built cooling feature for the i7-10700F is a standard pancake-style cooling plate.

As a multimedia editing platform, the i7-10700F has teeth and will easily perform these tasks, provided it is mated to a nice motherboard like a 4470 or other similar design. Gaming performance is excellent at 96% rated by CPU Agent.

The bottleneck score with the RTX 2070 averaged about 11.3% at 1080p with ultra-graphics settings, which is still very good. The PassMark benchmark score is 16043.

What We Don’t Like About Intel Core i7-10700F

There is no form factor for the i7-10700F that can accommodate integrated Intel Graphics, but that is really true for most of the chips on this list. Despite this apparent shortcoming (which is really not one), the cost production factor of the i7-10700F is less than comparable Intel offerings, such as the Core i7-9700.

Although a new Intel offering, the architecture is still 14 nm where many new chips are being produced in the 10 nm architecture range.

That being said, the chip is not much faster than many i5 processors offered by Intel, which are just as capable for a lower price.

PROS

  • Great for productivity
  • Great for gaming
  • Efficient (only uses 65 Watts)
  • Pricing per thread of performance is low

CONS

  • The base speed for all-core performance is low
  • Uses a PCIe 3.0 interface, which is dated

5. Intel Core i7-9700KF

Product Highlights

The Core i7-9700KF is a recently released CPU by Intel under their Coffee Lake Refresh line of 14 nm architectures. It has an 8-core processor running at 3.6 GHz with burst speeds up to 4.9 GHz.

The chip is fully functional for multithread processing for productivity and also is quite robust in the gaming arena. The i7-9700KF has no form factor for integrated graphics, which saves a little on production costs.

As far as game performance, the i7-9700KF is rated by CPU Agent at 97%. Bottlenecking with the RTX 2070 at 1080p using ultra graphics settings averaged about 10.2%, which is rather good.

Overclocking gains are maximum with a 2% increased performance, higher than other chips we have reviewed.

Features

    • Architecture: 14 nm (generation 9)
    • Clock: 3.6 GHz (burst to 4.9 GHz)
    • Cores: 8
    • Cache: L2 (2 MB), L3 (12 MB)

What We Like About Intel Core i7-9700KF

The Core i7-9700KF is an excellent choice for productivity and for video editing and computer graphics design, provided it is mated with an appropriate motherboard to make the best use of all its features. The lack of support for integrated graphics allows Intel to offer this chip at a lower price than comparably-performing Intel chips.

The bottleneck score with the RTX 2070 averaged only 10.2% at 1080p with ultra-graphics settings, which is a decent score. The PassMark benchmark score is 14674.

For these reasons, the i7-9700 series dominates the mainstream CPU market.

What We Don’t Like About Intel Core i7-9700KF

The i7-9700KF is price-competitive with other similar chips, but we feel it is overpriced for generation 9, 14 nm architecture. Power use is rather high at processor idle, coming in at 95 Watts.

PROS

  • A gamers CPU
  • Excellent base speed using all cores
  • Multitask performance is better than competitors
  • Robust boost speed

CONS

  • Pricing is a bit high for this chip
  • Thermals are dated an no cooler is included
  • Uses a PCIe 3.0 bus

6. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

Product Highlights

The Ryzen 7 2700X by AMD is an 8-core, 12 nm architecture based on AMD’s Pinnacle Ridge design (we guess AMD likes ridges). The processor clock speed at idle is 3.7 GHz and boosts to 4.3 GHz, all while consuming 105 Watts of power.

This is a hallmark of many AMD designs in that they are known to be more energy-efficient and produce less heat under load. Overclocking potential is much greater than other chips we examined with the 2700X capable of a full 2% boost in performance.

Bottlenecking at 1080p under ultra-graphics settings with the RTX 2070 averaged 22.5%, leading to a gaming score of 88% by CPU Agent. PassMark benchmark score was 17558.

Features

    • Architecture: 12 nm Zen+ (generation 2)
    • Clock: 3.7 GHz (burst to 4.3 GHz)
    • Cores: 8
    • Cache: L2 (4 MB), L3 (16 MB)

What We Like About AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

The 2700X has high productivity ratings (83% by CPU Agent) due to multithreading abilities and has the potential for overclocking, yielding a 2% boost in performance. Although AMD chips tend to fall short on single-core performance compared with Intel, many newer game titles are making better use of multithreaded CPUs.

What We Don’t Like About AMD Ryzen 7 2700X

For some game titles that rely on single-core processing, the 2700X underperforms compared with comparably-priced Intel offerings, as many users have noted.

PROS

  • Affordable for the performance
  • Great for gaming
  • All-core base speed is excellent
  • Better at multitasking compared with similar competitor chips

CONS

  • Eats a lot of power
  • Thermals are dated

7. Ryzen 5 2600X

Product Highlights

The AMD Ryzen 5 2600X is the little brother of the newer 2700X and has a similar architecture, based on Pinnacle Ridge 12 nm design with 6 cores instead of 8. The clock speed is 3.6 GHz with burst capability of 4.2 GHz. Its gaming rating by CPU Agent is 88% with an RTX 2070 bottleneck of 24.9% at 1080p ultra graphics settings.

Features

    • Architecture: 12 nm Zen+ (generation 2)
    • Clock: 3.6 GHz (burst to 4.2 GHz)
    • Cores: 6
    • Cache: L2 (3 MB), L3 (16 MB)

What We Like About Ryzen 5 2600X

The 2600X is a very capable chip that can be picked up for a good price (under $200). Overclocking will yield a 2% increase in overall performance.

It uses less power than its older brother at 95 Watts and is also cool-running. PassMark benchmark is 14076.

What We Don’t Like About Ryzen 5 2600X

Not as highly multithreaded as other processors, relying mainly on one core.

PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Good for gaming
  • Most sales packages contain a CPU cooler

CONS

  • The thermals are becoming a dated design
  • This is somewhat old technology (but still works)

8. Intel Core i7-8700K

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Product Highlights

The Intel Core i7-8700K is a robust mid-grade processor with 6 cores and 14 nm Coffee Lake architecture. Clock speed at idle is 3.7 GHz and burst speeds are at 4.7 GHz.

Power usage is high at 95 Watts. Bottlenecking with the RTX 2070 at 1080p and ultra-graphics settings were rather good for a mid-grade processor (12.5%), which gave a gaming score of 96%

Features

    • Architecture: 14 nm Coffee Lake (generation 8)
    • Clock: 3.7 GHz (burst to 4.7 GHz)
    • Cores: 6
    • Cache: L2 (1.5 MB), L3 (16 MB)

What We Like About Intel Core i7-8700K

Overclock potential for the 8700K is 4%. PassMark benchmark was 13964.

What We Don’t Like About Intel Core i7-8700K

For an older technology chip, despite its excellent performance, the 8700K is overpriced.

PROS

  • A gamer’s CPU
  • Adept at multithreading
  • Great burst speed

CONS

  • Technology is getting dated
  • More expensive than necessary

9. Intel Core i5-9600KF

Product Highlights

The Core i5-9600KF by Intel is a mid-grade processor with 6 cores and 14 nm architecture. Base clock speed is 3.7 GHz with bursts to 4.6 GHz.

Gaming score was excellent at 93% and RTX 2070 bottlenecking was 19.1% at 1080p and ultra-graphics settings.

Features

  • Architecture: 14 nm Coffee Lake Refresh (generation 9)
  • Clock: 3.7 GHz (burst to 4.6 GHz)
  • Cores: 6
  • Cache: L2 (1.5 MB), L3 (9 MB)

What We Like About Intel Core i5-9600KF

The 9600KF has marginal speed improvements over its predecessors in the 9600 line. It is a good multithreading processor, a solid performer, and very reasonably priced (you can find some for close to $100 if you look hard enough).

The overclocking potential is 8.5%. PassMark benchmark is 10928.

What We Don’t Like About Intel Core i5-9600KF

The standard package does not include a CPU cooler.

PROS

  • Strong gaming CPU
  • Vigorous boost speed

CONS

  • Dated thermals technology
  • No CPU cooler included

10. Intel Core i5-10500

Product Highlights

The Core i5-10500 is on CPU on our list with integrated graphics that will have to be disabled for the RTX 2070 to run. The i5-10500 has 6 cores and a 3.1 GHz clock speed with 4.5 GHz burst.

Features

    • Architecture: 14 nm Comet Lake (generation 10)
    • Clock: 3.1 GHz (burst to 4.5 GHz)
    • Cores: 6
    • Cache: L2 (1.5 MB), L3 (12 MB)

What We Like About Intel Core i5-10500

The gaming score is 93% with a bottleneck on the RTX 2070 of 16.9% at 1080p and ultra-graphics settings. PassMark benchmark is 13380.

What We Don’t Like About Intel Core i5-10500

There is no overclocking potential for this chip.

PROS

  • Very affordable
  • Has integrated graphics if you want to switch over to save power
  • Great boost speed
  • Great for gaming and has a CPU cooler included

CONS

  • No overclocking potential

Final Verdict

Although we do like AMD chips, our main pick would be the Intel Core i5-9600KF for performance and a reasonable price. Bottlenecking is down near 10% for this chip. A good alternative is the Intel Core i7-8700K with similar performance, but will usually tend to sell at a higher price.

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