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Best Apple Carplay Stereo for a Car (Reviews & Guide)

James Benchman
Last Updated on
by James Benchman

If you’re considering Apple CarPlay for your vehicle, it’s essential to pick the right stereo to support this technology. With the best Apple CarPlay stereo, you can listen to your favorite playlists, get directions, and message your pals, all without ever taking your eyes off the road.

With so many stereo options on the market, how do you know which ones live up to the promises on their packaging? What features should you prioritize about the rest? What specs are a must-have in a head unit?

We’ve got you covered. Your journey to finding the best Apple CarPlay stereo just got easier.

Apple Carplay Stereos
Editor’s Choice
  • 800 x 400 resolution
  • 5a USB port
  • Backup-camera input
Good User Friendly Interface
  • Voice control
  • Rotary volume
  • Rear-view camera
Small Space? Not A Problem
  • Shallow mount install
  • Angled USB cable design
  • Adjustable park guidance lines
One Of Pioneer’s Finest
  • 50-watt peak power output
  • 4 channels
  • Dual rear USB
Super Wide Display
  • 9-inch WVGA touchscreen media receiver
  • Integrated maps, music, Siri, and phone calls
  • Universal camera input

Best Apple Carplay Stereo Reviews

1. PIONEER MVH-1400NEX – Next Level CarPlay Experience

The Pioneer MVH 1400-NEX offers an impressive 800 x 400 resolution with a 24-bit True color panel and clear-resistive touchscreen.

With hands-free calling and audio streaming plus dual phone connection options and audio playback, using your iPhone in the car can be safer and more enjoyable than ever.

Specs:

  • LED display
  • 1 x 9.7 3 3.5-inch dimensions
  • Weighs 3.5 pounds
  • 24-bit True color panel
  • 800 x 400 resolution
  • Color and display customization options
  • Multi-language display
  • 5a USB port
  • Aux input
  • Composite a/V input
  • Backup-camera input
  • Wired remote input
  • Composite video output

You can purchase the Pioneer MVH 1400-NEX in two models. One features a DVD player and the other comes without. Both options provide double din sizing and a noteworthy 6.2-inch touchscreen display.

The stereo sports excellent integrated connectivity and compatibility, along with Bluetooth for streaming music and hands-free calling.

I like the fact that this stereo features a USB port that you can easily connect to a flash drive, along with an AUX port. Once you hook it up, the radio spreads the sound signal across 4 channels. Each channel features a 50-watt peak power. If that doesn’t suffice for your listening needs, the stereo also sports three 4-volt RA pre-outs to increase the sound system.

Even better, the unit includes a 13-band graphic equalizer so you can adjust the sound output to your taste. Additional features that caught my eye include the mixtrax that serves as a virtual DJ and integrates seamlessly with SiriusXM. For me, the only real downside is that you can’t detach the front face, so you can’t remove it for safety concerns.

Pros
  • Ready to use with SiriusXM
  • USB and AUX ports
  • 13 band graphic equalizer for customizable sound
  • Large touchscreen
  • You can’t remove the front face
Cons
  • Not compatible with single din sizes

2. Sony XAVAX1000 – Good User Friendly Interface

A trusted consumer electronics brand, Sony’s CarPlay has a compact design that fits into tight dashboard spaces.

The manual controls are located on the side of the stereo so they won’t impact any other dash controls.

Specs:

  • Voice control
  • Rear-view camera
  • Rotary volume
  • Weighs 2 pounds
  • 5 x 7 x 3.9 inches
  • 2-inch receiver
  • Up to four 55W output
  • Dynamic Reality Amp 2

The first feature that stood out to us about the Sony XAVAX1000 is its user-friendly interface, with a stereo that is considerably smaller than most other Apple CarPlay stereos on the market.

The size of this stereo is a huge selling point because it means that you can fit it into very tight dashboard spaces with relative ease. The side manual controls won’t inhibit you from using the other dash controls on your vehicle.

Sony is one of the few stereos that sports an integrated knob, which makes it much easier to operate if you prefer manual controls. The 6.4-inch screen is on the smaller side, and the audio quality isn’t as reliable as some other options on our list.

The Sony XAVAX1000 offers just 5 channels, which is below the standard 6 that most units feature. The unit’s preamp can go up to 17 watts per channel, with a maximum output of 55 watts.

Pros
  • User-friendly manual controls
  • Peak output of 55 watts
  • Compact design can fit into tight dashboard spaces
Cons
  • Just 17 watts of power for each channel
  • Only 5 output channels
  • The touch screen is smaller than some

3. Alpine iLX-W650 – Small Space? Not A Problem

If you have limited dashboard space, the next best Apple CarPlay stereo on our list could be a match made in heaven.

Featuring a compact mount install with just under 3 inches of mounting depth, install time is quick and easy. Plus, you won’t have to worry about modifying your sub dash.

Specs:

  • Shallow mount install
  • Weighs 3.27 pounds
  • 7 x 11 x 7 inches
  • Angled USB cable design
  • 7-inch antiglare touch screen
  • Bluetooth
  • AM/FM Radio
  • Adjustable park guidance lines
  • Dual camera inputs
  • 4-volt preamp outputs
  • Time alignment
  • Integrated crossovers
  • 9 band parametric EQ

The Alpine iLX-W650 features a sturdy AM/FM tuner with a shallow chassis design that is compatible with many vehicle types. With touchscreen swipe controls and a hands-free option, you can access all your favorite apps with total ease. I love the fact that this Apple CarPlay stereo features integrated Bluetooth connectivity.

You can enjoy all your favorite music apps, like Spotify and Pandora. Plus, the USB port works with different types of thumb drives and devices. The stereo sports integrated iPad, iPhone, and iPod controls, Siri Eyes-Free controls, and even works with Google Assistant.

The stereo comes with the standard 6-channel preamp outputs. I also liked the fact that it includes an external microphone and a built-in amplifier with a peak power output of 50 watts.

Pros
  • AM/FM tuner
  • Shallow chassis fits into tight spots
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Works with iPad, iPhone, and iPod
  • 6-channel output
Cons
  • No color-changing lights
  • The touch screen is bulkier than some
  • Two-finger touch screen may not be to all users’ taste

4. Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX – One Of Pioneer’s Finest

Another fantastic pick , the Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX also features integrated Bluetooth technology for hands-free use and seamless audio streaming.

The 13-band graphic equalizer and 3 sets of 4-volt preamp outputs make this stereo stand out from the pack.

Specs:

  • 50-watt peak power output
  • 4 channels
  • 17-watts x 4 channels RMS
  • 130band graphic equalizer
  • Selectable tone curves
  • Dual rear USB
  • 4 x 9 x 14 inches
  • 77 pounds

I chose the Pioneer AVH-W4500NEX as one of the best Apple CarPlay stereos for its quick setup time, which takes just about 30 seconds. The on-screen prompts are easy to follow, and the integrated wireless technology the stereo features is exceptional. With a 7-inch clear resistive touchscreen, i liked how responsive the display is with bright colors.

The integrated amplifier produces an output of 50 watts x 4 watts. The stereo makes it easy to keep your backup camera and factory steering controls. The dual USB input with 1.5 amp capacity and HD radio are great, as is the mobile display that lets you tweak the angle as you desire.

With a detachable faceplate and dual camera inputs, it’s easy to see why this stereo is one of the most popular models on the market.

Pros
  • Wireless and wired options
  • Retain your backup camera and factory steering wheel with ease
  • Dual USB input
  • You can detach the faceplate
Cons
  • Does not include GPS navigation (you have to purchase separately)
  • Not as compact as some other offerings on the market

5. Alpine iLX-F309 HALO9 – Super Wide Display

With an impressive 9-inch touchscreen and head unit equipped with Bluetooth technology, the Alpine iLX-F309 provides enhanced viewing capabilities. The only major downside here is the higher price tag.

Specs:

  • 9-inch WVGA touchscreen media receiver
  • AM/FM radio tuner
  • HD radio tuner
  • Integrated maps, music, Siri, and phonecalls
  • Single DIN chassis
  • Fits aftermarket ISO Din dash kits
  • SiriusXM ready
  • Equipped for satellite radio, video, and audio
  • Halo0 style display
  • 1 HDMI input
  • iDatalink connectivity
  • Universal camera input

The Alpine iLX-F309 is one of the priciest options on our list, but with good reason. Featuring an astounding 9-i8nch display the integrated electronics are all stored in the single din chassis. You can preset the display to 4 different angle points at -20, 0, 20, and 45 degrees. As such, you can easily access any element behind the dash while enjoying enhanced viewing capabilities.

Besides the unit’s compatibility with Apple CarPlay, the stereo also works with Android Auto and Bluetooth. You can access a wide range of music, maps, and all your favorite apps on the go from a variety of smartphones. We liked the fact that the Alpine iLX-F309 includes iDataLink connectivity, which allows you to see your vehicle information on compatible vehicles.

Besides this, the universal camera input and distance guideline for the back camera is exceptional. The 9-band equalizer, HD, and AM/FM radio tuners also stand out.

Pros
  • Impressive 9-inch display
  • You can preset the screen to 4 angled positions for enhanced viewing options
  • Compatible with Bluetooth and Android Auto
  • Universal camera input
  • iDataLink allows you to view vehicle details
Cons
  • More expensive than some of the other stereo units
  • The stereo doesn’t fold into the car chassis

6. ATOTO Year Series in-Dash – The Budget Friendly Choice

With the ATOTO stereo’s 6.75-inch touchscreen and AM/FM radio capabilities, you can hook up your MP3 with the USB port or auxiliary input to enjoy high-resolution audio.

Specs:

  • 4 x 45-watt/channel maximum power output
  • 15A maximum current drain power supply
  • 16 volt and DC 10 power
  • 4-8 ohms per speaker channel
  • 20Hx frequency response
  • TFT display
  • 800 x 480-pixel resolution
  • 75-inch TFT screen size
  • AM/FM radio
  • 5 to 108MHz frequency range
  • Single din

How did the ATOTO SA102 Year Series make the cut for our review of the best Apple CarPlay stereos?

For starters, the radio features user-friendly controls and displays that make listening to music, sending and receiving messages, and placing and accepting phone calls a breeze. The integrated Bluetooth component is hands-free. The 6.75-inch touchscreen is large enough to give you sufficient viewing options without taking up your entire dashboard.

With AM/FM radio options and easy MP3 and smartphone connectivity, you can use the USB port or auxiliary input to enjoy high-resolution audio. It’s easy to sync either your iPhone or Android to access all your favorite features on your mobile device. The stereo also enables you to access and control apps like Spotify and Pandora.

The integrated EQ allows you to select the sound style you prefer. You can even adjust the screen colors with adjustable illumination components. The touchscreen and steering wheel controls make it easy to customize your music without distracting you from the road ahead.

Pros
  • Integrated EQ for adjustable sound style
  • AM/FM radio options
  • You can adjust the screen colors as you prefer
  • Smartphone and MP3 compatible
  • 75-inch touchscreen
Cons
  • No DVD/CD components
  • The mic can wear out with extended use

7. Planet Audio PCP9800A

We chose the Planet Audio PCP9800A unit for its in-dash resistive touchscreen with integrated Bluetooth capabilities for audio streaming and phone calls, Phonelink technology, and SiriusCM ready design.

Specs:

  • Double Din receiver
  • Bluetooth microphone
  • Wiring harness
  • Audio-video output harness
  • Audio-video input harness
  • 55mm harness
  • Mounting hardware included
  • 10-band parametric equalizer
  • 9 preset and custom equalizer options
  • Dimmer and brightness settings
  • 7 color selectable illumination
  • 800 x 480-pixel resolution
  • 4-channel amplifier
  • 40 watts peak power
  • 15 watts RMS

While the Planet Audio PCP9800A has just 4 channels, which is noticeably below the standard 6, the unit makes up for it with fantastic integrated components and user-friendly settings.

The 6.2-inch screen features a Double Din In-Dash TFT along with a handy LCD touchscreen monitor for ease of use. The Siri component means the unit is hands-free compatible.

We liked the fact that the unit supports Phonelink for Android as well as Apple CarPlay. The 4 channels included have a 40-watt peak power. The Bluetooth element features AVRP, A2DP, and HFP for wireless phone use and audio streaming. The camera has reverse camera input, and the adjustable parking gride lines are a nice bonus. We also liked the selectable touch key illumination has 7 color options.

The steering wheel control input makes it easy to adjust settings at any point. For Apple CarPlay, the unit sports integrated Apple Maps for easy navigation that provides real-time traffic updates.

You can utilize hands-free voiced dictation and speech prompts so you never have to divert your eye from the road. Siri Assistant makes placing and receiving hands-free calls a breeze, plus the unit is compatible with a wide range of third-party applications.

Pros
  • Fast touchscreen time
  • 7 color screen illumination
  • Compatible with a wide selection of third-party apps
  • Integrated Apple Maps and real-time navigation
  • Reverse camera input
Cons
  • Only 4 channels
  • Peak power is on the lower side

8. Pioneer DMH-1500NEX – Best Of Both Worlds

The next best Apple CarPlay stereo on our list is a fantastic option for anyone looking for a larger display screen with all the bells and whistles.

Featuring a 7-inch LCD touchscreen, Bluetooth audio streaming, hands-free calling, and double din dash compatibility, the 6-channel preamp output and 13-band graphic equalizer are just icing on the cake.

Specs:

  • Integrated internal amp with 14-watt RMS
  • 50 peak power x 4 channels
  • 5mm and RCA audio/video output
  • Rear USB port
  • Rear-view camera input
  • Sirius XM ready
  • Supports Traffic and Weather Now, Sports Flash, and Tune Mix
  • Siri Hands-Free
  • WebLink compatible
  • Customizable interface
  • Multi-color illumination
  • 7-inch LCD screen

The Pioneer DMH-1500NEX is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which means you can use a wide range of devices at any time. The feature that stood out to us with this unit is the customizable home screen. You can choose from two different style screens as you prefer, pick from a wide variety of available background images, or upload a picture of your own.

It’s easy to adjust the source icons to fit your driving needs, plus there are other customization options for screen and button color. The iPod view mode is another fantastic component. It allows you to transition to the USB iPod source screen if you don’t like the standard “Now Playing” screen. The unit is also compatible with iDatalink Maestro.

One area where the Pioneer DMH-1500NEX is lacking is that it doesn’t include a CD player. If you’d rather stream your apps on the go, this may not be a make or break point for you. The AM/FM reception isn’t as smooth as some.

However, the affordable price and excellent selection of features could still make this stereo a strong contender for your Apple CarPlay shortlist.

Pros
  • Weblink, iPhone, and Android compatible
  • Plays WMA, AAC, MP3, FLAC, and WAV music files
  • Customizable screen and source icon options
  • 7-inch touchscreen with LCD technology
  • 13-band graphic equalizer
Cons
  • The unit can take longer to power on
  • Reception isn’t as smooth as some

9. Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX DVD Receiver

The final contender in our review is another classic by Pioneer — the AVIC-W8400NEX. With a WVGA touchscreen featuring multipoint motorization and 7.9 million POIs, this flagship model leaves the competition in the dust.

Specs:

  • Dual-zone control to send AV signal
  • HD radio turner
  • SiriusXM Radio ready
  • ASWC-1 interface
  • Rear dual UCBs
  • GPS antenna
  • Bluetooth microphone
  • Steering wheel control
  • Wire harness
  • Second zone video-audio output
  • AV pigtail
  • Radio antenna
  • 7-inch touchscreen
  • 800 x 480-pixel resolution
  • Multiple display angle options

The Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX is a newer model of the company’s flagship unit but featuring the latest features for users. Setup is relatively quick and easy, and the stereo is compatible with both Android and iPhone to fit a range of consumer needs. We liked the 7-inch capacitive touchscreen with an impressive resolution of 800 x 480 pixels.

The touchscreen provides enhanced responsiveness along with gesture control for easy swiping and navigation. The mobile display means you can adjust to multiple angles as you need to. One downside is that the screen is not detachable.

However, you can tweak the viewing angle and access the SD card slot, Auto EQ input, and disc slot with relative ease.

With this unit, you’ll also enjoy dual camera inputs along with a dedicated backup camera input. The Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX also provides car speed signal inputs and reverse gear signal inputs.

The unit also features two USB ports in the rear, with one manufactured for iPhone and the other for Android. The stereo sports a dual phone connection, Bluetooth components, wireless music streaming, and hands-free calling.

Pros
  • Supports almost any sound format and media selection on the market
  • Integrated navigation and amplifier
  • Adjustable viewing angle
  • Impressive touchscreen resolution
  • Sizeable display
Cons
  • The interface isn’t detachable
  • Comes at a higher price
  • Can take a while to boot up the unit

Pre-Purchase Considerations

Now that we’ve gone over each of the top rated Apple CarPlay stereos on the market currently, you may already have a few products on your shortlist.

Before you make your final decision, though, there are some essential pre-purchase considerations to take into account.

Does the Stereo Feature OS Integration? :

The first component you need to consider when purchasing an Apple CarPlay stereo is its compatibility with different operating systems. Of course, you’ll want to buy a unit that integrates with the OS already running on your mobile device.

However, the most stereos are also compatible with a variety of operating systems. That way, you can still use the unit even if you purchase a new phone down the road.

The majority of updated stereos work with a higher number of operating systems than their predecessors, with the critical systems, including iOS and Android.

Third-Party Compatibility

Apple has relatively stringent requirements when it comes to integrating with third parties. If you opt for Apple CarPlay, you will have fewer apps to choose from overall. With that said, this also means that you’ll enjoy more control and security with fewer products.

Third-party applications and Android tend to present an increased security risk because they have fewer restrictions. With the heightened link between cars and appliances, fewer apps for increased peace of mind and security isn’t such a bad price to pay.

Smartphone Connectivity

With most stereo models, the unit connects to the phone with a cable. However, this is not always an optimal setup because cables can tangle and generally looked cluttered. If you drive a high-end vehicle, the aesthetic element alone could pose an issue.

Quality Apple CarPlay stereos feature Bluetooth integration for enhanced wireless options and connectivity on the go. Bluetooth technology is a vital feature to look for in a car stereo because it enables premium music streaming and hands-free calling options.

Depending on the unit you pick, the model could provide you with increased Bluetooth control. Some stereos even have Wi-Fi options, which means you’ll have a faster and stronger connection to your mobile device.

Naturally, this also means you’ll enjoy more seamless control over the features on your phone and your favorite apps.

Screen Resolution and Size

The screen resolution and size of the unit’s display is another vital feature to take into account when deciding which stereo is the right buy for you. Larger displays that range from 6 to 7 inches offer enhanced app navigation. Some even provide video playback. The downside with larger screens is that the price tag is typically higher.

Larger displays also mean the unit will take up more space in your vehicle. A larger screen is not typically compatible with cars featuring single din slots. With that said, you can’t use smaller units with single din dimensions for video playbacks because the screens are so small.

However, single din units are much more cost-effective and usually feature a universal fit.

Besides the display, you’ll also want to consider the pixel resolution. Generally, the higher the display’s resolution, the clearer the screen will be for premium viewing. An 800 x 400 resolution is an excellent starting point. The denser the pixel resolution is, the better your viewing experience will be.

Amplifier

All vehicle head units feature an integrated amplifier that provides power to the channels, which then link to the speakers. Not all amplifiers are created equal. Some produce more power than others. Usually, if you want a stereo with optimal performance, you should pick a unit with a minimum of 4 channels and 20 watts RMS for every channel.

Your carplay stereo choice should have pre-outs with high power. The optimal range is 4 to 5 volts to that you can increase the sound system using an external amplifier if you so desire. If you choose a unit with specs below the levels named here, you could see a noticeable decline in performance.

Car Nativity

Finally, consider car nativity when you’re hunting for a head unit for your vehicle. Being able to adjust your stereo via buttons or a touchscreen is safer and more convenient than using your smartphone when you’re behind the wheel.

However, there is an even safer option to keep your hands on the wheel continually and eliminate potentially hazardous driving distractions.

Enter steering wheel buttons….

Steering wheel buttons are fantastic because you can switch the controls on your stereo without ever having to take your attention from the road. If you choose a radio equipped with steering wheel buttons, you can take calls, tweak the volume, and adjust music tracks.

Unfortunately, very few cars include this feature, and the ones that do are not always compatible with the majority of head units on the market. If your vehicle does incorporate steering wheel controls, make sure you purchase an Apple CarPlay stereo that supports these features.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we let you go, here are a few FAQs about Apple CarPlay stereos to help inform your purchase decision.

Which iPhones Are Compatible with Apple CarPlay?

The good news for iPhone users is that Apple CarPlay works with every iPhone version from the iPhone 5 and onward. Even older models such as the iPhone SE and 5c will work with CarPlay.

Which Applications Will Work with Apple CarPlay?

Apple’s proprietary CarPlay apps include Music, Messages, Phone, and Maps. You can also access Podcasts and Audiobooks. Apple explicitly chooses any third-party apps available. As we mentioned previously, Apple is very stringent regarding the third-party apps they will integrate with.

However, you can still enjoy a quality selection of about 20 different apps to choose from. Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, NPR Radio, and Apple Music are all apps that are compatible with the CarPlay technology.

How Does Apple CarPlay Integrate with Siri?

Siri is a vital feature of Apple CarPlay, mainly because this voice aid allows you to dictate, place, and receive calls, and give instructions — all hands-free.

For instance, you can ask Siri to help you locate a coffee shop, get directions somewhere, or play your favorite Spotify playlist. The Apple digital assistant also understands when you’re driving and will provide related answers, such as finding the closest facilities with a bathroom.

Likewise, when Siri senses that you’re behind the wheel, the digital assistant won’t provide you with any information that could divert your eyes from the roadway. You can use the existing controls in your vehicle to launch Siri, go back and forth between apps, or switch the volume up or down.

It is worth mentioning that Siri can sometimes have slow launch and response times because the application depends on its connection to the cloud. Along with other features and apps, CarPlay’s Siri and Maps all have access to the most recent iOS updates.

Do I Need a Cell Signal to Launch CarPlay?

The majority of Apple CarPlay’s features won’t work unless you have a cellular signal, because the technology relies primarily on your mobile device.

Will CarPlay Take Over My Dashboard?

The answer to this question is multi-faceted. On the one hand, you can’t use Apple CarPlay to choose radio stations, switch your car to cruise control, or turn up the air conditioning in your vehicle. Siri won’t be able to turn on the heat in your car on a cold winter’s day either.

However, much like other applications, Apple CarPlay works alongside your car’s systems to minimize driving distractions and hopefully enhance your safety on the road. For instance, CarPlay will mute when it detects warnings such as a blind-spot alert or cross-traffic bell.

How Do I Connect My iPhone to Apple CarPlay?

To connect your iPhone to your stereo, plug it into the unit in the dashboard with a lightning cable. Once the unit detects the connection to your mobile device, it will launch CarPlay and update any apps it’s integrated with.

Also, once you’ve connected your phone to CarPlay, the screen will lock so you won’t be tempted to use it when you’re behind the wheel. Depending on the unit, you could connect the iPhone to the unit wirelessly.

How Can I Add Third-Party Applications to Apple CarPlay?

For the third-party applications that are compatible with Apple CarPlay, you won’t have to worry about needing to install any apps physically. The apps are already inside your mobile device. As soon as you connect to Apple CarPlay, the display will show you any installed applications that are available for you to use.

The compatible third-party applications Apple allows are typically ones that stream sports, music, or podcasts, such as NPR One, Spotify, Overcast, and MLB at Bat.

Wrapping It Up

With any of the top rated Apple CarPlay stereos on this list, you can enjoy the premium features and benefits of CarPlay without the excessive expense of purchasing a new vehicle. Apple CarPlay not only makes navigation and streaming your favorite apps faster and easier than ever on the go but provides enhanced safety whenever you’re behind the wheel.

Armed with this list of the best stereos out there, you won’t need to spend hours scouring the internet to weed out the less than stellar products.

Hand-free calls and texting are at your fingertips with Apple CarPlay and Siri. You can take care of your essential tasks from anywhere without ever needing to take your eyes off the road.

With easy to read screen displays, customizable options, USB ports, camera inputs, and Bluetooth, staying connected and safe on the go is more accessible than ever before.

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About James Benchman
James Benchman
James is an Automotive Mechanic with over 20 years experience and 300+ car repairs. He is an expert with cars and has worked with different models from the biggest brands.James is a Mechanic , Husband , Father of 3 , and head of content at Caraudiologic. Learn more about us
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