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  1. #1
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    Question Ballistic or Halcyon for S25... I need your input to make a better choice!

    Hello everyone,

    I'd like to get the S25 but can't make up my mind on what material to choose. I have read the forums and watched some youtubes. Still, I can't decide! Hopefully someone can give me some input on material choice.

    I'll list my considerations:
    - I'm a guy living in Europe; I won't order two and send one back
    - I'm looking for black Halcyon or black Ballistic or deep blue Ballistic
    - I'm looking for a bag that will last me a lifetime. I like some features of Halcyon (pliability, smoothness, more sophisticated look perhaps), but I wonder if it will hold up over time as well as Ballistic might?
    - Although I won't rough-handle my backpack, I'm attracted to the sturdiness and more rugged look of Ballistic. I wonder if it looks more 'cool' in person than the more delicate Halcyon pattern?
    - Most days my backpack will be under-packed. Will a S25 Halcyon flatten more vs Ballistic staying more bulged?
    - I haven't found anything on UV rays (sun) affecting either material over time. Plenty of materials break down, discolor or loose their properties over time under the influence of UV. Does anyone know if either material is more prone to this?

    I wish there was a video showing both materials in actual daily use. Packing it, half and fully stuffed; putting in on, accessing pockets on the go, squishing it, throwing the bag in a corner, etc. This would really help me deciding! Pictures and even many review videos can be too static in that regard for my taste.

    Now if only there was a TB store in Europe Big Grin

  2. #2
    Forum Member BigBadD's Avatar
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    I don't have an Synapse 25 but do have a Daylight Backpack. But had many of the same questions regarding choice of materials - which are same for both these backpacks.

    I bought the DLBP in 525 Ballistic, and in my view the 525 Ballistic is an excellent material choice which balances toughness with sufficient rigidity whilst still having enough flexibility. I have since bought Side Kick and Pop Tote in same 525 Ballistic material. I am also pleased with the colour choice; and look and texture of the material.

    Based on your comments, I don't think you would be unhappy with choosing 525 Ballistic for the S25.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Perseffect's Avatar
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    Ballistic or Halcyon for S25... I need your input to make a better choice!

    Iím based in Europe so have the same desire to get material, colour and bag choices right.

    I have owned an S25 in Cordura, Halcyon and Ballistic so Iíll try and answer your questions, focussing or the available halcyon and ballistic.

    - Floppiness (how it works half packed) is about the same for the cordura and halcyon. The Ballistic holds its shape marginally better but they all Ďlookí good either overpacked or underpacked. Sorry I donít have both together to do a comparison photo/video.

    - Robustness and UV. This is a little subjective but I feel the Halcyon to be less resistant. In a couple of cases, Iíve seen the Waterproof uerethane coating weather quicker on the underside of halcyon than ballistic. No comment on the UV colour resistance over time other than Iíve never seen a difference.

    - Colour - Black Ballistic, Navy Ballistic, Black Halcyon would be my order of choice from your selection (I had Black Halcyon and have Cloud Ballistic). The Halcyon is nice and formal enough for work use. It can look charcoal grey is some light. The new ballistics have a silky look to them, sort of between Matt and Satin finish if you were buying paint (Matt - Satin - Silk Finish. I never thought Iíd be comparing TB bags to paint). I really like this, especially in the black which is a really rich finish. I have a Cloud/Island S25 but Iíd be really happy with a Black/UV or Black/Wasabi S25.

    Hope this helps to figure out the right bag for you. Let me know if you have any questions.

    P.S. Itís a great point about the videos and trying to see them in use rather than a more static reviewing of the features. When I first started ordering, I really missed that practical user information. I started doing videos specifically to talk about the bags I have bought and how I use them. Havenít done an S25 review yet but here are the 3 Iíve done so far.

    Tristar Business Travel Review - https://youtu.be/cNkY-mwY7cI
    A45 Comparison Review Old v New Design - https://youtu.be/BJkJ9Icz6AQ
    In Use. In The Real World. A45 Review - https://youtu.be/BS_b6IWLWrc


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Perseffect; 05-19-2018 at 01:26 AM.
    Aeronaut 45 (Navy/NWS), A30 (Black/Island), Tristar (Steel/Island), Western Flyer (Steel/Island), Pilot (Steel/Island), Synapse 25 (Mars Red/NWS), Synapse 19 (Black/Island) & (Burnt Orange/Steel), Ristretto 11 (Navy/Steel), Small Cafe Bag (Navy/Steel) & (Mars Red/Dawn), Daylight Briefcase (Cloud/Dawn), Side Kick (Mars Red/Dawn), Travel Cubelet (Mars Red)

  4. #4
    Forum Member Aeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sirolf View Post
    I'm looking for black Halcyon or black Ballistic or deep blue Ballistic
    I have a Cordura S25, but also have Black Halcyon and Black 525 Ballistic bags since I greatly prefer black to blue. I like both materials, but I generally prefer larger bags to have more structure and smaller bags to be more pliable. But I have a 525 Ballistic Travel Cubelet and a Black Halcyon Smart Alec, so even the bags I use frequently don't follow that rule of thumb.

    Quote Originally Posted by sirolf View Post
    I'm looking for a bag that will last me a lifetime. I like some features of Halcyon (pliability, smoothness, more sophisticated look perhaps), but I wonder if it will hold up over time as well as Ballistic might?
    Eh. I think this comes down to how you use the bag and how well you take care of it, and less about the material. If you are somebody who pays no mind to your bag, it probably won't last as long as someone who takes more particular care with their bag whether or not their bag is Ballistic or Halycon. I buy TB bags because I don't have to take as much care in their upkeep as leather bags and I don't worry that I'll only get a few years of daily use out of them before they start to fall apart like a lot of bags on the market. Still, I have to take care of the bag if I want it to last for my lifetime. I'm confident that my bags will, but they will not do that on their own.

    ETA: Conversely, if this bag is going to be your one-bag or EDC, then it will see more wear and tear than if you use it occassionally. You may baby your EDC but I still don't expect it to hold up as well over time as a bag used more infrquently.

    Quote Originally Posted by sirolf View Post
    Although I won't rough-handle my backpack, I'm attracted to the sturdiness and more rugged look of Ballistic. I wonder if it looks more 'cool' in person than the more delicate Halcyon pattern?
    Beauty/attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. My favorite color is orange. I love Burnt Orange. I think Burnt Orange bags look very cool, but many people in my life disagree. Because ... orange. I can say the same about a lot of TB colors.

    Black Ballistic looks like a plain black bag. A lot of people will say there is nothing cool about another bland and blah black bag. Black Halcyon looks like a more traditional-looking black nylon bag. Some people think the smooth, slightly shiny, satin texture of Halcyon may look cheap, though I highly disagree.

    Quote Originally Posted by sirolf View Post
    Most days my backpack will be under-packed. Will a S25 Halcyon flatten more vs Ballistic staying more bulged?
    I don't care how you pack it, the egg-shaped design of the Synapses will cause them all to bulge the fuller they get regardless of material. If anything, the Halcyon is marginally more pliable so you may be able to fit a few more things in. I don't have a frame sheet for my S25, but I have read a lot of positive reviews about the frame sheet greatly reducing a bulging Synapse.

    Underpacked, the Synapses hold their shape and compress/flatten down well. Remember, that the front pockets have their depth separate from the main compartment's depth. If I pack the front pockets full, I don't think the pack compresses down as much as having the pockets empty and the main compartment full. It may be a trick of the eye, but that's been my experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by sirolf View Post
    I haven't found anything on UV rays (sun) affecting either material over time. Plenty of materials break down, discolor or loose their properties over time under the influence of UV. Does anyone know if either material is more prone to this?
    Again, this goes back to care and use. If your bag is out in the sun a lot, it will get some sort of sun damage over time. I'm sure there are treatments and protectants you can use (or ask TB which ones they recommend) to mitigate that risk. I haven't noticed any fading or failing due to UV rays on any of my bags, but my bags are not outside the majority of the time either.


    As for reviews, do a deep dive into You Tube one afternoon. There may not be a lot of bags-in-use videos, but there are a lot of people showing how they pack their bags over and over again. The Synapses are popular backpacks on You Tube that people review so there are plenty of Cordura and Halcyon reviews and I'm starting to see some Ballistic reviews pop up.

    I hope this helps. TB bags and international shipping are expensive so I understand your desire to make the right purchase for your order. Don't hesitate to ask as many follow-up questions you need to solidify your decision.
    Last edited by Aeon; 05-19-2018 at 06:02 AM.

    Long live Burnt Orange! Zest! 152!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perseffect View Post
    I’m based in Europe so have the same desire to get material, colour and bag choices right.

    I have owned an S25 in Cordura, Halcyon and Ballistic so I’ll try and answer your questions, focussing or the available halcyon and ballistic.

    - Floppiness (how it works half packed) is about the same for the cordura and halcyon. The Ballistic holds its shape marginally better but they all ‘look’ good either overpacked or underpacked. Sorry I don’t have both together to do a comparison photo/video.

    - Robustness and UV. This is a little subjective but I feel the Halcyon to be less resistant. In a couple of cases, I’ve seen the Waterproof uerethane coating weather quicker on the underside of halcyon than ballistic. No comment on the UV colour resistance over time other than I’ve never seen a difference.

    - Colour - Black Ballistic, Navy Ballistic, Black Halcyon would be my order of choice from your selection (I had Black Halcyon and have Cloud Ballistic). The Halcyon is nice and formal enough for work use. It can look charcoal grey is some light. The new ballistics have a silky look to them, sort of between Matt and Satin finish if you were buying paint (Matt - Satin - Silk Finish. I never thought I’d be comparing TB bags to paint). I really like this, especially in the black which is a really rich finish. I have a Cloud/Island S25 but I’d be really happy with a Black/UV or Black/Wasabi S25.

    Hope this helps to figure out the right bag for you. Let me know if you have any questions.

    P.S. It’s a great point about the videos and trying to see them in use rather than a more static reviewing of the features. When I first started ordering, I really missed that practical user information. I started doing videos specifically to talk about the bags I have bought and how I use them. Haven’t done an S25 review yet but here are the 3 I’ve done so far.

    Tristar Business Travel Review - https://youtu.be/cNkY-mwY7cI
    A45 Comparison Review Old v New Design - https://youtu.be/BJkJ9Icz6AQ
    In Use. In The Real World. A45 Review - https://youtu.be/BS_b6IWLWrc


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Thank you, I really appreciated your comments on the floppiness and robustness.
    Your style of review is indeed very helpful to get a realistic feel for the bag. Maybe some day you can make one for the S25 too!

  6. #6
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    Hi - long time lurker here. I own a BH S25 and carry it with me to work about 3 times a week.

    Based on your considerations, my view is the 525 ballistic might work better for you.

    2 reasons:
    1/ you asked which looked better underpacked, which gave me the sense that you plan to have few items in your bag. The ballistic works because its not quite as forgiving as the halcyon in squeezing stuff.
    2/ you didnt mention weight as your consideration. I believe the ballistic does feel marginally heavier based on some posters who have tried both but since weight isnt your concern, halcyon loses that advantage over ballistic.

    I think you would be hard pressed to find owners who can opine on UV degradation across the 2 materials - the 525 was only released slightly more than a year ago (?) and I would be very surprised if someone actually observed degradation across that short span of time. What I would suggest is the application of Nikwax on your bag. The exterior DWR on the bag does wear out over time so the reapplication of waterproofing and UV proofing will be required to extend the lifespan of your bag.

  7. #7
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    I normally prefer halcyon but my S25 is in ballistic, because I wanted it for bike commuting and wanted something that wouldn't get damaged if I bit it on my bike. It's actually quite comfortable, with the waist straps, for my commute (roughly 5 miles each way), and hasn't been beat up while on my back. However, on a recent airplane trip something happened to it while under the seat in front of me and when I pulled it out from under the seat, it was covered in a large white streak. No damage to the bag, but the white streak remains. I do wonder if that kind of incident would have cause a tear or other damage to a halcyon bag.

  8. #8
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    The only thing I would add is that the S25 ballistic seems very durable in the sense I can't imagine it tearing. However, it does show more blemishes than I would have expected for a "ballistic" material, potentially because Tom Bihn seems to have made a weight/suppleness versus durability trade-off in going with their ballistic. I have a medium sized scratch on my S25. Among the dozen or so non-Tom Bihn branded bags I have, none of them have scratches.

  9. #9
    Forum Member thephotomatt's Avatar
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    Current owner of a Cordura Synapse 25 here, and soon-to-be owner of a Halcyon Synapse 25. I've had my Cordura S25 for four years and it has nobly served its purpose. Can't say enough great things about it -- regardless of material.

    A few months back I ordered a sample swatch of the 525 Ballistic. Compared to Cordura, the Ballistic is a bit more pliable, feels smoother, and has a very subtle and nice sheen about it.

    Having said that, while I never actually saw the Halcyon material in person, I ordered my new S25 in just that -- Halcyon. This is largely due to the fact that after researching much like you, I also found that material to be of a very durable, high quality. Ultimately, the main decision point for me was that Nordic Halcyon is a simply stunning color.

    With both materials being of such high quality and exhibiting very similar characteristics, I absolutely recommend you simply select the one that passes your eye test -- that is, which color you like the most Smilie

    Cheers!

  10. #10
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    While I really like the look of the Black Halcyon, I've decided to get my S25 in Black Ballistic. I have ordered a Synapse in Halcyon and the gird was off just a bit (not straight). I completely understand why this would happen since the Synapse has curves as part of its design. Having a grid be slightly off probably wouldn't bother a lot of people, but it bothered me enough to order a second one to see if the one I received was a fluke. The second one also had an area where the grid was slightly askew; it was a different area though. I ended up paying shipping for two bags and shipping for returning them so for me, that was $30 in shipping. I think TB shipping in the US is very reasonable and I don't mind paying it, but I basically paid shipping 3x and ended up with no bag. This was, of course, 100% my choice.

    Some people think a 'basic' black bag is boring. I think of black bags as timeless, classic and understated. I think the design of TB sets them apart from all the various backpacks and other bags available. I'm always happy to carry a black TB bag!

    ETA I have a S19 in black and will have 2 S25's in black once my preferred interior color becomes available. My daughter has taken my S25 to use as her backpack at college. It's getting a lot of use there! Both of my synapses have held up very well under all kinds of conditions and care. I tend to baby my bags, my daughter does not.
    Last edited by kgm; 05-23-2018 at 04:55 PM.

  11. #11
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    I own multiple Tom Bihn bags in both outer materials.

    For the S19 or S25 I would buy the Halcyon material. The reason? Reduced weight. Wearing a ballistic nylon backpack a whole day at a trade show is torture, especially since the backpack is full of paper catalogs.

    Yes, the ballistic is more durable, but I think this is only useful for people who are very hard on their gear or who carry certain types of bulky items. I have a few non-Tom-Bihn bags/soft cases where the Cordura wore through, but this was because they are used to carry heavy items with sharp corners (such as light stands), and the outer fabric wore through at specific points only because of those sharp corners. If you carry this type of stuff such as camera gear, then I would recommend you get the ballistic nylon (but be aware that it too can wear through same as Cordura).
    Last edited by dchang0; 05-26-2018 at 12:18 AM.

  12. #12
    Forum Member Perseffect's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dchang0 View Post
    I own multiple Tom Bihn bags in both outer materials.

    For the S19 or S25 I would buy the Halcyon material. The reason? Reduced weight. Wearing a ballistic nylon backpack a whole day at a trade show is torture, especially since the backpack is full of paper catalogs.
    According to the website, the difference is weight between an S25 in Ballistic and Halcyon is 68g (900g v 832g). This equates to about 12 sheet of paper or even less than the weight of a CD.

    Iíd suggest that no one is going to notice the difference in weight when the bags are actually in use.

    Weight should definitely not be the main reason to choose halcyon over Ballistic since it has such a minimal impact.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Aeronaut 45 (Navy/NWS), A30 (Black/Island), Tristar (Steel/Island), Western Flyer (Steel/Island), Pilot (Steel/Island), Synapse 25 (Mars Red/NWS), Synapse 19 (Black/Island) & (Burnt Orange/Steel), Ristretto 11 (Navy/Steel), Small Cafe Bag (Navy/Steel) & (Mars Red/Dawn), Daylight Briefcase (Cloud/Dawn), Side Kick (Mars Red/Dawn), Travel Cubelet (Mars Red)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perseffect View Post
    According to the website, the difference is weight between an S25 in Ballistic and Halcyon is 68g (900g v 832g). This equates to about 12 sheet of paper or even less than the weight of a CD.

    I’d suggest that no one is going to notice the difference in weight when the bags are actually in use.

    Weight should definitely not be the main reason to choose halcyon over Ballistic since it has such a minimal impact.
    Have you heard the saying "ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain?"

    Weight matters a lot to me and my compadres, considering that we wear our bags all day stuffed full with trade show catalogs. We're talking 8 hours straight, walking up and down rows. Even 3oz (68g = 2.3oz) difference matters when my shoulders are aching and the catalogs are poking me in the back. My buddy has got it worse--he's the photographer with multiple heavy bags to carry. We're both constantly shaving as much weight as we can from our load-outs.

    But it's not just for trade shows that weight matters. My last trip to Montreal for pleasure, I had a ballistic nylon Tri-Star stuffed full, and walking around downtown for just a few hours before hotel check-in time was backbreaking. I'm in pretty good shape too, not some decrepit, arthritic Crypt Keeper.

    On a separate work trip with a different team, same Tri-Star, we had to run full-speed from terminal to terminal in the Miami-Dade airport. My bag was bouncing around on my back, up and down, alternately whacking me in the back of the head and lower back over and over. Absolute torture. Would I want an extra 3oz (actually, Tri-Star difference is 270g = 9.5oz) whacking me if I can buy the same bag in a lighter material? Anybody here never have to run to catch a flight (or a bus or train or taxi) with a heavy bag awkwardly bouncing up and down?

    The OP says they're in Europe--they probably walk a lot and have had to run to catch transit more than a few times; a slightly lighter bag would likely help more than a slightly more abrasion-resistant bag. How often will they be carrying the bag versus how often will they be rubbing it up against some rough surface? The only times I have scraped my bags have been on rough surfaces like rock or cinder block; airplane compartments and bus/train seats are pretty smooth.
    Last edited by dchang0; 05-26-2018 at 03:38 AM.

  14. #14
    Forum Member Perseffect's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dchang0 View Post
    Have you heard the saying "ounces are pounds?"

    Weight matters a lot to me and my compadres, considering that we wear our bags all day stuffed full with trade show catalogs. We're talking 8 hours straight, walking up and down rows. Even 3oz (68g = 2.3oz) difference matters when my shoulders are aching and the catalogs are poking me in the back. My buddy has got it worse--he's the photographer, taking photos of the various products. He's got multiple bags to carry.
    I totally agree that Oz/grams matter. As a long distance hiker, I get it. For Ounces to be Pounds though, weight savings need to be cumulative, not just in one item.

    My point is that carrying 10 pounds of conference materials is going to feel like 10 pounds of conference materials wether or not the bag weighs an extra 3oz.

    I also however get that the perceived effect of a weight saving in one item (the bag). A placebo of sorts. And that can be as important to some.

    My placebo is in the durability of ballistic v halcyon. I know that in normal use, the noticeable impact is negligible, but I Ďfeelí better that Ballistic is technically more durable.

    (Iím probably using placebo incorrectly from a grammar standpoint but hopefully the point makes sense).

    For me, the additional bag weight of Ballistic material is negligible when Iíve loaded an S25 with laptop, iPad, papers, water etc etc. My problem is learning to carry less to ensure a lighter load. Ballistic or Halcyon for S25... I need your input to make a better choice!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Aeronaut 45 (Navy/NWS), A30 (Black/Island), Tristar (Steel/Island), Western Flyer (Steel/Island), Pilot (Steel/Island), Synapse 25 (Mars Red/NWS), Synapse 19 (Black/Island) & (Burnt Orange/Steel), Ristretto 11 (Navy/Steel), Small Cafe Bag (Navy/Steel) & (Mars Red/Dawn), Daylight Briefcase (Cloud/Dawn), Side Kick (Mars Red/Dawn), Travel Cubelet (Mars Red)

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perseffect View Post
    I totally agree that Oz/grams matter. As a long distance hiker, I get it. For Ounces to be Pounds though, weight savings need to be cumulative, not just in one item.

    My point is that carrying 10 pounds of conference materials is going to feel like 10 pounds of conference materials wether or not the bag weighs an extra 3oz.

    I also however get that the perceived effect of a weight saving in one item (the bag). A placebo of sorts. And that can be as important to some.

    My placebo is in the durability of ballistic v halcyon. I know that in normal use, the noticeable impact is negligible, but I ‘feel’ better that Ballistic is technically more durable.

    (I’m probably using placebo incorrectly from a grammar standpoint but hopefully the point makes sense).

    For me, the additional bag weight of Ballistic material is negligible when I’ve loaded an S25 with laptop, iPad, papers, water etc etc. My problem is learning to carry less to ensure a lighter load. Ballistic or Halcyon for S25... I need your input to make a better choice!

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Ah, good, as a hiker you get where I'm coming from. (You used placebo correctly; it is a noun.)

    I would say though that it is not a placebo, even at a mere 3oz on top of, say, 10lbs. Why? Because my photographer and I have both experienced the slight difference in weight via switching to newer, lighter ultraportable laptops. The difference in weight might be a mere 3oz to 5oz between a 5-year old model and a current model, but we could tell the difference in a full pack over a few hours. (Nothing else changed in the load-out, just the laptop.)

    I have another direct experience of weight savings in just a few ounces. I have a Tactical Tailor Removable Operator Pack (~19L) in 1000D Cordura. They made a "Fight Light" version of the same pack in 500D Cordura and less webbing with only a few ounces weight savings, but we could tell. Both empty and full, we could tell. Ultimately, I went back to the 1000D version but not for abrasion resistance. What I noticed is that the stitches where the load-bearing webbing/straps are sewn seem to tear out of the fabric more easily with 500D than 1000D. Not that Tactical Tailor's bags tear easily and not that I tore my Tactical Tailor packs; I am referring to other 500D bags I have that have torn.

    Re: placebo in ballistic abrasion resistance: in your case, it is also more than a placebo. There is almost certainly a measurable difference in durability just as a 3oz is measurable in weight. I would say though that we differ in trade-offs. You prefer durability gains, I prefer weight savings. Given my use case, weight savings makes much more sense. My photographer buddy, though, has to have more durable bags than I do because he carries heavier gear that results in harder scraping of the outer fabric. For instance, he has a spare lens in a Pelican case that is in his backpack. The hard corners of the Pelican case causes his pack to wear faster in those spots, so he uses 1000D where I could use 400D Halcyon.

    Between the two of us with our different use cases, we probably gave the OP quite a bit of help in deciding (or maybe made things worse, but nah, we did a good job explaining why we prefer what we prefer).

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