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My understanding of hoppers is that things go down before they move horizontally. So everything should go down to the bottom until that chest and hopper are full, then onto the 2nd row up, etc. Instead half the items go to the top chest and half to the bottom. Thanks in advance for any help. I'm on 1.7.2 if that matters.

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    Just a guess, but it seems to me like the issue here is that the hopper setup first detects whether there is a chest in the top row that has space left, and if it does not, descends as far as possible to check the lowest chest, before acting as expected. I imagine if you extended this setup to 10 chests high, you'd get a top chest full of items, and then the chests would start filling up in order from the bottom to the top. Likely the top hopper is only connected to the very top of this setup, and the hopper below it is what's acting in this manner. – Zibbobz Nov 21 '13 at 17:41
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It's because your top hopper is pointed directly into the hopper just below it. Point the hopper on the very top to the side, and it will work as you expect.

With the configuration you have, your second hopper from the top is getting 2 items per "cycle". (The top hopper is pushing one item / cycle into the 2nd hopper. The 2nd hopper is pulling one item / cycle from the top hopper.)

Now, the third hopper can only pull one item / cycle from the second hopper, so the second hopper pushes the "extra" item into the top chest.

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