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Are you searching for the best electric mountain bike? We researched the latest and greatest e-MTB models and purchased 7 to test and compare side-by-side. When a compelling new model hits the market, we buy it for testing and add it to the review. Our testers rode each of these electric mountain bikes for hundreds of miles, countless hours, and an absurd number of vertical feet. During testing, we analyzed each bike's design and build and rated them on their uphill and downhill performance, distance range, power output, and user-friendliness of the e-bike controls and interface. There are lots of great models on the market, and we hope this detailed comparative review helps you find the right e-MTB for your needs and budget.
The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp Alloy returns to our electric mountain bike test and claims the top step on the podium for the fourth year in a row. Updated for the 2022 model year, it looks nearly identical to the previous version but has several notable changes, including the highly adjustable geometry debuted on the Stumpjumper EVO, mixed wheel sizes, and the new Turbo Full Power 2.2 motor. The adjustable geometry is a real highlight, giving the rider the ability to set the bike up in six distinct configurations through adjustable head cups and flip chips in the chainstays. The head cups allow you to change the head tube angle a full degree at a time between 65.5 and 63.5-degrees while the flip chips adjust the bottom bracket height by 7mm between the high and low positions. This unprecedented level of adjustability really allows the rider to set the bike up to suit their riding style, terrain, and preferences, taking the Levo's versatility to another level. Meanwhile, the move to mixed wheel sizes helped to keep the rear end of the bike maneuverable and increases clearance in steep terrain. The 700Wh battery carries over from the previous version, and gives the bike a very impressive range, while the revised motor pumps out some serious torque with three customizable support settings. The refinement and integration of the entire system is excellent, plus the Comp Alloy model we tested comes with a functional and capable build, even if it isn't flashy.
Of course, there is still room for improvement, but we found little not to like about the Turbo Levo Comp. There is no handlebar-mounted digital display, and while the top-tube mounted display works fine, it's outdone by the competition (more expensive models have a new integrated digital display). The SRAM Code R brakes that came on our test bike are adequate, but they quickly developed a spongy and inconsistent feel. While we like Specialized tires, the GRID Trail casings that come stock are simply not tough enough for the weight of this bike or its hard-charging capabilities. Overall though, the Specialized still proved to be the test team's favorite for its enhanced versatility through adjustable geometry, well-rounded performance, and very impressive range and efficiency.
Canyon really impressed us with the new Spectral:ON CF 8. Redesigned for the 2022 model year, this bike rolls on mixed wheel sizes with 155/150m of travel, a modern trail riding geometry, and a full carbon frame that houses a massive 900Wh battery. The trustworthy Shimano EP8 motor has been angled slightly to accommodate the large battery which has been specially designed to keep the weight as low as possible in the frame. The result is a shockingly well-balanced bike that remains impressively maneuverable and lively despite its heavy weight. At the same time, it's very stable with enough travel to confidently handle just about anything most people would consider riding down without feeling like a handful in mellower terrain. The trail riding geometry strikes a nice balance for climbing comfort, maneuverability, and versatility that make it very well-rounded, while a great build further enhances its performance. Did we mention it has a 900Wh battery? Range anxiety is pretty much a thing of the past as the Spectral:ON packs enough juice to make sure you run out of energy before it does. Canyon's consumer-direct sales model also means they offer this bike at a very competitive price, relatively speaking, and we feel it is an excellent value.
It's not all gold stars for the Spectral:ON CF 8. While it is impressive that they've managed to squeeze 900Wh of battery into the frame, the resulting bulge at the bottom of the downtube reduces clearance quite noticeably. Combined with a relatively low bottom bracket height means that bottoming out on the skid plate may occur in some situations. The Fox 36 Rhythm fork does a pretty good job at the front of the bike, but we found it to be a bit flexy under braking and in rough terrain at speed. And, while we love the Maxxis Minion DHR II and Assegai tire combination, the EXO+ and EXO casings, respectively, are not quite beefy enough to handle the weight and charge-ability of the Spectral:ON. Yes, tires are an inexpensive upgrade, but it should come with something a little beefier, in our opinion. Beyond those concerns, we think you'd have a hard time finding a better electric mountain bike, especially at this price.
In our ongoing quest to find the best value electric mountain bike, we recently picked up the Meta Power TR Ride from the consumer-direct brand, Commencal. While it's still no drop in the bucket, it is pretty affordable compared to mainstream brands, especially with rising prices. This 29er has 140mm of travel with a 150mm fork and a seriously long and slack geometry. It really comes alive at speed and feels confident and composed in aggressive terrain, yet it's still fun to rip around on mellower trails. A steep seat tube props the rider up comfortably, and the pedal assistance and length help you power up the climbs. The new Shimano EP8 motor works well and is a particularly nice spec on the least expensive build in the range. A 630Wh battery is also a nice touch, and the Meta Power TR has a pretty impressive distance range. The build is definitely budget-oriented, but it all comes together quite well when the rubber hits the dirt.
Commencal wasn't messing around when they designed the Meta Power TR, and this bike is definitely long and slack. It's also pretty heavy at 53+ lbs, and it can feel like a bit of a handful at lower speeds and in tight spots on both the climbs and descents. While the Ride build didn't really disappoint us on the trail, there are some unimpressive components attached to this bike, most notably the suspension. Again, it worked better than expected, but concessions were clearly made to keep the price down. Regardless, we were pretty impressed with the Meta Power TR, and we think it's a great value.
Battery Size: 320Wh (Up to 480Wh with optional Range Extender) | Wheel Size: 29-inch
REASONS TO BUY
"Normal" trail bike feel
Optional Range Extender battery
REASONS TO AVOID
Less battery storage capacity
Less powerful motor
Specialized recently introduced the Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp, a line-blurring e-bike that splits the difference between the non-powered Stumpjumper and the full-power Levo. For an e-bike, the new Levo SL is impressively lightweight thanks to their new SL 1.1 motor and a smaller 320Wh battery. While it's about half as powerful as a full-power model, it still roughly doubles your output to help you ride faster and farther, albeit with a little more effort. With a geometry that is nearly identical to the Stumpjumper along with the reduced weight, the Levo SL is more nimble and handles a lot more like a normal trail bike than any other e-MTB we've tested. It is impressively stable and ground-hugging on the descents, yet easy to maneuver and get off the ground. On the climbs, it is comfortable with just enough power to help you scramble up just about anything. The build of the Comp alloy model we tested is mostly great for the price and contributes to its overall performance.
The new SL 1.1 motor puts out a maximum of 35Nm of torque and 240 Watts of power. That is a little less than half of the regular Levo's output, and this difference is quite noticeable. The battery storage capacity is also a bit less than half at 320Wh, although you can add 160Wh with the optional Range Extender battery. While a lighter bike with less power output is the whole point of the Levo SL, it might not be the e-bike experience that many riders are looking for. Then again, it could be the ticket for the rider who still wants to push some watts of their own and is seeking a more agile, playful, and "normal" feeling ride.
Over several months, our team of professional mountain bike testers rode each of the electric mountain bikes in our test selection on various trails and terrain in a range of weather conditions. We had each tester ride each of the bikes numerous times, often riding the different models back to back for the sake of comparison. We didn't go easy on them. Instead, we treated them all as if they were our own, putting them through the wringer to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Our testing of electric Mountain bikes covers five rating metrics:
Downhill Performance tests (30% of overall score weighting)
Climbing Performance tests (25% weighting)
Distance Range tests (25% weighting)
Power Output tests (15% weighting)
E-Bike Controls tests (5% weighting)
Our testing regime puts each bike through a multi-point performance analysis to rate its performance as a true mountain bike and its ability as an e-bike. We've literally put in thousands of riding miles in the saddle. We subjected each bike to numerous individual tests to rate performance and compare them to each other. The most important metric for mountain e-bikes is downhill performance comprising 35% of the total score. We believe this is the most important functionality of a mountain bike, and therefore, gave it higher weighting than other test metrics.
Our team of testers has a strong background in the bike industry. These riders are racers, mechanics, shop owners, and adventure lovers who are passionate about all things about bicycles.
Jeremy Benson eats, sleeps, and breathes mountain bikes. This native New Englander started mountain biking in 1992. He got more serious in college and started racing bikes in 1999. After moving to Tahoe, Jeremy continued his obsession with riding. He continues to race mountain bikes and has racked up some impressive results at the Downieville Classic and the Lost and Found Gravel Grinder. Jeremy authored Mountain Bike Tahoe, published in 2017. Kurt Gensheimer is a bike industry veteran and freelance writer. He brings decades of bike testing expertise to the table and has an affinity for exploring remote places in the Lost Sierra aboard electric mountain bikes. He is a former singlespeed rider, and his alter ego is known as the Angry Single Speeder.
Chris McNamara spends a whole lot of time in the saddle. This rock climber turned mountain cyclist loves huge rides covering obscene distances. He is working on a few gigantic rides, including a singletrack route around Lake Tahoe and a ride from South Lake Tahoe to Mammoth Lakes. Joshua Hutchens has spent decades in the bike industry. He has been a racer, bike shop owner, mechanic, and guide. Joshua has an excellent eye for the subtleties of a bicycle.
Analysis and Test Results
We scrutinized every aspect of each e-bike's performance. We scored them on several rating metrics, downhill performance, climbing performance, distance range, power output, and e-bike controls to gain the knowledge to help you in your e-bike buying quest.
With mountain bikes already carrying hefty price tags, the cost of adding an electric pedal-assist motor might be enough to send the value-conscious rider's head spinning. You get what you pay for in many cases, and the most expensive models are the highest performing. However, this isn't always the case as the Commencal Meta Power TR Ride costs less and performs nearly as well as its more expensive competition. This is thanks to Commencal's direct-to-consumer sales model. Likewise, the consumer-direct YT Decoy 29 Core 4 and the Canyon Spectral:ON CF8 are no drop in the bucket, but both come with carbon frames, nice builds, and perform great on the trail for a fraction of the price of a comparable build from a mainstream brand.
What is an E-Bike?
There are various kinds and classifications of electric bikes on the market. Nearly all electric mountain bikes fall into Class 1, where power is delivered only while the rider is pedaling. In the US, Class 1 electric bikes, the type tested and reviewed here, are limited to a top speed of 20 mph, and their motors are designed with a speed governor to regulate it. These types of e-bikes resemble modern mountain bikes, but they have significant battery packs and small motor units integrated onto and into the frame design. The e-MTB pedal-assist motor is typically built around the bottom bracket and provides varying levels of pedaling "support" directly into the drivetrain while the cranks are turning. Most drive unit systems offer several support settings that provide pedal assistance that amplifies the user's input to varying degrees.
We tested full suspension all-mountain/trail bike models with relatively similar amounts of suspension travel, geometry, and wheel/tire size. The addition of a large battery and a small motor adds significant weight to an e-bike, and they generally weigh in the neighborhood of 50 lbs, approximately 20 pounds heavier than non-e-bikes. The heavy weight of these bikes makes them significantly more difficult to ride without the support of the pedal-assist motor. An exception to this rule is the Turbo Levo SL Comp, a lower-powered and lighter-weight model that tips the scales at just 41 lbs and 10 oz.
There are many places in the U.S. where you can legally and responsibly ride e-MTBs and take it from us; they are a heck of a lot of fun. We recommend checking with local land management agencies and other resources to find out where you are allowed to use an electric mountain bike before taking it to the trails. One thing we do know, e-MTB's can be used on any trails that are legal for motorized use, so we took advantage of the wealth of OHV trails in the greater Lake Tahoe area for our testing purposes.
It is important to note that adding a motor, battery, controls, wiring, and sensors to a mountain bike creates additional potential for these components to have issues or fail altogether. We recommend doing some research about warranty coverage and buying from a knowledgeable local dealer whenever possible to ensure that you will be taken care of if problems should arise.
Downhill performance is our most highly weighted rating metric because we feel that the most important element of an e-bike is how well it performs out on the trail, especially when bombing down the hill. Each tester rode every bike numerous times and formulated their own opinions of each model, considering how factors like the component spec, geometry, and frame design play a role in its downhill performance. All of the e-bikes we tested were fun to ride, but they all had a different demeanor and trail manners. To test this, we rode the bikes downhill a lot and took them down various terrain, from fast and flowing open trails to tight low-speed technical and everything in between.
In the end, the Specialized Turbo Levo SL Comp proved to be a tester favorite, offering a versatile downhill performance that feels "a lot like a regular trail bike". The Levo SL is the lightest and proved to be the most nimble and agile by far, yet still managed to be confident and stable at speed. It's not the most aggressive bike, but it's easily the best handling and normal feeling of the bunch. The full-power Turbo Levo Comp was our other favorite on the descents. With 150/160mm of travel, well-balanced weight, and responsive handling, the Levo can handle just about anything that comes down the trail with confidence and composure. Additionally, the highly adjustable geometry allows the rider to dramatically alter the bike's character and handling to suit their style, terrain, and preferences. You decide how you want the Levo to ride.
The Santa Cruz Heckler MX combines 150/160mm of travel, modern trail riding geometry, and mixed wheel sizes to create a super versatile ride that performs well across varying speeds and terrain. It's stable and confident at speed and in steep terrain, yet it manages to remain maneuverable and handle well at lower speeds and on moderate trails. The Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 has a moderate modern geometry, 155/150mm of travel, and a very well-rounded downhill performance. This bike is surprisingly nimble and lively given its weight, yet it remains super stable and confidence-inspiring at higher speeds and in steeper terrain. Sure, there are more aggressive bikes out there, but it takes a lot to rattle the Spectral:ON's cage.
YT's Decoy 29 also really impressed us with its versatility and well-rounded downhill performance. With 145mm of rear-wheel travel, 29-inch wheels, and a moderate but modern geometry, we found it to be a capable descender comfortable on a huge range of terrain. Much like the Specialized Levo SL and Canyon Spectral:ON models, it feels like a trail bike with responsive handling, agility, and the ability to get after it when the mood hits or the trail gets rowdy.
The Commencal Meta Power TR Ride was also a blast on the descents. Its long and slack geometry is reminiscent of an enduro bike, and it felt great at speed and in rowdy terrain. It isn't just a one-trick pony, however, as it was also quite fun to rip around on flow trails and mellower terrain. The Trek Rail 9.7 is a 150mm travel 29er with modern geometry. It impressed us with its damp, ground-hugging feel, and it seemed eager to get up to speed. The Rail's flip-chips also give the rider the ability to adjust the geometry to their terrain or preferences.
You've gotta get up to get down, and one of the purposes of e-bikes is to make it much easier to do so. Some of our testers even claim that climbing is now nearly as fun as descending when you've got pedal assistance. Climbing on an e-MTB with pedal assist support is somewhat different than climbing on a bike without a motor. These bikes are capable of carrying some serious speed uphill, changing the climbing dynamic with a much faster pace, often tossing finesse out the window in favor of power and momentum. The heavy weight of these bikes gives them incredible traction, keeping them planted on the ground, and compression dampening/climbing switches can be left wide open to enjoy the added traction benefits of active rear suspension. Each bike's geometry, handling, and power output all played a role in how well these bikes performed on the ascents, and we had plenty of time to test them while rallying back uphill for more downhill laps.
The YT Decoy 29 Core 4 is a very competent climber. The Decoy's powerful Shimano EP8 motor is one factor, but its dialed trail riding geometry is another. Not only is it comfortable, but it is highly maneuverable with responsive handling for tackling whatever you may encounter on the trail. The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp is another favorite on the uphills, especially now that the new motor system doesn't have the somewhat abrupt power cutoff that plagued earlier models. The Levo is powerful, and the geometry lends itself well to scrambling up just about any climb while remaining very maneuverable. Due to the Levo's adjustable geometry, however, this may not always be the case as its handling can be altered so dramatically.
The Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 also proved to be a competent climber. The somewhat moderate trail riding geometry lends itself to responsive handling, while the power of the EP8 motor helps you blast up climbs once considered impossible. Likewise, the Santa Cruz Heckler MX employs the same motor system, and along with a dialed geometry and the supportive VPP suspension design, it makes climbing nearly as fun as the descents. Thanks to the smaller rear wheel and balanced weight, it remains more maneuverable than you'd expect for a heavy and long e-bike.
The Trek Rail 9.7 wasn't the most agile bike in the test, but it still performed well on the climbs. Testers agreed that line choice was a little of an afterthought while riding it, and a more aggressive point-and-shoot approach worked best on the uphills. Again, the flip-chips were a nice feature to dial in the geometry to your preferences, and we generally found the high setting to be better for climbing and everyday trail riding. Likewise, the Commencal Meta Power TR has ample power for grinding uphill, but the bike's length gives it more of a monster truck feel and is best at powering up and over things and less about finesse.
The Specialized Turbo Levo SL was a bit of an outlier in this metric. With roughly half the power output and torque of the full-power models, it makes you work a fair bit harder on the climbs. That said, it has a comfortable geometry and quick handling. Riders who enjoy laying down their own power will find the added boost of the smooth but lighter power output to be just what they need to get up most climbs with ease.
The distance range of an electric mountain bike refers to the distance you can travel on a single battery charge given a specific set of circumstances. E-MTBs come with a range of battery storage capacities, most in the range of 625-700Wh, with a few exceptions. 900Wh batteries have now entered the conversation, and the technology only continues to evolve with them getting lighter and smaller every year. Theoretically, the larger the battery, the longer and farther you should be able to ride, but external variables like rider weight, pedaling input, terrain, trail conditions, and weather conditions may all affect the length of time or distance that a battery charge will last.
To compare the distance range of the models in our test, we had the same tester take each bike out in their highest support setting and do laps on roughly the same course until the batteries ran down from fully charged to completely dead. When we finished, we recorded the distance and vertical gain that each model could complete and easily and objectively determined our winner.
Boasting a whopping 900Wh battery, the Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 rode away from the competition in this metric. This is the largest battery of any model we've tested to date, so this wasn't too surprising, and it's great to see where battery technology is heading. Our tester rode the Canyon for 38.5 miles with 5,292 feet of elevation gain/loss. This impressive performance also translated to real-world trail rides where it easily handled 30+ mile rides with over 6,000 feet of climbing, and we never once drained the battery or even worried about it dying on a ride.
Specialized is no longer winning the battery size wars (for now), but the Turbo Levo Comp is still very competitive with its 700Wh battery. This battery fits into the same amount of space as the 500Wh battery in the older models while adding only 2 lbs to the overall weight. It came as no surprise that it was one of the top performers in our range test and our tester rode the Levo 33.1 miles and just over 5,000 vertical feet during our standardized testing. Using a mix of trail and turbo modes, our testers were able to complete 30+ mile rides with 6k of vertical before draining the battery completely.
Not to be outdone, the Santa Cruz Heckler MX is equipped with a 720Wh battery and the Shimano EP8 motor. It traveled 33 miles and nearly 5,000 vertical feet before running out of juice. This performance was backed up by several trail rides in the 30-mile range with around 6k of climbing. The Trek Rail 9.7 comes with a 625Wh battery. Despite having over 10% less battery storage than the Levo, the Rail managed to travel 28.95 miles. We were very impressed.
The Commencal Meta Power TR Ride was not far behind with a 630Wh battery and the Shimano EP8 motor. We logged 26.1 miles. With a 540Wh battery, the YT Decoy 29 Core 4 was slightly behind in this test with 23.2 miles. We weren't too surprised by this and were actually relatively impressed, given the battery's smaller size. We rode the Decoy 29 for over 24 miles and 4,000+ vertical feet on multiple singletrack test rides and finished with gas in the tank.
With just 320Wh of battery storage capacity, the Turbo Levo SL has the shortest distance range of all the tested models. We rode it 13 miles and 2,858 vertical feet, plus an additional 5 miles and 964 vertical feet with the Range Extender battery. It took more effort on the part of the rider, but we were still impressed with the range regardless. During some test rides using the range extender battery, we were able to ride well over 20 miles with more than 6,000 vertical feet of climbing using the trail mode and still finished with a little battery to spare.
It is important to note that the less power output you use while riding your e-bike, the longer the battery will last, makes sense, right? All of the pedal-assist drive units we tested also have smartphone apps that can be used to customize your support settings, and such changes may allow for more or less range on your electric mountain bike. Specialized's Mission Control app even has a feature that lets you set a predetermined route, and the app then regulates the motor's support to ensure power lasts to finish your ride.
One of the primary purposes of an e-bike is transferring power from the motor to the drivetrain to "support" your regular pedal stroke. All of the different drive units do this in relatively the same way, although subtle differences in their power output make them all feel slightly different. It is important to note that all of these systems work pretty well; their differences are relatively subtle but noticeable. We tested this metric primarily based on feel instead of scientific measurement, and our testers could all notice the differences between the various models. All of the e-bikes we tested are Class 1 with a top supported speed of 20 mph and have several support modes offering varying levels of pedal assist support.
The new Specialized 2.2 motor system boasts 90Nm of torque with a peak output of 565 watts, and we found it to feel marginally more powerful than the other models we tested. This bike gets up to speed quickly and stays there. Power output was smooth and consistent, even when switching between modes, and there was no lag when you pushed on the pedals or abrupt cutoff of power.
Despite a slightly lower 85Nm, the Bosch Performance CX motor on the Trek Rail 9.7 felt like one of the most powerful in the test. Power output was smooth, consistent, and strong, and this bike felt very fast. Likewise, the new Shimano EP8 motor of the Santa Cruz Heckler MX, Commencal Meta Power TR, Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8, and the YT Decoy 29 Core 4 boasts 85Nm of torque. It feels plenty powerful with smooth and consistent power delivery and no lag when you press on the pedals. The Shimano E-Tube app also allows you to customize the output setting to dial it in to your preferences.
Again, the new Turbo Levo SL falls into a different category than the other bikes in this review. The new SL 1.1 motor is much smaller and puts out a max torque of 35Nm and up to 240 Watts of power. This is a little less than half of the competition, and that is the intention. The power output is impressively smooth, although it doesn't deliver the oomph of the full power models. It makes the rider work harder, and it may be preferred for some riders.
The Bosch interface has a control unit by the left grip and a small bike computer-esque display.
The bikes we tested all use a variety of e-bike motor systems, and the controls, the primary user interface, are an important element we rated but didn't weigh as heavily as some of the others. Each motor system and its associated controls are slightly different. Our primary interest is in how user-friendly is it to interact with the system, how intuitive and ergonomic are the shifters, how good and easy to read is the display, and how easy is it to charge the battery? Each drive system also has a smartphone app intended to allow the user to fine-tune the motor's support settings, create custom settings, monitor battery charge and health, and a lot more. We don't feel the apps are necessary for using any of these e-MTB's, but those with an affinity for technology or personalizing your ride may be inclined to use them.
The Commencal Meta Power TR Team scored relatively well in this metric, with a small digital display mounted by the stem. It features Shimano's ergonomically friendly and low-profile shifter, as well as the SC-EM800 handlebar mounted digital display that is easy to read. The YT Decoy 29 and Canyon Spectral:ON CF 8 both use a similar display unit and controls as the Commencal. Both have easy-to-reach controls and a digital display mounted by the stem on the handlebar, but the E7000 digital display lacks the color-coded output settings found on the Commencal display. Both bikes' output settings can also be customized through the user-friendly Shimano e-Tube app so that you can dial in the feel and power to your exact preferences.
Trek's Rail 9.7 comes with a very slick-looking Bosch Kiox display and controls. While the controls are intuitive, their ergonomics weren't the best. The top tube-mounted display unit is also pretty cool, but we found its location difficult to see, and perhaps it was a little over-complicated for our taste. That said, there are probably some great customizable features of the display that we didn't fully examine. The Specialized Turbo Levo Comp and the Turbo Levo SL score just a little lower in this rating due to the lack of a handlebar-mounted display. The controls have good ergonomics, but the top tube integrated display in the form of LED lights just isn't as easy to read and interpret while riding, though admittedly, it works just fine.
There are loads of great electric mountain bikes on the market, with seemingly more options every few months. If you're in the market for an e-MTB, then you already know it can be hard to decide which is the best for your needs. We hope this detailed comparative review helps you find the best model for riding style, terrain, and budget. We will continue to update this review as new bikes emerge and electric mountain bikes continue to evolve.
Jeremy Benson, Kurt Gensheimer, Joshua Hutchens, and Chris McNamara
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GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.