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Best Wi-Fi routers for 2021

Best Wi-Fi routers

Switching to one of the best Wi-Fi routers is the fastest way to improve performance on every device in your home, speeding up every smart TV and smartphone with faster Wi-Fi. The best wireless routers will not only keep you connected, but provide features like built-in security, app-based settings and easy parental controls.

With so much of life spent online today, from school and work to gaming and streaming, there's no substitute for speedy Wi-Fi performance and stable coverage. That's why we test every one of the dozens of routers we've reviewed, to find the models  that fit your home and needs with great performance, long range, and a price you can afford.

Today's best wireless routers are optimized for homes full of connected devices, from doorbell cameras to smart TVs, and will offer faster connectivity and better coverage, for a speedier Wi-Fi experience throughout the house. Here are the best Wi-Fi routers you can buy today.

What are the best Wi-Fi routers?

Based on our in-depth testing, the best wireless router is Asus RT-AX86U, a Wi-Fi 6 power house that has the chops to power a whole home's worth of connected gear, providing pure power for gaming and secure every gadget you own. It's equal parts general-use router, serious gaming gear and cybersecurity safeguard. And with a reasonable price, there's no surprise it's our Editor's Choice.

For a justifiably more expensive option, the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) Wi-Fi 6 router blows the doors off of most competing routers. The newer wireless standard offers the best throughput we've ever seen, and will easily handle a whole house full of connected devices.

For larger homes, you need coverage that reaches farther and extends to multiple floors as needed, and that means a mesh router. In our testing and evaluation, the Nest WiFi is the best mesh Wi-Fi solution you can buy. It offers excellent performance that blankets a whole house in signal, and it features a built-in Google Home smart speaker for intuitive voice control.

Best Wi-Fi routers right now

Asus RT-AX86U router review

(Image credit: Asus)

1. Asus RT-AX86U

Great for a full house, and for gaming

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Dual-band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 3/Yes
Ports: 1 WAN/1 Multi-Gig WAN/ 4 LAN gigabit per second, 2 USB 3.0
Peak Throughput: 929.7Mbps
Size: 9.0 x 6.7 x 3.1 inches
Reasons to buy
+Excellent throughput and performance+Security software with lifetime updates+Multi-Gig input and port aggregation
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks advanced gaming features like geofencing and ping heat map

The Asus RT-AX86U is a Wi-Fi 6 powerhouse that delivers great speeds and killer gaming features, as well as awesome customization options. With high-end performance and lifetime protection against intrusions and malware, it's also a great option for securing your entire home network, providing long term protection without a subscription fee, and carrying a two-year warranty.

But the real draw of the Asus RT-AX86U is the performance, which approaches the the magical 1Gbps mark to provide speedy and effortless connectivity for all of your devices. With excellent range and great performance – even through walls and between floors – the RT-AX86U is equal parts general-use router and elite gaming router, and the collection of features and ports it offers are a steal compared to some of the top-performing gaming gear. It even gets a nod as the runner up for best Wi-Fi router in the 2021 Tom's Guide Awards. If you want the best Wi-Fi 6 router for the whole household, the Asus RT-AX86U is it.

Read our full Asus RT-AX86U review

Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) review

(Image credit: Netgear)

2. Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80)

A great router overall

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Dual-band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/Yes
Ports: 1 WAN/5 LAN gigabit per second, 2 USB 3.0
Peak Throughput: 1.389 Gbps
Size: 12.0 x 8.0 x 6.3 inches
Reasons to buy
+High performance+Includes malware apps+Good configuration options
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Throughput falls off quickly with distance

With the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) Wi-Fi 6 router, top performance and enhanced security go hand in hand, combining throughput that smashes through the gigabit per second barrier with malware protection and Disney’s Circle app for blocking inappropriate content and managing family network use. And with excellent performance through walls and floors, the Nighthawk AX8 will work just as well in the real world as in the lab.

It may be expensive – most Wi-Fi 6 routers are – but the RAX80 offers easy setup and lets you configure the router exactly the way you want it. It's also got a 90-foot range, but delivers better performance at distances of 50 feet, making it better suited to medium-sized homes. By almost any measure, the Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) is the Wi-Fi-6 router to get if you don’t want to compromise on speed and safety.

Read our full Netgear Nighthawk AX8 (RAX80) review

Best Wi-Fi routers: Nest WiFi

(Image credit: Google)

3. Nest WiFi

A great mesh router with built-in smart speaker

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/dual band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 4/No
Ports: Two 1-Gbps LAN
Peak Throughput: 653.2 Mbps
Size: 4.3 x 4.3 x 3.6 inches
Reasons to buy
+Good performance+Google Assistant built in+Easy setup
Reasons to avoid
-Short range-Minimal configuration options

There are several mesh Wi-Fi solutions on the market, and while they'll all cover your home in wireless signal, our favorite has to be the Nest WiFi. Made by Google, the Nest WiFi is small enough to hide out of sight and stylish enough that you won't need to. But the real draw for the compact mesh units is more than just excellent performance. Each mesh extension of the Nest WiFi system has a Google Home smart speaker built in, giving you one of the best voice assistants throughout the house, along with powerful wireless signal.

The speedy Nest WiFi also delivers one of the easiest setup processes we've ever used, making it a snap to set up extensions around the house. Plus, it'll work with any older Google WiFi units you might own. But the addition of Google Assistant really puts it over the top, providing an elegant way to add voice control throughout your home, and easy integration with a huge number of the best smart home devices and all of the best Google Home compatible devices.

Read our full Nest WiFi review.
 

Best Wi-Fi routers: Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

(Image credit: Asus)

4. Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000

The best Wi-Fi 6 gaming router

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/Yes
Ports: 1 WAN, 4 1-Gbps LAN, 1 2.5-Gbps LAN, 2 USB 3.0
Peak Throughput: 731.4 Mbps
Size: 9.4 x 9.4 x 2.8 inches
Reasons to buy
+First Wi-Fi 6 (802.11AX) router+Performance improves with distance+Plenty of customization+Impressive 2.5Gbps wired connector
Reasons to avoid
-Big

The first gaming router we've tested that features Wi-Fi 6, the Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a gamer's delight, with speed that improves over longer range, low latency and all the features that gamers expect. Add it all up and most other gaming routers are now second best.

The GT-AX11000 is large, with a gargantuan base, eight swiveling antennas, and massive 10.8Gbps maximum throughput. This wireless router has connectivity in droves, thanks to its tri-band design and four downstream Gigabit LAN ports, a single 2.5G Base T Ethernet connection, and two USB 3.0 ports. Built in customization and gaming-oriented optimizations provide plenty of control, and you can even pair it with other Asus routers for mesh networking to cover a larger home. At $450, it is expensive, but this is the best wireless router for gamers wanting an edge online.

Read our full Asus ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 review.

Best Wi-Fi routers: TP-Link Archer C2300

TP-Link Archer C2300 (Image credit: TP-Link)

The best budget router

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual-Band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 3/Yes
Ports: Four 1-Gbps LAN, 1 WAN, 1 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0
Peak Throughput: 939.6 Mbps
Size: 8.5 x 7.5 x 1.5 inches
Reasons to buy
+Top performer+Inexpensive+Built-in antivirus protection+Two-year warranty
Reasons to avoid
-Runs hot

The TP-Link Archer C2300 has a deceptively mild-mannered design, but don't be fooled – it's one of the most powerful wireless routers you can buy, and offers the best range of any single router on this list. It's the reigning performance champ, pumping out nearly a gigabit per second of data in our standard performance tests, and blasting through walls and ceilings with ease. Not only is the Archer C2300 the fastest router we've seen, but it's also small, unobtrusive and full of high-end features.

The Archer C2300 comes with built-in optimization tools, like antivirus, QoS and parental controls that are normally found on more expensive competitors. At $120, it’s less than half of what similarly performing competitors cost, and is backed by a two year warranty. The TP-Link Archer C2300 is simply the best affordable Wi-Fi router you can buy today.

Read our full TP-Link Archer C2300 review.
 

Best Wi-Fi routers: TP-Link Archer AX6000

(Image credit: TP-Link)

The best value-priced Wi-Fi 6 router

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6/Dual-band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/Yes
Ports: 1 WAN/8 LAN gigabit per second, USB 3, USB C
Peak Throughput: 884.4Mbps
Size: 10.3 x 10.3 x 2.4 inches
Reasons to buy
+8 LAN ports+Extra security+Inexpensive
Reasons to avoid
-Limited app-Hard to remove LAN cables

Wi-Fi 6 routers aren't cheap, but value is the name of the game for the TP-Link Archer AX6000 router, our favorite budget-friendly Wi-Fi 6 router. It may lag on performance and range but it offers Wi-Fi 6 speeds, for $100 less than competing Wi-Fi 6 models. Think of the Archer AX6000 as the affordable router for the first generation of Wi-Fi 6 devices.

With eight wired networking ports and the ability to pair two together to create a 2Gbps stream of data, TP-Link’s Archer AX6000 router leads the way for Wi-Fi 6 routers that are just as good with wired devices as they are at Wi-Fi. By adding in router-based security, the Archer AX6000 stands alone as one of the best routers you can get, at a price that's hard to beat.

Read our full TP-Link Archer AX6000 review.

Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 review

(Image credit: Netgear)

7. Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500

The Wi-Fi 6e speed demon

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: Wi-Fi 6e/Tri-band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/No
Ports: 1 WAN/4 LAN gigabit per second, 2 USB 3.0
Throughput: 2.396Gbps
Size: 12.0 x 8.6 x 3.3 inches
Reasons to buy
+Top speed with 6GHz band+Customizability+Security software
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Throughput declines quickly with distance

The Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 is the first Wi-Fi 6e router to hit the market, and the results are mind-blowing. By adding a 6GHz band to the already impressive capabilities of Wi-Fi 6, the Nighthawk RAXE500 delivers category-leading performance. With an AXE11000 rating, the tri-band device more than lives up to the hype by delivering nearly 2.5Gbps of real-world data. Add this to the slick design and highly customizable configuration options, and the Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 becomes one of the best wireless routers we've ever reviewed.

By adding access to a slew of new data-delivering channels in the 6GHz spectrum, the tri-band Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 takes the lead as the first high-performance Wi-Fi 6e router. It's the sort of performance that earned it the 2021 Tom's Guide Award for best Wi-Fi router, even if it's not a great fit for everyone. While it’s best at close quarters and is one of the most expensive routers you can buy, the RAXE500 is worth every penny if you have the need for speed.

Read our full Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 review. 

Best Wi-Fi routers: Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 (RS400)

(Image credit: Netgear; Shutterstock)

8. Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 (RS400)

The best router to secure your whole house

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual-Band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 3/Yes
Ports: 1 WAN, 4 1-Gbps LAN, 2 USB 2.0
Peak Throughput: 626.6 Mbps
Size: 11.2 x 7.3 x 2.0 inches
Reasons to buy
+Good performance+Three years of security software+Easy setup
Reasons to avoid
-Short range-Not much to configure

It might be priced like a high-performance or gaming router, but the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 (RS400) delivers in a different (and perhaps more important) area: Cybersecurity. The RS400 may deliver solid performance and enough range to cover most homes, but the real value is protection, with a fistful of security features from Netgear and Bitdefender, including three years of protection from Bitdefender Total Security software.

The RS400 is built to safeguard your entire connected home, from your laptops and phones to a whole range of smart devices, from TVs to ovens, thermostats and doorbell cameras. With so many devices on today's home network, you have to be more vigilant, as a single poorly secured gadget can open you up to hackers and malware. The RS400 keeps your whole home safe, and is easy to set up and manage, too, making it our favorite cybersecurity router.

Read our full Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 (RS400) review.

Best Wi-Fi routers: TP-Link Archer A7

TP-Link Archer A7 (Image credit: TP-Link)

Our favorite low-priced wireless router

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Dual-Band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 3/No
Ports: Four 1-Gbps LAN, 1 USB 2.0
Peak Throughput: 647.4 Mbps
Size: 1.3 x 9.6 x 6.4 inches
Reasons to buy
+Bargain router+Reasonable performance+Two-year warranty
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks deep customization options-Limited range

The TP-Link Archer A7 is the best Wi-Fi router for those on a budget, delivering very good 802.11ac performance and a surprising number of features for less than most competing routers. The Archer A7 has great performance for the price – pushing through more data than most of the comparably priced routers we've tested – and features four Gigabit LAN ports and a USB 2.0 port for connecting devices.

In addition to solid performance and features, the Archer A7 also has a very easy setup process and useful parental controls, with an app that lets you monitor and control network use from anywhere. It may not be loaded with customization tools, but it offers parental control and Quality of Service (QoS) software that ensures better than average performance. It's the best value Wi-Fi router we've tested.

Read our full TP-Link Archer A7 review.
 

Best Wi-Fi routers: TP-Link Archer C5400X

TP-Link Archer C5400X (Image credit: TP-Link Archer C5400X (Credit: TP-Link))

Intense raw performance, optimized for gaming

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 8/No
Ports: 1 WAN, 8 1-Gbps LAN, 1 USB 2.0
Peak Throughput: 859.5 Mbps
Size: 11.2 x 11.2 x 7.6 inches
Reasons to buy
+Excellent performance and tri-band design+Customization potential+Security software
Reasons to avoid
-Big-Can't aim antennas

The TP-Link Archer C5400X is the gaming router to beat, with some of the best performance you'll see in any single home networking device. It offers best-in-class tri-band performance, delivering 1Gbps over its 2.4GHz band and 2.167Gbps over each of its two 5GHz channels. It also has impressive coverage, with more than 100-feet of superb coverage that will blanket most homes in strong, clear Wi-Fi signal.

The spider-like 8-antenna design and red-on-black color scheme are sure to turn heads, but the real selling point is the collection of optimization and security features that will satisfy any power user. With excellent bandwidth-allocation controls to let you use the massive throughput as you wish, this router puts incredible performance into the user's hands, for gaming or anything else.

Read our full TP-Link Archer C5400X review

Best Wi-Fi routers: Linksys EA8300 Max Stream

Linksys EA8300 Max Stream (Image credit: Linksys EA8300 Max Stream (Credit: Linksys))

11. Linksys EA8300 Max Stream

The ultimate router for power users

Specifications
Wi-Fi Spec: 802.11ac/Tri-Band
Number of Antennas/Removable: 6/No
Ports: 1 WAN, 4 1-Gbps LAN, 1 USB 3.0
Peak Throughput: 626.5 Mbps
Size: 8.5 x 6.4 x 2.2 inches
Reasons to buy
+Tri-band design with excellent performance+Good software and options+Compact design+Inexpensive
Reasons to avoid
-Short range

For a truly customizable router, we recommend the Linksys EA8300 Max-Stream, which is not only a great tri-band router, it's also loaded with tools to tweak and customize your router for optimal performance. The small black EA8300 Max-Stream can move lots of data, though it will do best in smaller homes. But even with shorter range, it offers impressive performance for a router that sells for less than $200.

Whether you're allocating bandwidth to prioritize gaming or media streaming, or just setting up parental controls, you can automate many features, make manual adjustments on the fly, and monitor it – all from your desktop or smartphone. With so many ways to customize your router’s performance, the Linksys EA8300 Max Stream is an easy pick for the power user.

Read our full Linksys EA8300 Max Stream review.

Is it time to update your Wi-Fi router?

Maybe you're finding your current Wi-Fi coverage to feel slower than it used to, have been dogged with spotty reception, or maybe you just need something that can better handle the demands of an increasingly wide range of smart devices in the average home. If you've got any of the above irritations, a new router should fix these common problems.

It's also worth upgrading if you're using older hardware. If you still have an old Wireless-N or Wireless-AC (retroactively renamed Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5, respectively) router in your home, you should definitely think about getting something current. Not only will these newer standards offer faster connectivity, you'll see other benefits, too. Your smartphone battery will last longer thanks to more efficient device management, and your connected home gadgets will all feel faster and snappier with the more capable standards.

The other big reason to upgrade your router is if you've been paying a monthly rental fee for a gateway device from your ISP. With average equipment rentals costing $10-15 every month, a new router can pay for itself in a matter of months, and offer better service and features, too! Just don't forget to pair it with one of the best cable modems to free yourself entirely from the extra costs that often come with broadband internet packages.

How to choose the best Wi-Fi router for you

When it comes to choosing the best wireless router, it's easy to get lost in the complexity of networking jargon and obscure technology standards. But all you really need to know is how to answer two key questions: What speed do you need for your internet connection? And what sort of coverage do you need in your home?

Speeds and standards: The internet speed you need for your router will generally be determined by the speed you get from your internet service provider and what speed is supported by your modem. For most people, a standard 802.11AC router will handle all but the most impressive plans available, like Gigabit internet plans that are only available in select cities. With average broadband speeds sitting right around 100 Mbps, most wireless AC routers will be able to handle the job with ease.

The latest technology for routers is called Wi-Fi 6, which is a newer, faster standard that's better suited to the many devices found in homes today. Newer Wi-Fi 6 routers are available, but Wi-Fi 6-enabled devices, like laptops and phones, are still few and far between. Unless you're using a dozen devices at once, you likely won't see much benefit from Wi-Fi 6 at this time. See our article Wi-Fi 6: What it is and why it's better to learn more. 

Coverage range: The other part of the wireless equation is coverage area. A basic standalone router will generally offer 50 to 100 feet of range, ably covering the majority of apartments and small homes. If you have a house of 3,000 square feet or more, however, you will want to consider a mesh router, which uses multiple devices to provide Wi-Fi signal throughout a larger home. These are especially helpful in multistory houses, or in homes with dead spots where the Wi-Fi signal drops out.

Ports: Though wireless connectivity is the main thing you want from a Wi-Fi router, you'll also want to think about wired connections. Ethernet offers faster connectivity for devices like game consoles and smart TVs that use more bandwidth, and USB ports are handy for attaching a printer or storage to your network.

Input is another issue, especially is you live in an area with Gigabit speed internet. With a Gig-speed connection, an older router can be a bottle neck, slowing down your entire home. Some routers can even aggregate two inputs for even faster connectivity.

Price range: Current 802.11ac routers often sell for less than $100 for basic, dual-band models. More expensive models range up to $300, but will offer wide coverage and faster speeds, while gaming-oriented routers with built-in optimization features will often sell for more. New routers using the Wi-Fi 6 standard (previously known as 802.11ax) often sell for $400 or more.

Keeping up on everything happening in the router world is difficult, so check out our helpful guides to the latest technology, like What is a mesh Wi-Fi router, and do you need one?  Or get the latest advice on how to fix your router's security problems, from simple steps to advanced protections. From router security to in-depth explanations of Wi-Fi 6 and the new Wi-Fi 6e, we're always providing the latest info about the newest products and innovations.

  • Keep your whole household secure with the best router VPN

How we test Wi-Fi routers

We test every router we review to measure performance and range, in addition to hands-on use to evaluate the ease-of-setup and quality of settings and features.

Throughput describes how much data the router can move back and forth over its wireless connection. We measure this at a 5-foot distance without obstructions, so that we can gauge the maximum amount of data that the router can move. Higher throughput will serve you better in data-heavy uses, like streaming video, gaming, or connecting multiple users at once.

Range measures the furthest usable distance for the router. Longer ranges are better for larger homes, where rooms are spread out at a distance. We measure how much data a router can move at 5, 50, 75 and 100 feet, so that you can also choose the best model for smaller homes and apartments, where short-range performance may be the priority.

We also test performance through walls and ceilings, to determine how well a router can provide signal in the Wi-Fi-dampening conditions common to many buildings and homes.

For mesh routers, we perform additional testing to determine how well the mesh system does sending a signal through both the main router and through a satellite unit.


Check out all of our home networking coverage:

Best mesh routers | Best Wi-Fi 6 routers |  Best gaming routers |  Best Wi-Fi extenders | Best powerline extenders | Best cable modems  

Brian Westover
Brian Westover is an Editor at Tom's Guide, covering everything from TVs to the latest PCs. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.
  • Mark Spoonauer
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2918690/routers.html
    Reply
  • frawenz
    I am not sure at all what to buy for a 3,800 sqft really old home with plaster in the walls. We will be renting three guest rooms that will all need access to good wifi and a separate password. I need very fast (preferably wired) and reliable internet for work that doesn't slow down when guests use the internet. I would really appreciate a recommendation with approx. pricing. However, a good system is a higher priority to price.
    Reply
  • avtella
    The Qualcomm CPU/WiFi chipset based Netgear R7800 has the best 5Ghz range/performance of any consumer router I have tested (am a beta tester) and a pretty good 2.4Ghz performance as well. Better than any on that list to be honest. If you want in depth reviews look at small netbuilder and CNET has some simpler reviews too but the R7800 in pretty much most sites, tops other routers in 5GHz performance and range. VPN performance is also better than the Linksys units as it has more powerful/newer gen CPU. Also its the only one with a properly working MU-MIMO implementation. The R7800 actually is more powerful CPU and WiFi chipset wise than the R8500, only advantage the R8500 has is the extra 5Ghz band which I don't think will help you that much and will definitely not increase range by any means. The Synology RT2600AC also uses the same hardware as the R7800 and is also a good alternative.

    Broadcom based routers from Netgear/Linksys (Marvell based units as well)/Asus can cause performance degradation with MU enabled, as Broadcom's implementation sucks. The Asus 86U is also close to the R7800 WiFi wise but its Broadcom based, though using an improved WIFi chip compared to older Broadcom units. FYI compared to the 88U (similar to R8500) the 86U is actually more powerful and using newer gen hardware, only reason the 88U is higher priced is due to extra lan ports.
    Reply
  • frawenz
    Thank you avtella, really appreciate it!!!
    Reply
  • robo21
    I would avoid Netgear like the plague, I have had the worst support experiences with them. 90 days tech support, lousy warranty and their technical support staff lies trying to sell extended support packages. They actually told me that I needed to upgrade my Internet Service File for $99.95. What a crock!
    Reply
  • r.s.lynn
    I want to buy a new wifi router that has the functionality to allow geographically distant family to download selected photos and videos from a USB-attached external hard drive. It would be convenient for me to know which wifi routers have US-based tech support. ASUS does not have, at least not at level 1, native English speakers, and the ones I spoke with had poor English skills.
    Reply
  • dnrcohen
    I have a backhouse that is about 75 feet away from the main house. We will be connecting a desktop (in the backhouse) , a laptop and a phone line (although none will probably be used at the same time. Which router would you recommend. Thanks!!
    Reply
  • ljctx49
    ATT is installing the BGW 210-700 Modem/Router as their latest unit.
    Questions:
    1 - ATT sells the AirTies 4920 as a match to establish a whole house mesh network. Any experience?
    2 - What is the average range of the BGW?
    3 - Why should I buy another router and bridge the BGW for $XXX AND added complexity?
    Reply
  • captjackny
    How about a review of the Edimax routers? Model 6208 V2 is under $50 and has a lot of features such as 802.11ac.
    Reply
  • pat.mccarthy07604
    How about the Norton router. Norton touts it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Would like your opinion.
    Reply