From Popular Mechanics
Nowadays, it seems almost impossible to exist without the convenience of a microwave. Perhaps because of this universal necessity, there are more options than you could care to know about. Still, some research is required to ensure you get a microwave that fits your needs—and your space. Especially when budget hunting, you want to be sure that you’re getting a quality appliance rather than a glorified Easy-Bake oven.
Check out the quick reviews below of our top five microwaves, or scroll deeper for more helpful buying info and full reviews of those models plus other high-ranking options.
Table of Contents
What to Look for Before Buying
There’s a lot more to microwaves than differences in size, settings, price, and appearance—the most important feature being wattage. If you are unsure of what wattage you need, a good baseline is 1,000 watts. At this level, food will cook evenly and efficiently. But along with higher wattage comes a steeper price. If you are looking for something more affordable, stick to the 700-watt range. These microwaves may not cook quite as quickly, but there is beauty and convenience in the 30-second button. While it is easy to hunt for bargains, beware of anything under 700 watts—they typically cook slowly and unevenly, and are likely not worth the money you’ll save.
In addition, ensuring a microwave will fit in your space is also essential. Whether you’re looking for something to sit snugly in a dorm room or big enough to reheat an entire pizza, it’s important to be aware of the inner and outer dimensions. Most inner dimensions range from a half cubic foot for a small dinner plate up to one to two cubic feet for larger cookware. Actually measure, rather than eyeball, your space’s dimensions to compare it to the microwave’s outer dimensions to make sure it’ll fit. While they may all look the same size online, that’s not so true once it’s arrived in your kitchen (you’d be amazed at how deep some microwaves are).
Types of Microwaves
There are generally two types of microwaves—conventional and convection. A conventional microwave emits microwaves of energy that penetrate glass and plastic and heat the food. This is the most common type of microwave, perfect for heating a bowl of soup, making popcorn, or testing how big a Peep can get before exploding. Convection microwaves, also known as microwave ovens, have a sort of heating element that allows food to be browned and grilled. These are often larger, so they can fit and fully cook a frozen pizza.
While microwaves can be countertop, over-the-range, or built-in units, we’re focusing on countertop models, which are the most popular in most homes, apartments, and dorm rooms.
How We Selected and Rated Them
We researched 10 expert sources such as Good Housekeeping, Consumer Reports, and The Spruce, as well as 34,000 consumer reviews to select the top 6 microwaves of the year. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of consumers who rated the product at least 4 out of 5 stars on retail and review sites like Amazon, Walmart, and manufacturers’ websites.
Panasonic NN-SN65KB Microwave Oven
Consumer Score: 86% rated it 4 stars or more
Reliable heating in seconds, and a reasonable size for average countertops.
Size: 1.2 cubic feet | Wattage: 1,200 | Exterior: Black plastic | Outer dimensions (WxDxH): 15.8 x 20.7 x 12.2 in. | Weight: 29 lb.
While it’s easy to be in the mindset that more expensive equals better, that isn’t necessarily true with this Panasonic. For the moderate price of $179, a lot less than some others on this list, you get a reliable, powerful, and convenient microwave. While it is relatively compact, its a 1.2-cubic-foot interior is more than enough to fit a dinner plate or large bowl. At 1,200 watts, it’s pretty powerful too; reviewers at Business Insider reported that it heats evenly. It features five preset buttons, which are great for simple tasks like warming coffee, defrosting something, or popping popcorn. The biggest complaint is that the interior light is a bit dim, so if you’re someone who likes to watch your food while it’s cooking, you might be disappointed.
―BEST FOR FAMILIES―
GE Profile Countertop Microwave
Consumer Score: 70% rated it 4 stars or higher
This extra-large microwave with a child lock will keep your family well fed.
Size: 2.2 cubic feet | Wattage: 1,200 | Exterior: Stainless steel | Outer Dimensions (WxDxH): 20 x 24 x 14 in. | Weight: 34 lb.
In addition to being childproof, this GE microwave is completely family friendly with easy-to-use buttons and 1,200 watts of power. Thanks to its 2.2-cubic-foot interior, it can fit an entire casserole, a mountain of pizza bites, or a family-sized bag of popcorn. Because of the high wattage, it will cook food much more quickly than a lower-watt microwave, so you may have to use shorter times than you normally would if you happen to be upgrading. The microwave also uses inverter technology, which works to heat consistently even on lower power settings such as “melt” and “warm.”
―BEST FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS―
Commercial Chef CHM660B
Consumer Score: 82% rated it 4 stars or higher
Quiet and compact for midnight snacks in tiny dorm rooms.
Size: .06 cubic feet | Wattage: 600 | Exterior: Black plastic | Outer dimensions (WxDxH): 17.75 x 12.5 x 10.25 in. | Weight: 23 lb.
This tiny microwave is designed for small spaces like dorm rooms and efficiency apartments. While it’s not the most powerful at 600 watts, it heats evenly and quietly—though, like with most microwaves, an audible ding lets you know it’s done cooking (if you don’t want to wake your roommate, pop open the door before that happens). The compact size also means it doesn’t fit a whole lot. Still, there’s room for a medium bowl or dinner plate, and definitely enough room to fit a ramen bowl or frozen dinner. There are no preset buttons, but it has two knobs that control time and power so you can heat anything exactly how you want it. While this won’t meet the needs of a family of four, it is great for a single person on a budget who wants a basic microwave.
Whirlpool Countertop Microwave
Consumer Score: 93% rated it 4 stars or higher
Small but mighty, this microwave can fit in the tiniest of spaces.
Size: 0.5 cubic feet | Wattage: 750 | Exterior: Black, silver, or white | Outer dimensions (WxDxH): 15 x 13.75 x 14 in. | Weight: 30 lb.
Customers had high praises for this micro Whirlpool microwave. Despite its tiny size, it can fit a full dinner plate. The sleek design features a few simple buttons, including popcorn, reheat, and defrost. Instead of a number pad, time can be increased or decreased with a plus and minus sign on either side of the time display. The most prominent feature may be its unique shape—the rounded back allows it to fit neatly in a corner without taking up any extra space on the countertop, making it an ideal pick for kitchens with limited counter space.
Consumer Score: 74% rated it 4 stars or higher
Dirty hands? Voice control by Alexa has got you covere
Size: 0.7 cubic feet | Wattage: 700 | Exterior: Black | Outer dimensions (WxDxH): 17 x 14 x 10 in. | Weight: 22 lb.
AmazonBasics may not be the first brand that comes to mind when shopping for a new microwave, but if you are trying to stick to a smaller budget, this is a solid option. Despite its low cost, it has something most microwaves do not—voice control. The microwave connects to Amazon Echo and lets you use quick cook voice presets. If you do not have an Echo, there is also a simple keypad. “My mother has Macular Degeneration Disease,” wrote an Amazon reviewer. “This microwave is perfect for her. Since it is voice controlled with short simple commands, she has no problems cooking her food.” While not the most powerful microwave here, customers praised its functionality for the price.
Toshiba Microwave Oven with Convection Function
Consumer Score: 74% rated it 4 stars or higher
Bake, roast, or pop, this convection microwave oven can do it all.
Size: 1.5 cubic feet | Wattage: 1,000 | Exterior: Stainless steel | Outer dimensions (WxDxH): 22 x 21 x 13 in. | Weight: 45 lb.
If a simple microwave won’t cut it, this convection oven could be the answer. The convection technology allows you to cook, warm, and even roast. While this cannot completely replace an oven, it’s a great alternative if you do not have access to one. The size is large enough to cook a frozen pizza or even a small chicken. In addition to its convection abilities, this microwave has all the capabilities of a typical microwave too—so don’t worry, movie lovers, there is a still a popcorn button.
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