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More than 40 of the 70-plus countertop microwaves in Consumer Reports’ microwave ratings cost $150 or less, and several topped the charts in our lab tests of heating evenness, defrosting, and quietness.
Above the $150 threshold, you might be paying a premium for bells and whistles you won’t use. “Ultimately, a microwave’s features drive the price,” explains Genny Lui, the CR test engineer who oversees our microwave tests. “Expensive ones tend to offer more features.”
And if all you need to do is reheat leftovers, defrost frozen food, or zap a cup of coffee, you might not need a microwave with, for example, a one-touch button for baking a potato.
Better to focus on the size and a few key specs. The countertop models listed below vary by a few inches in footprint as well as height. How much countertop real estate can you devote to a microwave?
Once you’ve found one that fits, check out the wattage. “The higher the wattage, the more energy is being delivered,” says James Dickerson, CR’s chief scientific officer. “More energy, in this case, allows your food to transform faster and will save you cooking time.”
Another feature worth noting? Many newer models contain a sensor that monitors the amount of steam food emits and turns off the machine precisely when cooking is complete.
Here, in alphabetical order—not by CR ranking—are six microwaves that stood out in our performance tests, all for $150 or less.
CR's take: This 1,000-watt Danby DMW111KBLDB model measures a foot high and 21 inches wide, and has a usable capacity of 0.6 cubic feet, which is average for a midsized model. In our tests, the Danby earned a score of Very Good at heating evenness and better than average at defrosting, meaning you can rely on it for a range of cooking needs. The manufacturer offers a one-year warranty on parts and labor. If white isn't your first choice, this microwave also comes in black.
CR's take: For folks who use a microwave frequently, the midsized Frigidaire FFCM1134L[S] is a good choice. It’s quiet (in our tests, we note each machine’s noise level while microwaving on high). Plus, the 1,100-watt machine earned an Excellent score in the defrosting evenness test we use to determine how evenly a microwave defrosts a pound of ground beef. It's available in stainless steel, black, and white.
CR's take: The LG LCS1112ST measures 20 inches wide by 16 inches deep and is fairly quiet and superb at defrosting. In our tests, it earned a Very Good score for heating evenness. And though this model lacks a sensor, it does come with a 10-year magnetron warranty. What’s a magnetron? The part of a microwave that generates the electromagnetic waves that cook food. This microwave also has plenty of one-touch buttons that you might find on more expensive models, including presets for warming beverages, cooking fresh or frozen vegetables, and baking a potato.
CR's take: The 1,100-watt large Oster OGG61403, which has a sensor, earned an Excellent score in our defrosting evenness test. It has a 12.8-inch turntable, which means you can fit a 12-inch frozen pizza with ease. It also comes with quick buttons for microwaving popcorn, pizza, and baked potatoes. This model comes only in a stainless finish.
Panasonic Prestige NN-SD372S
CR's take: Measuring just 19 inches wide and 15 inches deep, the Panasonic Prestige NN-SD372S is the slimmest microwave of the bunch, making it an easy pick for kitchens tight on counter space. At 950 watts, it doesn’t have quite as much power as larger models, and it lacks a sensor. But this model earned an Excellent for defrosting and carries an eight-year magnetron warranty.
CR's take: With a Very Good score in heating and defrosting evenness, the 1000-watt Sharp R331ZS features a number of quick button settings for items like popcorn and pizza. It also comes with a five-year magnetron warranty. The stainless steel model stands 12 inches tall and 20 inches wide.
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