Like most over-the-range microwaves, the 1.7-cubic-foot Kenmore Elite 8601 is expensive. However, it offers a lot of features for the money, including sensor cooking, special settings for softening ice cream and melting chocolate. It also has a convection oven, which can be used to bake bread or brown meats. However, some users report problems with this feature: a couple say it doesn't work at all, and others report that turning it up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit will shut down the entire unit, requiring a time-consuming service call.
Aside from this peculiarity, users report few problems with the 950-watt microwave. Professional testers say its heating and defrosting performance is very good, and it is quiet as well. The included range hood provides 300 cubic feet per minute (CFM) of air circulation--typical for a microhood, though not as powerful as most stand-alone range hoods. The Kenmore 8601 is backed by a one-year warranty, but unlike most microwaves, it does not have extended coverage for the magnetron. You can get a longer warranty and a more powerful fan by choosing the less expensive Samsung SMH9187 (*Est. $280) , but this microhood does not include a convection oven.
The Kenmore 8601 is one of more than 75 over-the-range microwaves included in the latest ratings at ConsumerReports.org. Microwaves are subjected to detailed tests and evaluated on their heating and defrosting performance, ease of use and noise level. We also found roughly 40 reviews from users at Sears.com, the only site that sells Kenmore appliances.
Our Sources: Kenmore Microwave Reviews
ConsumerReports.org currently has ratings for more than 75 over-the-range microwaves, including the Kenmore Elite 8601. Testing procedures are very thorough, with results clearly outlined in a ratings chart. Each microwave is rated on noise, ease of use, heating evenness and defrosting performance.
Review: Recommended Microwave Ovens, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
We found roughly 40 reviews for the Kenmore Elite 8601 at Sears.com. Users praise the microhood's clean lines and spacious interior, and they especially like the bright halogen lighting. A few users report problems with the convection feature, however. A couple say theirs didn't work at all, and two others note that it cannot operate at 450 degrees Fahrenheit or higher (and attempting it will shut down the microwave, requiring a service call).
Review: Kenmore Elite 30 in. Microhood Combination, Contributors to Sears.com