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Microwave Reviews

By: Kelly Burgess on October 04, 2017

Editor's note:
When it comes to countertop microwaves, GE Appliances shines in every category, whether you need a large, mid-sized or small oven. For a great convection microwave, look to Samsung. We also name a top over-the-range and drawer-style microwave oven.

Best countertop microwave
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Capacity - 2.0 cu. ft. Watts - 1,200 Size (w,d,h) - 24" x 19.5" x 13.75"

Best countertop microwave

Offering powerful performance in an attractive package, the 2.0 cubic foot GE JES2051SNSS offers a nice array of one-button presets, an accurate sensor and a roomy interior. The JES2051SNSS is a particularly great choice for families that use their microwave a lot. This workhorse would even be appropriate for an office break room, especially since it gets decent reviews for long-term durability. It's available in stainless, black or white. See our full review »

Mid-sized countertop microwave
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Capacity - 1.6 cu. ft. Watts - 1,150 Size (w,d,h) - 21.75" x 17.6" x 12.8"

Mid-sized countertop microwave

The GE JES1656SRSS's 1.6 cubic-foot capacity is plenty for the needs of most families, without hogging too much space on the kitchen counter. It's a top performer, too, with accurate sensors that turn out perfectly cooked foods. It's also so simple to use that you'll probably never have to unwrap the owner's manual, with a wide variety of presets for most of the food items people want a microwave for.

Small countertop microwave
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Capacity - 0.7 cu. ft. Watts - 700 Size (w,d,h) - 17.5" x 13" x 10"

Small countertop microwave

It's the little sibling of our Best Reviewed large microwave, the GE JES2051SNSS (Est. $180), but don't be fooled, you get big performance from the 700 watt GE JES1072SHSS. It's perfect for a tiny apartment or dorm room and is very easy to use. While you may not be able to make a full meal in it, for everyday tasks like reheating coffee or nuking a frozen meal, this is a terrific value.

Best convection countertop microwave
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Capacity - 1.2 cu. ft. Watts - 900 (micro) Size (w,d,h) - 21" x 16" x 16"

Best convection countertop microwave

The 1,000 watt Samsung MC12J8035CT gets good ratings in professional tests for performance, and praise from owners who appreciate the versatility it offers. The convection features add, grilling, roasting, baking and more -- all with the right level of crisping and browning -- to the repertoire of standard microwave tasks. At 1.2 cubic feet, it's a good fit for most lifestyles, with the exception of the tiniest spaces or larger families. See our full review »

GE JVM3160RFSS Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Capacity - 1.6 cu. ft. Watts - 1,000 Size (w,d,h) - 30" x 15.5" x 16.5"

Best over-the-range microwave

The GE JVM3160RFSS earns top scores across the board for performance, getting raves from experts and owners who say it will be a great addition to your kitchen. Its 1.6 cubic feet is roomy enough for all but the largest dishes, and at 1,000 watts, it's got plenty of power. Brackets and mounting hardware are included, and owners say it's easy to install -- but they do suggest recruiting a friend. See our full review »

Buy for $204.72
Microwave drawer
Runners Up
Specs that Matter Capacity - 1.2 cu. ft. Watts - 1,000 Size (w,d,h) - 24" x 16" x 26"

Microwave drawer

Drawer-style microwaves are pricey, rarely reviewed by experts, and often draw mixed user feedback, especially when it comes to durability, but models such as Sharp KB-6524PS 24-Inch Microwave Drawer Oven offer compelling aesthetics that can trump all of that in the eyes of some users. The KB-6524PS installs under the counter and pulls out, just like a drawer, saving valuable counter space and making it easier to access for young cooks.

Buy for Too low to display

Types of Microwaves

Countertop Microwave Ovens

These are the most common and most affordable type. As the name implies, they sit on a counter or microwave stand. Countertop microwave ovens offer the widest range of sizes, from under 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. Even the cheapest of these come with a good array of features: Instant cook buttons, popcorn and potato presets, and auto-defrost and reheat modes. More expensive models have high-end sensors that can perfectly, and quickly, cook a potato or thaw a hunk of meat without cooking any part of it.

Convection Microwaves

While these are much less common than dedicated microwaves, they offer two-in-one convenience that busy cooks appreciate. A convection features allows you to use a microwave like a small oven -- you can roast and bake. The best microwave/convection oven combination browns well, bakes evenly, and puts a nice crust on burgers or roasts. While a lot of people say convection is unnecessary in a microwave, or that it's something they use rarely, plenty of cooks love having that feature because they don't have to use their big oven for a small job, and they have an extra cooking appliance available for parties and holidays.

Over-the-Range Microwaves

Rather than sitting on a flat surface, over-the-range microwaves can be built in, either as a custom set-up or over an oven or range. They are installed using brackets that hold them firmly in place. Many offer optional trim kits to make them look like a custom installation. Mounting a microwave frees up valuable counter space, brings the microwave to eye level, which may make it easier to use, and, in some cases, provides ventilation for the stovetop.

Drawer Microwaves

Drawer microwaves are quite rare -- in fact, only a few are available. They're installed lower in the kitchen, below the countertop, and they open like a drawer. They're often installed in kitchen islands or underneath wall ovens. Professional reviews of drawer microwaves are hard to find, however, and user reviews are limited and somewhat mixed -- especially when it comes to durability.

Size matters

Size is an important consideration with any microwave. It needs to fit in the available space you have for it; either on a countertop or into a specific area where it will be built in. You also need to consider capacity. If you have a big family or make a lot of large dishes in the microwave (think a 9- by 13-inch pan of lasagna), you need at least 2.2 cubic feet. If you need a big microwave, but don't have the counter space and can't build it in, you may be able to fit a microwave stand in your kitchen area to hold it. That will also provide extra shelving. However, experts say that most people only need a mid-sized microwave of about 1.2 to 1.7 cubic feet, plenty large enough for most dishes. For small spaces, there are a lot of good choices in the 1.0 cubic foot and smaller range.

Power is also important. Experts say the best microwaves have at least 1,000 watts of power. And, in fact, cooking instructions for frozen foods are often based upon 1,000 watts. Many microwaves have more power -- 1,100 or 1,200 watts. If you're upgrading from a less powerful microwave, reviewers say, you need to be careful not to overcook foods until you get used to it.

A microwave can't do it all

Although microwaves are becoming increasingly versatile, and many come with cookbooks that feature a wide array of dishes you can cook in them, they aren't the best appliance for cooking everything. Even a microwave with a convection feature will not be as effective as a dedicated convection oven for baked goods, and its capacity will be smaller. For better options for baking and roasting, see our reports on wall ovens, ranges and toaster ovens.

If you do opt for a drawer microwave or for a custom built-in microwave anywhere in your kitchen but over the range, you may want to upgrade your kitchen exhaust and air flow, as well; if so, see our report on range hoods.

Finding The Best Microwaves
Our Sources
"The Best Microwave"
"Microwave Ovens"
"Microwaves"

There are a decent number of expert tests and professional reviews of microwaves. Chief among these has always been ConsumerReports.org, but we noticed for this update that some of their top choices have been recently discontinued. TheSweethome.org does thorough testing, as does Good Housekeeping, and Techlicoius.com has a recent update that was very helpful.

Matching those results and recommendations to long-term, real-world experiences posted at user-review sites such as HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com and BestBuy.com helped us narrow the focus to a few top microwaves. The result of that research is our recommendations for the microwave ovens with the best combination of performance, features, ease of use and reliability.

Recently Updated
Microwaves buying guide

What every best Microwaves has:

  • A handy selection of presets.
  • Cooking sensors.
  • A turntable on/off button.

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