When buying a new microwave, it pays to look at the brand you are buying from. While every home needs a microwave in the kitchen for reheating, defrosting and all types of nuking… with the right purchase you can get cool extras with your oven like sensor reheating, inverter technology or even little pre-programmed options like a “pop popcorn” or “melt chocolate” button.
Best Overall: Panasonic Microwave Ovens
Best Budget: Toshiba Microwave Ovens
Best With Grill Element: Samsung Microwave Ovens
Best Over-The-Range: LG Neochef Microwave Ovens
Excellent Mid-Range: Black & Decker Microwave Ovens
Cheapest: Kenmore Microwave Ovens
This article will analyze and compare all the top manufacturers of microwaves. We’ve researched and compiled from countless different microwaves and brands, testing them on buying factors like ease of use, reliability, features, and range of options to provide a comprehensive round up of the best consumer recommendations.
Let’s begin, shall we?
1 Panasonic – BEST OVERALL
Panasonic’s newest range of microwave ovens offer an outstanding array of features along with power output that’ll give you rapid cooking times. Throw in fantastic reliability backed up by a comprehensive one-year warranty and you’ve got a microwave that will last and last.
Panasonic offers powerful and larger microwave ovens, geared up towards the higher end of the market. A typical Panasonic microwave offers 1250W of power. This means your food gets cooked FAST, offering nearly double the power and half the cooking time of a 700W microwave.
The models of Microwave offered by Panasonic are:
Panasonic Compact – 1200W / 1.2 cubic feet with 13.4″ turntable
Panasonic NN-SN686S – 1200W / 1.2 cubic feet with 13.4″ turntable
Panasonic NN-SN766S – 1250W / 1.6 cubic feet with 15″ turntable
Panasonic NN-SN966S – 1250W / 2.2 cubic feet with 16.5″ turntable
You’ll notice that you get some truly huge microwaves in there suitable for large cooking purposes. On the other hand, the smallest microwave from Panasonic is medium-sized, you don’t really get a budget small option with this brand. Each microwave has a slightly different keypad layout with some even giving you the option of a dial input. Click the link to check them out.
Panasonic are very proud of their patented Inverter Technology. For defrosting and other low power modes, microwave ovens usually switch on and off repeatedly to approximate a lower power. You can even hear it as the magnetron turns off and on again.
Well, with Inverter Technology, the magnetron runs at a true low power that delivers more consistently heated and better cooked food.
Another of Panasonic’s trademark features is its “turbo defrost” which defrosts and thaw foods in a fraction of the time.
Other goodies include a “keep warm” button for gravies and soups, sensor heating that takes the guesswork out of reheating food and plenty of preset and programmed options.
2 Toshiba – BEST BUDGET
Excellent all round microwave oven that packs a lot in for the money.
Toshiba have a stellar record for reliability of their microwaves.
Not everyone is looking to invest in a quality microwave that has features coming out the wazoo. Sometimes you want a solid option at a modest price point.
My choice for best budget brand of microwave oven is Toshiba. It’s leading models come in at around half the price of Panasonic and other brands in this list yet still offer excellent performance and value for money.
Three of their best selling models are:
Toshiba EM925A5A-SS – 900W / 0.9 cu. ft with 10.6″ turntable
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS – 1100W / 1.2 cu.ft with 12.4″ turntable.
Toshiba EM245A5C-BS – 1250W / 1.6 cu. ft with 13.6″ turntable
This offers you solid power output and fast cooking times. A wattage of 900W is respectable and the 1100W and especially 1250W models occupy the top end of power available in microwaves while still being very reasonably costed.
These power levels can be adjusted to 10 different increments (10%, 20%, 30% and so on) to give you full control of defrosting, preheating and other low power cooking methods.
The Toshiba brand of microwaves have a standard design that is replicated across all models. It’s a keypad and timer display that comes in stainless steel or black stainless steel finishes with only the sizes being different. The sizes themselves are a good spread with both small and large microwaves on offer.
In terms of features, all Toshibas come with pre-programmed cooking options as well as a power saving eco mode, child safety lock and mute button for the microwave’s beeping sounds.
One of Toshiba’s models, the 1.5 cubic ft version, includes a built in convection oven at a slightly higher price. This can be a huge space saver for those of you with small apartments or living in dorms. No oven, no problem! You can still make pizzas, potatoes and anything else that needs oven cooking straight from your microwave.
3 Samsung – BEST WITH GRILL ELEMENT
Convection heating element allows for browning and crisping that is not possible in normal microwave ovens.
Beautiful scratch resistant aesthetic with Easyclean surface.
Lots of presets to make your life easier.
Samsung is a huge name in electronics, notably producing the most smartphone sales globally, even beating the giants of Apple. The microwave oven being another field this behemoth of a brand have forayed into.
The Samsung line of microwaves is a solid if unspectacular choice. At first glance, their super modern keypad and LED display is a marvel and the stainless steel exterior and ceramic interior are a gorgeous sight. Unfortunately, this brand of microwave is more style than substance.
The biggest issue with Samsung microwaves is reliability, with numerous reports of faulty parts or of the microwave needing to be replaced. Most people want a microwave oven that sits in the corner of the kitchen and does what it’s told for ten years rather than a flashy one which breaks down, so this is a big mark against the brand.
The main line of Samsung microwaves offer a microwave oven with additional grilling element. A nice feature that lets you brown, crisp and melt in ways that a normal microwave won’t be able to do. Leftover pizza, for example, turns out loads better when reheated in a Samsung.
This is even more useful for those in dorms or small apartments which may not have a fully equipped kitchen. That said, it’s not as hot or powerful as a built in oven and grill and you may get frustrated with its slow cooking speed.
The models offered by Samsung are:
Samsung MG14H3020CM microwave with grill – 950W with 1.4 cu. ft.
Samsung MG11H2020CT microwave with grill – 1000W with 1.1 cu. ft.
Nothing extraordinary here. Above average power levels that will cook food quickly although not at the top of the range of home microwaves. The range of sizes is pretty small mostly occupying the mid-range.
Features-wise you have plenty on offer. I’ve mentioned the grill, but Samsung microwaves give lots of preset options for foods along with sound on/off option, eco standby power saver, useful “+30 seconds” button and ten different power levels.
4 LG – BEST FOR OVER-THE-RANGE
The LG Neochef, with its unique features, will appeal to a certain kind of buyer. Although for my money there are better top end options for microwave ovens.
Their wide range of over-the-range microwave ovens does stand out, though. They are a great brand to consider for customers who are looking for this type of microwave.
LG is another brand that occupy the high end of the microwave ballpark. Famous for their Neochef microwaves, LG has an excellent reputation and back this up with a whole bunch of goodies to make cooking easier than ever.
One of LG’s unique features is the trademarked Easyclean interior which is made of enamel and takes the hassle out of scrubbing off excess food.
Its Smoothtouch design gives an amazing aesthetic to its beautiful microwaves, although it’s unclear if this Smoothtouch is of any benefit other than looks.
LG offer a truly huge range of microwaves, it’s not possible to list all of them here. They have a comprehensive list of over-the-range microwaves, offering a maximum wattage of 1000W, not overly impressive given the cost. Their wide range of countertop microwaves go from 1.1 cubic feet to 2.2 cubic ft which is roughly medium to very, very big – along with a powerful 1200W as a maximum. You can check them out here.
Unfortunately, for all the good stuff about LG they fall short in a couple of areas. Reliability is not flawless. Not terrible, but when you’re paying top dollar for an appliance you want to know it’ll be in good working order for many a year to come.
The last thing you need is to spend your Sunday afternoon sorting out some technical issue with a darn microwave… And sadly LG has more reports than you’d like to see of breakdowns and other issues.
Another minor issue with LGs is that the microwave plays a jingle when the time is up which doesn’t stop until you go and turn it off. It’s a little like what you might hear a washing machine make, it’ll definitely get the backs up of a certain kind of person!
5 Black & Decker – EXCELLENT MID RANGE OPTION
Black & Decker
All features necessary for solid defrosting and other modes.
Range of power settings to choose from.
Excellent value for money.
Black and Decker are a solid brand of microwave that tick off all the boxes. Variety of options, plethora of features, won’t break down on you after six months. They also are aesthetically pleasing with a silver and black stainless steel exterior.
Options available are:
Black & Decker EM720CB7 – 700W with 0.7 cu. ft and 10″ turntable
Black & Decker EM925AB9 – 900W with 0.9 cu. ft and 10.6″ turntable
Black & Decker EM720CB7 – 1000W with 1.1 cu. ft and 12.4″ turntable
Black & Decker EM720CB7 – 1000W with 1.4 cu. ft and 12.4″ turntable
The brand offers a range of microwaves, mostly in the cheaper and smaller part of the spectrum. The massive microwaves some brands offer are absent, although the top end 1000W is a solid power output that’ll have you cooking a reheating in quick time.
Black & Decker microwaves come with a standard six presets which feels a little low for anything above a budget microwave. While you can still do things like soften butter, melt chocolate or pop popcorn with any microwave, having a preset makes it that bit more convenient.
Any issues? Well, the keypads are dark and are not lit up from behind. If you plan to put your Black and Decker brand microwave in a darker part of the kitchen, you might have a tough time reading what the buttons say.
6 Kenmore – CHEAPEST OPTION
Kenmore offer the cheapest microwaves in this list while still being a solid bet for a reliable option.
Range of features is limited and power and size will be on the lower end of the scale.
The Kenmore brand of microwaves inhabit the budget end of the spectrum, producing decent, reliable microwaves that will be considered a good purchase if not a great one.
In terms of budget, Kenmore actually produces the cheapest microwaves looked at for this article. In particular, the 0.7 cubic ft is a simple, no frills microwave oven that’ll do everything asked of it.
The models they offer are:
Kenmore 70722 0.7 cu. ft 700 Watts
Kenmore 70923 0.9 cu. ft 900 Watts
These microwaves are small, with 0.7 cubic feet being about as small as you can make a microwave while still being able to fit food inside it! The power levels are modest too, with longer cooking times being expected than the more expensive brands.
Taking it all into account though, Kenmore rates well as a budget brand for microwaves. It has good reliability, with reports of faulty parts or breakdowns rare and backed up by excellent general ratings on Amazon of 4.2/4.3 stars.
The brand also packs a decent punch in terms of features, especially when considering the price. You get one touch presets for the most common foods with all their microwaves, and you can also use the Auto Defrost setting, ten power levels and a “+30 second” button on the 0.9 cubic feet model.
Buyer’s Guide For Best Microwave
Your first and most important decision when choosing a microwave is to decide what amount of watts is necessary. The wattage of a microwave is a measure of its power, or more simply, how fast it cooks.
Generally speaking, the more the better. A higher wattage cooks things more quickly, a huge advantage whether you’re preparing a meal for ten people or just reheating yesterday’s leftovers.
The upper end of microwaves at around 1300W are almost twice as fast as the 700W or 800W microwaves you might be used to.
One caveat is that instructions and cooking times on packaged meals are for microwaves in the 700-900W range. However, you can simply reduce the power for most microwaves or just work out the time difference.
For example, a cooking time of 3 minutes (180 seconds) at 900W can be converted into 1200W using the following equation.
You might wonder why anyone would get a low wattage microwave. The technology used in microwaves gets exponentially more expensive to produce those higher wattages. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the extra power is worth the cost.
Dial or keypad
Microwaves use either a rotating dial or a keypad for input.
The keypad is the modern option. You have an LED display showing the remaining time and a plethora of buttons that offer different features or preset options.
A dial-based microwave is more simple and provides less information. You spin the dial to the amount of time you want. It’s tricky when doing smaller cooking times and doing increments of 30 seconds is often a guessing game!
Although nowadays you see some modern microwaves offer a dial input and LED display.
This option is useful for those who might have issues with a button-based input such as the disabled or elderly.
Size / Capacity
The standard measurement for size of microwaves in the USA is using cubic feet. Personally, I find this clunky and unhelpful. Here’s a rule of thumb to make sense of this measurement.
0.7 cubic feet – small microwave
1-1.5 cubic feet – normal-sized microwave
1.7+ cubic feet – larger microwave
It’s easier to judge size based on the diameter of the turntable on which you place your food. All microwaves I have reviewed have this diameter in the listing for your convenience.
To work out if a microwave will fit in your kitchen, it is best to use the dimensions of length, width, and height. These are available on any Amazon listing you can find by clicking on the links in the article.
The materials that make up the inner components of the microwave oven are standardized across the industry. For example. the inner panels of the microwave are made from stainless steel which reflects the radio waves (or microwaves) and prevents them from leaving the oven. They are the same in all microwave ovens.
Typically, the outside body of the microwave is made of aluminum which is strong and cheap. In terms of buying a microwave, you don’t need to think too deeply about the material it is made from.
You won’t always want to use your microwave at full power. For example, one neat trick you can do with the microwave is to run it at 10% power to make beautiful and warm melted chocolate. Some microwaves give you more control over power settings than others.
The standard in modern microwaves is to have ten “power levels” where a five corresponds to 50% and a nine to 90% and so on. This gives you a lot of control.
On the other hand, you also come across microwaves that simply offer “medium” and “medium-low” heat, sometimes without even telling you the percentage of the full power that it’s using.
Older and cheaper microwaves have a peculiar quirk when using low power modes. For example, when using a 50% power they will not run at 50% power but will alternate between 100% power and then 0% power. This shortcut is not ideal and can lead to unevenly cooked food.
The issue is that the magnetron, the “engine” of a microwave, can either be turned on or off. Creating a microwave that can produce a steady stream of lower power requires a touch of tech wizardry.
You need to decide if it’s worth the investment to have this “inverter technology” for low power modes like defrosting, softening, melting and so on.
Sensor heating is one of the highlights of modern microwave technology and takes the guesswork out of cooking and reheating.
Essentially, the microwave can detect moisture levels in the food and use this to calibrate precisely how much cooking time is needed. You select the type of food as different foods have different moisture profiles.
No need to put in an amount of time. In fact, some microwaves tell you how long is left before your food is ready.
Sensor technology can be used for reheating but also for cooking some foods from scratch. A valuable feature you may want to splash the cash for in your new microwave oven.
The “keep warm” feature can be a lifesaver for a busy cook trying to juggle cooking five different things at once. Put this setting on and the microwave will keep gravy, soup, desserts or anything else at a steady heat, giving you room to manage the finer points of the meal.
Power saving / eco mode
An “eco mode” offers a reduction of up to 50% of the power used in standby mode, helping you to take a little off your electric bill and do your bit for the environment.
What an “eco mode” cannot do is reduce the amount of power used to cook food. The magnetron uses power at the output of the wattage itself and cannot be made more efficient.
Child safety lock
A microwave with a child safety lock will allow you to “lock” the microwave from being turned on when not in use. This can stop children from fiddling with a potentially dangerous appliance.
Sound on/off option
A “sound on/off” button will turn electric sounds off when selecting options or time and also when the food is finished. Handy for those who share living arrangements to mute the constant buzz of sounds.
A “soften” or “melt” button on a microwave allows you to soften butter or melt chocolate with a single touch. All microwaves have this capability with their low power modes, but a standalone button takes the guesswork out of it.
A microwave with an in-built convection oven offers a great all-in-one appliance for those in dorms or with small kitchens where a separate oven is not an option. It can fulfill almost all the functions of a traditional oven but will rarely be as powerful. The cost is bumped up a fair bit, too.