There are three main types of microwaves which include countertop, over-the-range, and built-in models. For this article we are only going to focus on countertop microwaves. These appliances plug into a standard electrical outlet and do not require any special installation. They typically range in capacity from 0.5 cubic feet to 2.2 cubic feet. You should know the size of plates or pans you plan on using to cook or reheat your food and make sure that the size of microwave you buy will accommodate them.
The power of a microwave is measured in watts. Compact or cheaper units will generally be around 800 watts or less with larger microwave ovens around 1000-1200 watts or even more. More power, or watts, usually means more heat which translates into faster cooking times and better overall performance.
Maybe the most important factor in making a good microwave is how evenly it heats your food. In addition to that we used power, capacity, price, convenience features, and other customer reviews to come up with our ratings.
Below we review our top 10 best microwaves. At the bottom of these microwave oven reviews we also provide a comparison chart to easily compare one model versus another. If you need more information before purchasing a microwave then see our microwave buying guide.
The NN-SD775S has 1250 watts of power and Cyclonic wave technology which cooks food more evenly. Controls include 20 preset sensor cook menu items, Inverter Turbo defrost, delay start and timer, more/less control, child safety lock, quick 30 Sec and popcorn button with 3 cooking levels.
We think the Panasonic NN-SD775S is outstanding, but it is on the expensive side. Cheaper microwave ovens are available that perform nearly as good.
The NN-SN966S does not have the cyclonic wave technology like the NN-SD775S, but we think it performs just as well in heating evenness and in defrosting. The built-in automatic Genius Sensor adjusts power and times based on different foods. Other features include 14 preset menu items, quick-minute timer, delay start, Keep Warm feature, and child safety lock.
You might also be interested in the Panasonic NN-SD945S which is essentially the same microwave, but has a different control panel and costs a few dollars more.
We think the LMC1275SB performs as well as any other top model, however the minimalist style of the control panel leaves us wanting more. The controls aren’t as intuitive and takes a bit of getting used to, although once you know what you’re doing you might prefer this setup. It has 1.2 cubic feet of space, 1200 watts of power, 7 auto-cook options and 10 power levels.
The keypad is a bit cramped with lots of buttons and it is not the most intuitive to use, but once you get the hang of it it’s not that bad. There are plenty of one-touch options which is nice.
The GE JES2051DNWW is available in white, black, or stainless. However the price for black or white is much cheaper than the stainless option which costs $50 more.
The EM131A5C-BS has 1100 watts of power and 1.2 cubic feet of capacity with a 12.4 inch turntable. In addition to sensor cooking and standard preset buttons for things like popcorn, potatoes, or pizza, it also has a large amount of express controls for things like cooking bacon, softening butter, or defrosting frozen muffins. You can also mute the buzzer if you like.
Overall the Toshiba EM131A5C-BS is an excellent microwave oven for the price.
The controls on the EM925A5A-SS are simple to use, although it does not have quite as many preset options plus there is no sensor cooking. A 10.6 inch diameter turntable is inside, so really large dishes might not fit, but standard plates will.
Overall the Toshiba EM925A5A-SS might just be the best countertop microwave for small kitchens.
The LMC2075ST doesn’t have a lot of preset cooking options for different foods, just one for popcorn. Instead it relies on the Sensor Cook option, which while good, doesn’t always result in what you want. Other features include 1200 watts of power, EasyClean anti-bacterial coating, and smooth touch controls which wipe clean.
If you are searching for a large capacity microwave, but don’t want to spend over $200 then the LG NeoChef LMC2075ST is for you.
The JES1657SMSS has 1.6 cubic feet of capacity, 1150 watts of power, sensor cooking, and some one-touch controls. It is available in stainless, black stainless, black, and white.
Available in stainless, white, or black the JES1145SHSS has 1.1 cubic feet of capacity and 950 watts of power. It has 10 power levels and several one-touch controls, but it does not have sensor cooking.
Overall the GE JES1145SHSS would make a good choice for a small microwave.
The Magic Chef HMM1110B is for anyone who wants the best cheap microwave they can get. However, for around $20 more you can step up to the Toshiba EM925A5A-SS which is a better performing microwave.
Best Microwave Comparison Chart
(H” x W” x D”)
|11.94 x 21.88 x 19.94
|14 x 23.9 x 19.4
|LG NeoChef LMC1275SB
|12.1 x 21.4 x 17
|13.63 x 23.88 x 19.25
|12.8 x 20.5 x 17.1
|11.5 x 19.2 x 15.9
|LG NeoChef LMC2075ST
|13.56 x 23.87 x 19.81
|12.88 x 21.75 x 17.75
|12 x 20.31 x 15.63
|Magic Chef HMM1110B
|12 x 20.3 x 15.6
Microwave Buying Guide
Here are some features to look for when shopping for the best microwave:
Power / Watts – The wattage relates to how much heat an appliance puts out. The more watts the faster your food will cook. Budget models will have about 600-850 watts. Medium sized versions usually have between 900 and 1100. Top of the line units usually have 1100 watts or more.
Capacity – The capacity is measured in cubic feet. Full-size microwaves are usually 1.5 cu. ft. and larger and are recommended for large dishes like lasagna. Medium sized models are around 1.2 cu. ft. Compact units may be as small as .5 cu. ft. and have less cooking power, but take up much less counter space.
Turntable – While most units are not good at heating food evenly, a model with a turntable rotates the food to provide more even cooking. You should know that turntables often lower the stated capacity of a microwave because rectangular or square pans or platters that are too large will not rotate on the turntable. We highly recommend getting a model with a turntable.
Sensors – They adjust the power levels and cooking time for various food items by monitoring the humidity in a microwave to prevent overcooking. Many new models, other than budget units, come with a sensor as standard equipment.
Inverter – When you operate a normal microwave at reduced power, it typically alternates between states of full power and no power. Inverter technology allows the appliance to use a small percentage of its power over the entire time to cook or defrost food more evenly. This is not a standard feature and not one you absolutely must have, but it does come in handy especially when defrosting or softening foods like butter or ice cream.
Convection Oven – This uses a fan to circulate the heated air evenly around the unit to shorten cooking. With this feature it is almost like having a second oven to cook in, but experts say the results will not be the same as a regular convection oven. At an additional cost of about $100, this feature is an expensive option and not one that is necessary for ordinary users.
Convenience Features / Buttons – Many units come with shortcut buttons for foods like popcorn, baked potatoes, vegetables, and many more that automatically cook your food for you. Look for a model with shortcuts you would actually use. You will find models may use either a keypad or dial for setting cooking time and power levels. Some other buttons you mind find helpful include a 30 second or 1 minute key, defrost, and reheat.