Giving an amazing performance overall, the hOmeLabs ousted our previous award winner to claim the title of Top Microwave Overall and an Editors' Choice Award. This model of appliance does very well at heating up all kinds of food items consistently and quickly. It's a breeze to use, delivering a top-notch performance in the vast majority of our tests. It is one of the easier microwaves to use, with effective presets and multiple quick-touch features. On top of all that, this appliance retails for about half the cost of our previous award winner, making it a much more affordable option. Unfortunately, it doesn't do the best with the defrosting food by weight, but despite this small setback, we still think it is the top microwave that you can get today.
hOmeLabs HME010002N Review
Pros: Heats food evenly and quickly, very intuitive and easy to use, great price
Cons: Defrosting functions aren’t the best, especially by weight
Our Analysis and Test Results
Claiming the top spot, the hOmeLabs edged out our previous champion, the Panasonic NN-SD745S. We found both of these appliances do a great job at heating up food quickly and evenly, but the hOmeLabs to be just a little bit more intuitive and easy to use. However, the NN-SD745 is definitely superior at defrosting, but it does cost almost double what the hOmeLabs does.
To rank and score these kitchen appliances and see which microwave truly zapped the rest of the pack, we bought all the top products that are currently on the market and put them through a series of rigorous head-to-head challenges. We grouped these assessments into four weighted rating metrics, with the results of the hOmeLabs compared against its peers discussed in the sections below.
By far the metric that is most significant to the overall score of each product, our Heating metric encompasses what most people will use these appliances for on a regular basis. Comprising 40% of the total score, we compared and score how well each product heated up a plate of leftovers, a Hot Pocket, an individual-sized frozen lasagna, a frozen burrito, and a chicken pot pie. Additionally, we also checked how evenly each appliance heated up its entire cooking area, using melted chocolate to create a map of how it heated. The hOmeLabs did extraordinarily well with this group of tests, earning an 8 out of 10 and comparing extremely favorably with the rest of the group.
For the plate of leftovers, we used the sensor reheat capabilities of this product to heat up a plate of mashed potatoes, green beans, and Dino-Nuggets. The hOmeLabs did a great job, though there was still a bit more temperature variation than the top models in this test had. All of the food was heated fairly evenly, although the items in the center of the plate were about 10°F warmer than the rest. The best models were evenly heated across the plate, with no noticeable differences when we tasted the food. This appliance continued its strong performance into our chicken pot pie evaluation, only exhibiting about 13°F of average temperature variation across the pie. We were also very impressed by how nice and crispy the crust on the pie was after being heated by the hOmeLabs.
It did even better with the Hot Pocket, with only 2.1°F of average variation between the different regions of the Hot Pocket. As expected at this point, this product also delivered one of the top performances of the group at evenly heating up an individual lasagna, with an impressively low average temperature variation of only 5.4°F.
The hOmeLabs finished out with a very strong showing in our frozen burrito and heat map assessments as well.
The chocolate was almost perfectly melted across the entirety of the turntable, with only a single minuscule burned spot that kept it from a perfect score.
Ease of Use
Accounting for 30% of the total score, our Ease of Use Metric ranked and scored each product on how intuitive and easy they are to operate. We looked at the accuracy of the preset functions, whether or not there was adequate lighting inside the microwave and if you can monitor your food while it's heating, as well as the layout of the keypad and if the appliance slid around on the counter. The hOmeLabs gave another strong showing, earning it a 7 out of 10 and putting it close to the top of the group.
To evaluate the presets on each product, we used the "Popcorn" and "Potato" buttons to pop a package of popcorn and to bake a potato. It did well with the popcorn, though it was cutting it a bit close. It was almost starting to burn and discolor, but still tasted fine.
The ends of the potato were cooked perfectly, though the center section was just starting to border on being a little overcooked and crispy. We did like that this product has a full set of quick buttons that automatically start the microwave for either 1,2, or 3 minutes or 30 seconds by using the "1","2","3", or the "+30" buttons.
It's a little difficult to see super clearly inside the microwave while your food is being zapped, but there is plenty of visibility to see if anything catastrophic happens.
This model has a decent keypad and won't inadvertently slide around on most countertops, but it, unfortunately, lacks the ability to function as a standalone kitchen timer.
Next, we looked at the defrosting abilities of each product, testing out the defrost by weight function. The hOmeLabs fell a little short in this metric, delivering a lackluster performance that earned it a 4 out of 10, putting it in the lower half of the group.
To test the defrost by weight function, we attempted to thaw a 1 lb. roll of ground turkey. This product doesn't beep at the halfway point to alert you to flip the roll of turkey and at the conclusion of the cycle, the bulk of the turkey remained too frozen to easily break apart.
It took another full cycle to thaw it sufficiently, but at this point, some of the turkey had been inadvertently cooked.
We also used a frozen chocolate chip muffin for the second test of this function. This microwave practically scorched the muffin, making it much warmer than we would have liked, with the bottom being about 10°F warmer than the top. This microwave also has a Time Defrost mode, where you can manually enter the time to defrost, rather than relying on the automatically set time when going by weight.
For the remaining 10% of the score, we evaluated how fast each microwave could heat up food. We did this by heating up 250 mL of water for 30 seconds, then noting the temperature change to determine scores.
The hOmeLabs achieved a 6 out of 10 for its performance, raising the temperature of the water by about 35°F — only a little bit less than the 36.8°F of the top model in this test.
Earning one of the best scores we have seen to date and retailing at a great price, this product is a solid value, though there are a few options that might be slightly better if you are shopping on a tight budget.
All in all, this is our favorite microwave that we have seen so far and highly recommend it for most people. It does a great job at heating up most types of food very quickly and evenly, offering intuitive operation and preset features that are surprisingly effective. It's sold at a reasonable price and the clear choice for anyone who wants the best of the best.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer