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Hands-on Gear Review
Panasonic NN-SD745S Review
Price: $240 List | $156.00 at Amazon
Pros: Best overall at heating food, great at Hot Pockets,
Cons: Expensive, poor frozen burrito performance
Bottom line: The best model you can buy today for evenly heating food.
The Panasonic NN-SD745S took home the highest score out of the entire group, meriting it the Editors' Choice award. This microwave is the best of the best, largely in part due to its superb heating score. This model was fast, easy to use, and did the best job of the entire group at heating up frozen pocket sandwiches, or Hot Pockets. This model struggled a little bit with frozen burritos, but this was substantially overshadowed by its stellar performance in almost every other test we did. This is the microwave that you should buy if you want the best and can afford it.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Panasonic NN-SD745S handily earned its title of the best overall microwave, beating out the next closest competitor by four points. This model was by far the best at heating up food, excelling at everything from Hot Pockets to a plate of leftovers. The Panasonic NN-SD745S had one of the most uniform heat maps out of all the products we looked at, ensuring that your food will be warm throughout.
We bought the top 10 microwaves available and put them through a grueling series of tests, spending close to 150 hours to find you which is the best available. We split our testing process into four weighted metrics, each with a handful of different tests, to evaluate the performance of each product. We ended up conducting over 15 different tests, ranging from microwaving popcorn to seeing if the appliance would slide on the countertop. The following sections detail how the Panasonic NN-SD745S did in each metric, and how it compared to the competition.
The first and foremost task that comes to mind when comparing different microwaves is how well each one heats up food. This is why heating is the most important metric of our test and comprises 40% of the overall score. The Panasonic NN-SD745S did exceptionally well in this category, earning an 8 out of 10. You can see how this compares to the rest of the competition in the chart below.
This model did exceptionally well in our heat map test and our pocket sandwich, or Hot Pocket tests, earning the highest score of the group. We used the "Frozen Pocket Sandwich" setting on this model and then took the temperature of the sandwich in the left, right, and center areas.
There was hardly any temperature variation, only averaging 1.9°F of variation between the three regions. This beat out every other model we tested, with the Westinghouse, Samsung MS11K3000AS and the Sharp coming in next, having temperature differences of 2.7°F, 4.3°F, and 4.8°F respectively. For our heat map test, we spread a thin layer of molten chocolate over a piece of parchment paper trimmed to the size of the turntable in the Panasonic NN-SD745S and let it solidify. After it had cooled, we heated the chocolate in the microwave for one minute and evaluated the results.
The entire area was evenly melted, with no solid or burned spots. We could roll up the piece of parchment paper and no cracks appeared. The Panasonic NN-SD745S still did very well in our next two tests, though not quite as perfect as the heat map or Hot Pocket.
These tests were the chicken pot pie and the leftovers test. This model still did the best of the entire group at reheating the plate of leftovers, but there was more temperature variation. We zapped a plate of green beans, mashed potatoes, and chicken tenders using the sensor reheat, then measured the temperature of the different food items in multiple places.
We were looking for variations of temperature within each food type, as well as between them. The green beans were warmer than the rest, most likely due to their higher water content. The chicken pot pie test was essentially the same as the Hot Pocket, but we used more thermometers in a circular array to more accurately capture the temperature profile.
We followed the package directions, and all areas of the chicken pot pie hit the desired temperature of 165°F. We then averaged the temperature differences each thermometer and found the average difference to be 5.4°F — a very evenly heated pot pie! This was the smallest difference of the group, beating out the LG and the Kenmore, which had an average temperature difference of 6.8°F and 10°F respectively.
The frozen burrito and the frozen lasagna tests finished out this metric, with the Panasonic NN-SD745S failing to impress in either of them. It did slightly below average when we made a frozen lasagna according to the package directions. While all areas of the lasagna hit the required temperature of 160°F, we saw much more variation between different sections, with 13.3°F being the average temperature difference. This was much more variation than the top models had. For example, the Oster and the Kenmore had much smaller differences, measuring in at 3.1°F and 3.8°F respectively.
However, the Panasonic NN-SD745S performed the worst in our frozen burrito test. We made an identical frozen burrito in each model, following the package directions, and evaluated with our linear thermometer array.
The center of the burrito failed to reach the necessary temperature of 160°F, with an average temperature variation of 22.9°F between the different regions of the burrito. This is much worse than the best models in this test, with the Sharp and the Panasonic NN-SU696S only having an average temperature difference of 2.2°F and 8.9°F respectively.
Ease of Use
This metric encompassed everything from the effectiveness of the popcorn button to whether or not the microwave would slide around when the door was opened or closed, making up 30% of the overall score. The Panasonic NN-SD745S did well in this category, tying for the third-highest score overall with a 6 out of 10. You can see how the other products did in the following graphic.
This model did exceptionally well when it came to preset effectiveness, especially when it came to popcorn. It made the best popcorn out of the entire group, making great tasting popcorn without burning it. Though it did leave a few more kernels unpopped compared to the Oster or the Westinghouse, both of these models left an undesirable burned taste. This model tied for the second-best baked potato using the potato preset, just narrowly being beat out by the Oster and the Westinghouse. This pair had about a 2-4°F smaller average temperature variation between different areas of the potato, compared to the 8°F of the Panasonic NN-SD745S. It also was a little underdone in the middle when we sliced it in half, compared to the perfectly cooked potatoes by the Oster and Westinghouse.
This model has a "+30 Seconds" button, but it won't automatically start the machine. It lacks any other quick functions. It does have a fantastic interior light, one of the best of the group, making it easy to keep an eye on your food while it's heating up. This product can't be used in lieu of a kitchen timer, meaning you can't run a separate timer from heating up food inside. We weren't the biggest fan of this model's interface, finding it annoying to use a dial instead of a number pad.
This model was one of the most solid on the counter, refusing to slide when the door was opened and closed or the interface used.
The defrosting capabilities of a microwave are usually used much less frequently than heating the food in the microwave alone. Consequently, this metric was worth less, only making up 20% of the overall score. The Panasonic NN-SD745S did about average, earning a 5 out of 10. You can see how this compared to the rest of the pack in the chart below.
This metric consisted of three different tests. We tasked each microwave with defrosting a 1 lb roll of ground turkey, a frozen muffin, and compared the different defrosting options available on each machine.
This model actually did the best of the entire set at defrosting a frozen muffin. We used the "Inverter Turbo Defrost" setting with the correct weight entered. The muffin was pretty much perfectly heated, warmed throughout with the chocolate chips just starting to melt.
Performance dropped considerably when we defrosted the roll of ground turkey, with the Panasonic NN-SD745S doing a subpar job. We used the defrost by weight setting and flipped the roll when the machine notified us to, but defrosted slightly less than half of the roll.
This model also appeared to completely cook some sections of the turkey. This model also only has an "Inverter Turbo Defrost" by weight option, lacking any sort of quick defrost by time.
Our final metric evaluated how quickly these products worked and made up 10% of the final score. The Panasonic NN-SD745S did well in this category, again earning a 6 out of 10. You can see how this compares to the rest of the group in the chart below.
We heated up a known amount of water in a beaker in each model for 30 seconds, and measured the temperature rise. The Panasonic NN-SD745S boosted the temperature by 36°F, only a degree less than the top model in this test, the Panasonic NN-SU696S.
This model is the best of the best, and unfortunately, that comes at a steep price. You would be better served by either of the Best Buy award winners, the Kenmore or the Westinghouse if you are shopping on a budget.
The Panasonic NN-SD745S excels at heating up food like any good microwave should. It is the best model for most people and does particularly well at evenly heating plates of leftovers of Hot Pockets. It's easy to use, with the most effective popcorn preset that we saw out of the bunch and did a perfect job at defrosting a frozen muffin. However, it fell a little short on heating up a frozen burrito and it a little on the pricey side.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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