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Hands-on Gear Review
Panasonic NN-SU696S ReviewPrice: $140 List | $104.99 at Amazon
Pros: Speedy, decent at frozen burritos
Cons: Expensive, difficult to use
Bottom line: While this model is fast at heating, it got beat in the most important tests
The Panasonic NN-SU696S scored low in the group and had a top-tier price. It was a little difficult to use but speedy — overall failing to dazzle us. Its sibling, the Panasonic NN-SD745S took home the Editors' Choice award and the top score, and the NN-SU696S simply failed to match that stellar performance.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The lower half of the group of products in this test seemed to follow the unfortunate trend of scoring lower and costing more. The NN-SU696S cost significantly more than better-performing microwaves, and failed to justify this increased cost through increased performance.
We bought the top 10 best microwaves available today, and spent over 150 hours researching and thoroughly testing to help you find the machine that you would entrust your precious popcorn and frozen burrito with. The overall score was determined by the performance in our four weighted testing metrics: Heating, Ease of Use, Defrosting, and Speed. The next sections detail the performance of the Panasonic NN-SU6969S.
This was the highest weighted metric of the group, making up 40% of the total score, mainly due to heating food being the primary function of these products. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did a little above average, meriting a 6 out of 10. We conducted a handful of tests, encompassing things like making the perfect Hot Pocket or heating up a plate of leftovers to determine the scores, comparing the quality of the finished product and the uniformity of heating between models.
This model did very well at heating up a frozen burrito, actually doing the second-best out of the entire group. There was only an average temperature difference of 8.9°F, and all regions of the burrito well exceeded the minimum temperature stated by the package directions.
The Panasonic NN-SU696S did well at heating up an individual portion of lasagna, though not as well as the burrito. While all areas did exceed the minimum temperature, there was much more temperature variation compared to the other models, around 8.7°F. This was much more than the 3-5°F of average variation present on the Oster, Kenmore, or the Sharp.
This product did about the same at reheating our plate of leftovers — green beans, chicken tenders, and mashed potatoes. We used the sensor reheat function on this model. The green beans were the warmest — like every other model — but there was an extreme temperature discrepancy between the mashed potatoes and the chicken tenders, with the chicken tenders being almost 40°F warmer.
The NN-SU696S did about average at heating up a chicken pot pie, just barely hitting the minimum temperature in the middle. There was a little more variation than we would have liked, on average about 11°F between areas, but the crust did crisp up very nicely.
Finishing out our last two tests with decent scores, the Panasonic NN-SU696S scored average and above-average in our Hot Pocket and heat map tests. The Hot Pocket exceeded the stated minimum temperature, but had about 7.2°F of average temperature variation — substantially more than the 1.9°F of the Panasonic NN-SD745S or the 2.7°F of the Westinghouse.
To make a heat map, we trimmed a piece of parchment paper to match the turntable on each product, then spread molten chocolate on it and allowed it to cool. We heated up the chocolate disc for a minute in each model, looking for inconsistencies in melting. The NN-SU696S did well, but left a circle about the size of a nickel in the center that was less melted than the rest.
Ease of Use
This metric wasn't quite as highly-weighted as heating, making up 30% of the total score. We were looking at what made these products more convenient and easy to use, testing aspects from preset effectiveness to whether or not we could see the food inside while it was being heated. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did slightly below average, earning a 4 out of 10.
It did a little above average in terms of preset effectiveness, as determined by its performance in our popcorn and potato presets. This model did a good job at creating great tasting popcorn, with only a few kernels tasting slightly burnt — not enough to permeate through the entire bag. It did leave a handful of kernels unpopped, but it was better than having a large number burnt. The potato was about average, though a little firmer in the middle than we usually would have preferred.
This model has a "+30 Seconds", but it won't automatically start the microwave. It does have a kitchen timer function, but it can't be used when food is being heated. You could see through the door, but this model lacked an interior light when the door was opened. We did feel that the keypad was above average.
This model would slide a tiny bit on a smooth counter when the door was opened and closed — slightly less than a quarter of an inch.
We compared the prowess of each product's defrost by weight settings in this metric, making up 20% of the overall score. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did fairly well, earning a 6 out of 10. We tested by defrosting a 1 lb roll of ground turkey and a frozen muffin. We also compared and contrasted the other defrost settings available between models.
The NN-SU696S did very well at defrosting the muffin, earning the second-highest score of the group, just behind the NN-SD745S. The muffin was heated throughout, with only the very bottom being on the cooler side. This model fared a little poorer when it came to defrosting the ground turkey.
9.6 ounces of the ground turkey were completely defrosted, easily scraped off of the log. The remaining turkey was a little difficult to break apart, but still could be done without putting it back in the microwave. This model didn't completely cook any of the turkey, though there were a few very warm parts. This model only has an Auto Defrost setting, where you enter the weight and off it goes!
The final metric of our review, Speed, made up 10% of the total score. We heated up 250 mL of water in each model for a constant time, and based scored off the induced temperature rise. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did exceptionally well, earning a 7 out of 10 and the highest score of the group. It raised the temperature of the water by 37°F, just narrowly beating out the 36°F caused by the Panasonic NN-SD745S.
This model is not a great value, being relatively expensive for its performance.
While the Panasonic NN-SU696S did lead the way in terms of speed, it failed to wow us in the rest of the tests. There was a model that exceeded its performance in practically every other test, and most of them cost substantially less.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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