After researching more than 55 different microwaves, we bought the nine most promising models available and tested them side-by-side to find out which one truly zapped all the rest. We made dozens of frozen burritos, TV dinners, Hot Pockets, and pot pies, rating them for quality and evenness of heating. We also made countless bags of microwave popcorn and reheated plate after plate of leftovers. Finally, we compared the speed at which each microwave heats and had a panel of judges rate their ease of use. Now you can see which one topped them all, which is best for a budget, and which comes close to making perfect popcorn.
The Best Microwave Ovens
|Price||$133 List||$260 List|
Check Price at Amazon
|$90 List||$110 List|
$78.97 at Amazon
|Pros||Heats food evenly and quickly, very intuitive and easy to use, great price||Great at heating food, great at Hot Pockets,||Great for frozen burritos, easy to use, fantastic for frozen lasasgna||Even heat, great for leftovers, good at defrosting||Easy to use, solid value|
|Cons||Defrosting functions aren’t the best, especially by weight||Expensive, poor frozen burrito performance||Subpar at defrosting||Terrible at frozen burritos||Not the fastest, doesn’t heat extremely evenly|
|Bottom Line||Our favorite microwave that we have tested to date, the hOmeLabs is definitely the best of the best when it comes to these appliances||A fantastic product, but it is a little on the pricey side||The best model you can get without breaking the bank||A fantastic budget option that defrosts food and heats up last night's leftovers well.||The Toshiba is a solid microwave at a decent price|
|Rating Categories||hOmeLabs HME010002N||Panasonic NN-SD745S||Kenmore 73773||Westinghouse WM009||Toshiba EM925A5A|
|Ease Of Use (30%)|
|Specs||hOmeLabs HME010002N||Panasonic NN-SD745S||Kenmore 73773||Westinghouse WM009||Toshiba EM925A5A|
|Watts||1050 W||1250 W||900 W||900 W||900 W|
|Cubic Feet||1.3 cu ft||1.6 cu ft||0.9 cu ft||0.9 cu ft||0.9 cu ft|
|Power Draw||Plugged in: .5 W
Running: ~1626 W
|Plugged in: 0 W
Running: ~1940 W
|Plugged in: .3 W
Running: ~1330 W
|Plugged in: .6 W
Running: ~1335 W
|Plugged in: .5 W
Eco: 0 W
Running: 1280 W
|Dimensions||D: 17 19/64"
H: 12 13/32"
W: 20 13/32"
|D: 19 15/16"
H: 11 15/16"
W: 21 7/8"
|D: 14 1/4"
H: 11 1/16"
|D: 14 3/4"
H: 11 1/16"
|D: 15 15/16"
H: 11 1/2"
W: 19 1/8"
|Turntable Diameter||12 13/32"||14 15/16"||10 5/8"||10 5/8"||10 5/8"|
|Measured Weight||34.2 lbs||31.4 lbs||27.8 lbs||28.1 lbs||27.5 lbs|
|Internal Dimentions||13 1/2" x 15" x 9 1/4"||9" x 16 7/16" x 18 1/2"||8 5/8" x 13 3/8" x 12 9/16"||8 11/16" x 13 3/8" x 12 5/8"||12 3/8" x 13 5/8" x 8 11/16"|
|Warranty||2 Years||1 Year parts and labor
5 Years Magnetron
|2 Years||1 Year parts and labor
5 Years Magnetron
|1 Year limited|
Earning the highest score for any microwave that we have tested, the hOmeLabs HME010002N is our new favorite. It delivered phenomenal performance, evenly heating chicken pot pies, individual servings of lasagna, frozen burritos, and Hot Pockets. Not limited to processed food, it also did a commendable job at evenly heating a mixed plate of leftovers using its "Sensor Reheat" function. It is quite easy to use, with a variety of pre-programmed functions that are very effective and one-touch buttons that automatically start the microwave. On top of all that, the hOmeLabs is about half the price of our previous award winner, the Panasonic NN-SD745S.
However, this product didn't deliver when it came to defrosting food. We used the "Defrost by Weight" function to thaw a one-pound roll of ground turkey and the "Defrost by Time" function on a frozen muffin — both food items were heated very unevenly and far from satisfactorily. This microwave also lacks the ability to operate as a standalone timer. Despite these pitfalls, we think the hOmeLabs is the best microwave you can get and the perfect option for most people.
Read Full Review: hOmeLabs HME010002N
The 73773 by Kenmore is a fantastic value option, providing overall excellent performance at a much more budget-friendly price than our Editors' Choice award winner. This all-around performer heats food rapidly and evenly, earning it one of our top scores. It also is very easy to use, with single-touch buttons and presets that are decently effective.
While this model doesn't quite defrost or heat as evenly as our top choice, the Kenmore retails for far less, making this product the perfect choice if you are shopping on a budget.
Read Full Review: Kenmore 73773
Another Great Budget Pick
Narrowly bested by the Kenmore, the Westinghouse WM009 is another great pick for those searching for a value buy. It does an amazing job of defrosting, although it is slightly slower than the other award winners at heating food. It's a snap to use and will heat your food evenly. Plus, it is simple and intuitive to use, with preset functions that are surprisingly accurate and effective.
However, it's also oddly deficient at heating a frozen burrito, despite its superior defrosting performance in our other tests. Additionally, it will take a tiny bit longer than some other products out there. Despite those setbacks, it is still an excellent value microwave and a great option for those looking to save some cash, especially if you don't plan on heating up frozen burritos on a regular basis.Read Full Review: Westinghouse WM009
Why You Should Trust Us?
Our testing team of Austin Palmer and David Wise has extensive experience with kitchen appliances, having tested close to 250. ranging from juicers, food choppers, food processors, blenders, citrus juicers, ice cream makers, water filters, testing kitchen appliances, both Austin and David have become frozen food connoisseurs, having consumed far more Hot Pockets and frozen burritos than anyone should.
They also had a group of judges provide input on quality of the heated food. They also compared how quickly each product can heat something by measuring the temperature increase in a controlled volume of water. Finally, they used the products in their office and personal kitchens over several months to see how they performed, updating the review accordingly.
Related: How We Tested Microwave Ovens
Analysis and Test Results
The testing process was split into four metrics — Heating, Defrosting, Ease of Use, and Speed — with over 15 different tests spread among the metrics.
Related: Buying Advice for Microwave Ovens
Our favorite microwave of the group, the hOmeLabs, falls in the middle when it comes to prices — showing you don't need to spend a premium to get a great microwave. However, if you are shopping on a limited budget, then consider either the Westinghouse or the Kenmore. This pair of bargain options performed almost identically, so we recommend looking at both and getting whichever one is selling at a lower price. While it didn't quite do well enough to claim an award, the Toshiba EM925A5A is another solid optionif you are shopping on a budget. It finished right on the heels of the Kenmore and the Westinghouse and costs a little less, though it isn't the best at defrosting. However, if you don't defrost things all that often, then this is a solid choice on a budget.
Heating food with little to no effort is the main reason to buy a microwave. Period. Whether you are heating leftovers from last night's dinner or zapping a Hot Pocket for a quick lunch, you want a microwave that is going to quickly and evenly heat your food to the desired temperature. This metric is so important that it comprises 40 percent of the total score — a model that does poorly in this metric we would definitely caution against buying.
We heated identical frozen burritos, trays of lasagna, and Hot Pockets then used an array of cooking thermometers to evaluate how uniform the food was heated. We also reheated a typical plate of leftovers, simulating a Thanksgiving dinner, as well as chicken pot pies. Finally, we generated a heat map with a plate of melted chocolate to look for any inconsistencies or dead spots.
The top performers in these tests are the hOmeLabs and the Panasonic NN-SD745S, both earning an 8 out of 10.When the hOmeLabs heated the Hot Pocket for two and a half minutes there was only an average temperature variance of 2.1°F between the three zones we measured. However, this wasn't quite the top performance, with the NN-SD745S having only 1.9°F of variation.
The performance of the hOmeLabs dropped a little when we moved on to some other types of heat-and-eat food such as a chicken pot pie, an individual-sized frozen lasagna, and a frozen burrito. But it still finished the top of the group. There was a bit more average temperature variation present in these food items, on the order of 10-12°F.
The hOmeLabs also scored well in our leftovers test with its "Sensor Reheat" function. Food was heated fairly evenly, although the items closer to the center seemed to be slightly warmer than the rest. This product finished out this metric with an almost perfect showing in our heat map test.
The NN-SD745S did a great job at heating our sample Thanksgiving dinner, with the green beans just a tiny bit warmer than the other food items. It also did a great job at heating the pot pie, easily heating it to the necessary temperature of 165°F, and having less than 10°F of temperature variation between different zones. Where this model truly excelled was our frozen pocket sandwich test and our heat map test. We heated up a Hot Pocket brand sandwich using the "Frozen Pocket Sandwich" setting and then measured the internal temperature with an array of kitchen thermometers.
The SD745S had the smallest temperature variation, with less than 2°F of difference. This model also had a very uniform chocolate heat map.
However, this Panasonic model fell a little flat on our frozen burrito and frozen lasagna test, failing to heat the burrito to 160°F and leaving both the lasagna and burrito with wide temperature variations.
The Kenmore 73773, the LG LCS1112ST, the Toshiba EM925A5A, the Panasonic NN-SU696S, and the Westinghouse WM009 all earned a 6 out for 10 for their slightly above average heating score. While these models received the same overall scores for their heating performance, they performed wildly different in the individual tests. Consequently you want to look at the models that performed best in tests that most closely match what you tend to use them for.
The Westinghouse was best at reheating our plate of leftovers; all the food types were piping hot and within a few degrees of each other. Following was the Panasonic NN-SU696S, which had a little too much temperature variation on leftovers, with a few of the chicken tenders close to 40°F warmer than the mashed potatoes. The Toshiba performed similarly to the NN-SU696S, except that there was a bit more temperature variation, to the point where some of the potatoes began to border on crispy.
The rest of the models — the Kenmore and the LG — did a less than stellar job with the plate of leftovers, failing to evenly heat the same type of food. For example, the Kenmore had close to a 20°F temperature difference between the head and the foot of a single chicken tender.
When it came to heating up the pot pie, the LG and the Toshiba
almost matched the performance of the Panasonic NN-SD745S, but had slightly more temperature variation. The rest of this pack all did an acceptable job at the pot pie, with the exception of the Westinghouse. This model failed to hit the necessary temperature and had differences of over 40°F between different regions of the pie.
The story changed dramatically with Hot Pockets; the Westinghouse best and finishing slightly behind the Panasonic NN-SD745S.
The Toshiba did a bit worse with an average temperature difference of about 6.5°F across the Hot Pocket. The rest in this group (the Kenmore, the LG, and the Panasonic NN-SU696S) were close to average, exhibiting 10-15°F of temperature variation, with the Kenmore on the lower end of that range.
This group of five products also displayed a wide variation in our chocolate heat map test, with the LG best, matching the performance of the Panasonic NN-SD745S. The Toshiba was right behind, but there were a few spots that were slightly warmer and almost approaching burning. Next came the Kenmore, which left an unmelted area around the outside of the plate that was about a quarter-inch thick.
The Panasonic NN-SU696S did a little worse than the Kenmore, leaving a nickel-sized cooler spot in the exact middle.
The Kenmore, LG, and the Panasonic all did well at heating up a frozen burrito, averaging 8-12°F of temperature differences between left, right, and center of the burrito. The Westinghouse was the worst of the bunch, failing to reach the required 160°F and having almost a 65°F temperature difference between the left and the right side of the burrito. The Toshiba was a bit better, but not by much, also failing to achieve the minimum temperature and having a sizeable temperature difference between the left and right halves.
The Kenmore, LG, Panasonic NN-SU6969S, and Westinghouse all passed the frozen lasagna test, heating the lasagna past the required 160°F. The Kenmore was the best.
This pair was followed the LG and the Westinghouse with about 7°F of difference. The Panasonic NN-SU696S had about 9°F of difference, with all regions exceeding 160°F. The Toshiba did horribly with the middle of the lasagna only reaching a lukewarm 70°F.
The Samsung MG14H3020CM earned a 5 out of 10 for its overall average heating performance. This model actually did very well at heating up the plate of leftovers, almost as well as the Panasonic NN-SD745S. It did much worse at heating up the pot pie, failing to heat the pie evenly, with some areas over 190°F and others below the required temperature of 165°F. This Samsung did an average job heating a frozen pocket sandwich (Hot Pocket) and frozen lasagna. However, it did badly in our frozen burrito test and heat map test. The burrito had a ton of temperature variation. The heat map showed a clear bullseye pattern, with the center and the outer ring remaining solid with the middle ring melting.
Finishing out the bottom of the group in our heating test, the Breville BMO734XL earned a 4 out of 10. It had tons of temperature variation across most of our tests.
Ease of Use
This metric made up 30 percent of the total score. We evaluated the preset settings, whether or not quick buttons worked well, the quality of the interior lighting and timer, as well as whether the appliance would slide around on the counter when the door was opened or closed or when a button was pressed. For the preset effectiveness, we made a bag of popcorn and baked a potato in each model, precisely following the manufacturer's directions.
The Kenmore and the Toshiba led the group, both meriting 8 out of 10 in ease of use.
The Kenmore model had some of the best quick buttons, with a "+30 second" button that would automatically start the microwave, as well as one-touch buttons to quickly start the microwave — pressing the "3" button automatically put three minutes on the machine and started it. The Kenmore had a great interior light, could act as a kitchen timer independent of heating food and had an OK keypad. It did average with its presets, popping almost all of the popcorn on the popcorn preset, but leaving a drier and slightly burnt taste.
It did a little better at baking a potato with the potato preset. This model allows you to input a rough weight, though there were no beeps to flip the potato. It produced a potato that was perfectly cooked on the sides, but slightly firmer than we would have preferred in the middle. It didn't have the best anti-slip feet and would slide slightly on the counter when we opened and closed the door.
The Toshiba has similar quick buttons so the Kenmore, with the number keys 1-6 automatically starting the microwave and putting that amount of time on the clock. It also has a "+30" button for when your food needs just a little bit longer. It matched the Kenmore when using the "Potato" preset with a few spots that were a little on the firm side, but did even better with the popcorn, burning none of it at all. It's pretty easy to see your food while it is being heated with a solid amount of light and the keypad layout is decently intuitive and easy to use, though the "0" key is in a bit of an odd spot.
Following the Kenmore and the Toshiba, the Breville and the hOmeLabs earned the next highest score in terms of ease of use, all earning a 7 out of 10.
The hOmeLabs got off to a good start in this metric by having presets that are both accurate and effective. The potato was baked all the way through, with the ends being cooked perfectly and the middle just bordering on overcooked. This product almost got burned in our popcorn preset effectiveness test, with the popcorn just starting to think about burning towards the end of the time period set by the "Popcorn" button. There was some slight discoloration and a slight tinge of a burned flavor, but the popcorn was overall quite tasty.
This microwave has both a "+30 Seconds" button and single-touch features for buttons 1,2, and 3. This means you can hit the "1" button and the hOmelabs will put one minute on the clock and automatically start. Unfortunately, this model doesn't have the best visibility to see your food while it is heating and can't be used as a standalone timer.
The Breville has an exceptionally bright light inside and will turn it on when the door is opened. The Breville has a "+30" button but lacked the quick buttons. These models were both very solid on the counter, with the Breville refusing to budge when the keypad was used or the door opened.
The Breville did decently well in our preset test, doing a good job at making popcorn and baking a potato using the presets. The Breville left behind a decent number of kernels, but we found it to make the best tasting popcorn out of the entire group.
Next were the majority of models, with the LG, Panasonic NN-SD745S, and the Westinghouse all earning a 6 out of 10. These models all have some sort of light inside that will turn on when the food is being heated. Out of this group, only the Westinghouse had the capability to act as an independent kitchen timer. We liked the interface on the LG, finding that that dial on the Panasonic NN-SD745S was a little irritating to use. The Westinghouse has a keypad but doesn't have a cancel/stop key to retract a mistake, instead of requiring you to hit reset and start from scratch. The Panasonic NN-SD745S and the Westinghouse wouldn't slide on the counter when opening or closing the door or using the keypad, but the LG would slide about a quarter of an inch every time we opened or closed the door.
The Panasonic NN-SD745S and the Westinghouse did the best out of this group of 5 in our preset effectiveness test. The Panasonic NN-SD745S produced better popcorn than the Westinghouse, heating it close to perfection and only leaving about 27 leftover kernels. The Westinghouse only left 19 kernels, but overcooked the popcorn, making it taste a little burnt. The Westinghouse did redeem itself with the baked potato, heating the perfect potato that was one of the best out of the entire group. The Panasonic NN-SD745S did alright at baking the potato but left the center a little harder than we would have liked.
The preset effectiveness on the LG was just slightly behind the Panasonic NN-SD745S and the Westinghouse. The LG left more popcorn kernels behind than the Panasonic NN-SD745S and created popcorn that didn't taste quite as nice.
However, the LG overcooked the potato on the bottom and on the left side, lacking a notification to stop and flip the potato like other models.
Rounding out the back of the pack for ease of use, the Samsung MG14H3020CM and the Panasonic NN-SU696S earned a 5 and a 4 out of 10 respectively. You can see inside the Panasonic NN-SU696S while it's running, but there is no light when the door is opened. This Samsung has a light, but it's really hard to see the food inside with its mirrored exterior.
Neither of these models could be used as a kitchen timer, and both had an alright keypad. The Panasonic NN-SU696S would slide a little bit when the door was opened and closed, but the Samsung MG14H3020CM was solid as a rock on the counter. These both had a "+30 Seconds" button, but it would not automatically start heating and neither had any one-touch quick buttons.
The Samsung MG14H3020CM left behind a larger number of kernels compared to the Panasonic NN-SU696S, but none of them were burnt tasting. The Panasonic did an average job at baking a potato, significantly better than the Samsung MG14H3020CM which left the center completely raw.
Defrosting made up 20% of the overall score for these products and was a much smaller group of tests than heating. We rated these products on how effectively they could defrost a 1 lb roll of ground turkey — if the microwave could satisfactorily defrost a muffin. In addition, we looked at what type of options were available to choose from when it came to defrosting, such as defrosting by time or by weight.
The Westinghouse WM009 came out on top in this metric, earning a 7 out of 10. This model had a great performance at defrosting the turkey roll, with practically the entire pound being defrosted without any of it being cooked.
Performance varied when it came to defrosting a muffin, the Westinghouse had an extremely hot side and an extremely cool side. This model can defrost by weight, but also has a speed defrost option.
Following the top performer, the Panasonic NN-SU696S came next, earning a 6 out of 10 for its defrosting capabilities. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did well at defrosting the roll of ground turkey, but not quite as well as the Westinghouse. The Panasonic NN-SU696S had some almost cooked parts and was just a little harder to break apart than the top model. The Panasonic NN-SU696S did do much better at defrosting the frozen muffin, heating everything except the very bottom of the muffin.
Next were the LG LCS1112ST and the Panasonic NN-SD745S, both meriting a 5 out of 10 for their defrosting abilities. The LG did better than the Panasonic NN-SD745S at defrosting the roll of ground turkey, but not as well as the Panasonic NN-SU696S. There were a few warm parts in the LG's roll of ground turkey, compared to the completely cooked sections in the NN-SD745S's. However, the NN-SD745S did one of the best jobs of the entire group at defrosting a frozen muffin, evenly heating it throughout and just lightly melting the chocolate chips. The LG did almost as well, but the top portion was just a little bit cooler than the rest of the muffin, dropping its score. The LG has a quick defrost and a weight defrost, while the Panasonic NN-SD745S only has a defrost by weight.
The remainder of the models — the hOmeLabs, the Toshiba, the Breville, the Kenmore, and the Samsung MG14H3020CM all scored below average at defrosting, earning a 4 out of 10. The hOmeLabs, Toshiba, and the Breville did the worst of the bunch at defrosting the roll of ground turkey, leaving the bulk of it too frozen to easily break apart. In the case of the hOmeLabs, we had to run a second defrost cycle to get it to the point where it was easy to break apart, which actually cooked a significant amount of turkey. The other models did a little better, but not by much.
These models all did roughly the same at defrosting a frozen muffin, with the Samsung MG14H3020CM doing slightly better than the Toshiba, Breville, and the Kenmore, with the hOmeLabs delivering the worst performance of the bunch. These models all had defrost by weight functions and only the Samsung lacked a quick defrost function by time.
These appliances are all about conveniently and quickly heating up food, and our final metric focuses on the latter. We heated up a set amount of water in a beaker in each model for 30 seconds and compared the temperature rise between to determine scores. This metric made up 10% of the overall score.
The Panasonic NN-SU696S earned the top score of 7 out of 10 in this metric. This model boosted the temperature of 250 mL of water about 37°F in 30 seconds.
Next were the hOmeLabs, the Panasonic NN-SD745S, and the Kenmore, all earning a 6 out of 10. These models increased the water temperature by 35°F, 36°F and 35°F respectively.
Following these, the LG and the Westinghouse all did about average, meriting a 5 out of 10. The Westinghouse drove a 34°F temperature increase in the water, just a hair better than the 33°F created by the LG.
The Toshiba and theBreville both boosted the temperature of the water by about 32°F after the 30 seconds — enough to earn both appliances a 4 out of 10 for their somewhat lackluster showing, though they did beat the Samsung model. The MG14H3020CM earned a 3 out of 10 for boosting the water 28°F.
It can be difficult to find the perfect product. Hopefully, this review can alleviate that pain and help you find the model that best suits your needs and your budget.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer