Best Microwave of 2020
Best Overall Microwave
If you are looking for a top-tier microwave on the larger side, then we highly recommend the Toshiba EM1315AC. This appliance is one of the best of the best when it comes to evenly defrosting, does a great job of heating up pre-made frozen foods, and is very user-friendly and easy to use. It heats food quickly and we like the quick button and found the preset function to work very well.
However, we did find that this microwave isn't the best when it comes to evenly heating different types of food at once, like a plate of leftovers. This microwave is also a little on the larger side and a bit more expensive than some of its competitors but we highly recommend it if you are looking for the best of the best and want a larger capacity microwave.
Read Full Review: Toshiba EM131A5C
Best Smaller Option
If you are searching for a smaller and more compact option, then we think it's hard to go wrong with the Kenmore 70929. This machine does impressively well with premade frozen food and efficiently defrosted frozen meat, all while being very user-friendly and easy to operate. It's one of the smaller microwaves that we tested and heats most food fairly uniformly.
However, this microwave did create some temperature gradients in food when it spanned across the turntable, with the inner part generally heating up much faster than the outer part. It also isn't the most powerful appliance out there but we highly recommend it to anyone shopping for a top-tier microwave with a smaller and more compact footprint.
Read Full Review: Kenmore 70929
Best Bang for the Buck
AmazonBasics Microwave 0.7
If you are searching for a compact microwave on a pint-sized budget, then we think the AmazonBasics 0.7 is your best bet. This appliance does quite well at heating food — especially pre-prepared frozen items — especially considering its lower power output compared to some of its competitors. It is simple and easy to use, with the added benefit of being compatible with Alexa-enabled smart home devices.
We did find that there were some hot spots in our heat map testing and food can take a bit longer to heat up in this smaller appliance. Its interface can also take some getting used to and there is some additional setup required if you are looking to take advantage of the smart home capabilities of this product but, all in all, this is one of our favorites to recommend anyone looking for a more economical option.
Read Full Review: AmazonBasics Microwave 0.7
Best for Nostalgia
If you are a fan of the '50s and want a vintage retro look for your kitchen, then you should definitely consider the Nostalgia RMO4AQ. This unique kitchen appliance is exceptionally eye-catching considering the usually plain appearance of most microwaves. On top of making a distinct style statement, the Nostalgia RMO4AQ also served up some solid results in our defrosting and frozen foods tests, so you won't be sacrificing performance for style.
Unfortunately, we did find that this product doesn't heat food the most evenly, with a noticeable temperature gradient appearing on our heat map test and different types of food heated at very different rates when microwaving a plate of leftovers. It's not the best option out there when it comes to value or performance but takes the lead if you love that old school style.
Read Full Review: Nostalgia RMO4AQ
Why You Should Trust Us?
Our testing team of Austin Palmer and David Wise has extensive experience with kitchen appliances, having tested more than 250, ranging from juicers, food choppers, food processors, blenders, citrus juicers, ice cream makers, and water filters. Throughout this testing process, both Austin, David, and the rest of the office have become frozen food connoisseurs, having consumed far more Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, and frozen burritos than anyone really should.
We conducted extensive head-to-head tests and had a group of judges provide input on the quality of the heated food. We compared how quickly each product can heat something by measuring the temperature increase in a controlled volume of water. Finally, we used the products in our office and personal kitchens over several months to see how they performed over a longer period, updating the review accordingly.
Related: How We Tested Microwave Ovens
Analysis and Test Results
We split our suite of testing assessments into four weighted metrics: heating, frozen foods, defrosting, and ease of use. Each metric has a variety of different tests, with the performance of each product is detailed in the sections below.
Related: Buying Advice for Microwave Ovens
If you are shopping for a new microwave on a budget, then we think there is one product that stands out well above the test. The AmazonBasics 0.7 costs quite a bit less than many of the other options and holds its own when it comes to performance. It's much smaller and may take a little longer to heat up food but is hard to beat when it comes to bang for the buck.
First and foremost, we started our side-by-side testing process by ranking and rating how well each of these kitchen appliances does at heating up food. We used a plate of leftovers, a bowl of canned soup, and two slices of pizza as our test cases, as well as scoring speed and consistency by measuring the temperature increase in a measured amount of water and making a heat map using marshmallow fluff.
The BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS, and the Toshiba EM925A5A all impressed us in this regard, earning some of the top scores of the entire group. The Panasonic NN-SN67KS did very well with our heat map test, showing very few hotspots with the marshmallow fluff but the inner section did heat up slightly more than the outer areas. It also did very well at heating up the bowl of canned soup and the slices of pizza, heating them up quickly and evenly. However, it only did about average in the side-by-side heating test, only raising the 125 mL of water 78.1°F after 45 seconds, and there was a large temperature spread between the sausage, potatoes, and green beans on the mixed plate of leftovers.
The BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11 didn't perform as well in the heat map test, leaving a darker middle ring and almost completely raw outer ring, but did much better than the Panasonic NN-SN67KS at heating the plate of leftovers. The three types of food were all within about 35°F of each other and the soup and pizza also reheated very nicely. It also managed to raise the temperature of the water by 83.2°F in our time trial, narrowly outperforming the Panasonic NN-SN67KS but failing to match the 89.4°F of the Toshiba EM925A5A.
While the Toshiba EM925A5A did do the best of this group in the speed test, it didn't do as well as the Panasonic NN-SN67KS in the heat map test, with the marshmallow fluff showing some significant difference in the amount of heating across the diameter of the plate.
The Toshiba EM925A5A did redeem itself and gave strong showings with the leftovers and the canned soup but left the interior of the pizza colder than we would want.
Next, the AmazonBasics 0.7, the Kenmore 70929, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, and the Toshiba EM131A5C all came next in terms of performance in this set of tests. The Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S did the best with the heat map test, followed by the AmazonBasics 0.7 and then theToshiba EM131A5C. Both the AmazonBasics 0.7 and the Toshiba EM131A5C heated the center areas of the fluff much more than the outer ones, practically burning the center while the edges remained raw.
However, the Toshiba EM131A5C did heat the water the fastest in our speed tests, raising it 110.6°F. The AmazonBasics 0.7 raised it the least, only boosting the temperature by 70.1°F, with the Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S ranking in the middle, raising the temperature 82.5°F and 89.1°F, respectively.
Moving on to the food tests, the AmazonBasics 0.7 and the Panasonic NN-SB485S did the best with the mixed plate of leftovers, heating all three types of food fairly evenly. The Kenmore 70929 did about average, with the Toshiba EM131A5C performing the worst of this group. The Toshiba EM131A5C also did poorly in our pizza test but rebounded when it came to the canned soup, delivering almost perfect results.
The AmazonBasics 0.7 matched the performance of the Toshiba EM131A5C when it came to soup, with the Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S following. The AmazonBasics 0.7 and the Kenmore 70929 both did about average with the pizza but the Panasonic NN-SB458S delivered very lackluster results with both slices.
The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 and the Nostalgia RMO4AQ both earned middle-of-the-road results in our heating tests. The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 did about average with the marshmallow heat map but the Nostalgia RMO4AQ did very poorly. The inner ring of the marshmallow remained almost cool while the Nostalgia RMO4AQ almost burned the outside areas.
These two appliances delivered average results in the speed test but both struggled with the plate of leftovers, heating them very unevenly. They did a little better with the soup and the Nostalgia RMO4AQ did quite well with the pizza. However, the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 was quite disappointing, leaving us with some slices that were far from heated adequately. The RCA RMW733 brought up the rear of the group, held back mainly by its very poor performance in our heat map and leftover tests.
Our next series of tests focused on how well each of these products does at heating premade frozen food items, like Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, or frozen burritos. We followed the manufacturers' instructions for reheating, adjusting for the power level of each microwave if necessary. We used a grid of instant-read kitchen thermometers to compare how evenly each piece of food was heated to determine scores.
Of all the products we tested, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS stands out to us as the best you can get when it comes to heating prepared frozen foods. This appliance did an excellent job with all three types of foods, with the average temperature difference between zones being less than 10°F.
The Kenmore 70929 and the Toshiba EM925A5A followed, both doing almost as well. These products delivered almost perfect results with the Hot Pocket and heated up the burrito very evenly. However, they showed a bit more of a temperature spread with the mini-lasagna, particularly the Toshiba EM925A5A, displaying an average temperature difference of 23°F.
The bulk of the microwaves — the AmazonBasics 0.7, the BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11, the Nostalgia RMO4AQ, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, the RCA RMW733, and the Toshiba EM131A5C — all following these top performers. These products all did decently well with the Hot Pocket and the frozen burrito but did average or below with the lasagna. The Nostalgia RMO4AQ did the worst of this group, showing an average temperature variation of 43°F between zones, with the other products ranging from around 15°F to 30°F.
The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 rounded out the results for this metric, delivering a somewhat disappointing performance. While it did very well at evenly heating the burrito, it displayed exceptional inconsistent heating of both the Hot Pocket and the lasagna.
Our defrosting metric is based on the results of a single test: defrosting a 1 pound block of ground turkey. We ran a defrosting cycle for that amount of food based on the instructions for each product, then based scores on the amount of turkey that was successfully defrosted after the test, as well as if any of the turkey was prematurely cooked.
The Toshiba EM131A5C led the way, perfectly defrosting the entire block of meat without cooking any of it in a little under 10 minutes. This microwave beeps halfway through to alert you to flip over the meat as well.
The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 and the Kenmore 70929 came next, with the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 defrosting about 12 ounces of turkey and the Kenmore 70929 defrosting just under 11 ounces. The remaining turkey broke apart fairly easily even if it was still a bit frozen and we wouldn't have any issue tossing it directly in a pan after exiting either of these microwaves. The Nostalgia RMO4AQ narrowly followed, marked down by cooking a tiny bit of the corner during the defrosting process.
The Panasonic NN-SB458S only defrosted a little less than 9 ounces of the turkey but the remainder was just barely frozen and easily crumbled. The AmazonBasics 0.7 performed almost the same but the residual frozen parts were still quite solid and would be a struggle to break up without further defrosting. The remaining microwaves all delivered lackluster results, not only leaving a large frozen chunk of turkey but also fully cooking sections.
Ease of Use
Our final set of tests looked at how user-friendly and convenient to operate each of these kitchen appliances is. We looked at the different preset features and one-touch buttons, as well as the internal lighting and if they were prone to sliding around on a counter when you opened and closed the door or pushed a button.
Both the Toshiba EM131A5C and the Toshiba EM925A5A impressed us with their overall ease of use. Their popcorn buttons actually were pretty good at correctly popping popcorn, they don't slide around, and have plenty of light inside. They both have +30 seconds buttons and one-touch quick start functions for 1-6 minutes but it can be a little finicky to use them as a standalone kitchen timer.
The BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11 and the Kenmore 70929 came next. These both have all the one-touch features you would typically want but both slide around a bit on slicker surfaces. They have decent lighting but the preset popcorn feature wasn't amazing, particularly with the Kenmore 70929.
The AmazonBasics 0.7, the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7, and the Panasonic NN-SN67KS all followed, each hampered by a few flaws that we found made these products just a bit inconvenient to use. The AmazonBasics 0.7 did very well in the popcorn preset test and is rock-solid on most countertops but the +30 seconds button requires you to hit it twice and it only has so-so internal lighting. The Alexa integration can also make it easier or harder to use, depending on how you feel about smart home systems.
We liked the interface on the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 but it does slide around a bit when you open or close the door and it fared poorly in the popcorn test, leaving tons of unpopped kernels behind after the preset time elapsed. The Panasonic NN-SN67KS performed almost exactly opposite, delivering excellent popcorn results and remaining in place when pushed but lacks some one-touch features we would have liked to see.
The Nostalgia RMO4AQ, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, and the RCA RMW733 all received relatively mediocre marks in this metric, with our largest complaint being about the lack of a +30 seconds button on the RCA RMW733.
We sincerely hope that you have found this review to be both helpful and informative and has made it a little easier to find the perfect new microwave that matches both your needs and budgets.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer