Best Microwave of 2021
$124.99 at Amazon
|$112 List||$190 List||$100 List|
$99.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent at defrosting, convenient||Excellent with packaged frozen foods, compact, very easy to use||Great with premade foods, easy to use||Good at reheating, does well with premade frozen foods||Good at defrosting meat|
|Cons||Large, expensive||So-so with mixed leftovers||Expensive, so-so at defrosting||Didn't defrost frozen turkey well||Not the most convenient to use, heating performance could be better|
|Bottom Line||An excellent all-around product with a larger capacity||For those with limited kitchen space, this is the best compact model we tested||This product scored well in most of our tests but we think it was outperformed by a handful of other products||This larger product did decently well but we don't think it quite matches the performance of the top-tier models||This product pairs average results with an average price in our minds, failing to stand out from the competition|
|Rating Categories||Toshiba EM131A5C||Kenmore 70929||Panasonic NN-SN67KS||BLACK+DECKER...||Panasonic NN-SB458S|
|Frozen Foods (30%)|
|Ease Of Use (10%)|
|Specs||Toshiba EM131A5C||Kenmore 70929||Panasonic NN-SN67KS||BLACK+DECKER...||Panasonic NN-SB458S|
|Dimensions||20.5" x 17.1" x 12.8"||14.5" x 17.7" x 11"||12.25" x 20.7" x 15.8"||20.2" x 15.6" x 12.1"||19.1" x 11.5" x 14.8"|
|Internal Dimentions||13.1" x 15" x 9.5"||9.3" x 12.4" x 13.6"||9.9" x 13.9 x 14.4"||13.9" x 14.5" x 9.1"||12.4"x 13.9" x 8.1"|
|Warranty||1 year limited||1 year limited||1 year parts and labor
5 year magnetron
|1 year limited||1 year parts and labor
5 year magnetron
Best Overall Microwave
If you're on the hunt for a full-sized, high-end microwave, we recommend checking out the Toshiba EM1315AC. This appliance is one of the best when it comes to evenly defrosting or heating up premade frozen foods, and it's super user-friendly and easy to use. It heats food fast, while the quick button and convenient preset functions make that task even easier.
However, we noticed that this microwave isn't the best at evenly heating different types of food at once, such as a plate of leftovers. It's also on the larger side and a bit more expensive than some of its competitors, but we still highly recommend it if you're looking for the best of the best and need a higher-capacity microwave.
Read Full Review: Toshiba EM131A5C
Best Smaller Option
If your kitchen limits you to a smaller and more compact option, it's hard to go wrong with the Kenmore 70929. This machine performs impressively with premade frozen food and efficiently defrosts 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 model did create some temperature gradients in food when they spanned across the turntable. We noticed foods in the center of a plate heated up much faster than those at the outer part. It's definitely not the most powerful appliance out there, either. Nevertheless, we heartily recommend it to anyone shopping for a top-tier microwave with a smaller, 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 — particularly pre-prepared frozen items — especially considering its lower power output when 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 notice some hot spots in our heat map testing, and food can certainly take longer to heat up in this smaller appliance. Its interface also requires some getting used to, and you'll need to do some additional setup if you want to take advantage of this product's smart home capabilities. All in all, however, this offering from AmazonBasics is one of our top suggestions to anyone looking for a more economical option.
Read Full Review: AmazonBasics Microwave 0.7
Fun Retro Look
If you are a fan of the '50s and going for a vintage retro look in your kitchen, check out the Nostalgia RMO4AQ. This unique kitchen appliance is exceptionally eye-catching compared to the plain appearance of most microwaves. On top of making a distinct style statement, the Nostalgia RMO4AQ also performed admirably in our defrosting and frozen foods tests, meaning you're not 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. Different types of food also warmed at very different rates when microwaving a plate of mixed leftovers, though this is a common issue with microwaves. It's not the best option out there in terms of value or performance, but it 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, including testing more than 250 products for GearLab ranging from juicers and food processors to ice cream makers and blenders. Throughout the testing process, both Austin, David, and the rest of the office became frozen food connoisseurs, consuming 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 evaluate the quality of the heated food. We objectively compared how quickly each product can heat something by measuring the temperature increase of 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, and we've updated 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 includes a variety of different tests, with the performance of each product detailed in the sections below.
Related: Buying Advice for Microwave Ovens
If you're on a budget, one product stands out well above the rest: the AmazonBasics 0.7. It is substantially more affordable than many of the other contenders yet still holds its own when it comes to performance. It's also quite a bit smaller, so it may take slightly longer to heat up food, but it's hard to beat when it comes to the price.
First and foremost, we started our side-by-side testing process by rating and ranking how well each of these kitchen appliances did at heating up food. We used a plate of leftovers, a bowl of canned soup, and two slices of pizza as our test foods. We also scored speed and consistency by calculating the temperature increase of a 125 mL quantity of water and creating a "heat map" using a plate of marshmallow fluff.
Coming in at the top of the heap in the heating metric were the BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS, and the Toshiba EM925A5A. The Panasonic NN-SN67KS did very well in our heat map test, showing very few hotspots with the marshmallow fluff, though the inner section did heat up slightly more than the outer areas. It also impressed us by warming the bowl of canned soup and the slices of pizza quickly and evenly. However, it performed just average in the side-by-side heating test, raising the 125 mL of water by 78.1°F after 45 seconds. 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. However, it 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 water's temperature 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 scored the best of this group in the speed test, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS bested the others in the heat map test. We noticed that the marshmallow fluff showed a significant difference in heat across the diameter of the plate.
The Toshiba EM925A5A redeemed itself and gave strong showings with the leftovers and the canned soup, but the interior of the pizza was less warm than desired.
Next in terms of performance were the AmazonBasics 0.7, the Kenmore 70929, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, and the Toshiba EM131A5C 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 the Toshiba EM131A5C. Both the AmazonBasics and the Toshiba models heated the center areas of the fluff much more than the outer ones, practically burning the center while the edges remained raw.
The Toshiba EM131A5C, however, 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. Meanwhile, the Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S ranked 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, an admittedly difficult task for a microwave. The Toshiba EM131A5C also performed poorly in our pizza test but rebounded when it came to the canned soup, delivering almost perfect results.
The AmazonBasics 0.7 did great with soup, with the Kenmore 70929 and the Panasonic NN-SB458S following. The AmazonBasics and the Kenmore 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 produced a near-average marshmallow heat map, but the Nostalgia model did very poorly. The inner ring of the marshmallow remained almost cool while the outsides were nearly burned.
These two appliances delivered average results in the speed test, but both struggled with the plate of leftovers, heating the mixed plate 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 could heat premade frozen food items, such as Hot Pockets, mini-lasagnas, or frozen burritos. We followed the manufacturers' instructions for reheating, adjusting for the power level of each model when necessary. We used a grid of instant-read kitchen thermometers to compare how evenly heated each piece of food was to determine the scores.
Of all the products we tested, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS stood out when heating prepared frozen foods. This appliance did an excellent job with all three types of frozen foods, producing an average temperature difference of 10°F or less between zones.
The Kenmore 70929 and the Toshiba EM925A5A closely followed, both performing nearly as well. These products delivered almost perfect results with the Hot Pockets and heated our burritos evenly. However, they showed a bit more of a temperature spread with the mini-lasagna, particularly the Toshiba EM925A5A, which left 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 lagged behind the top performers. These underperformers all did decently well with the Hot Pocket and the frozen burrito but average or below with the lasagna. Of these products, the Nostalgia RMO4AQ was the least impressive, showing an average temperature variation of 43°F between zones. The rest of the group ranged between 15°F to 30°F.
The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 delivered the most disappointing performance with the frozen foods. While it was able to heat the burrito evenly, it displayed exceptionally inconsistent heating with 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 weight of food based on the instructions for each microwave, then based scores on the amount of turkey that was successfully defrosted after the test, and noted 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 also beeps halfway through to alert you to flip the meat over.
The BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 and the Kenmore 70929 came next, with the BLACK+DECKER defrosting about 12 ounces of turkey and the Kenmore defrosting just under 11 ounces. The remaining turkey broke apart fairly easily even if it was still a little frozen, and we wouldn't have any issue tossing it directly in a pan after taking it out of either of these models. The Nostalgia RMO4AQ narrowly followed, marked down because it ended up cooking a tiny bit of the turkey during the defrosting process.
The Panasonic NN-SB458S defrosted just under 9 ounces of the turkey, but the remainder was barely frozen and crumbled easily. The AmazonBasics 0.7 performed similarly, but the residual frozen parts were still quite solid and would be a struggle to break apart without further defrosting. The remaining microwaves all delivered lackluster results, not only leaving a large frozen chunk of turkey but also cooking sections in the process.
Ease of Use
Our final set of tests assessed 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 whether 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. They don't slide around and shine plenty of light inside. Their popcorn buttons were actually pretty good at correctly popping popcorn. They both have +30 seconds buttons and one-touch quick start functions for 1-6 minutes. However, their standalone kitchen timers can be somewhat finicky.
The BLACK+DECKER EM031MB11 and the Kenmore 70929 have all the one-touch features you would typically want, but both slide around a bit on slicker surfaces. They feature decent lighting, but the preset popcorn feature wasn't amazing, particularly the Kenmore's.
The AmazonBasics 0.7, the BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7, and the Panasonic NN-SN67KS were each hampered by a few flaws that we believe make these products less convenient 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 this appliance's internal lighting is only so-so. 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 the entire appliance slid around some when we opened or closed the door. It fared poorly in the popcorn test, leaving tons of unpopped kernels behind after the preset time elapsed. Conversely, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS delivered excellent popcorn results and remained securely in place when pushed. However, it lacks some one-touch features we like to see.
The Nostalgia RMO4AQ, the Panasonic NN-SB458S, and the RCA RMW733 all received relatively mediocre marks in this metric. Our biggest gripe was the lack of a +30 seconds button on the RCA model.
We sincerely hope that you have found this review to be both helpful and informative. If it has made it a little easier to find your perfect new microwave, we've done our job. We're confident that there's something out there to match your needs and budget.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer