Best Countertop Microwaves for $150 or Less

·6 min read

Low-cost, high-performing models you can rely on

By Mary H.J. Farrell

When you’re upgrading your kitchen, you might want to invest in a high-end countertop microwave to blend in with your other appliances. But in other situations—like when you’re shopping for a microwave for a student’s first apartment or for guest use in a vacation rental—you can spend a lot less and still get one that’s capable of serving up hot food in a timely fashion.

Many of the countertop models in Consumer Reports’ microwave ratings cost $150 or less. And a notable number do very well in our performance tests and in our member survey on microwave reliability.

Above the $150 threshold, you might pay a premium for bells and whistles you don’t need. So if all you want is a microwave that reheats leftovers, defrosts frozen food, or zaps a cup of coffee, you can save money by skipping microwaves with the one-touch button for baking a potato, for example.

The countertop models listed below vary by a few inches in footprint and height. Once you’ve found one that fits, focus on the wattage. “The higher the wattage, the more energy is being delivered,” says James Dickerson, CR’s chief scientific officer. “More energy, in this case, allows your food to transform faster and will save you cooking time.”

Another feature worth noting? Most newer models are equipped with a sensor that monitors the amount of steam emitted from the food and turns off the microwave when cooking is complete.

Here, in alphabetical order by size, are the best countertop microwaves for $150 or less that impressed in CR’s tests. Note that prices may differ from retailer to retailer. For more guidance as you shop, see our microwave buying guide.

Small Countertop Microwaves

Amazon Basics Voice-Controlled Microwave

CR’s take: Small countertop microwaves tend not to perform as well as larger models in CR’s tests because they’re typically underpowered. This small model from Amazon Basics is no exception, though it’s near the top of the pack of small microwaves. Where it excels is at defrosting, earning an Excellent rating on that test. And it’s very quiet. But speed of heating earns a Poor rating, and heating evenness is only so-so. This microwave works with Alexa, so you can use voice controls to turn it on and set the time. (You need an Echo device to take advantage of this feature.)

Galanz GLCMKA07BER-07

CR’s take: If cute and retro is your thing, this is the microwave for you. Bonus: It’s the best small microwave in our tests. That may not be saying much, because small microwaves are typically underpowered. The Galanz GLCMKA07BER-07 lags at heating speed and may try your patience, but once it gets going, it heats evenly and operates quietly. And it earns a Very Good rating for defrosting. Plus, it looks good and the price is right.

Insignia NS-MW07BK0

CR’s take: Like the Amazon Basics model above, the Insignia NS-MW07BK0 is a bit underpowered. That said, it performs better than most small models. In our tests, heating evenness and defrosting earned Very Good ratings. And it’s very quiet. But if you’re in a hurry for your food, you’ll have to wait as its score for speed of heating was Poor. Insignia countertops earn an Excellent score for predicted reliability but a Poor for owner satisfaction.

Midsized Countertop Microwaves

Farberware FMO12AHTBSG

CR’s take: The midsized Farberware Black FMO12AHTBSG delivers a lot of cooking performance for the price, including an Excellent rating for cooking evenness. Heating speed and defrosting evenness are also impressive, and our testers find the controls easy to use and understand. Perhaps best of all, this model is quieter than most countertop microwaves and earns top marks on our noise test.

Galanz GSWWD11S1S10

CR’s take: The midsized Galanz GSWWD11S1S10 doesn’t check all the boxes, but the price is reasonable and it earns a Very Good rating for both heating evenness and ease of use, meaning you don’t have to consult the owner’s manual to figure out how long to reheat a bowl of pasta. It also runs quietly, which is a plus for those midnight snacks. Heating speed and defrosting evenness are only so-so.

Oster OGCMDM11S2-10

CR’s take: With an Excellent rating in heating evenness, the midsized Oster OGCMDM11S2-10 is a great choice for a college student. Speed of heating is average, but you’ll appreciate how well it defrosts frozen food, especially if you don’t plan your meals ahead of time. This Oster runs very quietly, so if you’re in a shared dorm or apartment, you won’t wake up roommates when heating up a late-night snack.

Large Countertop Microwaves

Galanz GSWWD14S2S11

CR’s take: Though it isn’t the speediest microwave, the Galanz GSWWD14S2S11 gets the job done if you exercise a little patience. It heats evenly, earning a Very Good on that test and is pretty quiet. It’s a cinch to figure out the controls right out of the box, so if you fail to read the owner’s manual, no problem. Like many of the best microwaves, it has a sensor that detects when your food is done so that it doesn’t become dry and unappetizing.

Hamilton Beach P11043ALH-WTB

CR’s take: When you run the numbers on the large Hamilton Beach P11043ALH-WTB, they add up nicely: The price is low and it scores high on most of our performance tests, including earning an Excellent rating for heating evenness, meaning your food heats thoroughly. It’s not the speediest model in our ratings, but it runs quietly and easily defrosted a pound of ground beef in our tests.

Sharp SMC1441CB

CR’s take: The Sharp SMC1441CB is a solid performer. It earned Very Good scores on both our heating evenness and defrosting evenness tests. But if you’re in a hurry for your food, you may have to wait a bit: this Sharp earns only an average score on the speed of heating test. However, it operates quietly and won’t annoy you while you’re waiting. Sharp microwaves earn average scores of Good for both predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

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