Countertop and over-the-range models that top CR's tests
A Consumer Reports engineer evaluates a microwave's controls during an ease-of-use test.
By Mary H.J. Farrell
When you’re in a hurry and want to zap a cup of coffee or a plate of pasta, you expect a microwave to work quickly and heat your food thoroughly. Our tests have found that not all microwaves can achieve that feat, but the best do it handily.
We test both over-the-range (OTR) and countertop microwaves. Countertop microwaves are the biggest part of the market by far. And we focus our testing on models that are 1 cubic foot or larger, which are the biggest sellers, according to our in-house analysts.
In CR’s microwave lab, we assess how fast and how evenly they heat. The speed score in our microwave ratings is based on how fast a microwave heats 1 liter of room-temperature water. For heating evenness, we heat a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for 10 minutes, then take temperature readings in 20 spots. And we judge how quietly a microwave operates and how easy it is to use without consulting the manual (because most people don’t). We also factor in scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction based on our members’ experiences with 60,832 OTR microwaves and 61,480 countertop models purchased new between 2012 and 2022.
Here, grouped by type and listed alphabetically, are the best microwaves you can buy right now, based on our latest tests. (In the countertop category, we’ve included at least one model in each size range.) For more information on choosing a microwave, see our microwave buying guide and comprehensive microwave ratings.
Best Countertop Microwaves
CR’s take: If cute and retro is your thing, the Galanz GLCMKA07BER-07 is the microwave for you. Bonus: It’s the best small microwave in our tests. That might not be saying much; small microwaves are typically underpowered. The Galanz 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.
CR’s take: Although it’s a bit slower than others in its class, the midsized countertop GE JES1109RRSS would make a solid addition to any kitchen. The machine aces CR’s defrosting and noise tests, and it earns a Very Good rating for heating evenness. However, owners surveyed by CR gave GE’s countertop microwaves middling Good scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.
CR’s take: The large Panasonic NN-SE785S is a top performer all-around. This countertop model’s heating evenness and speed of heating are superb, and it defrosts very well, too, earning a Very Good rating. The controls are self-explanatory, and this machine operates relatively quietly. It’s another model that comes equipped with a sensor, which takes the guesswork out of cooking. In addition to its cooking prowess, Panasonic countertop microwaves received Very Good owner satisfaction and predicted reliability ratings in our member surveys.
CR’s take: For the price, you can’t go wrong with the Panasonic NN-SN67HS, a CR Best Buy and our top-performing midsized countertop microwave. Its speed of heating and defrosting evenness both notch Excellent ratings in CR’s tests. It also evenly heats food, and our testers say it’s easy to operate. It’s a bit noisy when running on high, but typically you run your microwave in such short bursts that it might not bother you.
CR’s take: Talk about great bang for your buck. The low-priced Panasonic NN-SN77HS, a CR Best Buy, is a large microwave that aces three of our tough tests: speed of heating, heating evenness, and defrosting evenness. It runs quietly, earning a Very Good score on our noise test, and our testers found little need to consult the manual to learn how to operate it. This model is equipped with a sensor that shuts off the oven once the food is hot enough.
Best Over-the-Range Microwaves
GE Profile PVM9005SJSS
CR’s take: The GE PVM9005SJSS is a good choice for a busy household. It earns an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test, in which we reheat a dish of cold mashed potatoes. Its speed of heating is also top-notch, and it operates quietly. Our testers found the machine is easy to program, and it vents well, something not all OTRs can accomplish. Our members gave GE’s over-the-range microwaves a Very Good score for predicted reliability and an average score for owner satisfaction.
CR’s take: If you tend to take something out of the freezer to make dinner when you get home from work, the KitchenAid KMHS120ESS is a solid bet. It earns an Excellent rating on our defrosting test, in which we defrost a pound of ground chuck. It also aces the heating evenness test and is very quiet. It has a cooking sensor and comes with a rack in case you want to cook two dishes at once. KitchenAid OTRs received a Very Good score for predicted reliability from our members and a middling Good score for owner satisfaction.
CR’s take: If you use your microwave to cook and not just for reheating and defrosting, give the affordably priced LG LMV2031ST a close look. This CR Best Buy fits a 9x15-inch baking dish and has a wire rack, allowing you to cook two dishes at once. It’s equipped with a sensor that turns the microwave off to keep you from overheating your food. This model earns Very Good ratings for speed of heating and heating evenness, and it vents well, although—like most OTRs—not as well as a dedicated range hood. LG’s OTRs received only average marks for owner satisfaction but garnered Very Good ratings for predicted reliability in our member surveys.
CR’s take: The LG LMH2235ST is a good choice if you often find yourself having to defrost something straight out of the freezer because it earns an Excellent rating in our defrost test. It’s impressive at heating foods quickly and evenly, too. Plus, this microwave is one of the quietest over-the-range models in our tests. But like most OTRs, its venting is only so-so. It has a sensor to prevent you from overheating your food and a rack in case you want to cook more than one dish at the same time.
CR’s take: A top performer from Whirlpool, the WMH53521HZ earns an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test, meaning a dish of cold mashed potatoes has few or no cold spots after microwaving. It has a cooking sensor that helps estimate how much time and power you’ll need for each dish, and it fits a 9x15-inch dish, so you can cook a casserole. This microwave is very easy to use, and our testers say it has no discernible flaws. Whirlpool OTRs earn predicted reliability ratings of Very Good in our member surveys and Good owner satisfaction scores.
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