Our quickest microwave oven was the GE Profile PEB2060DM[BB], $270, which was the only microwave in our tests to get excellent marks for speed. It was easy to use and very good at defrosting and evenly heating food. It's relatively quiet on high and has a sensor that determines when food is done.
For the cook who loves to print out recipes or display them online, Sony has a Kitchen Editon of its Xperia Tablet Z, $550. It comes loaded with cooking and recipe apps, and includes a stand. Also included is an iGrill wireless digital thermometer, which lets you monitor food temperatures using an electronic device. And the best part is it’s easy to keep clean. It’s water-resistant, so you can wipe it clean with a wet cloth or even rinse it under the faucet.
Two of the three robotic vacuums we tested made our list of top vacuum picks—the Roomba 760, $450, and the LG Hom-Bot Square LrV790R, $800. The Roomba edged out the LG Hom-Bot Square on floors and carpet but the LG Hom-Bot was quieter. And think of the entertainment value she’ll get watching them skitter across the floor.
A steam iron with a fast steaming rate can help you get out of the house in no time. Our top-rated Panasonic NI-W950A, $220, had an excellent steaming rate and was also top-notch at ironing fabric. For a lot less, you can buy one of our two CR Best Buys, the Singer Expert Finish EF, $60, or the Rowenta Effective Comfort DW2070, $50, which scored similarly to the Panasonic.
Gifts that require no work
If you think your Mom would be insulted by the gift of an appliance, take a look at our taste tests of boxed chocolates, ice cream, sparkling wines, and craft beers. We also just ordered Mother’s Day bouquets from FTD and 1-800-flowers. Respondents to our questionnaire were pretty happy with the arrangements we received until they compared them to the bouquets on the florists’ websites. They were disappointed when they found flower substitutions in the mixed bouquets but were slightly more satisfied with FTD overall.
—Mary H.J. Farrell