Best Countertop Microwaves of 2021

Find a reliable, top-performing microwave for your kitchen counter

A stainless steel countertop microwave
Illustration: Jacek Kita/iStock
When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions. 100% of the fees we collect are used to support our nonprofit mission. Learn more.

You can spend less than $100 on a small countertop microwave—or five times that on a larger model. Spending more typically gets you more power and convenience features, such as a sensor that shuts off the oven when your food is hot enough.

But according to Consumer Reports’ tests of microwave ovens, a higher price doesn’t equal better performance when you’re comparing microwaves of the same size.

First and foremost, you want a microwave that heats your food and drinks quickly and evenly. To test speed, we measure how fast the microwave heats 1 liter of room-temperature water. For heating evenness, we heat a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for 10 minutes, then take the internal temperature in 20 spots. Models that do well will heat your leftovers through and through.

Our testers also rate how evenly a microwave defrosts frozen food, how noisy it is, and how easy it is to operate without checking the owner’s manual (because most people don’t).

For each brand, we incorporate ratings for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction—using survey results from members who purchased more than 70,000 countertop microwaves over the past 10 years.

The countertop units in our microwave ratings are grouped by size—small, midsized, and large—using the capacity claimed by the manufacturer. 

Here are reviews of some of the top countertop microwaves from our tests, listed alphabetically within each size category. For more information, take a look at our microwave buying guide.

Best Small Microwaves
Amazon Basics Works with Alexa S9N29R
Amazon Basics Works with Alexa S9N29R

    Amazon Basics Works with Alexa S9N29R

    CR’s take: Small countertop microwaves tend not to perform as well in CR’s tests because typically they’re underpowered. This new model from Amazon Basics is no exception, though it’s at 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 it earns a Poor rating for speed of heating, 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. But you need an Echo device to take advantage of this feature. In our member survey, Amazon Basics earns a Very Good rating for predicted reliability and a Fair for owner satisfaction.

    Avanti MO7191TW
    Avanti MO7191TW

      Avanti MO7191TW

      CR’s take: At 18 inches wide and 10 inches tall, the Avanti MO7191TW microwave is a real space-saver. It’s perfect for a college student. Typically, small countertop microwaves don’t perform as well as larger ones, and this one has its faults. It merits a spot on this list because of its Good rating for predicted reliability. In our performance tests, it earns Very Good ratings for ease of use and quietness, and middling scores for heating and defrosting evenness. Speed of heating isn’t the best, but if you can wait a little longer for your food, that’s not a huge drawback—especially considering the price.

      Sharp SMC0710BB/ BW
      Sharp SMC0710BB/ BW

        Sharp SMC0710BB/ BW

        CR’s take: Like most small countertop microwaves, this Sharp is underpowered. But at this price it’s a good choice for a college student who may be heating up just ramen and frozen pizza. Indeed, it defrosts beautifully, earning an Excellent rating, and is super-quiet, which is nice for anyone who’s making a late-night snack and doesn’t want to wake up their roommates. And as a bonus, it may teach your collegian a bit of patience because it’s quite slow to heat food. In our member survey, Sharp earns a middling rating of Good for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

        Best Midsized Microwaves
        General GEW1000E
        General GEW1000E

          General GEW1000E

          CR’s take: The General GEW1000E is superb at heating food evenly, earning an Excellent rating on that test. Speed of heating is also impressive, and this microwave runs quietly. All the controls are intuitive, so you don’t need to consult the manual. The main drawback of the General is that it lacks a defrosting function, so if that’s one of the reasons you need a microwave, look elsewhere. We do not have enough data from our member survey to give General microwaves a rating for reliability.

          Panasonic NN-GN68KS with FlashXpress, 3-in-1
          Panasonic NN-GN68KS with...

            Panasonic NN-GN68KS with...

            CR’s take: The midsized Panasonic NN-GN68KS with FlashXpress earns top marks for heating evenness, earning an Excellent rating on that test. It’s also impressive at speed of heating and defrosting evenness, and our testers found the controls to be easy to understand and use. It can be a bit noisy. In our member survey, Panasonic countertop microwaves earn an average rating of Good for predicted reliability and an Excellent for owner satisfaction.

            Panasonic NN-SN67HS
            Panasonic NN-SN67HS

              Panasonic NN-SN67HS

              CR’s take: For the price, you can’t go wrong with the midsized Panasonic NN-SN67HS. Speed of heating and defrosting evenness are both superb, notching Excellent ratings on both those tests. It evenly heats a dish of cold mashed potatoes, and our testers found it easy to operate without reading the manual (because most people don’t). It is a bit noisy when running on high, but you typically run your microwave in such short bursts that it might not bother you.

              Best Large Microwaves
              Panasonic NN-SE785S
              Panasonic NN-SE785S

                Panasonic NN-SE785S

                CR’s take: In addition to its cooking prowess, the large Panasonic NN-SE785S comes from one of only two brands that earn an Excellent rating for owner satisfaction from our members. Heating evenness and speed of heating are superb, and it defrosts very well, 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. Panasonic countertop microwaves get a middling rating for predicted reliability.

                Panasonic NN-SN77HS
                Panasonic NN-SN77HS

                  Panasonic NN-SN77HS

                  CR’s take: We named the Panasonic NN-SN77HS a CR Best Buy for its combination of an attractive price and impressive performance. Heating evenness and speed of heating are top-notch, earning this model Excellent ratings on those tests. It was also superb at defrosting ground beef evenly. It runs quietly and the controls are easy to understand and use. Because it’s equipped with a sensor, you don’t have to worry about overheating your food.

                  Panasonic NN-SN946W
                  Panasonic NN-SN946W

                    Panasonic NN-SN946W

                    CR’s take: Another CR Best Buy, the well-priced Panasonic NN-SN946W has a lot going for it. The large microwave aces three of our tough tests, including speed of heating, heating evenness, and defrosting evenness. It runs quietly, earning a Very Good rating 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 when the food is hot enough.  

                    87
                    Countertop microwave ovens Rated
                    Access Ratings
                    Mary H.J. Farrell

                    Knowing that I wanted to be a journalist from a young age, I decided to spiff up my byline by adding the middle initials "H.J." A veteran of online and print journalism, I've worked at People, MSNBC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, and an online Consumer Reports wannabe. But the real thing is so much better. Follow me on Twitter.