Best Countertop Microwaves of 2020

Find a reliable, top-performing microwave that fits on your counter

A stainless steel countertop microwave
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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 more features, such as a sensor that shuts off the oven when your food is hot enough.

But according to Consumer Reports’ tests, a higher price doesn’t equal better performance in the same size range.

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, medium, and large—using the capacity claimed by the manufacturer. 

Here, 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.

Go to Consumer Reports’ Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.

Best Small Microwaves
AmazonBasics Works with Alexa S9N29R
AmazonBasics Works with Alexa S9N29R

    AmazonBasics 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 AmazonBasics 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.

    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 Very 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 one 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 making a late-night snack who 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 score 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 was 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.

          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. Panasonic microwaves earn an average score of Good for predicted reliability in our member survey but an Excellent rating for owner satisfaction.

            Panasonic NN-SN686S
            Panasonic NN-SN686S

              Panasonic NN-SN686S

              CR’s take: The affordable midsized Panasonic NN-SN686S has a lot to recommend it. The Panasonic breezed through our tests for heating evenness and speed of heating, and defrosting was superb, earning an Excellent rating. However, it’s a bit noisy and our testers felt that the controls could be more intuitive. At this price, it doesn’t come with a lot of extra features, but it does have a cooking sensor, which is key to getting food that’s not over- or undercooked.

              Panasonic NN-SD975S
              Panasonic NN-SD975S

                Panasonic NN-SD975S

                CR’s take: The Panasonic NN-SD975S costs slightly less than its brandmate below and performs just as impressively. Heating evenness and speed of heating are top-notch, earning this model Excellent ratings on those tests. In our defrosting test, it defrosted ground beef evenly. It’s pretty quiet, and the controls are easy to understand and use. Though Panasonic countertop microwaves get a middling rating for predicted reliability, they earn an Excellent rating for owner satisfaction.

                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 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.

                  Panasonic NN-SN966S
                  Panasonic NN-SN966S

                    Panasonic NN-SN966S

                    CR’s take: The large Panasonic NN-SN966S marched through our tough tests with few demerits. Heating evenness, speed of heating, and defrosting are all superb, earning top marks. Our testers find it to be easy to use, giving it a rating of Very Good, and it’s not as noisy as some models in our tests. Panasonic gets top marks for owner satisfaction in our member survey but only a rating of Good for predicted reliability. This microwave is pretty basic—no racks or convection options—but it does have a sensor that stops cooking when your food is ready.

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                    Countertop microwave ovens Rated
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                    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.