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Best Countertop Microwaves From CR's Tests

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

An illustration of one of the best countertop microwaves.
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Countertop microwaves are no longer those unsightly white boxes that you try to hide in the corner of your kitchen counter. Today’s microwaves are designed to blend in with the rest of your kitchen suite, and most of the models in Consumer Reports’ microwave tests come in a sleek stainless finish.

You can spend less than $100 on a countertop model or more than $500—but our tests have found that price doesn’t predict performance.

"In some cases you may be paying more for the materials, such as a stainless steel interior," says Ginny Lui, who oversees our microwave testing.

Consumers rely on their microwaves to heat their food and drinks quickly and evenly, so we test those capabilities in our labs. To test speed, we measure how fast the microwave heats 1 liter of room-temperature water. To judge heating evenness, we heat a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for 10 minutes, then take the internal temperature in 20 different spots.

We also judge how evenly the microwave defrosts frozen food using the auto-defrost function, as well as how noisy the microwave is and how easy it is to operate without consulting the owner’s manual (because most people don’t).

We now incorporate predicted reliability and owner satisfaction—using survey results from members who purchased almost 30,000 countertop microwaves over the past 10 years—into each microwave's Overall Score. 

The countertop units in our microwave ratings are grouped by size—small, medium, and large—using the capacity claimed by the manufacturer. We also measure usable space, which excludes the corners if your microwave has a turntable.

Here, reviews of some of the top countertop microwaves from our tests, grouped by size and listed in alphabetical—not rank—order within each type. For more information, take a look at our microwave buying guide.

1
Best Small Microwaves
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 because they’re underpowered, and this one has its faults. It merits a spot on this list because of its Excellent 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.

    2

    Farberware FMO07ABTBKQ
    Farberware FMO07ABTBKQ

      Farberware FMO07ABTBKQ

      CR’s take: Farberware is the only other brand of countertop microwave to earn an Excellent rating for predicted reliability in our member survey. The small Farberware FMO07ABTBKQ may take some getting used to, but the price is right. Like most in this class, heating is not so speedy, so it will take longer to get food hot. Defrosting evenness is Very Good, though heating evenness is only so-so. Like most small models, it lacks a sensor that shuts off the machine when food is done. On the plus side, it operates quietly and is easy to use.

      3
      Best Midsized Microwaves
      LG NeoChef LMC1275SB
      LG NeoChef LMC1275SB

        LG NeoChef LMC1275SB

        CR’s take: You can’t beat the LG NeoChef LMC1275SB for performance, especially at this price. It aces our tests for speed of heating as well as heating and defrosting evenness—everything you want from a high-performing microwave. In addition, it’s quiet and easy to use, and the brand earns a Very Good rating for reliability. Its only drawback? Like many microwaves of this size and at this price, this model lacks a sensor, so you’ll have to gauge for yourself if your food is hot enough.

        4

        Panasonic Genius Prestige NN-SD681S
        Panasonic Genius Prestige NN-SD681S

          Panasonic Genius Prestige NN-SD681S

          CR’s take: Panasonic countertop microwaves earn an Excellent rating for owner satisfaction from our members, the only brand to do so, and the midsized Panasonic Genius Prestige NN-SD681S is also a champ in our lab tests. It earns a Very Good rating on our heating evenness test, and speed of heating and defrosting evenness are even better. The controls are a cinch to understand, so you won’t be thumbing through the manual, and this model comes equipped with a sensor—not all models this size do. It’s a bit noisy, though.

          5

          Samsung MG11H2020CT
          Samsung MG11H2020CT

            Samsung MG11H2020CT

            CR’s take: Samsung countertop microwaves earn a Very Good rating from our members for predicted reliability, and the Samsung MG11H2020CT is a solid performer. It’s impressive at speed of heating and heating evenness but earns only a middle-of-the-road Good rating for defrosting evenness. If you often use your microwave to defrost, you may want to consider another model. The Samsung is easy to use and relatively quiet, but this model lacks a sensor that shuts off the machine when your food is done.

            6
            Best Large Microwaves
            Farberware Smart Sensor Cooking FMO16AHTBSA
            Farberware Smart Sensor Cooking...

              Farberware Smart Sensor Cooking...

              CR’s take: With Excellent marks for reliability, Farberware countertop microwaves are a safe choice. As its name implies, the 
              Farberware Smart Sensor Cooking FMO16AHTBSA has a sensor that shuts off the microwave when your food is done. Speed of heating and defrosting evenness are impressive, though heating evenness could be a bit better. In that test, this unit earns a middling Good rating. It operates quietly and the controls are straightforward.

              7

              GE Profile JES2251SJ[SS]
              GE Profile JES2251SJ[SS]

                GE Profile JES2251SJ[SS]

                CR’s take: The GE Profile JES2251SJ[SS] is a good choice if you do more than reheat coffee in your microwave. It aces our heating evenness test, earning an Excellent rating. Speed of heating is also top-notch, and it’s impressive at defrosting. The controls are a cinch to use, and this microwave works relatively quietly. It comes equipped with a sensor, so you don’t have to guess when your food is done. GE countertop microwaves get average ratings for both reliability and satisfaction.

                8

                LG LMC1575
                LG LMC1575

                  LG LMC1575

                  CR’s take: LG countertop microwaves rate Very Good for reliability, and the LG LMC1575 has cooking chops as well. Speed of heating is Excellent and heating evenness is almost as good. If you wait until the last minute to defrost something for dinner, this microwave won’t disappoint, getting top marks on that test. The controls aren’t as obvious to master as some microwaves, but after a few tries you’ll get the hang of it. Like most large microwaves, it features a sensor that shuts it off when cooking is complete.

                  9

                  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 the only brand that earns top marks, Excellent, 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.

                    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.