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Best Countertop Microwaves for $150 or Less

Five inexpensive, high-performing models

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When you’re upgrading your kitchen, you might want to invest in a high-end countertop microwave to blend in with your other appliances. But when you’re buying a microwave for a student's first apartment or for an Airbnb, you can spend a lot less and still get one that’s capable of serving up hot food in a timely manner.

Almost half of the 80-plus countertop models in Consumer Reports’ microwave ratings cost $150 or less. And many of them did very well in our performance tests and our member survey on microwave reliability.

Above the $150 threshold, you might pay a premium for bells and whistles that go unused. So if all you want is a microwave that reheats leftovers, defrosts frozen food, or zaps a cup of coffee, you can save money by skipping microwaves with the one-touch button for "baking" a potato, for example.

The countertop models listed below vary by a few inches in footprint and height. Once you’ve found one that fits, focus on the wattage. “The higher the wattage, the more energy is being delivered,” says James Dickerson, CR’s chief scientific officer. “More energy, in this case, allows your food to transform faster and will save you cooking time.”

Another feature worth noting? Most newer models are equipped with a sensor that monitors the amount of steam that food emits and turns off the microwave when cooking is complete.

Here, in alphabetical order, are five countertop microwaves for $150 or less that earn Very Good ratings in our performance tests as well as favorable reliability in CR’s annual microwave survey of our members. Note that prices will differ from retailer to retailer.

 

1

Avanti MO7191TW
Avanti MO7191TW

    Avanti MO7191TW

    CR's take: At 18 inches wide (instead of the standard 2 feet), the small Avanti MO7191TW countertop microwave is a space-saver. It’s perfect for a college student or a starter apartment. Typically small countertop microwaves don’t perform as well as larger ones because they’re underpowered, and at 700 watts, this one has its deficiencies. It merits a spot on this list because of Avanti's Excellent rating for predicted reliability. In our performance tests, it earns a Very Good rating for ease of use and for quietness. Speed of heating isn’t the best, but if you can wait a little longer for your food, that’s not huge a drawback—especially considering the price.

    2

    Farberware FMO16AHTPLB
    Farberware FMO16AHTPLB

      Farberware FMO16AHTPLB

      CR's take: Farberware countertop microwaves also earn CR’s top mark for predicted reliability, and the large Farberware FMO16AHTPLB does many things well. It earns an Excellent rating for quietness, something you’ll appreciate when sneaking that midnight snack. Speed of heating is impressive, and defrosting is on a par with many microwaves in this price range. This 1,100-watt microwave could do a better job at heating evenly, though, so check your food in several spots to make sure it’s to your liking.

      3

      GE JES1145SHSS
      GE JES1145SHSS

        GE JES1145SHSS

        CR's take: The midsized GE JES1145SHSS is a solid performer and earns a Good rating for reliability, putting it on a par with many of the countertop microwave brands in our tests. The 950-watt microwave earns a Very Good rating overall, with impressive marks in heating evenness, quietness, and ease of use (the controls don’t need explanation). Defrosting evenness and speed of heating are solidly in the middle of the pack and better than many models at this price point.

        4

        Panasonic NN-SU 656B
        Panasonic NN-SU 656B

          Panasonic NN-SU 656B

          CR's take: Panasonic is the only brand of countertop microwave we test that earns an Excellent score for owner satisfaction, a measure of how likely our members are to recommend a product. Its reliability is on a par with many other brands. The large, 1,100-watt Panasonic NN-SU 656B aces at defrosting, making it a good choice if you wait until the last minute to decide what’s for dinner. And it’s super-quiet. Speed of heating is impressive, though heating evenness could be better, so check the temperature in several places before digging in.

          5

          Sharp SMC1655BS
          Sharp SMC1655BS

            Sharp SMC1655BS

            Owners of Sharp countertop microwaves express satisfaction with the appliance; it gets a Very Good rating in our member survey, second only to Panasonic on that measure. Reliability is on a par with other brands. The large, 1,100-watt Sharp SMC1655BS earns a Very Good rating for speed of heating, and heating and defrosting evenness are almost as good. The controls are a cinch to use, and the microwave operates quietly.

             

            Haniya Rae contributed to this article.

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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.