Best Microwaves of 2021

Countertop and over-the-range models that top CR's tests

A Consumer Reports technician testing a microwave oven in CR's lab
A Consumer Reports engineer evaluates a microwave's controls during an ease-of-use test.
Photo: Stephen Yang
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When you’re in a hurry and want to zap a cup of coffee or a plate of pasta, you expect a microwave to work quickly and heat your food thoroughly. Our tests have found that not all microwaves can achieve that feat, but the best do it handily.

We test both over-the-range (OTR) and countertop microwaves. “Countertop microwaves are the biggest part of the market by far,” says Claudette Ennis, CR’s analyst for microwaves and other small appliances. “And we focus our testing on models that are 1 cubic foot or larger, which are the biggest sellers.”

In the lab, we assess how fast and how evenly microwaves heat. The speed score in our microwave ratings is based on how fast a microwave heats 1 liter of room-temperature water. For evenness, we heat a bowl of cold mashed potatoes for 10 minutes, then take temperature readings in 20 locations. And we judge how quietly a microwave operates and how easy it is to use without consulting the manual (because most people don’t).

We also factor in scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction based on our members’ experiences with 76,837 OTR microwaves and 70,033 countertop models purchased new between 2010 and 2020.

Here, grouped by type and listed alphabetically, are the best microwaves of 2021 based on our latest tests. Countertop models are small, midsized, and large.

For more information on the types, see our microwave buying guide and comprehensive microwave ratings.

Best Countertop Microwaves
Amazon Basics Voice-Controlled Microwave
Amazon Basics Voice-Controlled...

    Amazon Basics Voice-Controlled...

    CR’s take: Small countertop microwaves tend not to perform as well as larger models in CR’s tests because they’re typically underpowered. This small 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 speed of heating earns a Poor rating, 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, AmazonBasics earns a Very Good rating for predicted reliability and a Fair for owner satisfaction.

    General GEW1000E
    General GEW1000E

      General GEW1000E

      CR’s take: The midsized 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. There wasn't enough data in our member survey to give General microwaves a reliability score.

      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—the model notches 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. (We assess that, because most people don’t.) It's a bit noisy when running on high, but typically you run your microwave in such short bursts that it may not bother you. In our member survey, Panasonic countertop microwaves earn an average rating of Good for predicted reliability and an Excellent 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-SN946W
          Panasonic NN-SN946W

            Panasonic NN-SN946W

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

            Best Over-the-Range Microwaves
            Café CVM721M2NS5
            Café CVM721M2NS5

              Café CVM721M2NS5

              CR’s take: The snazzy Café CVM721M2NS5 has a recessed handle and hidden digital controls that run along the bottom. When you tap on the glass touch screen, the options for time and cooking modes pop into view. In addition to looking good it cooks well, earning an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test. It’s also first-rate at defrosting and it operates quietly. A sensor prevents you from overheating your food.  

              GE Profile PVM9005SJSS
              GE Profile PVM9005SJSS

                GE Profile PVM9005SJSS

                CR’s take: This GE PVM9005SJSS is a good choice for a busy household. It earns an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test, in which we reheat a dish of cold mashed potatoes. Speed of heating is also top-notch, and it operates quietly. Our testers found the GE easy to program, and it vents well, something not all OTRs can accomplish.  

                KitchenAid KMHS120ESS
                KitchenAid KMHS120ESS

                  KitchenAid KMHS120ESS

                  CR’s take: If you tend to take something out of the freezer to make for dinner when you get home from work, the KitchenAid KMHS120ESS is a good bet. It earns an Excellent rating on our defrosting test, in which we defrost a pound of ground chuck. It also aces the heating evenness test and is very quiet. It has a cooking sensor and comes with a rack, in case you want to cook two dishes at once.

                  Whirlpool WMH53521HZ
                  Whirlpool WMH53521HZ

                    Whirlpool WMH53521HZ

                    CR’s take: A top performer from Whirlpool, the WMH53521H earns an Excellent rating in our heating evenness test, meaning a dish of cold mashed potatoes had few or no cold spots after microwaving. It has a cooking sensor that helps estimate how much time and power you’ll need for each dish, and it fits a 9x15-inch dish, so you can cook a casserole. This microwave is very easy to use, and our testers noted that it has no discernible flaws.  

                    Whirlpool WMH75021HZ
                    Whirlpool WMH75021HZ

                      Whirlpool WMH75021HZ

                      CR’s take: The stainless Whirlpool WMH75021HZ earns a rating of Excellent for defrosting evenness, though other models are more capable when it comes to venting and how fast they can heat food. It’s very quiet, and our testers find it easy to use without consulting the manual. It fits a 9x15-inch baking dish, and a sensor automatically adjusts cooking time.  

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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.