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Best Microwaves of 2019

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

Illustration for the best microwaves of the year.
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With family members coming and going at different times, it seems unimaginable that any busy household can get by without a top-notch microwave.

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. Not all microwaves can achieve that feat, but the best do it handily, as Consumer Reports’ microwave tests show.

Microwaves are available in two types—over-the-range and countertop. We test both.

“Countertop microwaves are the biggest part of the market by far,” says Claudette Ennis, CR’s analyst for microwaves and other small appliances. “We focus our testing on models that are 1 cubic foot or larger, which are the biggest sellers.”

How We Test Microwaves
In our tests, 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 the temperature of the food in 20 different spots. We also test the auto-defrost function by defrosting ground beef. 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 predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, based on information that we gather from a survey of our members who purchased a microwave in the past 10 years. Brands that get a Fair or Poor rating for reliability are not eligible for a CR recommendation no matter how well an individual model performs.

Here, grouped by type and listed alphabetically, are the best from our tests, including both midsized and large countertop models.

We did not include any small countertop microwaves because they tend to be underpowered and don’t perform as well. But if that’s all your countertop can accommodate, you can find plenty of picks in our microwave ratings chart.

Learn more before you shop by consulting our microwave buying guide.

1
Best Countertop 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 large 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.

    2

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

      GE Profile JES2251SJ[SS]

      CR’s take: The large 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. Like most large microwaves, it comes equipped with a sensor so that you don’t have to guess when your food is done. GE countertop microwaves get average ratings for both reliability and satisfaction.

      3

      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 whether 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

          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.

            6
            Best Over-the-Range Microwaves
            Frigidaire Professional FPBM3077RF
            Frigidaire Professional FPBM3077RF

              Frigidaire Professional FPBM3077RF

              CR’s take: This Frigidaire Professional model receives Very Good ratings in our tests for speed of heating, noise, and venting. It’s one of the better models we've tested for ease of use, and we found it easy to program straight out of the box without consulting the owner’s manual. Its ability to heat things evenly is so-so; don't get this model if you tend to heat up large plates of food. Frigidaire is one of the more reliable brands of OTR microwaves, according to a survey of our members.

              7

              GE PVM9005SJSS
              GE PVM9005SJSS

                GE 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 this microwave operates quietly. Our testers found the GE easy to program, and it vents well, something not all OTRs can accomplish. GE ranks in the middle of the pack for predicted reliability, according to our member survey.

                8

                Whirlpool WMH53521H
                Whirlpool WMH53521H

                  Whirlpool WMH53521H

                  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 should you want to cook a casserole. This microwave is very easy to use, and our testers noted that it has no discernible flaws. Whirlpool is one of the most reliable over-the-range microwave brands in our latest reliability survey, with few CR members reporting breakages before five years of use.

                  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.