Best Microwaves of 2021

Countertop and over-the-range microwaves 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 our 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 plate of pasta, you expect a microwave to work quickly and heat your food thoroughly. Our tests find that not all microwaves can achieve that feat, but the best do it handily.

Microwaves are available in two types—over-the-range (OTR) 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.”

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 predicted reliability and owner satisfaction, based on our members’ experiences with 76,837 over-the-range (OTR) microwaves and 70,033 countertop microwaves purchased new between 2010 and 2020.

Here, grouped by type and listed alphabetically, are the best microwaves of 2020, based on our latest tests. Countertop models include small, midsized, and large microwaves.

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

Best Countertop 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 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.

    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.

      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, scoring an Excellent rating on that test. It’s also impressive at speed of heating, defrosting evenness and our testers find the controls easy to understand and use. It can be a bit noisy, but microwaves run in such short bursts that it shouldn’t bother you.

        Panasonic NN-SD975S
        Panasonic NN-SD975S

          Panasonic NN-SD975S

          CR’s take: The attractive, large Panasonic NN-SD975S countertop microwave has a lot going for it. This Panasonic aces our tests for speed of heating and heating evenness and gets high marks for defrosting. It’s also fairly quiet and our testers find it a cinch to use, so there’s usually no need to consult the owner’s manual. A cooking sensor ensures that you won’t overcook your food.

          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.

            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 of the microwave. 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 this microwave 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 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, 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.