Top rated microwaves

When shopping for the Top rated microwaves, make sure to look for a microwave with adjustable heat settings: while most microwave tasks are performed on “high,” lower power levels are usually built-in to defrost frozen foods or tackle delicate tasks like softening butter or melting chocolate (one of our favorite uses: it’s quicker and less likely to scorch if you look away for a second). So what are our best over the range microwaves and best microwaves 2020 top picks?

best microwaves 2020

Top rated microwaves
AmazonBasics Works with Alexa S9N29RPRICESOLD BY$59.99Prime EligibleAmazonShop

CR’s take: Small countertop microwaves tend not to perform as well as larger models in CR’s tests because typically they’re underpowered. This new small model from AmazonBasics is no exception, although 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. We do not have enough data on AmazonBasics microwaves to rate them for predicted reliability or owner satisfaction.

GE Profile JES2251SJPRICESOLD BYLOWEST$269.00In stockLowe’sShop$299.00In stockAppliances ConnectionShop$309.00In stockHome DepotShop+ More

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 reliability and satisfaction.

LG NeoChef LMC1275SBPRICESOLD BYSee OffersAmazonShop

CR’s take: You can’t beat the midsized LG NeoChef LMC1275SB for performance, especially at this price. It aces our tests for speed of heating, heating evenness, and defrosting evenness—everything you want from a high-performing microwave. In addition, it’s quiet, earning a Very Good rating on our noise test, 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.

Panasonic Genius Prestige NN-SD681SPRICESOLD BYSee OffersAmazonShop

CR’s take: Panasonic countertop microwaves earn an Excellent rating for owner satisfaction from our members—one of only two brands 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.

Panasonic NN-SE785SPRICESOLD BYLOWEST$329.99In stockBest BuyShopSee OffersAmazonShop

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 CVM721M2NS5PRICESOLD BY$848.00In stockAmazonShop$848.00In stockAppliances ConnectionShop$854.00In stockLowe’sShop+ More

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. According to our member survey, Café earns middling scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

GE Profile PVM9005SJSSPRICESOLD BY$492.00In stockAJ MadisonShop$492.00In stockAppliances ConnectionShop$498.60In stockWayfairShop+ More

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.

KitchenAid KMHS120ESSPRICESOLD BY$629.00In stockHome DepotShop$629.00In stockLowe’sShop$629.99In stockBest BuyShop+ More

CR’s take: If you’re not a planner and 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. KitchenAid OTRs earn average scores for predicted reliability and owner satisfaction.

Whirlpool WMH53521HPRICESOLD BYLOWEST$417.10In stockAppliances ConnectionShop$419.99In stockBest BuyShop$422.00In stockLowe’sShop+ More

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 9×15-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 is one of the most reliable OTR microwave brands in our latest reliability survey.

Whirlpool WMH75021HZPRICESOLD BYSee OffersAmazonShop

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 found it easy to use without consulting the manual. It fits a 9×15-inch baking dish, and a sensor automatically adjusts cooking time. Whirlpool is one of the most reliable OTR microwave brands in our latest reliability survey.

How to buy a microwave

Your Pizza Rolls deserve a good microwave. This countertop wonder, whose origins date back to the 1940s, is probably one of the most frequently used appliances in your kitchen thanks to its ability to reheat food fast (and cook a mug cake or two). There are a variety of options when it’s time to select a microwave, so we’ve broken down the options you have when you’re ready for a new microwave.


The first decision you need to make about a new microwave is where in your kitchen you want to put it. The location affects the price, features, size and installation of the appliance. You have three main options:

Tyler Lizenby/CNET


This is the most common type of microwave. They generally cost less and are significantly easier to install than other models. Just find a spot on the counter for it to sit, plug it into an outlet and you can use it right away.

The biggest issue with the countertop microwave is how much space it needs. If you have limited room on your countertop, you may either want to look at the smaller countertop models available, look into placing your microwave on a small cart, or consider another style of microwave.

Price: $40 to $700

External dimensions: From roughly 10 by 18 by 14 inches for compact models to roughly 14 by 24 by 20 inches for larger models

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts

Some of GE’s stoves and over-the-range microwaves are connected via Bluetooth.Tyler Lizenby/CNET


You install this style of microwave above your range, which will save you some counter space. These models have vent systems that take the place of the oven hood and lights to illuminate your cooktop.

Price: $190 to $1,300

External dimensions: Usually wider than countertop models, about 16 by 30 by 15 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts



Built-in models that you place among custom cabinets or paired with built-in, full-sized wall ovens are the most high-end (aka expensive) types of microwaves. Some microwaves in this category are even designed specifically as drawers with a compartment you pull out for your food.

Price: $500 to $5,000 and up

External dimensions: This varies widely depending on type, and drawers tend to have more depth than countertop or over-the-range models, hitting about 15 by 30 by 26 inches

Internal capacity: Less than 1 cubic foot to more than 2 cubic feet

Wattage: Typically 600 to 1,200 watts


It’s important to find the right-sized microwave that will meet your food needs and fit in the space you have for it. First, you want to measure the counter or other space where you plan to put your microwave. Then, measure the height, width and depth of any model you’re considering to find out if it will fit on your counter top, over your range or in a custom spot. The external dimensions can vary a lot, from 10 by 18 by 14 inches on the smaller side to 14 by 24 by 20 inches on the larger side.

Then there’s also the internal capacity, which can range from less than 1 cubic foot to 2 cubic feet or more. There doesn’t seem to be any set rule for how internal capacity correlates to size (like 1 cubic foot = small, 1.5 cubic feet = medium, etc.), but here’s an attempt to break it down:

Compact: Under 1 cubic foot

Midsize: 1 to 1.5 cubic feet

Full-size: 1.6 to 2 cubic feet

Extra-large: More than 2 cubic feet

Most microwaves are somewhere around 1.4 to 1.8 cubic feet. Still not sure which size you need? If you’re out shopping, bring in a plate or bowl from home that you plan to use often to make sure that it fits inside the microwave.

Still in doubt? Measure everything, take notes and check with your appliance retailer for help deciding what would work best. For over-the-range and other built-in models, you most likely won’t be the one installing your new microwave, so you can always avail yourself of their expertise.


Microwave wattage equals power. In general, the higher the wattage, the faster and more evenly your food will cook. Most microwaves sit somewhere between 600 to 1,200 watts. Larger, more expensive microwaves tend to have a higher wattage, so this is a price and size consideration that can strongly influence microwave cooking performance.

This GE microwave has scan-to-cook tech via a related app.Chris Monroe/CNET


Many microwaves share common functions. Here are some microwave cooking essentials: cook time, defrost, power level and timer. Each one requires your direct input, but they are usually very easy to set. Most microwaves have touch panel controls and a rotating carousel to spin your food for more even cooking.

Default settings

Many microwaves come with preset cooking modes so you only have to press one button to automatically cook a dish. For example, many microwaves have a “popcorn” button that will cook your bag based on factory settings. This can be handy for common dishes you heat in the microwave, but you’ll have to figure out if the microwave’s default cook times work for your own food. Other common presets include: baked potato, pizza, beverage, frozen dinner and reheat.


Manufacturers are increasingly including features in microwaves that mimic what we see in full-size ovens, such as a broiler. This is a good addition for finishing off a dish or cooking something for which you’d prefer more direct heat.


A convection fan that’s built into the back of a microwave oven circulates the heat around the food to cook things more quickly and evenly. (Many new full-size ovens come with at least one convection fan.) However, microwaves with convection fans are generally more expensive than those without.

Inverter technology

Inverter heating is another option available on some high-end models. If you want to heat something at a 50 percent power level, most microwaves actually switch between 100 percent power and 0 percent power to average in at 50 percent power. This doesn’t yield great results if you want to heat something on a lower heat and achieve an even result. So, some models now use inverter technology, which maintains a consistent 50 percent power. That way, you can poach salmon, make a fluffy omelet, etc.

Other advanced features

In addition to new heating technologies, higher-end models usually have more presets than just the basic pizza, popcorn and baked potato standard. Some use moisture sensors to detect food doneness. And we’ve started to see models include LED lighting on the interior.

“Smart” technology, i.e. options that connect microwaves to the internet and other products, aren’t as widespread in microwaves as we’ve seen in other kitchen appliances. However, we’ve seen GE Appliances include Bluetooth technology in some of its over-the-range microwaves. This connection, which GE calls “Chef Connect,” pairs the microwave with compatible GE ranges so the light and fan beneath the microwave automatically turns on when you turn on a burner.

More options

Will the June Intelligent Oven become the next microwave?Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Other small appliances have started to make a case for forgoing the microwave, such as steam ovens that use water to cook for more moist heating or the basic toaster oven that mimics a full-size stove. These options promise to cook more effectively than a microwave, but it might take longer to reheat your food.

Smart countertop ovens have also started to become an option. The June Intelligent Oven uses facial recognition technology to identify food and cook it automatically, and the Tovala Smart Oven will scan packaged meals for automatic cooking, including frozen meals from Trader Joe’s. These options are promising, but the technology is too new to determine whether or not these will become kitchen staples.

Leave a Comment