Countertop microwaves - are there any that DON'T suck?

taeelJune 3, 2012

Reviews are categorically awful for all of them. I'm looking for a basic countertop microwave that will reheat food without:

- breaking within a year

- endangering my family's health

- setting my house on fire

Does such a thing exist?

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Silly post.

Of course. I have one, as do thousands of others. Mine is a GE JES2251S manufactured in 2005.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 9:00AM
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Microwaves today are not built for longevity. However, your list of things like "setting the house on fire" is highly exaggerated. In any case, you should not pay a lot for a countertop microwave so that when in 3-5 years it breaks, you've invested less than $200. One reason I am so stridently against OTR MWs and built-in MWs is that they are quite expensive though the guts are the same as the $150 countertop MW. Again, don't pay a lot for your countertop MW, and you won't cry in 3 or 4 years.

You can get a good Sharp MW for about $125, maybe less. The Panasonic Genius Prestige MWs will cost a bit more, and they tend to be nicer looking, more contemporary and clean. The Panasonic people have actually thought about control panel layout, rather than having a ton of duplicative buttons. I also like that they use a knob and actual buttons vs. the touch buttons of other MWs that often lose their "touchiness". In any case, whatever you do, don't buy a "high-end name" microwave, because they are just rebadges of the Sharps or Panasonics. I.e. you would be paying a lot just so that it might have the badge from Wolf, Dacor, Electrolux, etc. You will be fine with a Sharp or Panasonic with the minimal functions you need.

I will link the most recent Panasonic Genius Prestige countertop MW, but you can find previous years' Panasonic models a bit cheaper.

Here is a link that might be useful: Panasonic NN-SD997S

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 11:46AM
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My apologies if the post sounded overemotional - I was mostly joking about the fires etc., though you do see plenty of reviews about sparks, peeling paint, and so on that are pretty unappealing. I'm mostly looking for a cheap, basic machine that will last at least a couple of years and perform the very limited functions I require of a microwave.

But asolo, I don't think it's a silly post. If you look at reviews for these machines, even those recommended by Consumer Reports etc, they are all invariably 2 stars or less.

In fact, there are the reviews on Amazon for the GE JES2251S.

Doesn't make me want to buy it. And these are probably the best of the reviews for GE machines. The Spacemaker lines are scathing if you look at recent reviews.

I have been hearing good things about Sharp. Gonna check that out.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 6:45PM
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I regret spending the time discussing the Panasonic, and providing you the link. The link shows 84 reviews, 4.5 stars out of 5, 1st place in MW ratings on Google. Evidently you are more keen to spend the time to diss Asolo's MW, than to consider anything that might disprove the assertions of your OP.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 7:14PM
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All I can say is I have the counter-top at one location and the space-maker version at another location. They've both been fine, one for seven years and the other for nine. Certainly none of the issues you described. Then and now I regard these units as quite ordinary examples of their type.

Would be interested in learning what you choose when your research is concluded.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 7:19PM
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I had a Sharp for many years. I was extremely happy with it, but unfortunately when we were moving things around in the kitchen it was dropped and the door cracked. I replaced it with a panasonic genius prestige microwave convection model NN-CD989S. Both were the largest countertop microwaves with turn tables. The reviews for the panasonic were better then the sharp. But honestly, I think the Sharp is more intuitive. Panasonic's turbo defrost has cooked my meat, despite following instructions. The turntable squeaks. I prefer Sharp's metal turn table to Panasonic's ceramic one. That may be a personal preference but I feel Pansonic's turntable is much more prone to breakage. Could be what I was used to - but I have to read the instructions when I want to do anything but reheat food. My family also misses the Sharp. That being said - both are good microwaves and you will be happy with either
Sharp or Panasonic as both do what they are supposed to do very well.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Microwaves are almost a consumable anymore. I spent a bit of time this morning looking at the "user reviews" on and did not find a single model that had anything above 2 stars. But who is most likely to take the time to post a review about a 130-buck microwave on CR? The people whose microwaves broke.

If a microwave works great, who cares? It reheats your coffee or your bowl of soup. Big deal. If every microwave cost 1500 bucks you would probably see more of a gamut of opinion. There is simply not enough of a delta in performance among microwaves to elicit much in the way of enthusiasm for a particular model.

Without looking, what brand is YOUR countertop microwave? I think most people, unless they had done a great deal of research before buying theirs, wouldn't even know. I have one out in my garage for travel assignments and darned if I can even remember what brand it is.

The people who take the trouble to fill out the hate form on CU are the people whose microwaves broke. EVERY microwave breaks eventually. And a certain small number will fail at any point in the term of ownership. But by-in-large, microwaves all perform similarly, some have some cool extra features (doneness sensors, inverter power, etc.) but they all do the same thing.

I would not pay much attention to any review on CR that complains about the microwave breaking unless those complaints are in far bigger proportion than for every other model of microwave in the list. Basically, you are going to go get a cheap microwave and it will probably last a long time. This is because that is what most all microwaves do, nowadays.

If I were you, I would just go pick the one that fits your decor the best and that you like the layout of and leave it at that. Or better yet, go on Craigslist or your local charity thrift store and pick one up for 5 or 10 bucks. It'll probably last as long as a new one and you will have no heartache whatsoever if it tanks on you in 2014.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:01AM
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I agree in general that MW's are consumable/disposable, and totally agree that obsessing over CR (or Amazon, or Newegg, or whatever) customer reviews is a waste of time.

I would though put in another vote for the Panasonic Genius line of MW's. We've had ours for three years. Ignoring the question of how long it will last, I'd point out that there are a few specific advantages vs the $10 thrift store unit. Specifically, the true Inverter technology, which reduces the microwave flux to defrost or reheat slowly, rather than just pulsing the full power on and off as cheaper units do. I find that this truly does allow more successful defrosting of large hunks of meat, etc, with less premature cooking of the outside and better thawing of the interior, versus the cheapo models.

And alwaysfixin is right that the ergonomics are superior to the cheapo membrane buttons that take enormous pressure to activate. So that's worth the extra $50 to me. But totally agree in loathing "built in" MW's costing 5 times more from Wolf, Viking, etc.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 1:53PM
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You might want to consider looking at a commercial microwave.

While Inverter technology is interesting, Panasonic's commercial microwaves don't use it.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 2:07PM
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I've haven't looked at the MW market for a while but, I have a Kenmore MW for the past 7 or 8 years.
It performs well and has been trouble free.
As "alwaysfixin" suggests, don't spend much more than $125.
Find one with the basic features you require and you'll be fine.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 6:32PM
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Glad to hear the complaints about the touch sensors. I thought it was just me, and was tired of explaining why I always set the time to 2:22 or 3:33 (because the sensors seem more responsive to repeat pressings).

I can't understand what got alwaysfixin's shorts in a bunch even after four readings.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 8:06PM
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The customer reviews on CR are weirdly dyspeptic. I generally have better luck with Newegg or Amazon. You have to read across them, and kind of set aside the worst 10% as people letting off steam.

FWIW I have yet to break a microwave, and have had good luck with Panasonic. It is a little weird that the market is sort of bifurcated, with lots around $100 and then a small high end around $1000.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 9:00PM
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I don't use a microwave to reheat food.

Here is my quest.

Internet Threads about silly or fictitious problems - are there any that DON'T suck?

Reviews are categorically awful for all of them. I'm looking for a basic discussion thread that will deal with something without:
- breaking within a year
- endangering my family's health
- setting my house on fire

Does such a thing exist?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 7:09AM
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Alwaysfixin- Thanks for posting the link for the panasonic microwave. It many not have meant anything to the OP, but I appreciated it.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 10:16AM
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I see no reason to bullyrag the OP over this question. It would be easy to draw the conclusion that a specific model MW was a dog based upon the aggregate reviews of a few websites. It's a good question, really.

Clinresga raised a good point about the inverter Panasonic's ability to vary the ERP vs. just the duty cycle, and it may be that I was off base on that point. (not enough delta in performance brand-to-brand to justify much preference) Though I did mention inverter, I do not have a Panasonic and have not used one. Perhaps the performance of the that technology is notably superior to the old-school MWs I'm used to. In any case, the point has been raised here.

Also brought forward in the discussion has been certain user's preference for the type of control panels. The OP certainly has been given some points to ponder while hunting a new microwave.

One thing that has not been raised so far, so I will: microwave safety. Is there anyone here who is afraid of microwaves being used to heat their food?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 10:40AM
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"Inverter technology"

I wouldn't have a MW without it. It's not new anymore (both of my old GE's have it) but it does represent a significant advance in practicality and convenience compared with the pulse on/off of earlier generations.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 11:25AM
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FWIW, I have a newish cheapo (CDN$125) Panasonic without inverter technology. At the time I bought I didn't know what that was (or maybe London Drugs doesn't carry those models). Anyway, the cheapie I did buy does a MUCH better job of defrosting meat than any other MW I have ever owned. I'm very impressed with basic modern MW technology, but like others, I still consider them almost throw-away appliances. I've already replaced one because some fat-head (ok, it was me) blew a hole in the cavity wall by allowing a metallic piece on a vessel to contact said wall. A $125 lesson is much easier to swallow than an $1000 one, and replacement and installation took less than an hour.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 10:06PM
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It is easy to understand the OP view as I have just spent the past 10 days searching and researching for a good countertop microwave. Take into consideration that some of those showing 3 stars or better, may not meet certain criteria for the poster. In my case it was size....could not be more than appox. 20 in. Wide nor 16" deep. This eliminated a lot with decent ratings.
I am replacing a 30 yr. old Sanyo that still works great but I am refreshing
my kitchen and wanted new (but did not need new). CR also rated a Sanyo highly so my original thought was to get another. Wrong! They are discontinued because Panasonic bought Sanyo.
Finally one hit my hot button....a Magic Chef 1.1 cu ft. with the correct dimensions and a door pull, which I preferred over a finicky push button.
Price point was much lower than other retailers....$84 plus free shipping..I figured what did I have to lose. So I agree with the other posters when they say, consider them disposable and do not pay too much. I might add that the reviews on this model were excellent plus, when I offered my 30 yr. old working Sanyo on, two requests were from people who owned newer Panasonics which had died.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 8:28AM
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Fori is not pleased

It seems like the old ones are more reliable but the new ones do cook faster. I'm back to using one I got in grad school. We selected it by getting the cheapest one you could fit a dinner plate into.

I get an extra minute to tidy the kitchen while it does its thing. The kitchen is still a disaster so it can't be that slow. If it dies I might ask my inlaws for their '70s Amana. Then the kitchen will sparkle.

Anyway it's a good idea to think of these things as disposable. Go for looks and layout. They're all safe.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 2:06PM
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Our sharp carousel is 19 years old. Maybe 20. We've never had a fire. It works as well as it did the day we bought it.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Our sharp (circa 1994) crapped out four months before we tore the house down to build a new one. Had to buy a GE over the range in the interim (and it worked fine).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 7:00PM
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My Sharp carousel is 13 yo and works fine. It replaced an older (by about 6 years) Sharp carousel that we took to our lake house. That one also still works, no problems ever with either of them.

I dread the day that I have to replace those microwaves (or my 26 yo Kenmore stacked washer/ dryer). Absolutely dread.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 8:12PM
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Just be aware that name brands mean nothing and how long your old appliance lasts can't be relied on for future guidance if it is more than four or five years old. What is more easily found are large and small appliance companies, both foreign and domestic, with design issues, intermittent supplier quality control issues, and erratic assembly quality, that choose to brazen things out year after year when it comes to their lemons.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 10:56PM
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This thread is pretty old! Funny how they reappear.

I too have an "oldie but goodie" Panasonic that we bought in 2000. It is white which worked in the previous house but not in this one. I have been waiting for almost 10 years for it to "die" so I could get a more "modern" looking one but no such luck, LOL. We have a completely new large MW at my place of work and it is not any faster than the one at home.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2013 at 10:17AM
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