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The Best Affordable Countertop Microwaves of 2019 Credit: Getty / Rostislav_Sedlacek

The Best Affordable Countertop Microwaves of 2022

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The Best Affordable Countertop Microwaves of 2019 Credit: Getty / Rostislav_Sedlacek

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Editor's Choice Product image of Magic Chef HMM1110B
Best Overall

Magic Chef HMM1110B

This affordable microwave comes with 10 power levels and essential presets, as well as offering multi-stage cooking and three stylish finishes. Read More

Pros

  • Affordable
  • 10 power levels
  • Multiple finishes

Cons

  • None that we could find
2
Product image of Galanz GSWWD11S1S10

Galanz GSWWD11S1S10

This is a basic microwave oven that gets the job done with easy-to-use controls and a simple design. Read More

Pros

  • Easy-to-use controls
  • Simple design
  • Thorough cooking power

Cons

  • Doesn’t include multi-stage cooking
  • Confusing display
3
Product image of GE JES1145SHSS

GE JES1145SHSS

Simple and attractively built with even heating, this mid-sized GE microwave has all the basic functions you need in a microwave. Read More

Pros

  • Attractive
  • Useful presets

Cons

  • Buzzes loudly
  • Slightly underpowered
4
Editor's Choice Product image of Toshiba EM131A5C-BS

Toshiba EM131A5C-BS

The 1100W, 1.2 cubic-foot unit is mid-powered and aesthetically pleasing, with sensor cooking, multi-stage cooking, and a variety of presets—but it only performed adequately. Read More

Pros

  • Useful presets
  • Smart sensor

Cons

  • Not very fast heating
  • Slightly oversized
5
Product image of Toshiba EM925A5A-SS

Toshiba EM925A5A-SS

The EM925A5A has one-touch controls, a mutable buzzer, a fingerprint-proof front panel, and a pull-open door, but it's performance is only adequate. Read More

Pros

  • Easy controls
  • Quiet
  • Fine performance

Cons

  • No sensor cook
  • Somewhat small

Here’s a little known secret: Most cheap microwaves are essentially the same—even the best budget models.

That’s because many appliance companies hire a less-famous manufacturer to make countertop models for them, then they put their well-known names on the front. That’s why you shouldn’t pay too much for a microwave.

Still, after testing affordable microwaves, we found some performance differences. The scores were very close, but the Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave (available at Amazon) emerged as the best affordable countertop microwave you can buy. It's well-designed, has top-notch performance, and has a low price.

Ultimately, you should pick a countertop microwave with the wattage you need, the control panel that's easiest for your cooking needs, and in a size that fits your space. So be sure to scroll through all our reviews to find the best one for you.

Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave is our favorite affordable countertop microwave.

Best Overall
Magic Chef 1.1 Cubic-Foot Countertop Microwave
  • Dimensions: 23 x 18.5 x 14.5 inches
  • Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet
  • Power: 1000 watts

This mid-sized microwave from Magic Chef passed all our food tests with flying colors, and, as one online reviewer wrote, it’s “built like a tank.”

It's one of the few cheap microwaves we tested that offers multi-stage cooking. That means, for example, you can set the cooking power for the first minute at 40 percent, and then an additional 90 seconds at 50 percent without coming back to the oven to reset the time and power level.

While it's a pretty typical appliance, with a shiny exterior and almost retro-looking control panel, it gets the job done. It has enough power and space to handle most tasks, except perhaps cooking an entire chicken. With 10 power levels and essential presets, this microwave has everything you need.

Pros

  • Affordable

  • 10 power levels

  • Multiple finishes

Cons

  • None that we could find


Other Affordable Countertop Microwaves We Tested

Product image of Galanz GSWWD11S1S10
Galanz ExpressWave
  • Dimensions: 15.75 x 19 x 11 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 900 watts

It's not surprising that the Galanz ExpressWave countertop microwave scored well in our performance testing. This Chinese company partners with many popular appliance brands to manufacture microwaves, so it has considerable experience in creating these appliances.

For a basic microwave with no multi-stage cooking, we liked this microwave quite a bit. It passed all our food tests and its numerical display is very easy to read.

The only thing that gives us pause is that its display could be a bit confusing because this unit doesn’t have a keypad that you’ll find on more traditional microwave control panels.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use controls

  • Simple design

  • Thorough cooking power

Cons

  • Doesn’t include multi-stage cooking

  • Confusing display

Product image of GE JES1145SHSS
GE 1.1 Cubic-Foot Mid-Size Microwave
  • Dimensions: 15.63 x 20.31 x 12 inches
  • Capacity: 1.1 cubic feet
  • Power: 950 watts

This mid-sized stainless-steel GE microwave has more than 1,000 five-star reviews on Best Buy for its simplicity, even heating, and attractive design.

Its interior light comes on (and stays on) whenever the microwave is open or running, and its control panel features 12 helpful functions, including a weight defrost function. Just enter the weight of the meat you’re trying to defrost, and it will properly heat your meal without leaving frozen spots.

During our lab testing, this microwave passed all of our cooking tests; however, we discovered the buttons were not very intuitive. Rather than using the "start" button to start the kitchen timer, you have to press the timer button itself to stop or start the countdown.

Pros

  • Attractive

  • Useful presets

Cons

  • Buzzes loudly

  • Slightly underpowered

Product image of Toshiba EM131A5C-BS
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS
  • Dimensions: 17.1 x 20.5 x 12.8 inches
  • Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Power: 1100 watts

The Toshiba EM131A5C Microwave Oven with Smart Sensor was our former top pick based on reviews and specs—but after formal testing, we’ve found it to be quite average. Mid-powered and aesthetically pleasing, this unit has sensor cooking, multi-stage cooking, and a variety of presets.

If you'd prefer to stick with a Toshiba microwave, this model is the cheapest that offers a smart sensor, which adjusts the cook time based on how much steam your food releases.

We like its convenient one-touch controls, mutable buzzer, fingerprint-proof front panel, and door that opens by pulling the handle, rather than pressing in a rather stiff door button.

This Toshiba excelled in the pork and popcorn tests, but it really struggled to heat tomato sauce in the time given. It’s easy to use and quieter than other units we tested. Ultimately, this is a very standard microwave.

Pros

  • Useful presets

  • Smart sensor

Cons

  • Not very fast heating

  • Slightly oversized

Product image of Toshiba EM925A5A-SS
Toshiba EM925A5A-SS
  • Dimensions: 15.91 x 19.15 x 11.48 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 900 watts

The Toshiba EM925A5A Microwave Oven performed similarly to its larger counterpart. However, it was better at heating tomato sauce, and was solid in popping popcorn and heating frozen dinners. It also seemed quieter when in use than many countertop models we tested.

The EM925A5A has the same one-touch controls, mutable buzzer, fingerprint-proof front panel, and pull-open door that we love on the EM131A5C. It also comes in the same stainless steel and black stainless finishes. All it’s missing is the sensor cook option, which is reserved for more expensive models.

This is a fine, basic microwave at a very affordable price, but it’s too small for more substantial cooking.

Pros

  • Easy controls

  • Quiet

  • Fine performance

Cons

  • No sensor cook

  • Somewhat small

Product image of Magic Chef MCM990ST
Magic Chef MCM990ST
  • Dimensions: 14.6 x 19.1 x 11.3 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 900 watts

The Magic Chef MCM990ST Countertop Oven has a stainless steel front, but its looks are still on the dated side.

It popped popcorn well and adequately heated frozen dinners and tomato sauce. Features include 10 cooking power levels, auto cook and auto defrost menus, eight cooking modes, and a child safety lock.

This basic microwave includes a push-button door at a very affordable price, but it’s too small for more substantial cooking.

Pros

  • Fine performance

  • Affordable

Cons

  • Old-fashioned design

  • Slightly small

Product image of Black & Decker EM925AB9
Black & Decker EM925AB9
  • Dimensions: 19.1 x 14.8 x 11.5 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 900 watts

The Black and Decker EM925AB9 Digital Microwave Oven is very similar to the Magic Chef MCM990ST, but with a more modern exterior and more features.

This unit, which features a child lock, multi-stage cooking, and presets including a 30-second express cooking button, performed well in every test except for the tomato sauce test.

The microwave also features a large LED display, a removable turntable, and a push-button door release.

Pros

  • Useful presets

  • Modern look

Cons

  • Slightly small

  • Not very quick at heating

Product image of LG NeoChef LMC0975ST
LG NeoChef with Smart Inverter and EasyClean
  • Dimensions: 14.5 x 18 x 11 inches
  • Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power: 1000 watts

With its partial stainless-steel finish and limited exterior buttons, this sleek LG NeoChef microwave will blend seamlessly into a modern minimalist's dream kitchen. But what you get in design, you lose in function—to achieve its streamlined exterior, the controls are split between the interior and exterior of the microwave.

Inside, the control panel is functional, yet limited. On the outside, there are three main buttons for start/pause, stop/cancel, and a touch slider bar that lets you adjust the cook time using plus and minus buttons (even during cooking).

For those who are used to having a traditional keypad in one place, this might take time to get used to. For us, it was a bit annoying that you had to open the door to do anything more complicated than setting a cook time.

While this microwave passed most of our food tests, it left the Hungry Man mashed potatoes and chicken wings lukewarm. While it's easy to add more cook time, that's obviously not ideal.

Pros

  • Sleek design

Cons

  • Lukewarm heating power

  • Limited control panel

Product image of AmazonBasics Microwave
AmazonBasics Microwave
  • Dimensions: 17.3 x 14.1 x 10.1 inches
  • Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet
  • Power: 700 watts

This popular compact microwave from AmazonBasics has one feature that sets it apart from every other one we tested—it’s a smart device designed to be used with Alexa.

But of all the appliances we tested, this tiny little unit is the only one we vehemently do not recommend.

This microwave is both too small and too weak to perform many basic tasks. It’s almost too small for a standard bag of popcorn, and in testing, it struggled to pop the popcorn and heat a frozen dinner. It’s also the cheapest unit we tested, and we can see why.

Sure, the Alexa command aspect is a unique bonus feature that allows the microwave’s display panel to stay uncluttered, because you can select from dozens of preset options using just your voice. On the other hand, it’s another thing that can break, and it isn’t that useful. If you have to physically walk over to your microwave to put food in and take food out, what’s the hassle of just pressing a button to start it?

Pros

  • Smart device

  • Many presets

  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Poor performance

  • Uneven heating

  • Low wattage


How We Tested Countertop Microwaves

The Testers

Hi all, my name is Julia MacDougall, and I’m the senior scientist here at Reviewed. Most of the products I test aren’t food-related, so my tummy rumbled in excitement when I saw that I’d be putting these microwaves through their paces.

Prior to our 2020 formal testing, this roundup was researched and edited by Cassidy Olsen, Reviewed's former kitchen and cooking editor. She chose products for this guide by reading hundreds of user reviews, researching price and model history, and considering which kitchen appliances most people need—whether they have a large or a small kitchen.

Microwaves were evaluated for their affordability, size, wattage, and usefulness of features, in addition to the evenness of heating and durability as reported in user reviews. Overall user scores and brand history were also taken into account.

The Tests

Microwave tests - water test
Credit: Reviewed / Julia MacDougall

We ran each microwave through five different objective tests, in addition to our subjective evaluation.

When assessing microwaves, we looked for common issues such as non-responsive buttons, confusing or dimly-lit control panels and buttons, loud humming noises, or anything that would prevent the microwave from being easy to clean.

Our favorite models are both effective and user-friendly. To understand how well the microwaves we tested actually performed, we subjected each to a battery of food tests, including:

Water test: To get a sense of raw power, we warmed up three cups of water for two minutes on the microwave’s maximum power setting, and then measured the water’s temperature. More powerful appliances, typically, will result in hotter water temperatures.

Tomato sauce test: To see if there is a difference in a microwave’s power levels, we heated up one cup of tomato sauce in a ceramic dish for 30 seconds on level 2, 30 seconds on level 6, and 30 seconds on level 10, measuring the temperature in between each stage of heating.

Popcorn test: One of the most obvious use cases is popping popcorn. Using the popcorn setting on each microwave, we popped a regular-sized bag of popcorn. Once it stopped, we looked to see if either the bag or the popcorn was burned. We also recorded the number of unpopped kernels.

Hungry-Man test: To see how well a microwave could heat up a frozen dinner, we followed the microwave directions on the back of the Hungry-Man Boneless Fried Chicken dinner box. When it finished cooking, we looked at each of the four dinner components (two breaded chicken patties, mashed potatoes, corn, and a brownie) to see if they were evenly and thoroughly cooked.

Pork roast test: After thoroughly cooking four small boneless pork loins, we cut them up into smaller slices and let them cool in the fridge overnight. The next day, we put four palm-size pork loin slices on a small plate, covered them with a paper towel, and used the setting on the microwave that was most appropriate for reheating approximately 8 oz. of meat. Once it finished reheating the meat, we touched each piece of pork to determine if it was hot enough to eat.

How to Choose the Best Microwave for You

Cuisinart Microwave with Popcorn 2
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

We suggest choosing a unit that will cost you between $100 and $200.

Cost: A microwave can cost anywhere from $20 to $2,000. As it turns out, very expensive microwaves aren’t inherently better than the ones that go for around $100. If you’re drawn to super high-end design, covet a ton of features, want a unit that’s built into your cabinetry, or prefer over-the-range microwaves, you will probably be spending at least $200.

Power: People often believe that the higher the wattage, the better the microwave, but we’ve found that isn’t always the case. Even though we recommend a baseline of 900-1000 watts for mid-sized models, there are compact microwaves with just 700 watts that heat food evenly—whether you’re baking potatoes, popping popcorn or just trying to reheat leftovers on a dinner plate. Generally, the higher the wattage, the faster your microwave cooks. So if you’re only using your unit for basic tasks or don’t care about lightning speeds, don’t be afraid of lower wattages.

Capacity: Microwave sizes generally range from 0.5 to just over 2 cubic feet. We find that most models over 1.5 cubic feet are needlessly big. Compact models (between 0.5 and 0.9 cubic feet) can suit smaller kitchens, dorms, and anywhere you need to conserve counter space, but may be too small to cook or reheat all types of food. Ultimately, buy whatever size suits your needs, and make sure to compare the exterior dimensions to your actual space before you invest, but remember that bigger isn’t always better.

Meet the testers

Julia MacDougall

Julia MacDougall

Senior Scientist

@reviewed

Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.

See all of Julia MacDougall's reviews
Cassidy Olsen

Cassidy Olsen

Contributor

@olsencassidy

Cassidy covered all things cooking as the kitchen editor for Reviewed from 2018 to 2020. An experimental home chef with a healthy distrust of recipes, Cassidy lives by the "Ratatouille" philosophy that, with a few techniques and key tools, anyone can cook. She's produced in-depth reviews and guides on everything from meal kits to stand mixers and the right way to cook an egg.

See all of Cassidy Olsen's reviews

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