Despite its entry-level status, this microwave surprised us with effective performance in our tests and a cool heat-sensing extractor fan. That alone would sell for over $150, which makes the FFMV164LS an even better value.
Design and Usability
A fan that knows when to turn on
Quick! Think of a microwave! Imagine its shape, color and control panel. Chances are, you're picturing the Frigidaire FFMV164LS, the archetypal over-the-range microwave. That's not a bad thing: We're fans of the simple control panel that puts cooking modes on the top and a number pad on the bottom. Frigidaire's "smudge-proof" stainless is a shade darker than other stainless finishes, so keep that in mind.
The FFMV164LS features a good, old-fashioned door handle, which we far prefer to the chunky, stiff "Door Open" buttons found on some contemporary microwaves.
There's even a cool feature: The Auto-Start vent can automatically switch the fan on when a built-in sensor detects heat. If you tend to set off the smoke alarm when you make fajitas, you'll appreciate the help.
Not bad for the price
Despite its borderline budget pedigree, the FFMV164LS's performance was a pleasant surprise. It won't make your oven obsolete, but it did well in a few important areas. Despite not having much in the power department, this Frigidaire proved fairly adept at boiling water fast and heating foods relatively evenly. We found a few hot and cold spots in our mac and cheese, but they weren't anything a few quick stirs couldn't fix.
However, a pound of ground beef took over ten minutes to defrost. Other microwaves do it in almost half that time and don't leave as much frozen as this Frigidaire. The FFMV164LS's most egregious shortcoming was its lack of a cooking sensor, which means you'll have to follow recipes or use trial-and-error. We used a preset to cook a baked potato, but the result proved unevenly heated.
Best Supporting Actor
The Frigidaire FFMV164LS will never be the star of your kitchen. It lacks dazzling design or special features—save for the Auto-Start heat sensor fan.
It performs reasonably well, however, and that's enough for folks who spend most of their time cooking on a range. So if you want some help steaming veggies, popping popcorn, or warming up a cup of coffee, you could do far worse than this inexpensive Frigidaire.
The Frigidaire FFMV164LS's popcorn setting excelled. We found no burnt kernels, and only 38 kernels out of around 300 remained unpopped after the cycle was complete. Unfortunately, the preset cooking modes were a big disappointment. Absent a sensor, the baked potato setting overcooked out test sample resulting in food that was 7°F above the target temperature. We also recorded a wide variance of 9°F across the baked potato.
The FFMV164LS shouldn't prove overwhelmingly loud during regular use. We measured only 48 dB during normal use, while turning on the vent fan brought the sound level up to 61 dB.
Heating and Defrosting
In order to test a microwave's basic heating performance we warm up a portion of macaroni and cheese using the oven's default power level. Reheated food fared better in the FFMV164LS than food cooked using the preset, and we measured an average variance of 6°F across our reheated mac and cheese.
The defrost setting was both slow and uneven. The setting took 10:30 minutes to defrost a pound of ground beef, and about a fifth of the beef was still frozen at the end of the cycle.
On the other hand, water heating was remarkably snappy. The FFMV164LS took only three minutes to heat a cup of water to 210°F.
Meet the tester
Aside from reviewing ovens and cooktops, James moonlights as an educational theatre practitioner, amateur home chef, and weekend DIY warrior.
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