Best Compact Microwaves of 2018

Noel Case ·
Updated
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Since 2010 we have spent more than 200 hours researching and testing the best compact microwaves we could find. We did extensive online research comparing features, in addition to real-world experience testing them in our labs. The best compact microwave oven we found was the RCA RMW1414. It is a high-power microwave that is fast and cooks more evenly than any other microwave we tested. It has a big capacity for a compact microwave and a nice set of features to cook or reheat all kinds of food.

Best Overall

RCA RMW1414

The RCA RMW1414 is the best small microwave we tested because of its generous capacity with a big turntable, and it performs the way it should heating food quickly and evenly the first time.
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Best Value

Oster OGH6901

The Oster OGH6901 has sensor cooking functionality that lets you cook food to the right temperature. We got mixed results in some of our tests, but it is priced right and has a good feature package.
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Best Warranty

Samsung MG14H3020

The Samsung MG14H3020 has a generous 10-year magnetron warranty and a great feature package. With a generous capacity that lets you heat up plenty of food at once, this microwave performed well in our tests and is one of the best compact microwaves we tested.
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Product
Price
$107.46Amazon
$169.99Amazon
$109.27Amazon
$71.77Amazon
$70.10Amazon
$110.14Amazon
$115.99Amazon
$117.62Amazon
$54.44Amazon
Overall Rating
9.4
9.4
9.4
9.4
9.3
9.2
9.1
8.4
8.3
Functionality
9.7
9.6
9.5
9.8
9.4
9.5
9.3
9.3
8.2
Preset Buttons
9
8.5
9.3
9.3
9
9
8.5
5.6
8.1
Help & Support
9.1
10
9.1
7.5
9.4
8.2
9.5
9.5
9.1
Soup
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Frozen Vegetable
N/A
N/A
Potato Rating
85%
85%
85%
93%
85%
85%
85%
85%
83%
Fresh Vegetable
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Frozen Entree
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Pizza Rating
95%
83%
100%
95%
95%
95%
75%
N/A
75%
Dinner Plate
N/A
N/A
N/A
Popcorn Rating
92%
89%
96%
95%
94%
93%
97%
80%
88%
Bread
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Beverage
Interior Measurements (inches)
9.8x14.8x15.9
10.4x14.8x15.4
8.3x13x12.9
8.7x13.4x12.6
8.1x12x12
8.7x13.7x12.4
8.1x12.4x13.9
9.4x14x14.1
6.9x11x10.2
Wattage
1,000
950
950
900
900
900
950
1,000
700
Interior (cubic feet)
1.4
1.4
1.1
0.9
0.9
0.9
0.8
1.1
0.7
Turntable Diameter (inches)
12.8
14.3
12.3
10.5
10.6
10.5
11.2
11.3
10
Exterior Measurements (inches)
12.3x21.8x17.6
12.3x21.9x18.1
12x20.5x14
11.1x19x14.1
11.5x19.1x14.8
11.3x19.1x16.1
11x19.2x14.8
12x20.3x14.8
10.2x17.3x13
Child Lock
Quick Cook
N/A
N/A
Power
100%
97%
95%
98%
94%
96%
93%
93%
83%
Maximum Power Levels
11
10
10
9
11
11
10
11
11
Timer
Size
100%
100%
100%
100%
100%
87%
87%
100%
73%
30-Second Key
N/A
Sensor Cooking
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Online Manual
N/A
FAQs or Knowledgebase
N/A
Warranty - Parts & Labor
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
Warranty - Magnetron
1 Year
10 Years
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
8 Years
5 Years
5 Years
1 Year
Customer Support
Phone, Email
All
All
Phone, Email
Phone, Email
All
All
All
Phone, Email
Best Overall

RCA RMW1414

The RCA RMW1414 cooks faster and more evenly than any other small microwave we tested, and its interior is large enough to fit big bowls, dinner plates or tall glasses.
In one of our tests, we cooked a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner in this RCA microwave at the recommended 165 F on the back of the box. It thoroughly cooked the food without adding any extra time. In our mini-corndog test we measured the individual temperature of the corndogs for evenness, and we didn’t get any cold spots with the RCA, which didn’t happen with any other microwave. This is one of the largest microwaves in our lineup, with a capacity of 1.4 cubic feet. Its turntable is big enough to comfortably fit a standard-sized dinner plate or a large mixing bowl, allowing you to heat large amounts of leftovers at once. If you’re like many people you may not want to think too much about how to cook with your microwave, and this microwave has a reheat button that uses sensors to determine when the food is done. However, it lacks a quick-cook function and a 30-second key to add time as you cook. Preset buttons for this microwave include popcorn, pizza and potato. In our popcorn test there were only eight unpopped kernels, which was much better than most other microwaves we tested. The potato button is preset to cook a potato for three minutes, but we had to double that time to cook it thoroughly. However, it came out fluffy and tender and registered an impressive 201 F. Our cold pizza reheated in a minute. The preset button is set for 40 seconds, but we had to add 20 more to get it to the right temperature.
Pros
  • This microwave is fast and cooks more evenly than any other unit we tested.
  • It has a large capacity for a compact microwave at 1.4 cubic feet.
  • The reheat function has sensors that will heat your food to the right temperature.
Cons
  • There is no add 30-second button to extend time.
  • We had to add extra time to the pizza and potato presets to heat and cook them thoroughly.
  • It lacks a quick-cook function.
$87.62Amazon
Best Value

Oster OGH6901

The Oster OGH6901 is an affordable 900-watt countertop microwave with an intuitive control panel that lets you quickly set different power levels and cooking times for different types of food. The control panel has preset buttons for common foods like popcorn, potatoes, pizza, frozen dinners and beverages.
This microwave has a handy reheat button to warm foods without overcooking. The quick-cook option and 30-second key speed up heating by letting you set the cooking time or add to your cooking time with the push of a single button. A key feature of the Oster microwave is sensor cooking that measures humidity and temperature in the interior of the microwave to determine when food is done so it doesn’t overcook. You can defrost meat based on weight or use a speed defrost key if you need the food fast. This Oster performed well in our tests overall, but there were a few flaws. We heated a frozen macaroni and cheese dinner according to the directions on the package. It came out to a safe 167 F, just exceeding the 165 F recommended by food safety experts. The mini corn dogs and fries we cooked next weren’t quite as successful, however. Three of the four corn dogs heated to 167 F, but the fourth was still cold. In our popcorn tests we had to take the bag out 36 seconds before the allotted 2:20 minutes because it stopped popping. There were still 20 unpopped kernels, which wasn’t bad but behind much of the competition. The Oster performed extremely well in our potato test, cooking the potato in a quick 3:20 minutes to 181 F. The pizza heated to 170 F in a minute using the preset button.
Pros
  • Its sensor gathers humidity and temperature information to determine if food is done.
  • This microwave has a quick-cook option and a 30-second key.
  • It is a very affordable microwave with a great set of features.
Cons
  • It has one of the smaller capacities when compared with other microwaves in our reviews.
  • This microwave didn’t cook evenly in all of our tests.
  • The popcorn preset was set for too much time.
$79.70Amazon
Best Warranty

Samsung MG14H3020

The Samsung MG14H3020 gives your kitchen a modern look with its sleek mirror-like design, but more importantly it produces evenly cooked food. Its 10-year warranty for the element that creates the electromagnetic waves is the longest of any in our lineup.
It scored high in most of our tests and has several convenience features. In the macaroni and cheese frozen meal test, the Samsung cooked the meal in the 3:30 minutes recommended on the back of the box. We measured the temperature at 185 F, well above the safe temperature suggested by the USDA. The Samsung also performed well in our kids meal test, which was designed to measure how evenly the microwave cooks food. We measured the temperature of individual mini corn dogs after cooking them according to the instructions on the box, and found that each one was just a few degrees shy of the USDA-recommended 165 F. Nuking them an additional 30 seconds sufficiently brought them to safe temperatures. We also tested the pizza, popcorn and preset buttons. We had to stop the popcorn 11 seconds before the allotted preset time because the popping had stopped. None of the popcorn burned but 26 kernels remained unpopped, which was more than average. We had to add extra time to the potato and pizza to get them thoroughly cooked and at safe temperatures. These preset buttons are a nice convenience, but you’ll have to adjust times and make use of the add 30-second button to get food cooked right. While this microwave lacks a quick-cook setting, it has a sensor reheat button to warm food like casserole or pasta to the right temperature and avoid overcooking. It has a generous capacity of 1.4 cubic feet, which allows you to fit tall glasses and wide bowls and plates on its turntable.
Pros
  • This microwave has a unique grilling feature.
  • The magnetron warranty is good for 10 years, the best of any microwave in our lineup.
  • It has a generous 1.4-cubic-foot capacity.
Cons
  • There is no quick-cook function.
  • It lacks a minute-based cook setting.
  • We had to add or subtract from the preset button times to get the food cooked right.
$229.00Amazon

Why Trust Us 

We have been reviewing compact microwave ovens since 2010. The 200-plus hours we have devoted to online research and testing microwaves in our lab lends authority to our reviews. Our side-by-side comparison chart gives you a quick look at features you want to be sure you get, and helps you make a more informed purchasing decision. We reached out to manufacturers with questions we had along the way. We also consulted with professionals and industry insiders to get opinions about specific models and features, and to increase our understanding of compact microwaves so we can pass on that information to you.

How We Tested 

The smaller the microwave, the lower the wattage; the lower the wattage, the slower your food is going to cook. So we took every microwave we procured for a test spin (there are turntables!) and discovered that some microwaves, like the GE JES1145SHSS, cook faster than others that are about the same size and wattage. We also looked at the size of each oven. Manufacturers tell you the cubic feet, but how do you translate that to your dinnerware and mixing bowls? We shoved dinner plates, tall glasses and large bowls separately into each oven to let you know which one has the biggest actual capacity.

The big selling point of microwaves is convenience, so we also looked at the presets that many compact microwaves include, such as quick-cook and 30-second buttons. You can expect the best compact microwaves to have a turntable, which helps with even heating; defrost functions so you can gently thaw food by time or weight; and a child lock, which can prevent the accidental microwaving of, say, a toy fire truck or doll shoe.

What to Look for in a Compact Microwave Oven 

Functionality & Convenience
The most important feature of any microwave is how well it cooks, followed by how quickly it cooks. We fired up each microwave oven with popular frozen meals and followed the instructions on the packaging. Those that reached a safe food temperature – 165 F, according to the United States Department of Agriculture – after the recommended cooking time received more credit than those that required more cooking time. We also tested a kids meal with miniature corn dogs and took the temperature of each dog to test how evenly each microwave cooked food. Microwaves that cooked food throughout in the recommended time got higher scores than those that needed more time.

Many of the microwaves in our lineup can fit a 7.5-inch glass, a 10.5-inch dinner plate and an 11.5-inch mixing bowl. However, there was one that could only handle the plate – the Insignia NS-7CM6-BK.

A Quick Cook function, also known as Express Cook, makes microwaving food even faster – you just press a button for numbers 1-6 to cook for as many minutes. The 30-second key is also a time-saver because you can simply add 30 seconds to the cook time as your food is cooking. Most of the microwaves in our lineup include both of these convenient buttons. The Panasonic NN-SD372 has a one-minute button instead, but we still gave it equal credit to those with the 30-second key.

Sensor cooking is a newer feature that's only available on a few countertop microwaves, such as he Samsung MG14H302. With this feature, you press the reheat button and sensors measure the steam that emits from your food to determine when it's done so that it cooks for just the right amount of time.

Preset Buttons
We tested the three most popular food buttons – popcorn, potato and pizza. We popped more than 6,800 kernels of popcorn to determine which microwave oven was the most efficient and accurate with its timing. The Kenmore 73093 came out on top, leaving only four unpopped kernels in the bowl.

Almost every microwave needed at least six minutes to properly bake a potato. However, some compact microwaves can cook a potato to perfect tenderness and about 200 F in less time. For example, the Oster OGH6901 only took slightly longer than four minutes.

Not every microwave has a pizza button, but those that did reheated a slice of pizza at wildly different times. The GE JES1145SHSS only took 40 seconds to reheat pizza to a safe temperature, and it received the highest score for this test. The Panasonic NN-SD372 had a pizza button that heated pizza for 2.5 minutes, overcooking our test slices. The Sharp R-309YK does not have a pizza button.

Other preset buttons that microwaves sport include ones for a beverage, fresh and frozen vegetables, a frozen entree, soup, and bread. The Panasonic NN-SD372 has the most food presets in our lineup, including ones for oatmeal and breakfast sausage.

Help & Support
One of the most overlooked pieces of information in your user manual is the warranty, and some microwave manufacturers offer a longer warranty specifically for the magnetron. The best warranty you can find is from Samsung and Magic Chef. Although the parts and labor are only covered for one year, the magnetron, the tube inside your microwave oven that generates the waves, gets a full 10 years of protection from Samsung, and eight years from Magic Chef. Many manufacturers give you an all-encompassing warranty that covers all parts for the same amount of time – for instance, Kenmore offers two years of protection from defects.

Customer support comes standard from every manufacturer in our lineup, so you can get help by phone, email or live chat. If you prefer to find the answer to your question on your own, you can search FAQs and knowledgebases from companies like GE, RCA and Haier.

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