The best compact microwave will sit neatly on your countertop and will have several functions to take on any cooking task you throw at it. Compact microwaves for small kitchens are a great way of saving space, and with small microwave ovens you can prepare a huge amount of dishes in very little time.
In this guide, we’ve found the best small microwaves that are powerful enough to cook a variety of food and take on defrosting tasks with ease. As all of the models in this guide are compact microwave ovens, you won’t find an option that can rival the capacity of one of the best ovens. Instead, compact microwaves generally go up to a capacity of around 1.2 cubic feet.
When you choose a new compact microwave, many factors can sway your decision. First up, how much do compact microwaves cost? The best cheap compact microwaves will set you back around $55 to $70. If you’re looking for a budget option, the Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is our pick for the best cheap small microwave.
On the other end of the scale, microwaves that cost more don’t necessarily mean you’re getting a better microwave. Our top pick, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS Compact Microwave does offer impressive power and capacity though and is available for under $190.
When choosing a compact microwave, take note of the wattage each model offers. Higher wattage microwaves will cook quickly and models that have an inverter ensure even heat throughout your food.
Finally, staying on top of cleaning your compact microwave can be a chore. Instead, opt for an easy-to-clean compact microwave. Small microwaves with smooth exteriors and removable turntables will be easy to clean and will help to maintain your microwave.
1. Panasonic NN-SN67KS Compact Microwave: Best compact microwave overall
If you’re looking for space and power, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS Compact Microwave is the ideal option for you. This compact microwave offers 1.2 cubic feet of space and its wattage is 1200 - the highest in our entire round up.
You can also expect 15 auto cook options with this microwave, spanning everything from quinoa and oatmeal to soup, omelets, and vegetables. There are 11 power settings and even a three-level popcorn button to get tasty treats just right.
To make everyday tasks that bit easier, the Panasonic NN-SN67KS Compact Microwave provides sensor cooking which automatically adjusts the power and cooking time for different foods to ensure it’s thoroughly cooked. The inverter turbo defrost function means you won’t be waiting as long for foods to thaw out either. What’s more, inverter technology heats the food that you place in your microwave thoroughly.
Available in black, white, and stainless steel, it’s worth noting that this microwave is the most expensive in our round up. User reviews praise how easy to clean this microwave is and that it’s very simple to use. Some reviews criticize the internal light suggesting it’s not bright enough.
2. Toshiba EM131A5C-SS microwave: Best compact microwave for versatility
The Toshiba EM131A5C-SS microwave is one of the best countertop microwaves around. It offers 1100 watts and has 10 different power levels. It’s available in both black stainless steel and stainless steel, and you can expect 1.2 cubic feet of space to cook your meals.
This compact microwave doesn’t have a bulky back on it as some models do, meaning it won’t take up too much room. The pre-programmed sensor menu means you can simply press a button and it will automatically cook certain foods using the right settings. Preset options include Sensor Reheat, Sensor Pizza, Potato, Rice, Frozen Veggies, and Frozen Entrée.
Another feature we liked was the ‘sound off’ option, and you can also silence the buzzer on this microwave too if you find the noises irritating.
For its price, this Toshiba microwave provides a decent wattage, however, some users did mention they were a little disappointed with the power. Overall, for the price and amount of features you get with this compact microwave, not to mention its sleek finish, the Toshiba EM131A5C-SS is a really solid choice.
3. Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB: Best cheap compact microwave
The Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is a great cheap microwave as it’s available for under $70. Offering 0.7 cubic feet of internal space, the Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB isn’t the largest but it also is the cheapest in our round up. For the money you get 10 power levels, an Express Cook mode, and an auto menu option.
Lightweight and compact, the Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is available in black and sports a digital control panel so that you can easily select which setting you need. Handy basics such as a safety lock are also included with this microwave.
The Black+Decker EM720CFO-PMB is a great compact microwave but it does only offer 700 watts of power. Some users noted that while this is a great microwave, it does work slowly as it’s not the most powerful. Other users stated that this microwave didn’t take up too much space on their countertop and that it was great at carrying out simple functions such as defrosting and heating up food.
4. Faberware FMO11AHTBKB Countertop Microwave: Best large capacity microwave
As compact microwaves go, the Faberware FMO11AHTBKB offers plenty of space for cooking and reheating food. Its capacity is 1.1 cubic feet but it won’t take up too much space on your countertop.
Available for under $100, you’re getting a good amount of space for your money and you can also take your pick from a stainless steel or black finish. This countertop microwave has a pull handle rather than a push button and its digital display makes it easy to use.
In terms of functions, you’ll get 10 power levels with the Faberware FMO11AHTBKB, an Express Cook mode, and a Memory Function which will get to know your cooking preferences. What’s more, you can expect six preset cooking settings including popcorn, pizza, potato, beverage, dinner plate, or frozen vegetables.
Users rate the Faberware FMO11AHTBKB microwave highly saying it has ‘great features’ and many commented on how ‘stylish’ it looks in their kitchen. Other users also mentioned that for the price, this microwave offered them all they needed. A few reviewers did state that this microwave is quite loud when you’re using it.
5. LG NeoChef LMC0975ST Countertop Microwave: Best easy-to-clean compact microwave
The LG NeoChef LMC0975ST isn’t the biggest microwave in our round up with 0.9 cubic feet of space, but it has some great features that make it easy to maintain and keep clean. Aside from its handy features, the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST is a very sleek and stylish microwave that looks premium even though it’s not as expensive as some other models.
Complete with LG’s smart inverter, this microwave heats more evenly using precise power, rather than blasting your whole dish. Internally the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST is designed with easy use in mind. The controls are made with smooth glass and there aren’t any old fashioned dials to navigate.
The complete smooth outer shell of this microwave makes it easy to clean and wipe down but inside the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST there is an anti-bacterial coating that is stain-resistant and aims to prevent build-up inside your microwave. The EasyClean coating means you don’t need to use harsh cleaning products to maintain this microwave, instead, you can just wipe it down with a damp cloth.
Another simple but clever feature that we like about the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST is its hexagonal stabilizer. This makes the microwave turntable much more solid and less likely to tip - most microwaves just have a three-point stabilizer.
Users rate the LG NeoChef LMC0975ST highly on aspects including style and performance. Other users commented on how easy to use this microwave is and that it’s ‘super quiet’. A few criticisms come in the form of this microwave being fairly expensive and a few reviews mention how this microwave is prone to showing fingerprints and marks on the outside.
How long do compact microwaves last?
The average lifespan of a microwave is only about nine years, according to the National Association of Home Builders' Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components. That means lots of folks are in the market about once a decade. Not everyone is ready to throw a broken one out right away, though, of course.
"We fix 10 to 15 microwaves a week," said Richard Spencer, who has been involved in the repair business since the 60s and owns Utah-based Mark-A-Newt Appliance Specialists.
On some brands, the magnetron - the most important and most expensive component, can be replaced for about $90. Depending on how much you paid for the unit initially that might be worth it. If you decide it is not worth it, there is plenty to consider before you buy.
Compact microwaves cost much less than over-the-range microwaves. The most popular compact microwaves on Amazon, Home Depot, and Lowe's had an average price of about $140. The average price for over-range units on the same sites is more than double that at $311, and depending on where you buy, you will have to pay for installation expenses beyond that on the over-range units.
Spencer said if he were looking for a new microwave he would look for one with accessible replacement parts, a brand that repair shops are willing to work on, and a good warranty. Price is not an indicator of quality necessarily, in this type of appliance. He's seen $2,000 microwaves that need major repairs in their first few weeks.
What to look for in a compact microwave oven
The most important feature of any microwave is how well it cooks. We fired up each microwave and tested them on commonly-prepared items like popcorn, pizza rolls and potatoes. Microwaves that cooked food completely and evenly got higher scores than those that left cold spots or burned spots. We also looked for units that have food-specific settings that work well and a wide selection of power levels, so you can be specific about how your food is cooked on each cycle.
Convenience features in a microwave
Most countertop microwaves come with a Quick Cook function, also known as Express Cook, which makes microwaving food even faster. 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.
Sensor cooking is a newer feature that's only available on a few countertop microwaves. 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.
The preset buttons can also be time-savers. The most common are popcorn, potato, and pizza. Other preset buttons that microwaves sport include ones for a beverage, fresh and frozen vegetables, soup, and bread.
Warranty & 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. Many manufacturers give you an all-encompassing warranty that covers all parts for the same amount of time.
Dimensions & power
The right balance between a small countertop footprint and adequate cubic footage inside can be tough to work out. We were pleasantly surprised by how much the smaller microwaves could fit so we generally recommend getting the smallest one that makes sense for your household. However, the smaller units tend to have less overall power. That being said, we were pleasantly surprised by how much overall power didn't really speed cooking, or at least not by much, so you can still get a smaller unit with less power and expect to be totally satisfied.