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Some food snobs may scoff, but countertop microwaves can make your culinary life simpler and more efficient. They reduce heat times, require fewer dishes, and revive leftovers in just a few minutes. The most innovative microwave ovens can even provide more convenience, with automatic programmed modes for commonly microwavable items such as “popcorn,” “defrost chicken,” or “reheat leftovers.” We appreciate a smart appliance that does even more work for us, and these are the best countertop microwaves for you and your crew to enjoy.

How we chose the best countertop microwaves

To provide a reliable list of the best microwave brands and ovens that satisfy your needs, we conducted both research and hands-on testing. We scoured the internet for customer favorites and the best microwave brands that consistently make quality products. We paid extra attention to reliability, ease of use, and quality that lasts a decade, and considered the types of microwaves you may be looking for, so you had a range of options. The models in this roundup are differentiated from over-the-range microwaves as those require a more involved installation process.

Some users may need a small countertop microwave, while others are looking for a stylish, stainless steel microwave that looks cool on the counter. We also wanted to offer a range of price points, from around $100 budget buyers to $300+ luxe models. All of the microwaves come with standard features and good brand recognition. 

The best countertop microwaves: Reviews & Recommendations

Microwaves make life easier, provided you pick the right model for your and your household’s needs. Below, we’ve collected our favorite options from what’s available on the market today.

Best overall: Sharp SMC1169HS

Brandt Ranj / Popular Science


Why it made the cut: When it comes to countertop microwave ovens, we love Sharp’s because it doesn’t take up too much counter space while still providing plenty of power.


  • Capacity: ‎1.1 cubic feet
  • Item Weight: ‎37 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 20.6 x 11.8 inches


  • Compact size
  • Similar in power to more expensive models
  • Price


  • Wi-Fi connectivity exclusively through Alexa

Sharp’s SMC1169HS is the best counter microwave we tested because it exceeded the performance of more expensive models in many of our tests, even if it didn’t have all the same bells and whistles. When making popcorn using the SMC1169HS’ preset button, it left the fewest kernels behind. The countertop microwave raised the temperature of a mug full of water to 123 degrees in two minutes and cooked a 2.75-ounce sausage up to 213 degrees in a couple of minutes. These are the most common uses for a microwave, and the SMC1169HS had no problem handling them.

While the counter microwave’s look is understated, it doesn’t feel cheaply produced. Its buttons are responsive, the larger LEDs are easily read, and the typeface beneath its presets is bold and legible. Where ease of use is concerned, the SMC1169HS gets full marks. If you’re an Amazon Alexa smart-home platform user, you can control the SMC1169HS hands-free (once it’s connected to your Wi-Fi network) by asking your smart assistant to engage a particular setting or set a cook time.

We’d have preferred having the option to use Google Assistant as well, as this feature isn’t accessible unless you’ve gone all-in on Amazon’s platform. Still, this is an entirely optional setting and didn’t impact the countertop microwave’s ability to cook food—its primary function. If you’re looking for a powerful microwave that performs well above what we’d expect from an appliance in its price range, Sharp’s SMC1169HS is the best choice.

Best splurge: Breville Smooth Wave Microwave

Brandt Ranj / Popular Science


Why it made the cut: Breville’s high-end microwave can handle heating leftover pizza, meat, and tea.


  • Capacity: ‎1.2 cubic feet
  • Item Weight: ‎26.2 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 20.43 x 12.44 inches


  • Tons of presets
  • Larger capacity
  • Large screen


  • Cost

Breville’s Smooth Wave Microwave was the best-looking by a longshot, and its user interface was the nicest to use. This high-end microwave performed okay in our popcorn test—its performance actually varied by popcorn brand—but it raised the temperature of a mug of water to 119 degrees in two minutes and cooked a 2.75-ounce sausage from the fridge to 202 degrees using its dedicated meat cooking setting. Rather than cluttering up its face with numbers and buttons, the Smooth Wave Microwave has its presets on the inside of its door. There are quick start buttons for commonly cooked foods like bacon, pizza, hot chocolate, and even a setting for softening butter.

Hitting the smart cook button will bring up a menu of additional presets for popcorn and various types of food. The Smooth Wave even has dedicated settings for both meat and chicken, and hard, soft, or frozen vegetables. This specificity will allow you to get the appropriate cook more precisely than a single preset button or just punching in a cook time. Navigating through the microwave’s menus was simple thanks to its pair of dials, and we appreciated the ability to quickly add 30 seconds by pushing “Start” button.

The Smooth Wave Microwave is undoubtedly overkill for anyone who only uses this appliance for quick reheating jobs, but it significantly increases what you can do with it. In some ways, the Smooth Wave Microwave is more similar to a smart countertop oven like one made by Brava, given all its settings. If your counter space is limited, and you can only have one or two appliances that can serve multiple functions—or be relied upon to aid or entirely cook meals several times a week—Breville’s Smooth Wave is up to the task.

Quietest: TOSHIBA EM925A5A-SS Countertop Microwave Oven



Why it made the cut: This quiet countertop microwave offers a mute button to prevent the “finished” alert sound from beeping.


  • Capacity: ‎0.9 cubic feet
  • Item Weight: 27.3 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 19.1 x 11.5 inches


  • Budget-friendly
  • Space-saving and compact design
  • Mute button
  • Over 13,000 positive Amazon reviews
  • Stylish


  • Closing door is still loud

If you’ve got a newborn, roommates, or simply hate the obnoxious sound of a microwave “all done!” alert, you’ll love that this quiet countertop microwave oven has a mute button. Simply hold down on the number eight for three or so seconds to shut off the sound.

This 900W microwave features a stylish stainless steel finish, easy defrosting by weight/time, six auto menus, 10 power levels, express cook buttons for 1-6 minutes, as well as a memory function and an energy-saving ECO mode.  

It’s one of the best compact microwaves, budget-friendly, and features a bright LED digital display for easy handling. With over 13,000 Amazon reviews, this model can be trusted to deliver a pain-free experience. Do note that some reviewers say shutting the microwave can still be loud, even with extra care. 

Best small: BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven



Why it made the cut: For tight spaces, apartment dwellers, offices, and other compact needs, this mini microwave is super affordable and comes with all the necessary features. 


  • Capacity: ‎0.7 cubic feet
  • Item Weight: 22.5 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 17.3 x 10.2 inches


  • Compact, Small microwave
  • Child lock feature
  • 10 power levels
  • Super affordable


  • May be too small for some dishes
  • Buttons could be more sensitive

The Black + Decker 0.7 Cubic Foot 700 Watt Stainless Steel Microwave is tiny and affordable without sacrificing all the features and perks you’d look for. It has 10 power levels, a removable glass turntable, and a spacious interior that’ll fit your dinners with ease without overpowering your kitchen counter.

This portable microwave countertop model comes with Sensor technology for consistent heating results, six pre-programmed buttons, and a large LED digital display. At ‎13 x 17.3 x 10.2 inches, you can easily slide this into any kitchen or room corner.

The small countertop microwave for countertop also has a safety lock feature to ensure your children’s safety. Some downsides are the buttons may not be sensitive enough for certain users, and a tiny microwave might not fit all your larger dinner-sized dishes. However, it’s simple, practical, and a great price point for what you get.

Best stainless steel: Cuisinart CMW-110

Brandt Ranj / Popular Science


Why it made the cut: If you love the look and functionality of a stainless steel model, this Cuisinart microwave is our recommendation.


  • Capacity: 1.1 cubic foot
  • Item Weight: 37 pounds 
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 18 x 16 inches


  • Stainless steel material
  • Useful presets
  • Express recook is handy


  • Price

If you’re doing a kitchen remodel or upgrade and want to keep the look of your appliances consistent, Cuisinart’s CMW-110 is your stainless steel solution. It performed the best in our microwave popcorn test, leaving the fewest number of kernels when using its preset button. Similarly, it raised the temperature of a mug of water to 115 degrees and cooked a 2.75-ounce sausage to 211 degrees using its meat/poultry preset. This performance is made possible by the microwave Sensor IQ technology, which measures how much steam is present to manage its cook times automatically.

A lot of what we like about our top choice microwave is present here, from the responsive buttons and large text beneath the presets, to its overall performance. However, one of the stars of the show with the CMW-110 is its stainless steel construction, which does a lot to bolster its aesthetics. Its silver front and black frame play off one another well, and make the microwave easy on the eyes. If you’d like a countertop microwave that performs well and will match your aesthetic aspirations, don’t miss out.

Best budget: Farberware Classic Microwave Oven

Why it made the cut: For less than $100, you can get a high-quality budget-countertop microwave that’s compact, space-saving, and gets the job done.


  • Capacity: ‎0.7 cubic feet
  • Item Weight: ‎22.5 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 12.99 x 10.14 inches


  • Budget-friendly
  • Space-saving and compact design
  • Lightweight 
  • Easy to clean


  • Somewhat loud
  • 700W may not be powerful enough; more cooking time may be needed

This 700-watt stainless steel microwave oven is a great budget option for smaller kitchens, office spaces, or anyone looking to save a few bucks. It features six one-touch cooking options, 10 power levels up to 700 watts, a large digital screen, and even a memory function to save previous cook times for your most common microwavable meals. 

Note that 700W may not be powerful for some recommended cooking times. This is usually remedied by adding more cooking time to dishes. One reviewer noted that there’s some moisture build-up after each use, but they leave the door open for a minute or so to counteract that. For the price, it does a solid job and won’t take up a lot of space so it’s useful for an apartment or a college dorm.

What to consider before buying the best countertop microwaves

You’ll want to consider a few key factors when shopping for the best countertop microwaves:

Brand and reputation

First, look into shopping with the best microwave brands that have a consistent reputation for building quality products that last. There’s nothing more frustrating than spending $100+ on something that breaks after two weeks. This is likely one of those situations where you’ll want to stick with a brand you’re familiar with so they can offer a useful, honest warranty if things go badly.


Assess your living space in order to hone in on the type of model you’ll need. For example, an extra-large model probably won’t suit you if you have a small apartment without much countertop space. Look for terms like “compact microwaves,” “mini microwaves,” or “portable microwaves,” in the description. Always look at production dimensions! It’s absolutely worth it to measure the space you expect it to sit so you can get an idea of how much room it really eats on your counter.

Smart features and program modes

There are also smart models for people who value tech-forward models. Safety features are also important if you have little ones—so be sure to look out for child lock safety modes. Most microwaves will come with standard features like auto-timed buttons or correlated times with names of popular foods like “defrost chicken” or “popcorn.”

If you find microwaves haven’t been powerful enough for you in the past, or you tend to cook items that are more involved than just a simple Chinese takeout reheat, pay attention to the Wattage for more power. The options on this list vary between roughly 700 watts at max power up to over 1,250 watts.


Q: Do countertop microwaves need to be vented?

Yes! Because there’s metal inside a microwave, this metal can quickly become so hot that it either melts the microwave parts, fuses together, or causes burns when you touch the inside. You need to have a properly vented microwave in order to prevent excess heat from transferring to your kitchen or ruining the microwave model. 

Q: Can I put my countertop microwave in a cabinet?

Yes, as long as the necessary precautions are taken. These include: ensuring proper ventilation, the ability to hold the weight of a microwave without buckling, and wire management. Most cabinets don’t have holes for passing cables through to a power bank, so you may need to drill one.

Q: How long do countertop microwaves last?

Most microwaves last around 10 years with proper care. But, that can vary quite a bit. It depends on the manufacturer, your usage, and your willingness to do the necessary cleaning and maintenance to keep it in good shape.

Final thoughts on the best countertop microwaves

Finding the right microwave for you depends on how you plan on using your microwave, your space requirements, your budget, and your sense of style. Whether you need a quiet microwave, a portable microwave, or an extra large microwave to feed the whole family, these six microwave ovens are your best bet to choose from.

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.