lab tests
DIGITIZED DESsERT The Kenmore 6633 lets you cook meals by entering a code from the box, though foods with those codes were difficult to find.
Microwave ovens
The best of these ‘second ovens’ are faster
and friendlier, and start at less than $150
A
ny microwave can serve up
popcorn and other snacks on
Super Bowl Sunday. The latest
also promise to make cooking
main meals about as simple as nuking
your favorite snacks. Our tests of more
than 60 models include nine CR Best Buys.
Even heating and thorough defrosting
make the new Kenmore 6633, $140, our
top-scoring midsized countertop model.
But most unique are its preprogrammed
cooking codes for baby-back pork ribs,
chicken parmigiana, and more than 100
other frozen meals.
Dubbed TrueCookPlus, the software adjusts heating according to a food code you
punch in as well as to your home’s
altitude, based on your ZIP code. The
feature worked in our initial tests. But Betty
Crocker Warm Delights Minis cake is
among the few foods so far with the code on
42
the package, so you’ll have to get other food
codes off the Web (www.truecookplus.com).
You’ll also find that halftime refers to
more than football. Apollo claims its Half
Time convection microwave cooks anything you’d cook in a conventional oven
twice as fast. It beat a high-scoring range
in our speed tests, but another con­vection
microwave delivered crispier pizza. (See
“Super Bowl Pizza Challenge,” on facing
page.) Months of testing yielded other
ways to save on a microwave:
Get better browning for less. You’ll
Microwaves can
use 80 percent
less energy than
typical ovens.
con sum er r ep o rt s fe b rua ry 2 0 0 9
find more lower-priced models with a
grilling feature, which uses an electric
element like the one in your oven’s broiler.
But you can still pay $600 or more for
models that have it. A top midsized convection model that cost $250 and didn’t
have the grilling feature gave us crispy
grilled-cheese sandwiches. You can also
use the convection mode for browner,
crispier chicken.
Don’t pay extra for racks. Most overthe-range models now include an upper
rack that lets you cook several foods at
once. The best we tested have that feature
for as little as $260. Just be sure to check
racked foods often for even cooking because
they aren’t on a moving turntable.
Skip these space savers. Unlike most
microwave ovens, Sharp’s $760 Insight Pro
drawer model mounts under the counter
to free up space and allow a range hood for
optimal venting. Conveniences include a
bevy of shortcut keys and a “keep warm”
feature that maintains serving temperature for up to 30 minutes. But that pricey
pro’s heating evenness was only mediocre
in our tests. Sharp’s $380 Carousel R-1214,
a built-in model, can hang under a wall
cabinet. But defrosting was subpar.
BY THE NUMBERS 61 Models tested 122 Pounds of ground beef defrosted 322 Pounds of mashed potatoes heated
How to choose
In addition to saving time, microwave ovens can also save up to 80 percent of the
energy used by a typical oven. Indeed, the
Environmental Protection Agency is considering making microwaves eligible for
Energy Star status. See our Ratings and
Recommendations on page 44 for models
with top performance and value. Then use
these tips to narrow your choices:
Pick the right type. Large countertop
models often have more capacity than
over-the-range models, though they take
up valuable counter space. Over-the-range
models free up that space by nestling
conveniently above your range. But they
cost more to buy and install, and they don’t
vent as well as most range hoods.
Focus on features. A sensor helps prevent under- or overcooking by automatically
turning off the microwave when food is
done. Shortcut keys take the guesswork
out of cooking popular foods, and convection helps provide browning like a conventional oven does. Models with a
mounting kit save counter space by hanging on the wall or beneath a wall cabinet.
Don’t buy capacity claims. What you
see on the box isn’t what you’ll get in
your kitchen because manufacturers
measure space you usually can’t use. Some
models delivered as little as half the space
manufacturers promised. Check the usablespace column in our Ratings for our realworld measurements. And take your largest
casserole to the store. Also consider models
with a sliding tray, which can usually
accommodate large or oblong plates.
1 features that count
These add convenience and performance
Speed cook. Combines microwaves with
convection and, often, halogen bulbs to
speed cooking. Tested models that have it
are noted in the Ratings. Two Whirlpool
models (C8, C20) lack convection but use
halogen bulbs for broiling foods.
Child lock. Makes controls inoperable
when engaged. Found on all t­ ested
models except the Apollo (A7).
Convection mode. Helps brown and
crisp food with circulating heated air.
Usually found on pricier microwaves, as
shown in the Ratings, though you don’t
have to pay top dollar to get it.
Shortcut keys. Automate the cooking
time of popular foods by letting you simply
press a button. All tested models have
them for popcorn and other snacks; some
have keys for grits and other fare.
Racks for bi-level cooking. Shown at
right, these let you cook s­ everal foods at
once, as long as the pans aren’t too tall.
Found on most tested over-the-range
microwaves, as shown in the Ratings.
Sensor. Helps prevent under- and
overcooking by turning off when food is
done. On most tested models, as shown in
the Ratings. Even with a sensor, check
doneness with a thermometer to be safe.
Keep the kids safe. Microwave-related
burns sent an estimated 2,000 children to
the emergency room last year. A recent
study by the University of Chicago Medical
Center found that even toddlers could
open microwaves and pull out hot foods
and drinks, resulting in burns. All tested
models except the Apollo Half Time include
a child lock for the controls. To make your
microwave safer, keep it out of reach of
younger children. And be sure older kids
use it properly and keep younger siblings
away when handling hot foods and beverages from the microwave.
Super Bowl pizza challenge: Faster may not be better when you’re feeding the fans
Apollo claims its $200 Half Time convection microwave oven is “the only oven in
the world” that cooks like a conventional range in half the time. With Super
Bowl Sunday on the way, we decided to complement our beer Ratings, on
page 7, by testing that claim against a stack of frozen 12-inch pizzas and our
top-scoring smoothtop electric range.
P h oto g r a p h by m i c h a e l s m i t h
The Half Time is, indeed, fast: just 13 minutes for pizza in its combination
convection-microwave mode, compared with 39 minutes, including preheating,
for the Electrolux EW30EF65G range on its nonconvection setting. Both pizzas
were slightly browned, though neither was especially crispy.
Could the Half Time outrun other convection microwaves? We tried the
Kenmore Elite 6428, $250, a CR Best Buy. Pizza took a bit longer—25 minutes—
but emerged brown and crispy. Yet when it came to crispy pies, even the
Kenmore microwave couldn’t beat the Electrolux range in its convection mode,
which served up the crispiest slices (at right in the photo) in 34 minutes.
Bottom line. The Half Time saves time, but it was hardly a touchdown
compared with a convection range or our top-­scoring convection microwave.
And as the Ratings show, it also fumbled in our even-heating tests.
fe b rua ry 2009 w w w.C o n su m e r R e p o rt s. o rg
43
lab tests microwave ovens
Ratings Microwave ovens
$140
75
Kenmore (Sears) 6325[2]
130
70
3
Kenmore (Sears) Elite 6428[9]
250
63
4
160
61
200
55
65
53
6
7
Apollo Half Time Oven AAC-34S
200
51
Best midsized countertop models:
8
Haier MWG10081T[W]
140
50
A1
A2
A3
A4
B
LARGE COUNTERTOP MODELS
1
GE Profile JES2251SJ[SS]
220
79
2
Panasonic Inverter NN-T945[S]F ⁄
150
76
3
180
73
4
Panasonic Inverter NN-SD797[S] ⁄
Panasonic Prestige NN-SD997[S]
260
71
5
Whirlpool Gold GT4175SP[S]
300
71
6
Jenn-Air JMC9158BA[B]
450
70
A1 cooked and defrosted evenly and has codes
for corresponding foods, though few codes are
on food packages. A3 offers convection; A4
cooked most evenly but defrosted less
consistently.
Best large countertop models:
B1
B2
B7
B8
B9
GE $220
Panasonic $150 CR Best Buy
GE $200
Kenmore $330 CR Best Buy
LG $160
n
d
n
c
n
d
n
c
n
d
B1 and B2 topped this category and offer the
most usable space. Choose B7 for its consistent
performance, B8 for its relatively low-priced
convection option, and B9 for its especially easy
programming features.
Best over-the-range models:
C1 Samsung $300 CR Best Buy
C3 Kenmore $630
C6 GE $400
C7 Frigidaire $350 CR Best Buy
C14 Whirlpool $260 CR Best Buy
C15 LG $600
C1, C7, and C14 offer the best blend of overall
performance and value for the dollar. Paying
more for C3 and C15 buys you speed-cooking
and convection; all among this group except
C3 also offer stainless trim.
44
n
c
n
d
n
d
n
c
con s um er r ep o rt s fe b rua ry 2 0 0 9
•
•
1.0 0.7 •
1.2 0.7 •
1.2 0.9
•
&X &B &X 1.0 0.5 •
&C &X &X 1.1 0.7
&V &Z &C 1.2 0.7
&C &X &C 1.0 0.6
•
•
•
•
•
•
7
GE Profile PEB2060DM[BB] ⁄Ï
200
69
8
Kenmore (Sears) Elite 6790[9]
330
68
9
LG LRM2060[ST]
160
68
10 Panasonic Genius NN-T995[S]F ⁄Ï
11 Panasonic NN-C994[S] ⁄€
220
67
650
65
12 Frigidaire Gallery GLMB209D[S]
250
65
13 Sharp Carousel R-520K[S]
170
64
14 Kenmore (Sears) Elite 6646[9]
170
64
15 Sanyo EM-S9515[W]
130
60
16 GE Profile PEB1590SM[SS]
360
55
17 GE JES1384[S]F €
130
48
C
OVER-THE-RANGE MODELS
1
Samsung SMH7187[STG]
300
78
2
Whirlpool Gold GH4155XP[B]
470
77
&X
&
X
&
X
&
Z
&
X
&
C
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
Z
&
C
&
C
&
X
&
X
&
X
&Z
&
X
&
X
&
C
&
X
&
Z
&
X
&
X
&
C
&
X
&
C
&
V
&
X
&
X
&
Z
&
V
&
B
&Z
&
Z
&
Z
&
Z
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
Z
&
Z
&
C
&
Z
&
X
&
X
&
C
&
C
&
C
&
C
&Z
&
Z
&
Z
&
Z
&
Z
&
X
&X
&
Z
&
Z
&
Z
&
X
&
Z
Sensor
1.2 0.8
Usable (cu. ft.)
Racks
Kenmore (Sears) 6633[9]
2
These are high-performing models that
stand out for the reasons below.
Kenmore $140 CR Best Buy
Kenmore $130 CR Best Buy
Kenmore $250 CR Best Buy
Panasonic $160 CR Best Buy
&Z
&
X
&
X
&
X
Convection
MIDSIZED COUNTERTOP MODELS
1
5
&Z
&
Z
&
X
&
C
Speed cooking
A
Capacity Features
&X
&
C
&
C
&
Z
0
100
P | F | G | VG | E
Panasonic Inverter NN-SD697[S] ⁄
GE Profile Spacemaker II
PEM31DM[BB] ⁄
Emerson MW8115[SS]
d Recommended
Test results
Ease of use
Overall score
Claimed (cu. ft.)
These models offer the best combination
of performance and price. All are
recommended.
n
c
n
c
n
c
n
c
Price
Evenness
c CR Best Buy
Brand & model
Similar models, in small
type, are comparable to
tested model.
Auto defrost
A microwave is one appliance
where you can save without sacrificing.
Top-scoring models are also CR Best Buys.
Most should be at stores through July 2009.
Rank
Overview
In performance order, within types. (Types designated A, B, etc.)
Recommendation
A1 Kenmore
5 Excellent
4 Very good
3 Good
2 Fair
1 Poor
2.0 1.2
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
1.4 0.8
1.5 1.1
•
•
•
1.3 0.8
1.8 0.8
•
•
1.7 0.8 •
2.0 1.1 •
2.0 0.9 •
1.8 0.9 •
1.5 0.7
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
2.2 1.5
2.2 1.4
1.6 0.9
2.2 1.4
1.7 1.1
1.5 1.1
2.0 1.2
1.5 1.1
2.0 1.2
2.2 1.5
1.5 1.2
2.0 1.2
2.0 1.2
•
•
•
•
3
Kenmore (Sears) Elite 8082[9]
630
76
4
Kenmore (Sears) 8009[9]
450
75
5
Amana AMV5206BA[B]
380
75
6
GE Adora DVM1850DM[BB]
Frigidaire Professional
PLMVZ169H[C]
Whirlpool Gold GH6177XP[B] €
400
73
&X
&
X
&
X
&
C
&
C
&
X
350
73
&X &X &X 1.6 0.8 •
•
590
72
&C &Z &X 1.7 0.9 •
•
•
7
8
Most and least reliable
C1 Samsung
70
410
70
&C
&
Z
&
Z
&
X
&
C
&
X
&
X
&
Z
&
C
&Z
&
X
&
C
&
C
&C
&C
&X
&X
&X
&X
&C
&
X
&V
&X
&
C
&V
&V
&Z
&
X
&
X
&
Z
&
Z
&
X
&
Z
&
X
&
X
&X
&
Z
&
X
&
X
&Z
&Z
&X
&X
&X
&X
&X
&
X
&Z
&C
&
X
&X
&Z
2.0 0.9
11 Electrolux EI30BM55H[B]
750
70
12 GE JVM1850DM[BB]
420
70
13 LG LMVM2277ST
800
69
14 Whirlpool MH2175XS[Q]
260
67
15 LG LMVH1750[ST]
600
67
16 Maytag MMV4205BA[B]
300
67
17 Whirlpool Gold Velos GH7208XR[Q] €
18 Whirlpool MH1170XS[B]
770
67
300
67
550
67
19 Sharp Insight R-1880LS €
20 Whirlpool Gold Velos GH6208XR[B] €
21 KitchenAid KHHC2090S[BL] €
22 LG LMV2083[ST]
690
67
1,000
66
370
66
23 Whirlpool MH3185XP[B] Ï MH3184XP[ ] 400
24 GE Profile Spacemaker JVM1790[B]K 650
64
25 Bosch HMV930[5]
500
63
26 Maytag MMV5207BA[B]
430
62
27 GE JVM1665[D]N €
28 GE JVM1750DM[BB]
500
62
300
62
750
62
520
61
29 Jenn-Air JMV9169BA[B] €
30 LG LMVM2085[ST]
64
31 Hotpoint RVM1535DM[WW]
170
60
32 GE Advantium 120 SCA1001K[SS] €
33 Sharp Carousel R-1520L[K]
780
56
250
55
34 Kenmore (Sears) 8004[9]
300
52
D
Usable (cu. ft.)
&X
&
C
&
C
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
X
&
C
&C
&
X
&
C
&
Z
&X
&X
&C
&C
&V
&C
&X
&
C
&X
&X
&
C
&C
&C
1.8 0.9
2.0 1.0
1.8 0.9
2.2 1.3
1.7 0.8
1.7 0.8
Racks
$ 650
Convection
GE Cafe CVM2072SM[SS]
Speed cooking
OVER-THE-RANGE MODELS continued
9
Sensor
C
Capacity Features
Ease of use
Test results
Claimed (cu. ft.)
Overall score
0
100
P | F | G | VG | E
10 Whirlpool Gold GH5184XP[B]
n
c
n
d
Price
Evenness
Brand & model
Similar models, in small
type, are comparable to
tested model.
Auto defrost
Rank
Recommendation
A4 Panasonic
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
2.0 0.9
2.0 1.1
•
•
•
1.7 0.9
1.1 0.7
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
2.0 0.9
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
1.5 0.9
•
1.5 0.9 •
1.6 0.7 •
•
•
2.0 1.1
2.0 1.1
2.0 0.9
1.8 0.9
1.7 0.8
1.8 0.8
2.0 1.4
1.6 0.7
1.6 0.8
1.6 0.8
1.4 0.7
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
BUILT-IN MODELs
760 68
1 Sharp Insight Pro KB6025M[S] ‹
&C &X &X 1.0 0.9 •
380 55
2 Sharp Carousel R-1214 ›
&X &V &X 1.5 0.9 • Î Discontinued, but similar model is available. ⁄ Has wall-mounting kit. € Has grilling feature. ‹ Built-in drawer. › Mounts
under wall cabinet.
Guide to the Ratings
Overall score is mainly cooking evenness, defrosting, and ease of use. Displayed scores are rounded;
models are listed by precise overall score. Evenness is uniform heating of cold mashed potatoes. Auto
defrost is how completely and evenly this program defrosted 1 pound of frozen ground beef. Ease of use is
ease of setting without owner’s manual. Capacity claimed is per manufacturer; usable is based on our
measurement of what fits on turntable or sliding tray. Price is approximate retail. Under brand & model,
color code is bracketed. Note all tested over-the-range models are 30 inches wide. Note that overall scores
for previously tested models may have changed because of changes in test methodology.
KitchenAid has been among the most
repair-prone brands of over-the-range
microwave ovens. That’s what we found when
we asked 25,697 readers who bought an OTR
microwave between 2004 and 2008 about their
experiences. The graph shows the percentage
of brands that were ever repaired or had a
serious problem. Differences of less than
5 points aren’t meaningful, and we’ve adjusted
the data to eliminate differences linked solely
to age. Models within a brand might vary, and
design or manufacturing changes might affect
future reliability. Still, choosing a brand with a
good repair history can improve your odds of
getting a reliable model.
Over-the-range microwaves
Fewer
repairs
Frigidaire
Whirlpool
Kenmore (Sears)
Amana
Maytag
GE
KitchenAid
0%
More
repairs
5
6
8
8
8
8
11
5%
10%
15%
20%
Source: Annual Product Reliability Survey,
Consumer Reports National Research Center.
1 did you know?
39
hours
That’s how much time you could save
each year by cooking one meal a week in
a microwave oven for 15 minutes
instead of in an electric oven for 1 hour
because microwaves heat food much
more quickly. You’ll even pocket a few
bucks in energy savings (about $8 over
electric ovens, $6 over gas ovens)
because microwave ovens use less
electricity.
fe b rua ry 2009 w w w.C o n su m e r R e p o rt s. o rg
45