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A small microwave can offer a full range of cooking functions with a smaller countertop footprint. While compact microwaves may be less powerful than their full-size counterparts, they are a great budget-friendly option for fast and convenient cooking. You can expect to spend about $60–$150 on a small microwave, compared to $150–$300 for full-size models.
To help you find the best microwave for your apartment, office, or dorm room, we researched some of the top smaller microwaves available online, and selected four models to conduct testing. Overall, our winner for the best small microwave was the Toshiba Smart Sensor Microwave. Though not as compact as some of the other models in this review, the Toshiba stood out due to its heating efficiency, preset function accuracy, quiet operation, and signal-muting option.
Top 4 Small Microwaves
- Best Small Microwave Overall: Toshiba Smart Sensor Microwave
- Most Accurate Microwave: BLACK+DECKER Digital Microwave
- Best Budget Microwave: COMFEE’ Countertop Microwave
- Best Design Options: Galanz Retro Microwave Oven
Compare Top Small Microwaves
|Toshiba Smart Sensor Microwave
|1.2 cubic feet
|20.5 x 17.1 x 12.8 inches
|Black stainless steel
|BLACK+DECKER Digital Microwave
|0.7 cubic feet
|17.3 x 13 x 10.2 inches
|COMFEE’ Countertop Microwave
|0.7 cubic feet
|17.3 x 13 x 10.2 inches
|Galanz Retro Microwave Oven
|0.7 cubic feet
|17.9 x 13.8 x 10.3 inches
|Black, blue, green, red
Best Small Microwave Overall
Performance: 4/5 | User Experience: 5/5 | Physical Aspects: 3/5 | Price and Warranty: 3/5
Our Testing Experience
This medium-capacity model from Toshiba was the highest-performing, most consistent, and quietest microwave tested by our team. In addition to its superior heating performance, it outperformed all but one microwave in preset accuracy and was just one of two units in our lab that comes with a signal-silencing mute feature.
Good for: People looking for a powerful but quiet medium-capacity countertop microwave.
What Are People Saying About the Toshiba Smart Sensor Microwave?
We found that numerous customers complimented the accuracy of the Toshiba’s one-touch settings, remarked on how easy it was to use, and were impressed with its ECO+ mute setting. Some critical buyers we found said the user manual was difficult to understand, while others thought that the microwave wasn’t sturdy and moved too much while it was running.
“Bought this to replace a cheap/basic microwave. I love the express settings (pressing 1 for 1 minute, etc). But the best feature is by far the reheat. I don’t have to figure out how long to set it for, I just hit Reheat and then Start, and it does its thing. I’ve tried it for multiple things, and it always comes out perfectly hot all the way through.” — veronica2311 via Amazon
“Unfortunately, the pressure to open the door makes the entire microwave move all over the place. They should have found a way to grip the legs. I got the 1.6 model, and so far it is great as far as functions. I like that the sound turns off, we used the pizza function on a small frozen pizza, and it cooked it to perfection and faster than our last microwave, which was the same size. I like the sensor heating. If they could fix the movement, I would have given this a 5-star rating. Unfortunately, we are a family of eight, and with four teen boys, that’s a big issue for us..” — Lovenyah via Amazon
Most Accurate Microwave
Performance: 4/5 | User Experience: 2/5 | Physical Aspects: 4/5 | Price and Warranty: 4/5
Our Testing Experience
This microwave from BLACK+DECKER boasted the best preset functionality out of all the models our reviews team tested. We found that the popcorn, express cooking, and beverage settings were true to the manufacturer’s claims. We thought its control panel was the most straightforward and intuitive to navigate.
Good for: People with limited time to spend selecting cooking settings and anyone looking for a low-profile, effective microwave.
What Are People Saying About the BLACK+DECKER Digital Microwave?
We noted that satisfied customers remarked on the BLACK+DECKER microwave’s power-to-size ratio and ease of use. They found the one-touch settings met or exceeded their expectations. A few buyers we saw did experience issues with the door jamming, while others said it was louder than they expected.
“It’s nicer than I expected. It has all the features of larger models, but fits into a small space under cabinets. I really like that it has a button to open. Our last one had a handle that never failed to crack me in the knuckles (I’m left-handed). The reheat plate setting is a great feature and it’s also nice that it has a fast 1 through 6 minute one-button option. It’s also quiet in operation.” — Jeffery Gilbert via Amazon
“…Closing the door on this thing sounds like closing a big, tin barn door; it is very loud. I wouldn’t be surprised if my next-door neighbor could hear the door shut. It’s also very loud the moment it starts heating. — Apollos via Amazon
Best Budget Microwave
Performance: 2/5 | User Experience: 3/5 | Physical Aspects: 5/5 | Price and Warranty: 4/5
Our Testing Experience
This 700-watt microwave offers some desirable muting and power-saving features not often seen at this price point. Our testing team liked the COMFEE’ microwave’s easy-to-read control panel and signal muting. However, we found that the black plastic finish made fingerprints and grime highly visible and looked cheap next to stainless and metal alternatives. We quickly learned that this model’s preset functions underperformed across the board. On the plus side, our tests showed that the COMFEE’s manual and express cooking settings performed adequately and within the expected amount of time.
Good for: Energy-conscious users who want a variety of preset options.
What Are People Saying About the COMFEE’ Countertop Microwave?
Positive reviews we saw frequently mentioned the COMFEE’ microwave’s affordability, convenient size, and reliable performance. A couple of reviewers we noticed, however, claimed that their microwave arrived broken and some expressed frustration at the interface.
“This item was just right for a small space. I don’t like a cluttered countertop. I also don’t use a microwave to cook meals in. Just to warm things up. I like the ease of use. Press 1-5, and the minutes automatically start. You can turn the beep down or off. It is just perfect for what I use it for. Not a loud sound when on. It was a good purchase for me.” — ClearlyLiving via Amazon
“We loved the look of the microwave, but after two weeks, we couldn’t get past the difficult-to-use interface. In my opinion, the knob SHOULD be used to set the cooking duration, but its default was selecting cooking modes. To set the time, you had to press several buttons first, and the function names displayed on the screen are far from descriptive. We spent far too much time looking back at the manual to see what everything meant.” — Cooper Coldwell via Amazon
Best Design Options
Performance: 1/5 | User Experience: 1/5 | Physical Aspects: 4/5 | Price and Warranty: 4/5
Our Testing Experience
Galanz’s 0.7-watt countertop microwave was the most visually unique out of the units we tested. The enameled exterior concealed fingerprints and normal grime better than its competitors. It adequately cooked a frozen Hot Pocket in the time expected. However, our testers found that the Galanz microwave significantly underperformed in defrosting, popping, and beverage modes. We struggled to make sense of its settings and control panel and had to consult the user manual prior to each use.
Good for: Price-conscious consumers with a specific aesthetic in mind and limited kitchen space.
What Are People Saying About the Galanz Retro Microwave Oven?
Satisfied buyers we found were impressed with the speed at which the Galanz microwave heated frozen food, liked the retro aluminum aesthetic, and its affordable price point.
We did also see some critical customers that expressed issues with shipping damages and indicated that customer service was extremely difficult to reach.
“I love using the dial to set duration times. So easy. No more beep, beep, beep of a number pad. I also really appreciate that when your drink/food is ready it stops beeping when you open the door. Makes perfect sense. Also, the design touches on the side panels are much appreciated. Other manufacturers use ugly flat side panels to save money. This is a functional, well-designed microwave. Bravo!” — IYamWatIYam via Amazon
“I love the way this looks. Gorgeous. It even cooks well. It’s not the fastest, but does the job. …There are two main issues I have with this product that come down to factory quality. First, it’s not level. It has tiny legs made of metal that are not adjustable. One of them is dramatically off, and my entire microwave teeters forward when I touch it. … The other more annoying problem is the turntable. The glass plate itself is not the issue, it’s the wheeled ring under it. This microwave has no track to keep it in place so it’s free-floating under the glass plate. Each time you use it, the ring starts to shift out of place until, eventually, the glass plate becomes unbalanced and tips.” — Amazon Customer via Amazon
Our Testing Experience
Our reviews team performed rigorous research and personally tested four out of the five microwaves in this review. Our goal is always to recommend units that provide our readers with the best overall user experience in a fair, balanced, and transparent way. To accomplish this, we prioritized the following factors:
- Performance: During testing, we evaluated each microwave for speed, cooking and defrosting evenness, and accuracy of its preset functions.
- User experience: This is perhaps the most important factor we consider when testing and recommending products. In scoring each unit for user experience, we looked at how easy it was to set up, how many preset options it offered, and how easy it was to clean.
- Physical aspects: We measured each microwave’s size to ensure it was appropriate for smaller living spaces and looked at the available finishes.
- Warranty and return policy: This part of our selection process is straightforward—the longer and more comprehensive the warranty and return policy, the higher the score.
Other Small Microwaves To Consider
In addition to the products above that our team tested in the lab, here are some other highly-reviewed small microwaves worth considering for your home.
- LG NeoChef Compact Microwave: ($150 at Best Buy): This LG microwave provides even, precise cooking and defrosting with its smart inverter technology. This model also features six wheels on its turntable, ensuring it can handle any-size dish without becoming unbalanced. Additionally, its easy clean interior makes wiping it down after messes easy and fast.
- GE Spacemaker Countertop Microwave Oven: ($177 at Best Buy): This model from GE comes with an optional hanging kit so you can save even more counter space. It comes with one-touch controls for express cooking and heating options for defrosting and reheating popcorn and beverages. This microwave also features automatic defrost times that reduces guessing when defrosting meat.
- Panasonic Cyclonic Countertop Microwave Oven ($300 on Amazon): This sleek microwave has 1,250 watts of cooking power and 1.6 cubic feet of cooking space. It includes 15 different preset cooking options, a turbo defrost setting, and sensor reheating with a compact design that can fit on your countertop.
- Breville Countertop Soft-Close Microwave Oven ($243 on Amazon): This compact microwave from Breville is perfect for RVs, dorm rooms, or small kitchens. It has one-touch cooking options for reheating, defrosting, popcorn and beverages, as well as a child lock and soft closing door.
Buying Guide for Small Microwaves
Microwaves are an essential kitchen appliance. However, they can take up more space than you have to spare. We put together this microwave buying guide that will help you select the best small microwave to save space in your kitchen.
What sizes should you look for in a small microwave?
If you’re looking for a small countertop microwave, exterior and interior dimensions are two of the biggest factors to consider.
- External footprint: Externally, most compact microwaves measure 12-16 inches deep (front to back), 15-19 inches wide (side to side), and 10-12 inches tall. Consider the amount of counter space you can dedicate to a microwave and look for options that fit neatly within that space.
- Interior capacity: Internally, most small microwaves have between 0.5 and 0.9 cubic feet of capacity.
What power levels do small microwaves have?
We measure the cooking power output of a microwave in watts (W). Small countertop models have a power output between 600W and 1,000W. A microwave’s physical dimensions dictate how large—and, therefore, powerful—its motor is. The smaller the microwave, the lower its maximum possible wattage will be. The lower a microwave’s wattage, the longer it will take to heat food and beverages.
What preset modes and buttons should you look for in a small microwave?
Most microwaves, even small ones, feature several buttons to provide customizable cooking and reheating options. Some common preset functions include defrost, express cook, pizza, frozen vegetables, beverages, and popcorn.
What is considered a low noise level for a small microwave?
When in operation, we found that most microwave ovens are about as loud as conversational speech—around 55-60 decibels (dB). Some newer models offer sound-muffling technology, volume control for the keypad and signal, and mute options.
What design elements and finishes should you look for in a small microwave?
Small microwaves are available in a variety of designs and finishes. Modern microwaves have a sleeker appearance with square viewing screens and one-touch buttons. Retro microwaves have vintage features, such as circular viewing windows, dials, and antennae.
What other features should I look for in a small microwave?
Some other features that may stand out in particular models of small microwaves, include sound control, quick keys, convection cooking, child locks, extra racks, smart features, and sensor cooking.
What are the most trusted brands for microwaves?
When buying a microwave, it’s essential you buy from a trusted brand to ensure you’re receiving a high-quality appliance. Some of the best brands for microwaves o the market are:
- Amazon Basics
- Black & Decker
- Hamilton Beach
- Magic Chef
Types of Microwaves
Most small microwaves would be categorized as countertop microwaves, meaning they are portable and plug directly into your wall. However, there are also small microwave options available in other configurations.
- Built-in microwaves are microwave ovens that are built into a recessed cavity of your wall or cabinetry. These microwaves help create a seamless, sleek look in your kitchen that blends the microwave in with the rest of your appliances and cabinets. Most built-in microwaves run larger, but some have a small capacity and dimensions that can fit into smaller spaces.
- Over-the-range microwaves are another type of microwave. These models are designed to be mounted over the top of your range to create a blended design. OTR microwaves typically have a smaller wattage than built-in models but might be an excellent option for those looking for a slim, small microwave that won’t take up counter space.
Frequently Asked Questions About Small Microwaves
Where should I put my small microwave?
We found that most small microwaves are designed to be placed on countertops or tabletops. Keep at least one inch of ventilation space between the unit and the wall behind it. To prevent tipping, ensure that the front of the microwave sits two or three inches back from the counter’s edge.
How can I clean my small microwave?
To clean your microwave, steam the interior by boiling one cup of clean water, then immediately wipe it down with a sponge or rag and dish soap. More stubborn particles may require a scrub with a non-scouring brush.
Do small microwaves have enough power to heat my food?
Yes, small microwaves have enough power to heat your food. While they are generally less powerful than larger models and will take longer to achieve the same temperature, small microwaves have enough power to heat food. When in doubt, refer to the recommended cooking times provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
How We Selected Small Microwaves
To provide our readers with the best product recommendations possible, we rely on several key sources of information to help guide our selection process.
Initial research: Our research process began by generating a list of small microwaves with a significant number of verified-buyer reviews and an average customer review rating of 4-5 stars. We looked at positive and negative reviews alike, focusing on information from both satisfied and critical buyers.
We also took into account how durable each product type should be to serve its intended purpose for several years or more. Finally, we used that information to help us evaluate whether each manufacturer’s warranty coverage was adequate and trustworthy.
Expert insights: Through our years of experience, we’ve learned that listening to what others have to say is key to building accurate, well-rounded articles. To complement our in-house expertise, our team looked at reviews and videos from trusted publications and independent testers, spoke with subject matter experts, and drew insights from reader contributions.
Final product selection: We then began fine-tuning our list by replacing older models with the latest versions and eliminating any discontinued models. From there, we pared the list down further by comparing each model’s feature-set and selecting the best-in-class options for a variety of buyers, budgets, and scenarios.
Our Testing Process
Our reviews team rigorously tested each small microwave in our final lineup to recommend products that provide our readers with the best overall user experience in a fair, balanced, and transparent way.
During testing, we evaluated each item for the following:
- Size and suitability for small spaces
- Overall performance and accuracy of preset modes
- Bonus features
- Areas for improvement and potential deal-breakers
- Warranty coverage and limitations
Why You Can Trust Us
This Old House has empowered homeowners and DIY-ers for more than four decades with top-notch home improvement advice in the form of television programs, print media, and digital content.
Our team focuses on creating in-depth product and service review content. To date, we’ve published over 1,600 reviews on products in the home space, from doorbell cameras and dining room decor to circular saws and snow blowers.
Once we conclude the research and testing phases, we craft a comprehensive, user-friendly article of recommended products and additional information to help our readers make the right purchase.
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