The microwave could arguably be considered the unsung hero of the kitchen. Whether it’s re-heating leftovers, defrosting chicken at the last minute, or even warming up a heat pack… this trusty kitchen appliance has become an essential part of modern homes. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend big to get the best microwave for your household. There are a few cheap microwaves available for under $200, with some even selling for just $50. But are the more expensive models and brands maybe worth paying extra for? Or can you still get all the food-zapping satisfaction you need from a cheaper microwave? To find out ‘what’s cooking’ in the microwave market, Canstar Blue has compared the top brands on the market.
Canstar Blue surveyed 841 Australians for their feedback on the microwave(s) they’ve purchased and used in the last three years. Note: This refers to both microwaves and microwave ovens with an oven function, but not regular ovens.
Respondents rate their satisfaction with their microwave brand(s) from zero to ten, where zero is extremely dissatisfied and ten is extremely satisfied. Brand satisfaction was rated by respondents on the following criteria:
The winning brand is the one that receives the highest Overall satisfaction rating once all the scores from the Overall satisfaction criteria are combined and averaged.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included, so not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The brands rated in this survey are listed below in order of best overall satisfaction.
• Morphy Richards
Breville cooked the competition, scoring five stars for performance, value for money, ease of use, features and functionality, design, and overall satisfaction. Runner-up Sharp also managed to score wins for performance and ease of use and cleaning. Similarly, LG earned five stars, rating well for performance and features and functionality. Finally, Westinghouse achieved its only five-star win for ease of cleaning.
Find more detailed information on our ratings methodology.
Breville achieved five stars for performance, value for money, ease of use, features and functionality, design, and overall satisfaction. It got four stars for ease of cleaning.
Breville offers a variety of low to mid-range microwaves that will set you back anywhere between $199.95 and $799. The brand appears to have paid close attention to creating convenience through automatic programs, adding features like Sensor iQ technology, which automatically adjusts the power level to help cook or reheat food correctly and save you from wasting time fiddling around with settings. You can also find one-touch pre-sets and a Power Smoothing Inverter which similarly adjusts the power intensity to provide even heating.
Breville’s Silhouette Flatbed Compact Microwave (LMO420BLK2JAN1) is the most affordable in the range, offering a 20L capacity, 800W of power output and eight auto-cook menus for beverages, rice, pasta, potato, reheat, porridge, pizza, and popcorn. The Combi Wave 3-in-1 is alternatively Breville’s top-of-the-range model, boasting air fryer, convection oven, and microwave functionalities. It comes with 32L worth of space and up to 1100W worth of heating power (1550W for convection power).
Sharp earned five stars for performance, and ease of use and cleaning. It won four stars for value for money, features and functionality, design, and overall satisfaction.
Sharp divides its microwaves into three sizes – compact, mid-size, and large – with most being in the mid-size range. The majority of Sharp microwave ovens tend to cost around $180 to $350, with only a couple of models passing the $1,000 mark. One of the cheapest microwaves available is the Sharp 800W Compact Microwave (R231ZS), which has 13 auto-menus and a 27.2cm turntable. This model also includes an express defrost function and an easy defrost menu. Alternatively, there’s the Sharp 1000W Convection Microwave (R995DST). This gets you inverter and sensor technology, six power levels, 21 auto menus, four cooking sequences, as well as grilling and convection settings in addition to microwave mode.
LG rated five stars for performance and features and functionality, and got four stars in every other category including for value for money, ease of use and cleaning, design, and overall satisfaction.
Making ‘life good’ with several feature-packed microwave ovens, LG has most price points covered with its extensive range. Starting towards the lower end of the price spectrum, the LG 23L NeoChef Smart Inverter Microwave Oven (MS2336DB) provides 1000W of heating power for $239. It’s boasted for its ‘NeoChef’ technology, claimed to offer precise temperature control for defrosting food and avoiding overcooked and unthawed areas. It also features an anti-bacterial coating for easy maintenance, while helping remove up to 99.99% of harmful surface bacteria. Along with this, expect a sleek minimalist design with tempered glass on the front to help create a stylish look.
For larger capacity microwaves, several LG NeoChef microwave ovens offer 1200W of power and boast interior anti-bacterial coating, as well as more even heating and defrosting functionality with LG’s Smart Inverter technology. These models are also claimed to have a stable turntable and to provide 33% faster cooking compared to the LG 1000W conventional microwave oven. NeoChef microwaves also feature an LED lamp that is said to be three times brighter and more energy-efficient than other LG microwaves.
Panasonic achieved a solid score across the board, earning four stars in every category. This includes for performance, value for money, features and functionality, ease of use and cleaning, design, and overall satisfaction.
Panasonic is one of the first appliance brands to introduce the flatbed microwave, ditching the turntable to provide more usable space and distribute heat more evenly. However, Panasonic still stocks plenty of traditional microwave ovens, with the manufacturer constantly adding new features like sensor cooking, and steam and grilling functions to its range.
On the budget-friendly side, Panasonic offers compact models like the Panasonic 20L Silver Microwave (NN-ST25JM), which offers 800W of heating power, nine auto programs and five heating levels. On the other end of the price spectrum is the family-size 31L 4-in-1 Convection Microwave Oven (NN-CS89L), which offers 36 auto programs and a 1000W power output.
There’s also the 44L Stainless Steel Cyclonic Inverter Microwave (NN-SD79L) for a mid-price option ($549). This model apparently uses Cyclonic Inverter Technology and a 3D Cyclonic Waveform to cook, reheat and defrost food without affecting flavour or texture. This model also features a Genius Sensor to automatically calculate what it considers to be the optimal cooking time for your food, and a Sensor Reheat Function which similarly decides the power level and cooking time.
Samsung rated four stars in every category including performance, value for money, features and functionality, ease of use, design, ease of cleaning, and overall satisfaction.
Samsung produces a range of microwaves at somewhat modest prices compared to models on the market with similar capacities and power levels. Samsung microwaves will usually set you back between $159 and $599.
Samsung offers several nifty microwaves with SmartSensor Cooking and Humidity Sensor functions which are essentially smart moisture sensors that are claimed to detect the humidity level of food, before suggesting what it considers a suitable cooking time and power level. These are also said to contain a ceramic enamel to ensure only a minimal amount of moisture is absorbed, helping reduce odour transfer.
Morphy Richards attained four stars for value for money, and three stars for performance, features and functionality, ease of use and cleaning, design, and overall satisfaction.
Despite only entering the Australian market in 2000 when it became part of the Glen Dimplex Group, Morphy Richards had made waves in the world of appliances decades prior. It’s even claimed to have introduced the first electric iron to the UK, and the first automatic toaster in 1949! When it comes to microwaves, Morphy Richards has a few options, most of which provide a 34L capacity and include features such as digital touch controls, inverter cooking menus, and a child safety lock.
Kmart scored four stars for value for money and three stars for performance, features and functionality, ease of use and cleaning, design, and overall satisfaction.
Kmart offers a line-up of microwaves and benchtop ovens starting from a cheap and cheerful price tag of $52, and maxing out at just under $180. The Kmart 20L Microwave kicks off the retailer’s microwave line with a basic, compact model that provides an output power of up to 1200W. It additionally boasts 10 power levels, six auto-cooking menus and a child safety lock.
For a microwave with oven functionality, the Kmart 28L Air Fryer Convection Microwave might be worth considering. It comes with 1400W of convection power, 2200W of air fryer power, six power levels, six auto-cooking menus, and a child safety lock. Despite being on the higher end of Kmart’s product range, this model is still competitively priced at $179.
Westinghouse earned five stars for ease of cleaning, and four stars for design and performance. It received three stars for value for money, ease of use, features and functionality, and overall satisfaction.
Owned by Electrolux, the Westinghouse brand has been supplying Australia with whitegoods and electrical appliances for over 60 years. It offers a select microwave range, designed to seamlessly blend in with other Westinghouse appliances in the kitchen. The microwaves come in 23L, 25L, 40L and 44L capacities in a combination of built-in and free-standing designs. The range begins with an 800W model, six pre-set programs, a quick-start function, a timer, and a child lock and goes right up to a 44L model, with 900W power, an electronic touchpad, convection and grill functions, combination modes and defrost. Westinghouse microwaves are available in stainless steel, white and black.
Finding the right microwave for your kitchen is imperative to make sure you get the most out of your purchase. This is why we have put together a guide to compare prices, sizes, ease of use and cleaning, power, and cooking functions you should be keeping an eye out for.
Microwaves come in all shapes and sizes, but you’ll commonly find these styles in your search for a trusty kitchen appliance.
Different types of microwaves include:
Benchtop microwaves can be placed on the kitchen counter with the rest of your appliances (i.e. kettles, toasters, etc.) and contain more basic automated functionality. The biggest difference between these types of models compared to regular built-in and convection microwaves is that benchtop units are largely designed to reheat or defrost food, rather than cook. The main advantages of benchtop microwaves are their budget-friendly price, plus their convenient auto programs.
Combination microwave ovens must be installed into the kitchen cabinetry, much like a regular oven, and placed in a well-ventilated area. These contain some of the same features you would expect in ovens and convection microwaves, such as grill functionality and inverter technology. Some built-in microwaves even use a fan and heating element. Combination microwave ovens tend to be more flexible and powerful than regular microwaves and come with a wider variety of pre-set menu settings.
Unlike traditional microwaves, which use a magnetic coil to operate, inverter microwaves contain an inverter that keeps the level of power constant in order to ensure even cooking. They can also maintain the same cooking power at lower temperatures, whereas other microwaves need to switch on and off (this can lead to cold spots and burnt edges).
Convection microwave ovens work more like regular ovens than microwaves in that hot air is circulated around to heat the food up. Regular microwaves vibrate food molecules to create friction, with this friction then creating heat from the inside. This is also why some foods can explode in the microwave. So, think of convection microwaves like mini ovens. The major advantage of convection microwaves is that they can actually brown foods just like an oven. This type of microwave can also cook meals from their raw state, rather than simply reheat or defrost. But be prepared to pay extra for a convection microwave.
According to our survey, Australians spend an average of $196 on a new microwave. Naturally, your budget will determine which microwave oven you will ultimately go home with. Are you looking for a quick fix in the kitchen? Or do you want the microwave to do a chunk of the cooking legwork? The good news is you’ll find perfectly capable microwave ovens at many different price points. If you want to spend less than $100, that’ll be no problem. Likewise, if you want to invest in a high-tech cooking buddy, you also have plenty of options. Countertop microwaves are generally the cheapest type but come with basic functionality, while built-in or over-the-range microwaves will be more expensive, but well worth the investment (they may even improve the value of your home) if you’ve got the space and budget.
Think about how often you’re going to use your microwave in the kitchen, and match a model that meets your needs, rather than letting price dictate your choice. That’s because price alone isn’t the sole determiner of value. Be sure to compare the price of a microwave against its advertised cooking functions, features, and design.
Be sure to consider the size and capacity of your next microwave as you may be surprised to learn they’re not all the same size. That in-built compartment in your kitchen will likely be large enough for most models, but as microwave ovens continue to evolve and take on even more functions they can jump rapidly in size. Have a tape measure on hand to avoid disappointment, just like the 6% of survey respondents who wished they bought a different-sized model. Microwave capacities are measured in litres, and can range from 17L to over 30L (more for integrated models). If you’re shopping for a microwave to accommodate family meals, you’ll need something with a capacity of 20L minimum.
Once you’ve decided on the size, there are plenty of stylish varieties to choose from, including plain white models, stainless steel microwaves, models with a sleek black finish for modern households, retro-style microwaves, or modular microwaves with round edges! It’s not all just about heating and cooking food after all – you might also want one that looks good, too! Almost one in five survey respondents (16%) said they bought their microwave to complement other appliances and their kitchen aesthetic.
If you want your microwave oven to do more than heat your food, then menu functions that automatically adjust the settings to cater to specific types of food, such as fish, vegetables and pizza might be worth adding to your checklist. Ever yelled to your mum or partner “how long should I cook it for?” With these functions, you can bet the microwave knows better than you do how long to cook something for. Look for any pre-programmed settings to heat up various dishes and meats, as well as snacks and soups. Other convenient functions often include defrosting and food-specific heating features, helping to save dinner time when you’ve forgotten to take the chicken out of the fridge.
Features to look out for include:
The sweet spot for most microwaves seems to be 800W-1000W. Any less than that and you run the risk of having an inadequate machine for anything but the lightest of heating tasks. More powerful microwaves will simply cook and reheat your food quicker but do not necessarily deliver a better result. If you’ve experienced splattered food all over your microwave, it could be that your microwave is a bit too powerful!
Read more: How much energy does a microwave use?
There’s no point in owning a microwave you can’t use properly. All those fancy functions are great, but if you have no plans to use them, you could probably save yourself a few bucks with a basic model. A fifth of consumers surveyed (23%), for example, admitted they didn’t know how to use all the functions on their model. Despite this, 22% of consumers admit to using their microwave more than their oven or cooktop. Interestingly, our survey also found more people use their microwave daily (58%).
When it comes to maintenance, make sure to buy a microwave with removable parts (i.e rotating tray) that are dishwasher-friendly (or can at least be soaked in hot water and detergent). The fact that our research shows 54% of survey respondents clean their microwave regularly proves just how important it is to find a microwave that’s easy to clean. If you’re in the market for a model with fewer crevices to clean up, consider buying a flatbed microwave which is much easier to clean.
Microwave cleaning tips:
Read more: Your guide on how to clean a microwave
The right accessories can lift your cooking game from simply reheating meals to suddenly creating masterpieces in your microwave. While not every model will come with accessories, there are plenty to choose from which you can buy separately if you plan on using your microwave for cooking, including:
Messing around with microwaves is no joke, and it’s really important that you don’t put the wrong materials inside, or you risk ending up with a giant bang and a broken kitchen appliance. The best way to check if something is microwave safe is to look for instructions on the bottom of the container or vessel. In general, glass, plastic and ceramic are microwave-safe, as are paper towels, linen napkins, and waxed paper.
Materials you should NEVER put in the microwave include:
Our most recent consumer review suggests Breville may be the best pick, with customers satisfied with the brand on most fronts including for performance, value for money, ease of use, features & functionality, design and overall satisfaction. Sharp and LG were also particularly impressive when it came to cooking performance, ease of use and features & functionality, while Westinghouse proved an easy clean.
If you want all the bells and whistles in your new kitchen mate, there are plenty of models with sensor technology and a wide range of pre-set menu options. But let’s be honest, these functions are only worth paying for if you’re going to use them – otherwise they’re just a waste of money. Have a good think about what you currently do with your microwave – and what you’d like to do – before getting carried away with the product specs.
Also, consider how much you use your microwave. It’s easy to underestimate how much you rely on it – especially when it comes to those busy evenings after a hard day’s work – so investing in a quality appliance that should last for a few years could be a smart move. Our reviews over the years have seen a consistent theme, with premium brands usually dominating customer satisfaction. That’s something to keep in mind, but be sure to compare a range of brands and models before making a final decision on what’s best for your needs and budget.
Megan is Canstar Blue’s Home & Lifestyle Editor, leading the team that focuses on consumer products and services, ranging from supermarkets and groceries to home and personal appliances and retail stores. She interprets Canstar Blue’s bespoke research on the thousands of brands that we compare, rate and review, to help shoppers make better purchasing decisions.
Samantha Howse is Canstar Blue’s Consumer Research Specialist, coordinating the consumer research program behind our customer satisfaction awards across Canstar and Canstar Blue in Australia and New Zealand. Sam has earned a Bachelor of Business (Marketing) from Griffith University and, with seven years in market research and 2 years in marketing, she is experienced in survey design, implementation and analysis, coupled with an understanding of marketing principles and best practice.
*Prices are taken from respective retailers, correct as of December 2022.
Picture credits: Gaf_Lila/Shutterstock.com, Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com, Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com, goffkein.pro/Shutterstock.com, AndreyCherkasov/Shutterstock.com, goodluz/Shutterstock.com.
Here are the past winners of Canstar Blue’s microwave oven ratings:
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