Compare microwave brands LG, Samsung, Sharp, Kmart, Breville, Panasonic and Big W Contempo on even heat distribution, value for money, ease of use, cooking functions, ease of cleaning, appearance & design, plus overall customer satisfaction in 2019.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Microwaves are essential for a modern-day kitchen and they’ve certainly come a long way since they first began. We almost can’t live without them – whether it’s re-heating leftovers, popping some corn, warming up a heat pack or even cooking your dinner, the trusty microwave can almost do it all. It’s not just about heating food anymore but cooking in style as well!
Microwaves are convenient for busy lifestyles, have programs to take the guesswork out of the cooking equation, and usually don’t take up much space. Your microwave oven is likely the unsung hero of your kitchen – and you’d only realise how much it does if it suddenly stopped working! From the cheap and cheerful models that you can pick up for less than $100, to the high-tech designs that cost more than $1,000, there’s plenty of choice to suit any budget.
However, not all microwave ovens are created equal – hence the disparity in prices! So, are the more expensive models and brands worth paying extra for, or will you get all the food zapping satisfaction you need from a fairly cheap microwave? That’s what our annual customer satisfaction ratings aim to find out, reviewing brands on factors such as even heat distribution, value for money and ease of use to try determine which microwave ovens offer the best overall bang for your food-zapping buck. This year we surveyed close to 1,000 households to find out ‘what’s cooking’.
The seven brands in our 2019 microwave oven review have been rated in the following order for overall customer satisfaction:
Samsung, Sharp, Kmart, Breville and Panasonic scored four stars overall, while Big W Contempo was left with a three. There were a few other five-star achievements across the board, including Sharp being the only brand to achieved top marks for event heat distribution, while Kmart was highest rated on value for money. LG, Samsung, Kmart and Breville all got five stars for ease of use. Most of the big names also got top marks for ease of cleaning.
Now let’s find out what each brand offers to Aussie consumers to see how these ratings came about.
Making ‘life good’ with a number of feature-packed microwave ovens, LG has most price points covered with its extensive range. Starting out at the low end of the pricing spectrum, its 23L microwave provides 1000W of heating power for just $169. It’s boasted for ‘Neo Chef’ technology, which is 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. 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. It’s claimed to have a stable turntable and provide faster cooking compared to the LG 1000W conventional microwave oven – up to 33% faster in fact. These microwaves also feature an LED lamp that is said to be three times brighter and more energy efficient than other LG microwaves.
Samsung’s microwaves range in price from approximately $150 to $650 and there’s an evident focus on appearance. If you’re after a stylish design, then Samsung’s 32L Mirror Finish Microwave with Ceramic Enamel Interior (MS32J5133BM) might hit the mark for you. It offers 1000W of power output and 16 pre-set cooking modes. A handy feature with this model is an auto keep warm program that keeps your food warm for up to 90 minutes. It also features auto-soften and melt functions – ideal for chocolate and butter. It also has a ceramic enamel inside, which is claimed to be scratch resistant and resilient against discolouration.
For around a $200 budget, Samsung offers several microwaves with smart moisture sensors that are claimed to detect the humidity level of food and suggest a suitable cooking time and power. With its ceramic enamel inside, Samsung also boasts a limited odour transfer where a only minimal amount of moisture is absorbed to transfer less smell.
A former winning brand in our annual microwave oven review, Sharp divides its microwaves into three categories – compact, midsize and large – with most being in the midsize range. The majority of Sharp microwave ovens tend to be priced between $150 and $350, with only a couple of models reaching the $1,000 mark. A standout compact microwave is the R231ZS model, which provides 800W of power and seems ideal for small kitchens. It comes with a price tag of $219, boasting 13 Auto Menus for a variety of Aussie tastes and a Sequence Cooking function, which allows for users to pre-program a number of cooking stages and times so that you can set and forget about your meal until it’s done.
Several other Sharp microwaves also boast the same features, along with a child lock safety feature and Express Defrost function, which is claimed to easily defrost 500g of meat through the pre-programmed Auto Menu. The two other Sharp microwaves over the $1,000 price tag are classified as large microwave and convection ovens that provide 1000W of heating power. Both use Inverter and Sensor technology for controlled cooking and have 21 Auto Menus to choose from. Sharp’s Sensor technology is claimed to calculate and determine the reheat and cook time for you when cooking popular items by monitoring the amount of moisture rising from the food.
Kmart offers a modest range of microwaves starting from its cheap and cheerful $48 model and maxing out at just over $100. It’s budget friendly option – the 20L Microwave (White) – has a decent number of features given the low price. These include six automatic cooking menus, 10 power levels, plus a defrost function. It offers 700W of power and has a child lock for safety.
For extra heating capacity, Kmart’s 34L Microwave (pictured) retails for $99. It has the same standard features as the model above including 10 power levels and six cooking menus. In addition, you’ll find an LED display to show the time remaining as well as the time of day. Expect an output wattage of 1100W and input of 1500W, plus a frequency of 50Hz.
Breville offers two microwaves at the time of writing, ranging in price from around $250 to $350. At the lower end of the pricing spectrum is Breville’s BMO734XL model, which is a powerful 1100W microwave oven claimed to offer speed, durability and practical features. It has automatic menus from reheat and defrost to melt and soften. It’s also stated to automatically measures humidity released from food to calculate the cooking time thanks to its Sensor IQ technology.
Breville’s most expensive model, the ‘Quick Touch Crisp’ (BMO700BSSUSC) can grill, toast and heat with “masterfully engineered functionality”. It boasts inverter technology and convection grills. It’s a mid-size 900W microwave that has a shortcut panel on the inside of the door with one-touch automatic buttons for the most commonly used tasks. There are several other settings that Breville boasts with its range of microwaves, including a feature that automatically adjusts power and time for “optimum results”, plus its integrated crisper pan aimed to help crisp and brown foods that normally become soggy such as pies and pastries.
For cooking and heating in style, Panasonic offers an ideal kitchen mate in the NN-SD38HS microwave, priced at $259. It provides a 23L capacity and 1000W of heating power. It also features an auto-reheat function for a boost of power, as well as a ‘Quick 30’ function that microwaves for 30 seconds with a touch of one button. Its inverter cooking technology, with graduated power sequences, is claimed to deliver more evenly cooked food and preserve texture and flavour, as well as preventing food spill-over.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a versatile cook in the kitchen, the NN-CS894S has a number of features including turbo steam, steam plus, micro power, grills, defrost, convection and crispy grill, which make it a compelling option. And the 32L steam combination oven with 2-Level convection cooking and inverter technologies will cost you a significant $1,279.
The two Big W ‘Contempo’ microwaves are both priced under $110. For $99, you will find Contempo’s Medium Digital Microwave Oven which looks ideal for small to medium sized kitchens. It provides 900W of heating power with eight pre-set automatic menu options to pick from. It allows you to defrost frozen food by weight or time and features a smart dial with a stainless-steel design.
There is also a similar version under the name ‘Contempo Large Digital Microwave Oven’ with nine automatic menu options, allowing you to reheat, defrost and cook meals. It’s priced at the $109 mark and provides 900W of heating power. It’s boasted for a stainless-steel fascia to ensure easy cleaning, a digital display and five variable power levels.
There’s a lot that might go through your mind when it comes to buying a microwave, as it’s typically an appliance you buy and use for years to come without really thinking much of it. When asked to pick the most important factor in their purchase decision, respondents to our survey reported:
Here are some of the other key findings from our survey:
Naturally your budget will determine which microwave oven you will ultimately go with. Are you looking for a quick fix in the kitchen, or a microwave to do much 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.
The Australian consumers we surveyed spent an average of about $208 on their microwaves. Even with this moderate spending, those surveyed said that price was the biggest factor that goes into choosing a new microwave. It certainly pays to do your research before jumping into a purchase. Our survey also found that almost half of adults (45%) use their microwave more than they use their oven or cooktop, while 18% of respondents wish they had spent more on a better microwave.
Be sure to consider the size and capacity of your next microwave. 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, make sure you have a tape measure on hand to avoid disappointment. Microwave capacity is measured in litres, so consider the capacity of your existing or old model and keep this in mind when picking a new one.
Once you’ve decided on size, there’s plenty of stylish varieties to choose from. It’s not all just about heating and cooking food, you might also want one that looks good too. Around two in five (41%) of survey respondents said they bought their microwave to compliment other appliances and their kitchen aesthetic.
There’s no point owning a microwave that 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 far cheaper model. When it comes to cleaning, all moving parts of the microwave should be removable so you can easily soak and wash them. This becomes especially apparent after a food explosion! Baked beans, we are looking at you!
If you want your microwave to do more than just ‘heat up’ your food, then menu functions that remove the guesswork and enhance the quality of the overall cooking process are a must. Ever yelled to your mum or partner ‘how long should I cook x for’? With these functions, you can bet the microwave knows better than you how long to cook something for. Look for 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.
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. This friction then creates heat from the inside. This is quite similar to rubbing your hands together in cold weather to warm them up. This is part of the reason why some foods put in the microwave can explode. So, think of convection microwaves like mini ovens – they operate similarly yet save on space. The major advantage of convection microwaves is that they can actually brown foods just like an oven, instead of just heating it up. However, be prepared to pay extra for a convection microwave. There are no $50 models here!
800 watts seems to be the minimum sweet spot for most microwaves. 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 more quickly, but do not necessarily deliver a better end result. If you’ve experienced splattered food all over your microwave cavity, it could be that your microwave is too powerful. 900 watts seems to be a good balance between power level, a good finished result, and cost effectiveness. Any more powerful and you’ll be talking about more money.
It’s evident that you’ll be able to find a new microwave with all sorts of fancy features – if that’s what you want in a new kitchen mate. But these functions are only worth paying for if you’re actually 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.
But also consider how much you use your microwave. It’s easy to underestimate how much you actually 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 premiums 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.
Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and used a new microwave in the last 3 years – in this case, 908 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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See our Ratings Methodology.
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