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In this guide
The 70s wasn’t the kindest decade. Look at the bell-bottoms, trippy home decor and any of the Beatles’ haircuts. Most horrendous of all? Microwave cookbooks. Thankfully, we’re beyond the days of attempting to whip up ‘gourmet’ meals in the microwave and instead rely on them for their convenience.
The best microwave quickly and effectively cooks or heats your food. It’s easy to use and clean and doesn’t look too frightening on your kitchen benchtop. Here are the top microwaves in Australia, chosen from hours of research, including expert insights and real Aussie consumer feedback.
How we picked
CHOICE, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group, has done some extensive research and testing of microwaves. So, we began by looking at the microwaves they’d put through their paces.
We then turned to ProductReview.com.au, Australia’s first consumer opinion website, to see how microwaves that performed well in the lab performed in real Aussie kitchens. Ideally, we wanted around 100 reviews and an overall rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars.
Armed with knowledge of what the experts deemed best and what Aussies loved, we based our top picks on what we thought was key criteria. This included ease of use and cleaning, affordability, and a decent warranty. We were looking for microwaves that cover a range of prices and functionality. When microwaves first came to the market, they were touted as a replacement for your oven, capable of cooking full meals. These days, most people use microwaves for simpler tasks like warming leftovers, making popcorn, or sterilising baby bottles. We weren’t necessarily swayed by lots of impressive features but wanted to ensure that whatever you wanted to do – heat your food up, defrost tonight’s dinner or sensor cook the Sunday roast – you could find a microwave for you.
We’ve only covered countertop microwaves in this guide, not built-in ones. That’s because countertop microwaves are easily available and affordable and suit most people.
The best microwave for most
Choose this if
The LG MS4296OBC is a better-than-standard microwave. It cooks and reheats food, plus makes yogurt, softens or melts ingredients and offers power-saving and sensor cook mode to take the guesswork out of cooking times. Easy to use, it’s also easy to clean thanks to its anti-bacterial interior coating.
What we love
Hello quick clean ups, thanks to the easy clean interior coating. Bonus, SGS testing shows this coating eliminates 99.99% of harmful bacteria making it safe for the whole family.
With a hexagonal ring for 6 extra places of support, you won’t need to worry about any off-centre item tipping over during cooking.
Not sure what power and how much time you need to cook your favourite foods? Select sensor cook and the microwave will do all the hard work for you.
At 42L, this is a great family-size microwave.
Energy saving mode
Switch on energy saving mode and it’ll turn off the display, helping to reduce your energy consumption. Plus, its interior light is an eco-friendly, long-lasting LED.
Keep little ones safe by activating the child lock - no cooking can happen when the child lock is on.
Proof / fermenting function
With this clever function, you can make yogurt in your microwave.
Smart Diagnosis function
Honestly, this is borderline scary – your microwave can ‘talk’ to an LG Electronics Service Centre if it malfunctions or fails. When you ring the service centre, you can put your phone next to this function and your microwave will emit noises. The service centre can then help diagnose the issue using the information transmitted.
ProductReview.com.au award winner
This microwave was a ProductReview.com.au 2018 and 2019 winner, which means that it’s been well-rated by real Aussies. It currently has over 200 4- and 5-star reviews.
The not so good bits
Touch screen controls
Some people find these difficult to use, especially as you get use to their sensitivity level. However, these are easier to clean with no crevices for food to get stuck in.
Menu inside the door
To find the different functions, you need to open the door which is fine, once you’ve got used to it.
At RRP over $300, this is an expensive microwave.
If you want a microwave multitasker that’ll cook or reheat your food, plus do a little more – like make yogurt and melt or soften ingredients – in an easy to use and easy to clean way, consider the LG MS4296OBC. Not only does it pack the standard features you’d expect, it’s got some extra smarts and it’s very popular with Aussies. There are almost 250 reviews on ProductReview.com.au, giving it a current rating of 4.3 stars. It’s also a ProductReview.com.au award winner 2018 and 2019.
It’s got 1,200 watts of power which LG reckons makes for quicker cooking and reheating times. It offers 10 different power levels (from 120W upwards) to support different cooking methods. This makes it multi-functional: there are 7 cooking modes. This includes reheat, melt, sensor cook – which means it doesn’t cook based on the weight or time you input, but instead it senses the ideal power level and time – defrost, soften, proof (i.e. make yogurt!) and keep warm. Phew.
We like some of the smart extras in the LG MS4296OBC. Like the hexagonal ring that boosts turntable stability. This provides 6 support points, which helps prevent off-centre items from tipping over during cooking. Plus, the anti-bacterial easy clean interior coating for quick, easy care. This coating eliminates 99.9% of harmful bacteria from the surface. This has been tested by SGS - the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. There’s also the focus on energy efficiency with the interior LED lamp and the optional energy saving mode.
It comes with a 2-year warranty, plus a 10-year parts warranty on the Smart Invertor Magnetron technology. The sleek, minimalist design featuring a single piece of tempered glass on the front door creates a modern look for every home. Not only is it loved by Aussies, it’s been reviewed by CHOICE and is CHOICE's best brand - microwaves 2019 and 2020. Phew.
The downside? It has a hefty RRP of over $300. But it’s crammed with great features, has plenty of satisfied Aussie consumers and will probably last you many years, making it a worthwhile investment.
The best budget microwave
Choose this if
The Kmart Anko 20L Microwave is a microwave for people who want occasional basic microwave tasks. No-frills, it offers good functionality, including a defrost function and 6 auto cooking menus. On the smaller size, with a 20L capacity and only powered by 700 watts, it suits compact kitchens.
What we love
Easy to use
The touch controls are easy to understand, making using the microwave very easy.
The dedicated defrost functions – either by weight or ‘speed defrost’ – up the usefulness of this microwave.
Sometimes, you just need to set a timer. You can use the timer even when the microwave isn’t in use, which can be helpful.
Easy to clean
The touch controls are also easy to clean, with no crevices for food to get trapped in.
10 power levels
So you can customise the power to your needs.
6 auto cooking menus
Not sure what’ll suit your potato, pizza, popcorn and more? Simply press the auto cook buttons and let the microwave do it for you.
Keep little hands safe with the child lock.
At less than $50, this is an excellently priced simple microwave.
With its 20L capacity and restrained dimensions, the microwave suits small kitchens well.
Aussies love it
It’s well-rated on ProductReview.com.au, while Kmart is well-rated on the Canstar Blue survey.
The not so good bits
As you’d expect at this price, the warranty period is small.
At this price, there could be some quality issues, especially concerning how long it’ll last.
It’s only available in white and won’t win any style awards.
If you need a microwave to simply heat or cook your food, look no further than the Kmart Anko 20L Microwave. It’s a no-frills microwave which includes 700-watt power, 10 power levels and 6 auto cooking menus. These menus cover potatoes, popcorn, pizza, beverage, frozen vegetables and reheat. You can also cook or defrost by weight – no auto sensing here.
But it’s got a child safety lock, and a $48 price tag. Making this a firmly affordable microwave.
It’s got easy clean, touch controls and, thanks to its lack of features, is easy to use. The kitchen timer can be used standalone which is helpful. It’s also fairly compact, with a 20L capacity and measuring 26cm H x 45cm W x 31cm D. It does look like a microwave a child would draw though: it’s white and rectangular.
However, it’s been thoroughly put through its paces by CHOICE and it has almost 150 reviews on ProductReview.com.au, giving it 4 stars. Kmart is also Canstar Blue’s 4th most popular microwave oven brand, with Aussies rating it 4 stars for overall satisfaction and most other categories. It got 5 stars on ease of use and value for money, but just 3 stars for cooking functions.
The best compact microwave
Choose this if
Short on space? Meet the Sharp R240YS. This compact microwave offers 800 watts, a weight defrost function to avoid that forgot-to-defrost-the-meat panic, 9 auto menus designed for Aussie kitchens, 11 power levels and simple controls. This all comes in a stylish black / silver package for under $200.
What we love
We reckon this is the best small microwave, making it ideal for small kitchens. It measures 45.2cm wide.
The classic black and silver styling should suit every home.
For easy use.
Well-labelled buttons offer 1-touch use. Plus, they’re sealed so cleaning is quick.
11 power levels
You can gently warm butter or nuke last month’s frozen leftovers.
Forgotten to defrost the meat for tonight’s dinner? No dramas with the weight defrost function.
Prevent little fingers from using it.
Australian designed menus
The 9 auto menus have been developed in Australia using Australian produce.
It comes in under $200.
The not so good bits
None that we can find. Although because of its small size, the display and touch controls are on the smaller side.
If space is a key consideration for you, then the Sharp R240YS is a good solution - we reckon it’s Australia’s best small microwave. Compact, as the full name tells you (the Sharp 800W Black / Silver Compact Microwave), it measures just 45.2cm wide. It’s 26.2cm high and 38.8cm deep so it should fit even the smallest kitchen.
Usually, compact microwaves compromise on looks. Not so with the Sharp R240YS with its sleek black and silver styling. It has a bright LED display for easy use and sealed touch controls for easy cleaning. Well-labelled, it offers 1-touch use.
Packing 800 watts, it offers 11 power levels and a clever weight defrost feature. So those nights when you’ve forgotten to defrost the meat for dinner, this microwave will quickly and easily sort it. It’s also got a child lock to prevent small fingers operating it.
We love that the 9 auto menus are Australian developed. This means Sharp Australia tests and develops them using locally-sourced produce, making them well-suited to Aussie ingredients and kitchens.
Coming in under $200, it’s been reviewed by CHOICE and has limited, ok consumer reviews. Sharp is also Canstar Blue’s 2nd most popular microwave brand.
Others worth considering
Take the guesswork out of cooking with the Panasonic NN-ST776S. With a 44L capacity, it boasts 18 preset sensor menus. Press a button and it’ll perfectly cook chocolate, veggies, quinoa, chicken, pasta and more. It’ll even reheat your coffee that’s gone cold.
Its inverter technology means you get greater control over the power. It can precisely soften or melt ingredients, like butter, without turning them into a puddle. We love the add time button which allows you to easily select extra cooking time to finish your dinner perfectly.
Stainless steel, it looks great (though beware fingerprints). It’s been reviewed by CHOICE and Panasonic is Canstar Blue’s current top microwave brand. Aussies give Panasonic 5 star ratings for things like overall satisfaction and ease of use. On ProductReview.com.au it gets around 2.5 stars from limited reviews. Some Aussies reckon the backlit display is really hard to read. It’ll set you back around $400.
Opt for the cheaper-than-our-winner LG MS2596OB and you’re getting the same features, but a smaller capacity and correspondingly smaller power.
It’s got the same anti-bacterial easy clean interior coating, stable turntable, proofing function, LED internal light, warranty plus sleek looks. But it’s only 25L capacity, with 1,000 watts of power. It still has 10 power levels but rather than our winner’s sensor cook, it has a popular menu function. Which means rather than sensing the food’s vapours and cooking accordingly, it’ll use pre-set time and power levels.
It’s been recommended by CHOICE in 2017 and 2018, has good consumer reviews and is from Canstar Blue’s #1 microwave oven brand. At RRP $229, it’s almost $100 cheaper than our winner.
The 28L, 1,000-watt Samsung ME6104 is another compact option. It packs 11 power levels, sensor cook, power defrost, auto soften and melt and a ceramic interior which Samsung reckons is easy to clean and scratch resistant. It also has a child safety lock, eco power saving mode and the ability to turn the sound on and off if you can’t bear a beeping microwave.
It comes with a 2-year warranty and a $249 RRP. Although it hasn’t been reviewed by CHOICE, it has been by its Kiwi equivalent, Consumer. Samsung is also Canstar Blue’s 2nd most popular microwave oven brand and it has good, but limited, consumer reviews.
The Sharp R210DW has a lower RRP than our best small microwave pick, the Sharp R240YS. This means you’re getting 750 watts, not 800. Rather than the black and stainless-steel looks of the R240YS, this is a more basic looking white microwave. It has 6 auto menus and express defrost, rather than weight defrost. Again, these auto menus are Australian-developed using Australian ingredients.
It has positive, but limited, consumer reviews and has been tested by CHOICE.
The bottom line
A microwave can be a big help on those days you’ve forgotten to defrost meat for dinner, or when you want to quickly reheat leftovers for lunch. It should be easy to use and easy to clean.
If you want a microwave multitasker that’ll cook or reheat your food, plus do a little more – like make yogurt and melt or soften ingredients – consider our winner, the LG MS4296OBC. Not only does it pack the standard features you’d expect, it’s got some extra smarts and it’s very popular with Aussies. With a RRP of $319, it’s an investment.
At the other end of the price scale is our runner-up, the Kmart Anko 20L Microwave. No-frills, it’ll simply heat or cook your food with its 10 power levels and 6 auto cooking menus. Even with its $48 price, it has a child safety lock and has been put through its paces by CHOICE.
For smaller kitchens, there’s the Sharp R240YS. With its compact size (it measures just 45.2cm wide) it won’t take up too much benchtop space. In stylish black and silver, it doesn’t compromise on looks - or features. It has sealed touch controls, 11 power levels, a weight defrost feature and a child lock. It also has 9 auto menus that have been developed specifically for Aussie kitchens. It even comes in under $200.
Features to consider
Because there are only a handful of microwave manufacturers in the world, most microwaves are packing the same technology. Which means your buying decision probably isn’t based on technical specs. The difference between microwaves is price, programming, controls and brand – not features. These are the features that every microwave should have.
Easy to use interface
You should be able to work out your microwave from glancing at the controls. Rather than dials and knobs, touch interfaces can be faster to use, once you’ve got used to their sensitivity level. Plus, they’re easier to clean.
Most microwaves offer multiple cooking modes, which you may not use. But essential functions to look for are time cook (i.e. manually set the cooking time), express cooking (i.e. press a button to instant start cooking for a pre-set amount of time) and an add time button (i.e. add a certain amount of time to the cook time). A defrost function is also helpful. The more expensive the microwave, the more modes you’ll get – from pre-set cooking modes for food like potatoes or popcorn, to express defrost and proofing functions.
Decent turntable size
As microwaves pack more in, their size can grow too. If you’re after a compact microwave, make sure the turntable is still big enough to hold your microwave-safe plates.
Whether it’s a high use or occasional use item, you need your microwave to be easy clean. Look for touch controls that are easily wiped clean, with no buttons or dials for food to get caught in. Ensure you can remove the turntable so you can soak and wash it. Some microwaves, like our LG winner, have an anti-microbial easy clean interior.
The size of the microwave relates to its power level. The bigger the microwave, the bigger the power. The bigger the power, the quicker it’ll quick and reheat your food. But a 800-watt or less microwave might not perform badly, if it’s small. Plus, get too powerful a microwave and you might experience food splatter.
Sometimes it’s good to check on your food as it’s cooking. This is especially true for delicate jobs like melting butter or chocolate. If you’re planning on doing more with your microwave than just reheating or cooking your food, pay attention to the door visibility.
You should be able to lock your microwave against curious little fingers. This means when the lock’s engaged, whatever is pressed, the microwave won’t power up. Most microwaves have this feature, including our budget runner-up.
What you get if you spend more
Spend more, and you’ll get more – features, that is. Whether you use those features or not will depend on how often you’ll use your microwave. All these features are nice to haves, but not must haves.
Hate the passive aggressive beeping noise your microwave makes when it’s done? Hunt down a microwave with volume features. This could allow you to turn the volume down or turn the noise off. Some even play music, rather than beep.
We found that sensor cooking is a high-end feature. Rather than you setting a power level and time, a sensor detects how much steam comes from the cooking food and optimises the cooking accordingly. Sensor cooking takes the guesswork out of using a microwave.
If you’re going to use your microwave a lot, energy consumption might be a consideration. Some models offer eco-friendly features, like a power-saving mode or LED lights.
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