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To determine the best compact microwaves for your needs, you’ll need to consider the size and style, wattage, heating method, and the control panel for the microwave you want. Compact microwaves usually have no more than one cubic foot of internal capacity. And along the same lines, the external dimensions tend to be no more than 20 inches wide. Remember that you want a microwave that’s at least 700 watts to ensure food cooks quickly and evenly. Depending on your budget, you’ll want to consider which heating method is most appropriate for you — but we recommend inverter and convection options for power microwave users. And finally, consider the types of cooking features that are most important to you as well as the control panel interface.
After looking at thousands of reviews across a variety of price points and microwave configurations, we nominated the Toshiba ML2-EM09PA(BS) Microwave Oven as our Top Pick and the best compact microwave. Keep reading to learn more about our selection criteria and to review our recommendations for the best microwaves on the market.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: The best small microwave with 900 watts of power, 0.9 cubic feet of internal space, and an intuitive eco mode to help minimize power consumption in standby mode.
When you need a compact microwave oven for your small kitchen, that doesn’t mean that you’re ready to sacrifice functionality. We think that this Toshiba model is one of the best small microwaves because it helps to save space while still providing intuitive features that can appeal to a wide array of users. In terms of essential specs, you’ll get 900 watts of cooking power and an interior capacity of 0.9 cubic feet which puts this microwave in the median range for a compact option. The external dimensions are 19.2 inches wide, 15.9 inches deep, and 11.5 inches tall with a 10-inch glass turntable diameter.
One thing we did note in our review research were complaints about the interior light flickering during operation after roughly a year of routine use. Still, we liked that this model offers an eco power-saving mode that reduces consumption by as much as 50% when the microwave is on standby. You’ll also get six preset auto-cook buttons for options like reheating a dinner plate or making popcorn. Also, the first six buttons on the keypad are pre-programmed one-touch quick start buttons that automatically cook food from one to six minutes. You’ll also get a 30-second quick start option, 10 power settings, a kitchen timer, a button to silence indicator noises, and a memory function. We think it’s one of the best microwaves for dorms on our list.
Note: Toshiba sells a slightly less compact (1.2 CF vs 0.9 CF) microwave (Toshiba EM131A5C-BS) for about $40 less.
Related: If you like this microwave, you might be interested in finding the best quiet microwave.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: The best inverter microwave with a compact 0.8-cubic foot capacity that includes nine auto-cook options, sensor technology, and an array of intuitive cooking features.
Compact doesn’t have to mean basic, and Panasonic proves why this is true. Their NN-SD372S stainless steel microwave is a space-saving solution that’s powerful enough to do far more than reheat last night’s dinner or make popcorn. We think it’s the best inverter microwave because you’ll get 0.8-cubic feet of internal capacity and 950 watts of cooking power. The inverter ensures more even heat distribution. The external dimensions measure 19.2 inches wide, 14.81 inches deep, and 11 inches tall, and there’s an 11.2-inch diameter glass turntable.
See also: The best retro microwave.
Not everyone will love the control panel on this Panasonic microwave as it relies on push buttons and a dial as opposed to a traditional smooth keypad. But you still get the digital timer display. You’ll appreciate the nine included auto-cook presets, 10 power levels, and other smart features such as Keep Warm, Turbo Defrost, a kitchen timer, and a Quick Minute option for fast reheating like what you experience through air fryers. Note, this model also comes with a child safety lock feature, making it a great option for families with small children so the kids can’t get hurt thanks to the child lock. If you’re looking for the best speed cooking microwaves, it’s a good choice.
Award: BEST QUALITY
WHY WE LIKE IT: The best microwave for someone who wants to save space but likes robust features like the ability to grill, and doesn’t want to compromise on power.
For people who like sleek and modern appliances, this pick from Samsung should be at the top of your list. The MG14H3020CM can also be reconfigured to a built-in microwave — although you’ll need to buy a separate trim kit to install it properly. We think this is the best microwave for someone who loves the idea of a space-saving design but still needs the interior capacity to accommodate larger dishes for more robust cooking. This countertop microwave comes with 950 watts of cooking power and an internal capacity of 1.4 cubic feet. However, with external dimensions that measure 21.9 inches wide, 18.1 inches deep, and 12.3 inches tall, this might be too large for someone with a truly tiny kitchen or a break room with limited counter space.
This model also features a glass turntable with a diameter of 14 inches, making it perfect to accommodate serious cooking projects. For people focused on aesthetics, you’ll love the mirrored finish exterior for an elevated effect. We also like that this model comes with a grilling element and ceramic plate which turns your microwave into a true oven replacement. Additionally, you’ll get a wide array of cooking presets, PowerGrill functionality, eco power-saving mode for energy efficiency, an easy to clean ceramic enamel interior, and a triple distribution heating system for more evenly cooked meals. And for families with small children, this option also features a child safety lock. For more Samsung options, check out our best Samsung microwaves list.
Award: BEST AESTHETICS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A vintage-inspired countertop microwave oven that’s perfect for simple reheating or quick-cooking settings with 700 watts of power and a straightforward control panel.
There are microwaves for power users want a power setting and then there are microwaves for people who only need to reheat food like leftover baking potatoes or make popcorn. Knowing which category best describes you can help you to narrow down your choices within a focused selection that makes sense for your needs. This Daewoo vintage compact microwave oven is truly designed for someone who doesn’t rely on a microwave for most cooking needs but wants something that serves as a complement to their kitchen decor. You’ll get 700 watts of power and an interior capacity of 0.7 cubic feet — which is ideal for a compact microwave.
The exterior dimensions measure 17.6 inches wide, 12.7 inches deep, and 10.6 inches tall and you’ll get a 10-inch glass turntable. We think that within the audience demographic that just wants a simple microwave that works with the push of a button, this could appeal to a wide array of customers including senior citizens and college students. This is primarily due to the simple layout on the control panel that relies on a rotary dial and three easy to use buttons. But you’ll still get a large LCD timer display alongside that simple button interface. In terms of functionality, you’ll get four auto-cook options, a two-way defrost feature, and five power levels. This vintage-inspired microwave has a chrome finish pull handle and is available in three colors. Great for popping the best microwave popcorn. If you’d like to pop popcorn while toasting some snacks for a movie night, we recommend investing in a toaster oven microwave combo.
Award: BEST FOR STUDIOS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A truly petite microwave that can be nestled in countertop corners to maximize space, while still providing a commendable 750 watts of power and an 11-inch glass turntable.
For the most part, microwaves all tend to have the same design — boxy and clunky. If you prefer a microwave with rounded corners and a unique look, then the Whirlpool 0.5 cubic foot countertop compact microwave oven is anything but standard. We specifically like that this model is designed to fit into corners. And that makes so much sense considering many kitchens are designed in L, C, or U shapes with corner areas that are something akin to wasted space. This option fits in perfectly with external dimensions that measure 15.37 inches wide, 13.75 inches deep, and 3.12 inches tall. And with an 11-inch glass turntable, you can still fit most standard dinner plates.
While we think this is a great space-saving solution for college students or people with tiny kitchens, we’re also realists. For some people, the limited functionality may be a dealbreaker. Likewise, this is a more basic microwave that relies on intermittent pulsing as opposed to convection or inverter technology to heat and cook food. If you’re not trying to find an oven replacement, then this model is fine with two one-touch cook options, 10 power levels, as well as a defrost and a reheat option. For more options that will fit tiny spaces, check out our best small microwave buying guide.
Award: BEST FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A compact microwave oven with 0.7 cubic feet of interior capacity, that’s available in three colors, and plenty of auto-cook presets and features to make college life easier.
Even though most college dorms offer a communal kitchen area, who wants to trek down to the first floor late at night to reheat pizza or make popcorn? Even though a microwave can make life easier when you live in a dorm, you also have to be mindful of the size since most college dorm rooms aren’t spacious. We’re including this pick from Farberware because it’s a great compact option that should fit in most dorm rooms with no issue. You’ll get 700 watts of power and an interior capacity of 0.7 cubic feet. The external dimensions measure 17.75 inches wide, 12.91 inches deep, and 10.1 inches tall.
This model also comes with a rotating glass turntable that measures 10 inches in diameter. The Farberware microwave comes with six one-touch express cooking buttons to automatically set the cooking timer to between one and six minutes. You’ll also get six auto-cook functions for items like popcorn or beverage reheating. This model comes with 10 power levels. And while a college student might not care, you also get a child safety lock to prevent unsupervised use.
Award: BEST POWER
WHY WE LIKE IT: A modern designed compact microwave with an impressive 1,040 watts of power and 0.9 cubic feet of internal capacity that relies on inverter technology for superior microwave cooking quality and even heat distribution.
Hands down, inverter powered microwaves are a fan favorite for anyone who is trying to use a microwave as an oven replacement. Inverter technology guarantees more even heat distribution and reduces the risk of hot or cold spots as your food cooks, so a food type like your leftover baked potato heats up evenly and doesn’t have this unpleasant cold spot in the middle. The LG NeoChef is a great compact inverter microwave that has racked up a variety of positive reviews around the internet for good reason — because it’s intuitive. This is one of the more sophisticated configurations we’ve seen in a microwave with a hidden door handle. You’ll get 1,040 watts of power — one of the highest ratings we found in our research — and 0.9 cubic feet of interior capacity. The external dimensions measure 18 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep, and 11 inches tall.
While we like the sleek layout of the LG NeoChef, some people might experience an initial learning curve as the control panel is split between the hidden panel behind the door and there are also functional buttons on the door’s glass panel. Still, you’ll get an 11.5-inch glass turntable which should accommodate most plates. The LG NeoChef microwave comes with seven auto-cook presets, 10 power levels, a quick start option, a child safety lock, as well as a defrost and auto reheat option. For additional high-power options that can defrost and cook frozen foods like frozen vegetables and frozen dinners, check out our best Panasonic microwaves buying guide.
Award: BEST FOR ALL AGES
WHY WE LIKE IT: A convenient compact microwave with 0.7 cubic feet of internal capacity and an easy to use control panel that will work for all experience levels, even kids.
Finding a microwave that’s compatible with all age ranges can be a tough feat. But we believe that the RCA microwave oven is a great solution for people of all ages who just need a simple microwave and don’t want to fight with complex control panels that waste your time while trying to figure out which push button to press. This model offers 700 watts of power and 0.7 cubic feet of internal capacity. It’s also a truly compact option with external dimensions that measure 17 inches wide, 12 inches deep, and 9 inches tall.
However, this model has one of the smallest glass turntables we’ve ever seen at just 9.5 inches in diameter that would be suitable for small food or drinks like a cup of coffee. Turntable concerns aside, the RCA microwave comes with a great preset menu that includes six auto-preset cooking options, six express-touch cooking buttons, 10 power levels, as well as defrost, and quick-cooking buttons. If you’d like something you can install up high and out of the way, our best built-in microwaves buying guide has several good options worth considering.
Award: BEST FOR SENIORS
WHY WE LIKE IT: A truly user-friendly microwave solution with a control panel with large font and a sturdy pull handle that’s ideal for people with vision impairments or reduced hand strength.
For many seniors, the more complex microwaves may be overwhelming or not as easy to use because of accessibility issues. This Magic Chef microwave is a great alternative since it offers great accessibility features that make this user-friendly with a control panel that isn’t overwhelming. This microwave comes with 900 watts of power and an interior capacity of 0.9 cubic feet. The external dimensions measure 18.3 inches wide, 14.8 inches deep, and 11 inches tall.
Like we mentioned, the Magic Chef microwave has a streamlined control panel with an LED display clock timer. However, one drawback we did see with this model is that instead of buttons or a rotary knob, the control panel is touchpad based, which may be more difficult for some seniors to use. Even though it’s a keypad, we do like that the font is larger. More importantly, you’ll get a pull handle for the door, which is much easier to use than push-mechanism-style doors. The Magic Chef microwave comes with eight auto-cook pre-programming options and weight and time defrost control so you have more control over the defrost setting to avoid cold and hot spots. It’s why we’ve designed it one of the best microwaves for seniors on our list.
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Award: BEST ON A BUDGET
WHY WE LIKE IT: A smart-enabled microwave with built-in Alexa voice assistant integration that’s compact with just 0.7 cubic feet of internal capacity and 700 watts of power.
These days, almost everything can be integrated with voice assistant technology. In addition to the hands-free element, voice assistants can help you add food to your grocery list or place your next grocery order. The AmazonBasic microwave is our Best on a Budget recommendation because, in addition to being an affordable microwave, it’s also integrated with Alexa and features compact dimensions — proving that you don’t have to sacrifice on functionality just because you’re limited on space.
Even though this model doesn’t come with a lot of presets, we think the Alexa integration more than makes up for it — especially when you factor in the budget-friendly price. For the most part, you’re limited to popcorn and defrost preset as well as 10 power levels. But you still get an LED display. The AmazonBasics microwave offers 700 watts of power and an interior capacity of 0.7 cubic feet. The external dimensions measure 17.3 inches wide, 14.1 inches deep, and 10.1 inches tall. You’ll also get a turntable that is 10 inches in diameter. If you’d like a more all-in-one option, you’ll want the best convection microwave ovens.
Compact microwaves are an essential appliance for anyone who’s living or working in a tight space where larger models wouldn’t make sense. To create our guide for the best compact microwaves, we prioritized the following key features — size and style, wattage, heating method, and the control panel.
Officially, a compact microwave should have less than one cubic foot of internal capacity. You’ll note that the majority of our selections have an internal capacity that ranges between 0.7 to 0.9 cubic feet. While we did include one model that was more than one cubic foot, this was strategic. Even though some people think they want a compact microwave, the reality is that their cooking style — especially if they rely on their microwaves as oven replacements — dictates that they need a larger solution.
All of our recommendations were countertop microwaves, but there were a few that could be upgraded to built-in configurations. Keep in mind that for built-in microwaves, you usually have to purchase a trim kit separately. We also made note of the wattage for each microwave we recommended, ensuring a minimum of 700 watts. In terms of the heating method, you’ll note that the majority of our selections are simple intermittent pulse models. However, we did include a few inverter options which will guarantee more even cooking and a reduction in hot or cold spots.
And finally, we focused on the control panel. We don’t believe that a compact microwave has to be limited in functionality. So, we included several options with robust cooking features ranging from including grilling elements to a variety of auto-cook presets and other intuitive cooking features. Likewise, all of our models include an LED display.
Small microwaves are rated as having no more than one cubic foot of internal capacity. A compact microwave will usually have 0.7 cubic feet or less. However, anything under one cubic foot should be ideal for most people seeking a small or compact microwave.
If you have a tiny kitchen, your goal should be to preserve your usable counter space. There are a variety of locations if you’re limited on space. The most obvious choice is an over-the-range microwave that preserves counter space. After that, a built-in microwave can be stored in a cabinet or as a combination with a wall oven.
The best small microwave is one that fits the dimensions of where you plan on storing it while still providing adequate internal capacity to fit your cooking needs. The microwave should also offer plenty of functionality to be compatible with your lifestyle.
The short answer is yes, but with an asterisk. Not all countertop microwaves are automatically designed to be reconfigured as a built-in model. If you’re thinking about installing a microwave on a countertop or as part of a wall oven configuration, you’ll need to make sure that the model you want is meant to support built-in installation. You’ll also need to purchase a separate trim kit so that it matches your kitchen decor or the look of your wall oven.