Automatic sensors adjust cooking times and power
Can defrost anything without cooking it
12 preset modes make cooking simple
Can be used on a countertop or as a built-in
Too big for compact kitchens
Timer doesn’t run while auto sensing
For most, a microwave is an essential kitchen appliance. If you haven’t bought once since you moved into your first apartment, though, you may need a refresher on what to look for. When it comes to shopping for a new microwave you need to consider the size and type (countertop, over the range, or built-in) that best suits your space, as well as how much wattage you need (generally, higher wattage equals faster cooking time) and what presets you’d like.
Panasonic’s Countertop/Built-In Microwave offers a slew of advanced features from automatic sensors that adjust cooking times to a turbo defrosting setting that significantly speeds up defrosting time. To see if the versatile appliance would be a hit in our home, we picked one up and got to testing all of its presets. Read on for our thoughts on its design, performance, features, competition, and more.
Setup Process: Not too bad
The Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave has a whole lot of buttons, but the overall setup process was simple and intuitive. The microwave comes with a handy instruction manual, and all you have to do is skim it to get the process down pat. Once we removed the unit from its packaging, all we had to do was find a place to put it, install the roller ring and glass tray, and plug it into a wall outlet. Once the microwave is on, it automatically defaults to ounces and pounds, but you can convert it to metric measurements if you want. At this point, you can also program the clock and choose whether the microwave beeps or not. We prefer it make a noise so we know when our food is done, but if you want a microwave that’s as close to silent as possible, this is a nifty feature.
The microwave’s sheer size makes maneuvering it a bit tricky—especially if you’re placing it above a stove.
Overall, the most difficult part of setting up the microwave was lifting it to position it on our counter. With a 14 x 23.8 x 19.4-inch footprint and 37 pounds of heft, the appliance isn’t small by any means. The microwave’s sheer size makes maneuvering it a bit tricky—especially if you’re placing it above a stove (the unit is compatible with 27-inch cabinet openings). Luckily, most people don’t move their microwave often, so it’s a one and done task. The main thing to consider when placing it is that the oven is 3 inches or more from the countertop edge (to prevent tipping) and that the air vents remain unblocked.
Design: Large and powerful
Panasonic’s microwave is sleek with its chrome construction and matte black face. While it’s a smart-looking appliance, there isn’t much—aside from its size—that separates its design from any others on the market. On the right hand side is the control panel which features a clock/timer screen and buttons for setting your cook time and power level plus presets like popcorn, defrost, and reheat.
Inside, the 2.2-cubic-foot microwave has a 16.5-inch turntable that’s large enough to accommodate an extra-large baking dish. On the bottom of the frame, you’ll also find a handy sticker guide to auto-cook settings for common dishes like oatmeal, veggies, pasta, and frozen entrees. Each type of food corresponds to a number, so when you hit the ‘Sensor Cook’ button, you’ll know which number to select.
Performance: Silent and efficient
We’ve owned quite a few microwaves and each has had at least one dead spot—an area that doesn’t heat food as evenly as the rest. After testing the Panasonic for weeks on end, though, we haven’t found any cool spots. We’ve zapped dense bowls of grains, Indian curry, and leftover spaghetti, and we’ve defrosted raw chicken and frozen ground beef—all of which came out the way it should. Since the microwave is so large and has 1250 watts of cooking power, we were also, in many cases, able to heat up two plates of leftovers at once so our kids didn’t have to fight over the first plate of piping hot pizza pockets.
Aside from power and size, the other clever thing about this device is its lack of noise. Between cleaning dishes and trying to round up a wild toddler for dinner time, we hardly even noticed the microwave was running; the only time we ever heard it was when it gently beeped to let us know our food was done.
We’ve zapped dense bowls of grains, Indian curry, and leftover spaghetti, and we’ve defrosted raw chicken and frozen ground beef—all of which came out the way it should.
Now for a technical aspect that proved only so-so for us: the auto sensors. The Panasonic is outfitted with automatic sensors that can adjust power level and cook time depending on what you’re cooking. While this sounds like a great way to prevent over- and undercooking, there is a downfall: the microwave doesn’t show a cooking time like it does with manual settings. This meant we had no idea when to start preparing other dishes for dinner, or if we’d have time to run upstairs and put laundry away before the unit beeped. For some dishes, we were able to anticipate if they’d be a quick job or not, but for others—like reheating and defrosting, in particular—it was more of a guessing game.
Features: Ample ways to customize your cook
When it comes to extra features, this device leaves little to be desired. There’s a turbo defrost setting, a ‘keep warm’ feature, a ‘quick 30’ button that adds 30 seconds to your cook time, and 14 auto cook options for everything from breakfast sausage to fish fillets. Between the auto sensor settings and the option to manually set your cook time and power level, there’s little this microwave can’t cook. Since it’s so high power and it uses inverter technology to deliver a constant stream of heat, it also cooks quickly and evenly.
When it comes to extra features, this device leaves little to be desired.
For parents, the microwave also goes one step further, offering a child safety lock that makes it impossible for little ones to heat anything up. To set the lock, you click the start button three times, at which point a key will appear on the digital display. To release the lock, you then hit the stop button three times. While the lock is engaged, the microwave won’t respond to anyone hitting the buttons, so you we didn’t have to worry about our toddler microwaving his Easter bunny or seeing what would happen if they gave mommy’s bracelet a go.
Care: Typical cleaning process
The Panasonic is no harder to care for than any other microwave. When the interior needed a wipe down, we just unplugged the unit from the wall, removed the glass plate, and gave everything from the floor to the door a once over with a damp cloth. If you find that your plate is really covered in splattered, dried-on food, you can also put it in the dishwasher.
Price: Solid deal
With a retail price of roughly $250 (though you can find it for $200 or less on many online retailers), the Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave offers good bang for your buck. The device is attractive, feature rich, and guaranteed with a 1-year warranty. Thanks to its sizable footprint, it’s also an ideal option for large families and those who lean heavily on their microwave.
Competition: Lots of models to consider
Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave: Toshiba’s EM131A5C-BS Microwave is equipped with Smart Sensor technology that functions similarly to Panasonic’s. The device can automatically determine how long food needs to be heated based on its density and weight. The black stainless steel unit also has settings for popular items like pizza, veggies, and popcorn, though there are less to choose from. If you’re looking for a smaller model or a budget option, it’s worth checking out as it goes for just $115 and it has a much more compact footprint at 20.5 x 17.1 x 12.8 inches.
AmazonBasics Microwave: If your home is connected with a variety of Alexa devices, Amazonbasics’ microwave will fit in just fine. With the aid of an Echo device (which is sold separately), you can ask Alexa to start the microwave or even order via Amazon Fresh if you’re running low. While the microwave doesn’t offer as many features as the Panasonic (there’s really no comparison there) it does have a much more approachable $60 price point and a compact, 17.3 in. x 10.1 in. x 14.1-inch build.
Breville Quick Touch Intuitive Microwave: Breville’s smart microwave saves you time and effort in the kitchen with intuitive one-touch buttons and auto settings. Popping popcorn or melting chocolate? Just take a glance at the cheat sheet inside of the microwave and don’t worry about having to Google cook times or memorize the best setting. Like the Panasonic, the Breville is also equipped with a child lock and it’s comparably sized and priced.
A great buy all around.
There’s a lot to love about Panasonic’s microwave. It’s intuitive, feature rich, and can cook just about anything you throw at it. While its large footprint may not work for those with cramped kitchen quarters, it’s an invaluable option for families and those with space.
- Product Name 2.2 Cu. Ft. Countertop/Built-In Microwave with Inverter Technology
- Product Brand Panasonic
- MPN NN-SN966S
- Price $259.95
- Weight 37 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 14 x 23.8 x 19.4 in.
- Power Consumption 1460W
- Cooking Power 1250W
- Warranty 1-year from purchase date for all parts, save the Magnetron tube, which comes with a 5-year warranty