Best microwave 2020: 10 top built-in, countertop and small microwaves

Find the best microwave – from freestanding to small microwave options – in our expert guide

best microwave - Swan Nordic Digital Microwave - Real Homes
Swan Nordic Digital Microwave
(Image credit: Swan)

In need of the best microwave? We totally get it. Even if you don't know it yet, having a microwave in the home will totally revolutionise how you defrost, cook, reheat (and bake!) this summer.

Best microwave 2020 quick links

Whether you're a busy person with kids in tow, a student or simply fond of convenience foods – you need one of the best microwaves around to make life easier! Maybe you don't actually have an oven? No shame as microwaves are beyond their years right now and are smarter, better-looking and more compact than ever before.

In this guide we have taken the due diligence to compare the best makes and models around for 2020. Keep scrolling to see our top pick of the best small microwave, built-in microwave and a few freestanding options, or use our quick links to quickly navigate.

Looking for a larger appliance to cook with? No worries: head over to our best ovens guide for easy baking and more.

The best small microwave

Small microwaves are brilliant at saving space and don't miss a beat on performance. Their compact size will work with a variety of kitchen decors and, since our selection are freestanding, will sit pretty on a counter top or on a shelf where  space is at a premium.

Best small microwave: Russell Hobbs Aura RHM2079A 20 Litre Microwave

1. Russell Hobbs Aura RHM2079A 20L Microwave

Best small microwave: a high-tech, sleek, mini-microwave for modern kitchens

Specifications
Wattage: 800W
Oven: No
Grill: No
Capacity: 20ltrs
Dimensions: H20.8cm x W30.6cm x D30.6cm
Reasons to buy
+ Simple to use + Easy to clean+ Looks great
Reasons to avoid
-No grill or oven function

This sleek white small microwave from Russell Hobbs gets our vote for the best compact microwave, and for good reasons too.

What can it do?

This microwave is loved by users for its ease of operation, with no extra features or buttons bulking it out. It does, however, have a good range of automatic programmes to help you cook your food to perfection, and if you often buy frozen food, this microwave also has a special function that thaws food both quickly and hygienically. 

Specs

At 800 watts, it’s impressively powerful for its size. Despite its compact nature, its interior is surprisingly large – there is enough room to fit a standard-sized dinner plate. It is also easy to clean. 

Our verdict

A great all-rounder and our pick of the best small microwaves...

  • Buy the Russell Hobbs Aura RHM2079A Microwave 

Best small countertop microwave: Swan Nordic Digital Microwave

(Image credit: Swan)

2. Swan SM22036WHTN 20L Nordic Digital Microwave

Best small microwave for countertop: this Nordic design microwave will look great on your kitchen worktop

Specifications
Wattage: 800
Grill: No
Oven: No
Capacity: 20ltrs
Reasons to buy
+Looks great+Other matching appliances available+Available in several colours+Six power levels+30 minute timer
Reasons to avoid
-No grill or oven functions

Looking for a microwave that won't be an eyesore in your kitchen? This microwave from Swan is ideal for those going for a Scandinavian vibe or a minimalist theme in their kitchen.

What can it do?

The Swan Nordic Digital Microwave features six different programmes to choose from. These include a defrost option, an express programme for fast cooking, a micro power setting for blasting foods such as rice and leftovers, and many more. 

Specs

Ideal for small families or those who don't heavily rely on their microwave, this Swan model has a 20 litre capacity and it has 800 watts of power behind it. 

Our verdict

We loooooooove the design of this microwave. Its soft touch wood effect door handle and microwave control are gorgeous and the fact it comes in white and dark grey makes it a winner in our eyes. Also, it's not outrageously expensive! Result.

  • Buy the Swan SM22036WHTN 20L Nordic Digital Microwave

Best microwave for small family: Swan Retro Digital Solo Microwave

3. Swan SM22030BLN 20L Retro Digital Microwave

Best microwave for small family: small and good-looking for interior design lovers

Specifications
Wattage: 800
Grill: No
Oven: No
Capacity: 20ltrs
Dimensions: H26cm x W44cm x D32.1cm
Reasons to buy
+ Choice of colours+ Affordable 
Reasons to avoid
-Not ideal for those who don't want the retro look-No grill or oven

The style-conscious will love this retro-looking small microwave from Swan. And it's great for small families thanks to its range of features, high wattage and great-sized capacity.

What can it do?

It features a range of settings for different temperatures and even for defrosting food, with a 60 minute digital timer for ease of use.

Specs

It comes in a range of different colours and it has a 20 litre capacity but, despite its size, it packs a punch when it comes to power (800 watts). The turntable provides even heat distribution when warming up meals so you can expect quick and easy cooking in this microwave.

Our verdict

For those who are looking for both aesthetics and functionality, this digital microwave is ideal. The best small microwave for families going for a retro look in their kitchen, we think.

  • Buy the Swan SM22030BLN 20L Retro Digital Microwave

Best small microwave for office: Russell Hobbs RHMM701C

4. Russell Hobbs RHMM701C 17L Microwave

Best small microwave for office: a great pick if you don't want your microwave to stick out like a sore thumb

Specifications
Wattage: 700W
Grill?: No
Oven?: No
Capacity: 17ltrs
Reasons to buy
+Compact +Available in a range of colours
Reasons to avoid
-Retro design might not be for some-No oven or grill functions

Available in black, cream, red or rose gold, this microwave fro Russell Hobbs is our pick of the best microwave for those after something that has no frills and gets the job done.

What can it do?

This manual microwave pretty much does what it's supposed to do. It's not an oven combi and can't grill, but it can warm up your food with ease in minutes. It also has a choice of five power settings and a defrost function.

Specs

It’s one of least powerful picks on our list at 700W, but users have said it’s great for reheating dishes as and when needed. It could make a good choice of microwave for a studio flat or maisonette due to its small size (although bear in mind the interior capacity is only 17 litres). The glass plate, however, is 25cm in diameter, which should accommodate most standard dinner plates.

Our verdict

Its cute, retro design might be just what you’re looking for. If you're after something to simply get the job done, this is it.

  • Buy the Russell Hobbs RHMM701C 17L Microwave

The best built-in microwave

A built-in microwave will not only save space  but it will also fit seamlessly into an open-plan kitchen where there has been a more minimalist approach to the design. They can be neatly hidden behind a cupboard door so you won't even see it. And some of these microwaves are even large enough, and have the functions, to be an oven, so it's worth considering what you intend to use it for.

Best built-in microwave: Bosch Built-in Combination Microwave Oven

(Image credit: Bosch)

5. Bosch CMA583MS0B Built-in Combination Microwave Oven

Best built-in microwave: a combination microwave ideal for big families

Specifications
Wattage: 900
Grill: Yes
Oven: Yes
Capacity: 44ltrs
Reasons to buy
+Distributes heat evenly+15 pre-set programmes+Large capacity
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

For those who don't have much counter space but have a big family, this integrated microwave is the perfect solution. 

What can it do?

This microwave oven from Bosch features 15 pre-set programmes including hot air cooking; hot air grilling; pizza function; autopilot; four defrost programmes and fast heat performance.

Specs

Featuring a 44 litre capacity you can expect this microwave oven to make cooking for the whole family a whole lot easier. With a grill and 900 watts of power, you can rustle up anything from a quick afternoon snack to a full on slap up meal in this bad boy.

Our verdict

It's integrated, so it won't stick out like a sore thumb in your nicely decorated kitchen. Also, the fact it's an oven, microwave and grill is very handy. It's big enough to use as your only oven.

  • Buy the Bosch CMA583MS0B Built-in Combination Microwave Oven

Best built-in microwave on a budget: Hotpoint MWH122.1X Built In Microwave

(Image credit: Hotpoint)

6. Hotpoint MWH122.1X Built In Microwave

Best built-in microwave on a budget: a great all-rounder for those after an affordable built-in microwave

Specifications
Wattage: 800
Grill: Yes
Oven: No
Capacity: 20ltrs
Reasons to buy
+Looks good+Affordable+Auto cook function
Reasons to avoid
-Not a huge capacity for large families

Looking for an easy to use, affordable but reliable integrated microwave? This microwave from Hotpoint gets our vote for the best built-in microwave on a budget.

What can it do?

Featuring five different power levels and a defrost function, this microwave does what it says on the tin. It heats your food quickly and efficiently, and it has a handy electronic minute minder to alert you when it's cooked.

Specs

Ideal for smaller households, this Hotpoint microwave has a capacity of 20 litres and it runs on 800 watts of power. 

Our verdict

It's a no-brainer buy for those who are after something easy that simply does the job; this best integrated microwave has all the basic functions needed. It's also an affordable price.

  • Buy the Hotpoint MWH122.1X Built In Microwave

Best built-in microwave for large kitchens: AEG MBE2658DEM Built In Microwave

(Image credit: AEG)

7. AEG MBE2658DEM Built In Microwave

Best built-in microwave for large kitchens: own larger-than-usual plates? this microwave oven's turntable is a 32.5cm for that reason

Specifications
Wattage: 900
Grill: Yes
Oven: No
Capacity: 26ltrs
Reasons to buy
+Automatic cooking programmes+Can save favourite settings+Large turntable
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No oven function

Need a built-in microwave for your kitchen but after something a little bigger to fit more food or larger plates?

What can it do?

This integrated microwave has five different programmes and five different power levels. And it comes with a range of automatic cooking programmes. Cleverly, the machine lets you save up to three of your favourite settings to access them at the push of a button.

Specs?

Although the capacity isn't huge (26 litres), this microwave has a 32.5cm turntable for large dinner plates. Also, thanks to its decent 900 watt power level, your food will be cooked efficiently.

Our verdict

If you're after a larger sized built-in microwave then this is your best bet. However, it's worth bearing in mind the price tag difference from the Hotpoint MWH122.1X Built In Microwave and seeing if it's worth it.

  • Buy the AEG MBE2658DEM Built In Microwave 

The best freestanding microwaves

A freestanding microwave will often sit on a kitchen work surface, or on a shelf if you have a more compact kitchen. This section includes the more high-end microwave to a budget option to help suit your needs and requirements. Need something a little smaller? Jump up to our best small microwaves section.

best microwave: Panasonic Freestanding 4-in-1 Microwave

(Image credit: Panasonic)

8. Panasonic Freestanding 4-in-1 Microwave

Best combination microwave: steam and grill with this microwave for fast and easy dinners

Specifications
Wattage: 1000
Grill: Yes
Oven: Yes
Capacity: 27ltrs
Reasons to buy
+ Steamer and grill + Auto-cook function 
Reasons to avoid
- Expensive 

This 4-in-1 microwave from Panasonic is a great gadget to buy if you don’t have a lot of space in your kitchen. 

What can it do?

It works as a steamer, a grill, an oven and is also perfect for defrosting foods. This microwave features an auto cooking mode so that once you've set the weight of your food, the microwave automatically adjusts the power level and cooking time to suit. Also, due to the fact this appliance features a flat bed instead of a turntable, you get an extra 29 per cent cooking space for larger dishes.

Specs

This microwave has a capacity of 27 litres and it comes with 15 cooking programmes so you can cook anything at the touch of a button. It also powers at 1,000 watts.

Our verdict

If you’re looking to make healthier dinners fast but don’t have the space to add a steamer to your kitchen counter, this microwave is the best combination gadget for you. All things considered, it's good looking, easy to clean and has a no-fuss exterior. Power? Check. Multi-function? Check. Looks good? Check. What's not to love?

  • Buy the Panasonic Freestanding 4-in-1 Microwave

Best microwave under £100: Russell Hobbs Flatbed Digital Microwave

9. Russell Hobbs Flatbed 23L Digital Microwave

Best microwave under £100: no frills, but looks the part and doesn’t cost the world

Specifications
Wattage: 800
Grill: No
Oven: Yes
Capacity: 23ltrs
Reasons to buy
+ Affordable + Easy to use 
Reasons to avoid
-Sometimes an uneven cook -Smallish capacity 

The Russell Hobbs Flatbed Digital Microwave is a great budget buy for those who want a sleek looking addition to their kitchen that simply microwaves the basics. 

What can it do?

This microwave has five different power levels to choose from, as well as eight auto cook menus. This microwave can also defrost.

Specs

A smaller capacity (23 litres) and wattage (800 watts) than most, but the sleek black design with mirror door and clean lines puts this microwave high in the style stakes, but for a snip of the price of many similar options on the market.

What we think...

Although it doesn’t feature the classic turntable inside, which allows for larger rectangular dishes to be placed within, we just love how easy it is to use. Without a doubt the best microwave for modern kitchens, and it's friendly on the purse strings, too.

  • Buy the Russell Hobbs 23L Flatbed Digital Microwave

Best microwave grill: Sharp 40L Combination Microwave

(Image credit: Hughes)

10. Sharp R959SLMAA 40L Combination Microwave

Best microwave grill: cook in high quantities with this high capacity microwave that's great at grilling too

Specifications
Wattage: 900
Grill: Yes
Oven: Yes
Capacity: 40ltrs
Reasons to buy
+Two shelves  +Cook multiple things at once +Large capacity (40L)
Reasons to avoid
-Too large for small kitchens!-Expensive

If you want to cook more than one thing at one time, then this microwave will allow you do so comfortably. And it can grill anything from frozen pizzas to meats. Students, we're looking at you!

What can it do?

It has two shelves and works as a convection oven and grill. It also has a defrost function and the grill is perfect for cooking pizzas from frozen. 

Specs

With a large interior (40 litres) which is also easy to wipe clean, it's the the closest you'll get to an oven, without it actually being just an oven. It runs at a decent 900 watts, too.

Our verdict

The perfect microwave oven for anyone with a small kitchen because it saves the space of having a microwave and an oven. Put it on the countertop and live cabinet space for storage.

  • Buy the Sharp R959SLMAA 40L Combination Microwave

How to buy the best microwave

Here are a few factors to consider when you are choosing the best microwave for you home and lifestyle.

Wattage

The higher the wattage, the quicker the cooking. Anything less than 700 watts and you may as well use the oven.

Capacity

A 20 litre microwave is small but will do. For cooking larger dishes, 35 to 40 litres is a better option.

Size

The average for a small microwave is 30cm x 35cm – but always check the inner capacity – and whether your dinner plates will fit in. 

Integrated, combi or freestanding?

If you are looking to free up kitchen space, opt for one that's integrated or has microwave, oven and grill functions (these are known as combis). 

What is the best microwave?

So, let's recap...if you have the space on the kitchen worktop it's likely you'll be after a freestanding microwave, so for this category we wouldn't hesitate to recommend you  buy the Panasonic Freestanding 4-in- 1 Microwave. It can boil, air fry and steam food, it has a medium-sized capacity and it's sleek looking. Winning. 

In terms of built-in microwaves, we suggest you buy the Panasonic Freestanding 4-in-1 Microwave. It has an impressive capacity of 27 litres, works as a steamer, grill and oven, and is capable of defrosting food quickly and efficiently.

And at the top of the list for the best small microwaves is our recommended buy Russell Hobbs Aura RHM2079A. At just 20cm high and 30cm deep and wide, this 20 litre microwave is simple to use, easy to clean and it looks pretty great on a kitchen counter, too.

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