My microwave recently died, it served me well for nine years, which is above average for a microwave oven (average lifespan is 5-7 years). It reheated many a meal, popped A LOT of popcorn, steamed vegetables, boiled water, and so much more.
The old microwave was a Panasonic, which has a good reputation for microwaves, often earning 'Top 10' spots in various consumer product ranking services over the years. A countertop model sized at 1.6 cubic feet with 1250 watts of cooking power, the appliance came with a few more bells and whistles and more power than most countertop models of its day. Costing about $175 nine years ago, replacing it with the 2023 version would run me around $275, depending on the store.
I appreciate the Panasonic brand, but I never did use all the bells and whistles. The 1.6 cubic feet of cooking space could accommodate oversized dinner plates and large trays of food, but like the bells and whistles, I never really prepared anything needing all that space.
A downsize is in order and I set my budget at between $100 and $175.
I could have stuck with the Panasonic brand, dropping down to a 1.3 cubic-foot model with 1250 watts of power. With no sacrifice in power, that's still plenty of room for reheating a standard-sized dinner plate of leftovers, and tall enough to accommodate my Salbree popcorn popper. Sticking with the Panasonic brand in a smaller version would cost me around $130, within budget.
Another option according to one of those consumer product rating services, is a 0.9 cubic foot model made by Black & Decker. I'm not sure why this service rated this microwave so highly. Black & Decker tools suck, they don't last long, I bought a few back in the day and quit buying them because they're pretty much disposable tools, not quality tools. I would suspect the same in a Black & Decker microwave. It's budget-friendly with a price tag of $114, but the 10-inch turntable can only fit a small dinner plate or low-profile coffee mug, nothing bigger. This microwave also has a lower wattage than other countertop models in this budget range at just 900 watts. You can still perform most tasks, but it's going to take longer and demonstrates the B&D business model of not striving for higher quality.
Looks good doesn't it? This model is available in white, which matches my kitchen appliances.
Exploring other options, brands like LG, Sharp, Toshiba, Farberware, and others, needing a microwave over 1 cubic foot, enough space for large dinner plates, tall enough for a REAL mug of coffee, and enough power to defrost, reheat, and cook evenly without taking forever proved to be a bit of a challenge. Most models meeting my criteria in online shopping exceeded my budget max of $175, and shipping would take 3-5 days. It's not like I HAVE to have a microwave right this minute, but reheating some dinner in the frying pan or oven and dirtying extra dishes doing so is not convenient. Yes, spoiled by technology.
Then I found a replacement microwave while doing some in-store shopping today at Walmart.
Enter the Hamilton Beach 1.1 cubic foot microwave with 1000 watts of power. Price tag: $77.
WAY under budget, this microwave is large enough to do what I need it to do, has VERY easy-to-use quick functions, and has enough power to perform any microwave cooking tasks. Did you know most microwave recipes are designed with a 1000-watt microwave in mind? It's considered the perfect wattage. Hamilton Beach is also a brand that consistently ranks in those 'Top 10' best product lists year in, year out, especially in the "Best Value" category.
I'm pleased with the purchase so far, but all I've done is unpack it, put it on my countertop, and heated up some water in it for some tea. Stay tuned for notes on how well it reheats dinner, pops popcorn, and does a microwave recipe in it. Another plus for this microwave is it has a handle, rather than one of those push button door openers.
$pend Wisely My Friends...