Countertop versions ($30 to $250) can be placed anywhere; over-the-range models ($100 to $700) save space and often have lights and exhaust fans on the bottom, so they double as vent hoods.
- Power. A microwave’s power is measured by its wattage; the higher the wattage, the quicker food will cook. If you use your microwave mostly for reheating, a 600-watt unit should do the trick. But if you use it to prepare full meals, especially for a large family, opt for 900 to 1,300 watts.
- A convection mode. If you entertain a lot and would benefit from a second oven, or if you want superfast cooking results, consider machines with convection technology, which uses a heating element and a fan to circulate air for roasting, baking, browning, and grilling in half the time of a regular oven.
- Turntable size and function. Microwaves with 16-inch-diameter turntables are large enough for most cooks. Look for turntables that rotate automatically for even cooking results and that can be removed for easy cleaning.
- Sensors. These shut off the microwave when food is done by calculating how much steam is being emitted from the food―no more overcooking or undercooking.
- Childproof doors. Some microwaves have door locks (which can be activated and deactivated via the keypad) so curious hands don't get burned on hot dishes.