Pros:sleek design, intelligent controls with a wide variety of heating options
Cons:large footprint, a bit more money than most
The Bottom Line: This is a great multi-function oven. The only feature missing is convection.
PLEASE NOTE: My microwave is the 520 but in stainless steel. Apparently, Epinions "lost" the stainless steel version of this product.
Recommend this product?
This is my third microwave and all three have been Sharp. The last one went with the selling of my house so I needed a new one. My last Sharp model served me well for 9 years.
This time around I wanted stainless (they don't offer Titanium yet) and a larger unit. This microwave is not only 2.0 cubic feet (larger than the typical 1.4 or 1.6) and it's powerful at 1200 watts. The unit has a larger than normal footprint too. It measures 22" wide x 12-3/8 high x 18-7/16 deep. Even the turntable is large at 16" in diameter. For those who don't know, the heavy duty glass turntable rotates the food (both clockwise and counter-clockwise in order to cook the food more evenly. Sharp invented this technology and calls it "Carousel."
One of the great features in some of today's microwaves is that the oven has sensors to cook food smarter. My favorite feature is the reheat sensor mode. The machine actually measures the amount of humidity and moisture emitted from the food then adjusts to the power level and time automatically. I find it to be pretty accurate most of the time. Since it cooks with a sensor, the food doesn't come out of the oven like molten lava. Instead, food is just about the right temperature for consumption with very little cool down time. There are preset buttons for baked potatoes, popcorn, fresh vegetables, ground meat, rice, fish/seafood, frozen entrees, chicken breast, frozen vegetables. In the reheat section, there are preset buttons for fresh rolls/muffins, beverages and frozen rolls/muffins. In defrost, there are presets for ground meats, steaks/chops, boneless poultry and bone-in poultry.
I have cooked dozens of popcorn bags in this oven and I have to say, it's really accurate! Though it should be mentiuoned that cooking "expired" popping corn will result in well-cooked yellow cardboard.
Let's say you need to defrost two pounds of hamburger patties. All you'd need to do is push the steaks/chops button twice and the oven does the rest. Of course, you can defrost manually by choosing the time and power level. The cooking, defrosting and sensor cooking modes all work like this.
Note: Since this oven is 1200 watts, you'll need to guess what time or power level to cook certain foods since the TV dinner instructions are usually based on lower wattage ovens.
The manual really delves into all the precautions about microwave cooking. It lists everything you can and can't use inside the oven. I recommend actually reading it. There are some tips included like, if there's ever an odor in your oven from a prior cooking session, simply put one cup of water, grated peel and juice of one lemon and several cloves in a 2-cup glass cup. Bring to a boil then wipe down the interior of the oven. Smell should be gone.
One tip I always use is... I place a small plastic cup of water in the corner of the oven so that the food doesn't dry out during cooking.
There are also plenty of warnings regarding what utensils, coverings, etc. One warning I found interesting was, "This oven is for food preparation. It should not be used to dry clothes or newspapers." And this one, "NEVER use the cavity to store cookbooks or other items." Now there's food for thought. You have to wonder about some people.
Other things this oven does included auto and manual defrost, keep warm, sensor cook, reheat and boil water. The one touch cooking is also a plus. Let's say you have a bag of microwave popcorn. Simply put the bag into the oven and push "Popcorn." The oven does the rest. I find this is usually perfect but I stop the oven a few seconds before the end of the cycle if nothing is popping otherwise the corn tends to burn a bit.
Another great feature is "Multiple Sequence Cooking." This allows you to program various times and levels to shift during one cooking process without having to stop and restart the machine.
There's also a Demonstration Mode. Once selected, the machines tutors you on the operation of the oven.
By the way, the key tones can be disabled if it annoys you or others. Also, if you have small children, you can disable and/or lock the buttons so there can be no "accidents."
My wife and I have made comments about the small print on the buttons - that it's sometimes tough to see where start is etc. My solution would be to make the key buttons (like Start) another color like red or green.
Also, refrain from putting metal objects on top of the unit. They might become rattlers.
Another nifty feature (a minor one in the grand scheme of things) is that it has an L.E.D. nightlight that helps illuminate your kitchen with a low-level amount of light. The brightness is not adjustable and the light needs to be manually turned off. It might have been nice to have the light turn off at a time set by the user or at sunrise.
Overall, I love this new microwave. It's so versatile and is right on the money in auto mode 99% of the time.
The unit is also available in black or white and is $20 cheaper. The stainless/black motif is stylish and the stainless is not too over-powering so there's not too much fingerprint drama. I opted not to buy the extended warranty for two reasons; Sharp microwaves seem to last a pretty long time and microwaves are disposable.
I took points off for the stainless being a bit tougher to clean and showing fingerprints far too easily. Maybe Sharp will be the first to make finishes in Titanium to match the refrigerator trend.
Note: I also considered a microwave / convection oven but was dissuaded by the $400 + cost factor. I'll opt for a convection / toaster instead. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 2013: We did buy an Oster convection / toaster oven and we love it.
Also, I've noticed that this miocrowave oven has developed some "grunge" in the inside corners. I haven't been able to remove it yet, but I just may have to break out the power tools to accomplish this OR it might be time for a new microwave.
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