Years ago, I purchased a beautiful, large, and expensive stainless steel microwave. Although it was nice to look at, it took up far more space than necessary, and the digital display went dead after only 1 year of use. The microwave continued to work OK, but you couldn't tell what it was doing -- defrost, power level, for how long.... There was just no way to know. It is a testament to how little work a microwave really does in my home that it took me a full 6 year to replace that microwave. But when I did, I knew what I wanted, and purchased one I can really recommend to others who, like me, have limited microwave expectations.
Recommend this product?
What I Want!
First, like I mentioned, I don't use a microwave as a primary cooking device. The microwave in my home is used to heat water for occasional cups of tea, heat up leftovers, pop popcorn, and sometimes to cook the dogs up a special meal of some sort.
This means I'm not very interested in a lot of presets that defrost meat, or buttons made just to cook fish sticks. In fact, the busyness of most microwave interfaces really bothers me. I have almost no use for the 100 functions, and yet the face of the box which will be in my kitchen (hopefully!) for years, is covered with little pictures of fish sticks! I end up feeling like my kitchen has turned into a low cost self-service cafeteria -- and that isn't the look I'm going for.
So yes, I'm picky about the *look* of the microwave more than the function. I expect a microwave to fit into my homes decor, and this was high on my list of requirements for a microwave.
Second, I also wanted a microwave that was small. While the large microwave I had for many years had at least twice the space of this smaller one, I literally never made use of it. The tasks I expect a microwave to perform are very limited, so saving a little counter space is more important than having the option of cooking a turkey in one. (Does anyone actually do that?)
Third, I also wanted a microwave that had an easy to clean interior. The model I lived with for all those years had a variety of what seemed to me to be unnecessary crevices in the interior which made splattered spaghetti sauce a terrible chore to clean. Although over the years I've become better at heating items for the right amount of time (and with covers) to avoid this problem, I didn't like the fact that so many unnecessary "trouble spots" existed.
Lastly, I was hoping to avoid the touchpad controls entirely. I've had nothing but bad experiences with touchpads. It seems they have a tendency to work fine for a short while, then some of the buttons start to work only if pushed really hard, then they stop working at all. Further, the feel of using a touch-pad to enter directives is, to me, cheap. I very much prefer real buttons -- whether on a cell phone or a microwave. So I was hoping to find a model with just a few *necessary* buttons, and nothing else.
What I Got:
Unfortunately, even after months of searching, no microwave I could find actually satisfied all of the criteria I had laid out. Ultimately, I settled on the JES1384SF01 by GE, and overall I'm glad I did.
This microwave met 3 of my 4 criteria. The unit is strikingly beautiful and simple, and fits right into the decor. It is small, and doesn't take up much space. It has buttons instead of a touch-pad interface. And the interface is very clean instead of busy. However, the GE does suffer from an interior that contains a browning element that is anything but easy to clean.
I will state again -- I use a microwave for very few tasks. As such, I have no use for the browning feature in this microwave, and haven't even bothered to learn how to use it. It is actually a significant drawback for me, as the element takes up space in the unit, and (more importantly) is hard to clean. If you make a mistake and over heat an uncovered sauce in this microwave, cleaning the splats from the browning element will have you in a fit. It is without a doubt the worst feature of this unit for someone who, like me, will never (ever) use it.
However, I've learned to be more careful about covering items I'm heating, and in the process have learned to live with the browning element in the microwave. It's other qualities make up for this problem, and while I wish someone would make a "dumb old" microwave without the extra "junk" (I'd pay a premium for it) I have been very happy with this purchase.
This is a 1.3 cu. ft. microwave.
It's a 1100 watt unit.
It does not have a convection feature.
It does have a browning feature.
It has 10 power levels.
It has a kitchen timer.
It has a turntable.
It comes with a removable rack to allow foods to be cooked closer to the browning element.
It is a countertop only model. (I do not think hanging kits or trim kits are available for it.)
This is a full stainless finish model -- both the door and the body of the unit have a stainless exterior.
The unit uses a dial control to set cook time. The dial sets time in increments of 10 seconds, then 1 minute when the time entered is beyond a certain point.
Buttons are used to control the other features.
There are 2 "one touch" buttons -- one for popcorn, one for tea. These are programmable by the user if you prefer a longer or shorter cook time.
Additional preset information is hidden inside the units door. (I have never made use of any of them.)
The display is a digital interface, which displays the time when the microwave is not in use.
The unit beeps (and beeps and beeps!) when a cook cycle is complete. You must open the door to stop the reminder beeps.
This microwave seems to be built solidly, and it looks great. My unit was finished nicely, and I've had no maintenance issues with it in the year I've owned it. Setup was a breeze get it out of the box, and plug it in. The controls are intuitive -- at least when you do as limited a range of things with a microwave as I do. I have never had to reference the manual to figure out how to set the clock or heat a dinner. The buttons have a "positive contact" to them which lets you know when you've entered the command. The exterior of the unit is easy to clean. The interior of the unit contains a browning element which is difficult to clean. The unit is quiet when running.