Disappointing, frustrating, possible fire hazard, does not match specs
Jul 4, 2010 (Updated Jan 21, 2011)
Review by share_info
Rated a Very Helpful Review
This is my third microwave, and the first I ever bought online. It is too bulky and heavy to justify returning it, so I offer this review instead, because it is the most disappointing and frustrating microwave I have ever used.
Recommend this product?
What you might not observe online, but is immediately apparent in real life, is the impractical "aesthetic" styling. Someone decided to differentiate this model by covering half the glass with horizontal white stripes, and using a weird fluorescent display. I would not call it distinctive so much as impractical, because it makes everything harder to see.
If you download the instruction manual, you can read that the "Genius Sensor" actually senses steam, not temperature; however, the instructions omit the fact that the Sensor Reheat function always uses full power until it detects enough steam to shut off, instead of using the inverter. A simple thermistor and better programming would have cost less and worked better. Instead, the evil "Genius" explodes food from overheating, while still leaving cold spots. That might sound impressive if it were a comic actor, or a movie villain, but in an appliance, the prank gets old fast. I think someone at Panasonic tried to warn us by calling it a "Genius Sensor" instead of a thermistor, but the warning got lost in translation (blame the marketing department), so customers make the mistake of buying the machine. The Genius Sensor cannot reheat beverages at all, evidently because they produce too little steam. If you want to reheat evenly without explosions, use power level four and expect to wait a long time, learning by trial and error how long each item takes; don't bother trying to use an infrared thermometer, because it will be blocked by the "aesthetic" stripes.
The only silver lining is, I have read that inverter microwaves have a shorter lifespan than the old-fashioned kind, so I might not have long to wait before replacing this one. (The old-fashioned microwave ovens use a timer instead of an inverter, so if you set 50% power, you get 100% power switched off 50% of the time. If you set an inverter to 50% power, you actually get 50% power 100% of the time.) In future, I will only buy a microwave oven in a brick-and-mortar store, or online etailer with free round-trip shipping, because the cost and aggravation of returning a 30# microwave isn't justified by my etailer's partial net refund.
UPDATE 2010-09-26: I learned today that this microwave is even worse than I first realized. One reason I chose this model was the specifications seemed more efficient than the other model I was considering; this one claimed 1,300 Watts of "Cooking Power" while consuming 1,480 Watts of electricity, or nearly 90% efficiency. However, I noticed that sometimes the circuit breaker tripped when I ran this microwave, and today I checked actual consumption with my Kill-A-Watt meter: around 2,000 Watts at full power for more than thirty seconds, after which I shut it off. The plug had actually started to melt my 15-Amp Radio Shack power strip. And, even at 2,000 Watts, this microwave still takes 3 minutes to heat (not even boil) 15oz of water for a cup of tea. That makes me doubt even the 1,300 Watt "Cooking Power" specification, which should be able to do the job in half the time:
So, my experience with this microwave corroborates the opinions of people who say to avoid Panasonic microwaves entirely. The specifications are false, the programming is bad, the result is frustration, but the product is too heavy and bulky to return to an etailer. I could have bought a basic microwave at a local big box for half the price and brought it back if necessary. I like online shopping, but this tale provides a cautionary example; most reviews were mostly favorable, but reviewers generally don't go to the extent of checking power consumption against specifications, for example. I will ask Panasonic about a warranty repair or replacement, but the manual says, "Specifications subject to change without notice." In other words, they know that the actual product may not match the advertised specifications, and in my experience it is not even close.
UPDATE 2010-01-20: I called Panasonic to explain the problem and request a warranty repair. Their website and telephone rep referred me to a repair place miles away that refuses to repair any Panasonic "residential" (consumer) products (they only fix commercial products). Next Panasonic referred me to their next-closest place, which would cost me $40 to get there and back. A local 'big box' store sells probably better microwaves from reputable brands for $60; I paid twice that online for a Panasonic that turned out to be defective and a possible fire hazard, and it will cost me another $40 even to get them to look at repairing it. Long story short: avoid buying a microwave online without free round-trip shipping, and always avoid Panasonic.
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Amount Paid (US$): 130
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